Out of the Easy


Sepetys, Ruta. Out of the Easy. New York: Philomel, 2013. 978-0-399-25692-9. 346p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

It’s 1950. World War II has ended.  The Cold War is just beginning. McCarthyism is on the rise, and life in New Orleans is one big party.  At least it seems that way for everyone except Josie Moraine, who’s living a life less than perfect.  Josie dreams of escaping the stigma of being the daughter of a French Quarter prostitute whose mothering has left Josie caring for herself since the age of twelve.  Josie dreams of a life outside of the Quarter, a life at Smith College, in New England, that will allow Josie to become Josephine and put the past behind her, but first she must get in to Smith and figure out a way to pay for it.  With support from Patrick, her employer’s son; Jesse, her biker friend; Willie, the brothel madam, and Cokie, Willie’s right-hand- man, Josie’s dreams might come true, that is until the murder of a wealthy, Memphis contractor on New Year’s Eve threatens to end everything and sent her down a path less than respectable because they “call this place ‘The Big Easy’, [but] shoot, ain’t nothin’ easy about it” (328).

Sepetys eloquently describes life in 1950s New Orleans through the life of Josie Moraine, a life that has not been innocent, yet Josie projects an innocence about her through her choice in friends, personality, and dreams.  Although lacking is some areas, Out of the Easy is a wonderful exploration of growth, life, and how one choice can change everything.  This is an excellent novel for teens and adults alike.

Historical; Realism         Erin Parkinson, Lincoln JSHS, Ellwood City

Orphan Train


Klein, Christina Baker. Orphan Train. New York: William Morrow, 2013. 978-0-06-195072-8. 278 p. $14.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Molly is a seventeen-year-old ward of the state of Maine.  Just as she’s about to be sent to a group home for stealing a book from the local library, she finds a way to serve her community service hours and stay with her foster family.  As she begins her 50 hours of community service, she thinks that her sorting and cataloging of a 91 year-old woman’s attic will be useless, but then meets her employer, Vivian, a kindred spirit with whom Molly can relate.  As they sort through the items together, Vivian shares her story of growing up as an orphan in 1929, New York City, who boarded trains for Minnesota and beyond in hopes of finding a family.  Vivian’s story connects her to Molly and eventually the two find a way to help each other cope with loss and ultimately finding a true family.

Realism                       Laura Ward, Fox Chapel HS

Trekkies and Monsters and Graphic Novels?…oh my!


Star Trek (series). Minneapolis, MN: ABDO, 2013-2014. 24p. $16.95ea. Gr. 6-8.
Johnson, Mike. The Galileo Seven, Part 1. 978-1-61479-159-1.
Johnson, Mike. The Galileo Seven, Part 2. 978-1-61479-160-7.
Johnson, Mike. Where No Man Has Gone Before, Part 1. 978-1-61479-161-4.
Johnson, Mike. Where No Man Has Gone Before, Part 2. 978-1-61479-162-1.

Get beamed up into these graphic novel tales featuring the Star Trek characters from the recent movie versions of the popular series. In The Galileo Seven, Spock is in command of a shuttle crew that is stranded on an unexplored planet. Cut off from communication with the Enterprise, the shuttle crew soon realizes they are not alone on the planet when they are the victim of a deadly attack. Meanwhile, back aboard the Enterprise, Capt. Kirk must decide how much time to expend on a search for his missing comrades before continuing on a time-sensitive mission. Ultimately both Spock and Kirk are forced to make difficult decisions that could result in the demise of the stranded crewmembers.

In Where No Man Has Gone Before, the USS Enterprise encounters an unknown force field in space. This force field causes the ship to be disabled, as well as the death of several crew.  Most disturbing, Capt. Kirk’s good friend Lt. Gary Mitchell begins to exhibit strange symptoms. He becomes very angry and confrontational, displays ESP-type symptoms and his eyes emit a strange glow. Clearly Mitchell has been taken over by an evil force. Given the situation (crippled ship, evil being onboard), Spock recommends that Mitchell be abandoned in space or killed. Kirk is thus forced to confront the evil force residing in his friend body in order to save the crew of the Enterprise.
Science Fiction, Graphic Novel                                                      Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

One not need to be a Star Trek aficionado to appreciate and enjoy these graphic novels. Both tales are action packed and in both cases, Volume 1 ends with a tense cliffhanger that had me eagerly reaching for Volume 2. Fans of the recent Star Trek movies will recognize not only the characters (the illustrations are based on the actors from the films), but also the characterizations. The phrases and vocal inflections present in the character dialogue are strongly reminiscent of the movie dialogue. Give this series to both “Trekkies” and science fiction fans alike!



Monster Science (series). North Mankato, MN: Capstone, 2013. 32p. $22.49 ea. Gr. 5-8.
Harbo, Christopher L. Frankenstein’s Monster and Scientific Method. 978-1-4296-9931-0.

Shaffer, Jody Jensen. Vampires and Light. 978-1-4296-9928-0.

Wacholtz, Anthony. Mummies and Sound. 978-1-4296-9930-3.

Weakland, Mark. Zombies and Electricity. 978-1-42969929-7.
The Monster Science series aims to engage students in  graphic-novel style books that present various scientific topics.  Each book features a type of monster that that is used to illustrate and demonstrate the scientific issue/principles being discussed.  For example, Zombies and Electricity features the undead doing various activities (brushing their hair, petting a cat) in order to generate static electricity.   The illustrations are engaging-full of humor and action packed (who knew there were so many ways to electrocute a zombie?!).  Sentences are kept short in order to avoid overwhelming readers with too much information at one time.  Definitions and diagrams are included to further explain the topic being discussed..  Each book includes a glossary, additional sources and web links.

Science, Graphic Novel                                                                    Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

Students can definitely find traditional science texts dry and difficult to understand, so I appreciated the authors’ laudable goal of engaging students in science by combing commonly studied topics with two things students enjoy: graphic novels and monsters.  The end result, however, was somewhat mixed.  The graphic novel elements of the story—the quality of illustration, the humor present in the scenes, etc. were good.  The integration of the science into the storyline, was not quite as seamless—some science facts were just hard to work into the plot. That said, I would still recommend this series to libraries looking to expand their non-fiction graphic novel collections and/or looking for new ways to engage students in reading and understanding science.

Super Heroes and Science Fiction – New in YA


McMann, Lisa. Bang (Visions Book 2). New York: Simon Pulse, 2013. 978-1-4424-6625-8. 241p. $16.99. Gr. 9-12.
In her first book in the Visions series, Crash, McMann introduced readers to Jules Demarco, who suddenly started experiencing a recurring vision in which her Sawyer, the son of her family’s business rivals (and Jules’ secret crush) was tragically killed. Thankfully, Jules was able to stop this vision of the future from occurring, and in the process, she was able to develop a relationship with Sawyer. Now, just when things are beginning to get back to normal, the unexpected happens. Sawyer is now seeing recurring visions of his own. His visions are terrifying—he sees what appears to be a school shooting. Working together with Jules’ brother Trey, Jules and Sawyer try to decipher the clues present in his visions and if possible, prevent the shooting event. At the same time, the teens also start to question the concept of the visions. Why are they receiving the visions? (Did Jules pass the power of having visions to Sawyer?) What obligation do they have to people they see in the visions?
Fantasy                       Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

Bang picks up the story immediately after the events in the previous book and never slows down.  As mentioned in the description above, the vision Sawyer experiences in quite upsetting and terrifying—a school shooting incident. Readers should be aware, as the nature of the visions is recurring; the shooting incident is described secondhand by Sawyer to Jules more than once. Some mature language is present in the visions. The story is not all about Sawyer’s vision, however. Sawyer and Jules are also dealing with their developing romance, and both also are dealing with imperfect home lives. I also thought that the moral and ethical issues they began to deal with in relation to the visions were quite interesting. Why are the two of them having these visions? Is it due to genetics? (Jules is viewing some of her father’s behavior in a new light). Do they have a duty to help the people in the visions? What will the consequences be if they don’t (or can’t)? And finally, has Sawyer passed the visions to someone else? Final note: I classified this a fantasy, because of the strong vision element to the story, but some may classify it Realistic (with fantasy/paranormal elements).



Zarr, Sara and Tara Altebrando. Roomies. New York: Little, Brown, 2013. 978-0-316-21749-1. 279p. $18.00. Gr. 9-12.
Incoming UC Berkley freshman Elizabeth (aka EB) is looking forward to moving away from her New Jersey home and starting the stage of her life. So when she gets her dorm assignment and her soon to be roommate’s name, she immediately emails her. Lauren is on the receiving end of EB’s email and is none too happy about it. After growing up as the oldest of six children in a crowded San Francisco home, she was looking forward to the single dorm room she had requested. So it is only natural that Lauren’s initial reply to EB’s email is a little frosty. As the summer days pass the two girls begin to communicate about more than just dorm refrigerators and microwaves. They open themselves up to one another in unexpected ways, on topics ranging from their complicated home lives to their complex romances. But just when it seems like the girls are headed for a harmonious roommate relationship, misunderstandings and hurt feelings threaten their new friendship. As move-in day approaches, EB and Lauren must decide if their fragile friendship is worth saving.
Realistic                          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

Novels told in alternating chapters from the point of view of two protagonists can be tricky. One character may overshadow the other, or the melding of storylines can seem forced. Thankfully, that is not the case in Roomies. Zarr and Altebrando have developed two strong protagonists with relatable storylines and experiences. The concept of future roommates communicating with each other during the summer before college helps to weave the girls’ storylines together in a natural and organic manner. In addition, it is a concept that virtually every college-bound students will be able to relate to. Recommend to high school girls preparing to graduate and getting ready to leave their comfortably familiar worlds behind as they move into an unknown future.



Walker, Landry Q. SuperGirl: Her first extra-ordinary adventure! North Mankato, MN: Stone Arch, 2013. 978-1-4342-4717-9. 26p. $21.27. Gr. 4-8.
Linda Lee seems like a typical new arrival in an 8th grade classroom. But in actuality, her name is Kara and she newly arrived to Earth from her home planet of Krypton in this first volume in the SuperGirl graphic novel series. After getting into an argument with her parents, Kara impulsively decided to hitchhike a ride on a message rocket being sent to Superman. Unfortunately, Superman does not have the powers to send her home, so she is stuck on Earth. She soon realizes that trying to adapt to the unfamiliar tween culture of middle school will prove to just a big a challenge (if not bigger) than fighting off villains with superpowers.
Science Fiction, Graphic Novel                     Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

The SuperGirl series offers a unique and welcome twist on the traditional Superman tale. It is great to see another graphic novel series that features a female protagonist. Even though she has superpowers, Kara struggles with the same everyday issues and problems that any average tween faces—her relationship with her parents, fitting in with your peers, etc. Upper elementary and middle school readers will find the story lines both relatable and filled with pieces of humor and action.

The Mystery of Realism – More Great YA Fiction


Berry, Julie. All The Truth That’s In Me. New York: Viking, 2013. 978-0-670-78615-2. 288 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

The mystery of Judith Finch’s life  is told in first person narrative completely within the main characters head.  Judith who has been missing for two years along with another young girl from Roswell Station returns one day from the woods just as mysteriously as she disappeared..  However, when Judith returns she is forever changed into a mute through the violent act of her tongue being surgically removed.  As a young woman in the 1800’s she is illiterate and due to her disfigurement can not tell anyone what has happened to her or the other young girl who has since been found dead in the woods.  Upon her return Judith is shunned by the town and spends most of her time longing for the boy she loved prior to her disappearance, Lucas.  This relationship is strained because as Judith recounts her two year struggle it is revealed that Lucas’s father was the one who held Judith captive and disfigured her to keep the atrocities she endured silent.

Historical (Colonial America), Mystery           Robin Burns, Salisbury High School

The premise of the story unfolds in layers as Judith recounts her two years in captivity.  Although there are several plotlines shared with the reader early on in the story there is an element of mystery throughout the book.  The voice inside Judith’s head is poetic and tells of all the longing any young woman of that time period had for a life and family of ones own.  This book will appeal to fans of mysteries and shares similarities with the movie The Village because the readers never truly know what year the events take place.  This leads the readers to conclude the events are in the colonial times but perhaps this entire society exists outside the bounds of what is modern society and times of today.



Farizan, Sara. If You Could Be Mine. Chapel Hill: Algonquin, 2013. 978-1-61620-251-4. 256 p. $16.95. Gr. 11 and up.

Farizan’s story is  a simple love story.  The love story told in poetic prose  is between two young people in Iran.  The only problem is that in Iran homosexuality is unlawful and for the two young women, Nasrin and Sahar, who have spent years together falling in love must now face the realities of adult life in Iran.  Nasrin’s parents announce she is to be married through an arranged marriage and consequently Sahar poses a dramatic solution to their relationship.  Although illegal to be a homosexual in Iran it is legal to be transexual and the gender reassignment surgery is fully paid for by the government as a medically necessary procedure.  Sahar pursue gender reassignment even though in her heart she knows she does not want to be a man but loves Nasrin deeply enough to change her entire life.

Realistic                   Robin Burns, Salisbury High School

A heartbreaking story of love and longing.  This book depicts in great detail what it is like to live in modern day Iran and the struggles that young people in the LGBT community face in Iran.  A unique story that is a good addition to high school libraries looking to increase both LGBT and multi cultural fiction.  Although the book is brief in pages it is lengthy in depth and the description of life in Iran .



Lyons, C.J. Broken. Naperville: Sourcebooks, 2013. 978-1-40228-545-5. 336 p. $16.99 Gr. 9 and up.

Scarlett is fifteen years old and attending school for the first time due to a rare genetic disorder, Long QT, that causes her heart to beat erratically if she gets excited or overly stimulated.  Against her family’s wishes Scarlett is finally able to attend school but unlike the television shows and books that have given her a glimpse of high school the real thing is not the same.  At school she is bullied and her overprotective stepmother, the school nurse only makes her stand out even more to her classmates.  One day Scarlett forgets her “vitamins” and begins a biology project about her health history these two events combine to unravel everything she has ever known about her  life.  This story is a coming of age story combined with the mystery of Scarlett’s family and her “disease”.

Mystery, Realistic              Robin Burns, Salisbury High School

Mysteries are difficult to find in the young adult genre and this title explores teen issues of love, acceptance, bullying, and what it means to be a family.  I enjoyed this story and kept turning pages to find out if Scarlett was really ill or if there was something more sinister to her medical condition.  Teen will keep reading as well to see if Scarlett finds love and if she finds out who she really is and what her family has been keeping from her for years.  My students have been checking out this title constantly and the word of mouth has helped it to become a much sought after title.



MacHale, D.J. SYLO. New York: Razorbill, 2013. 978-1-59514-665-6. p. 416 $17.99 . Gr. 7 and up.

The first volume in what is set to be a trilogy, SYLO, sets up the story of what happens to a small town when completely taken over by a government agency.  Tucker Pierce is a high school freshman living on Pemberwick Island off the coast of Maine dreaming of taking over the family landscaping business and playing weekly football games with friends.  All of that comes to an end with the U.S. Navy quarantines the island, people begin to die, citizens are placed into work camps at the local country club, and a division of the military, SYLO, takes over the entire town.  Tucker along with his love interest Tori begin to suspect SYLO, their parents, and the new superdrug Ruby might all be responsible for the bodies scattered all over the island.

Science Fiction            Robin Burns, Salisbury High School

MacHale’s newest series is sure to be a hit with fans of his previous work and those who are looking for the next science fiction series.  Much in the manner of the X Files readers are unsure of what is real and what is just part of a conspiracy.  Students will eagergily keep reading to see if Tucker and his friends are able to get off the island and make it to the mainland.  The sequel, STORM, is already out in hardcover and is popular with my students.  I highly recommend adding this title to both middle and high school library collections.



McGinnis, Mindy. Not A Drop To Drink. New York: HarperCollins, 2013. 978-0-06-219850-1. 320 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Life for Lynn and her mother has been reduced to those of the Wild West frontier following an outbreak of cholera.  A story of isolation and self reliance McGinnis explores what is means to be a survivor and how much can one person can take on when faced with repeated challenges.  Lynn must find someone else to rely on following her mothers death early on in the story.  Faced with poachers in the south and gangs of  men to the east Lynn must defend her homestead and protect what remains of her pond, the only clean water supply in the area.  All of the people who Lynn has know have died, and many at her own hands.  Her nearest neighbor is a mystery and with all of the poachers she is not sure whether to trust them or if they simply want her  pond.   As more poachers begin to arrive Lynn must turn to her only neighbor for support and to keep the water safe for survival.  The third person narration gives the story a gritty tone and puts readers into the mind of Lynn trying to survive all alone on the homestead.

Dystopian             Robin Burns, Salisbury High School

Readers who enjoy dystopian stories will find this gritty story both compelling and disturbing.  The story is similar to the television show Revolution in that the world has undergone a cultural and societal change thrusting everyone back to a frontiersman state.  I found this book to be a good addition to fiction collections looking for another option in the growing dystopian genre.  Although told in third person the story moves quickly and will keep reader engaged with Lynn’s struggle to survive.



Moriarty, Jaclyn. A Corner of White. New York: Scholastic, 2013. 978-0-545-39736-0. 384 p. $17.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Moriarty’s first volume in what is slated to be a trilogy is narrated by two fifteen year olds one a boy and one a girl.  The girl, Madeleine, is used to a privilege lifestyle living with her rich and eccentric father until somewhat mysteriously she and her mother run away.  They are forced into a life of hiding in near poverty conditions.  This means that Madeleine can no longer attend school and must be homeschooled in her tiny Cambridge attic apartment.  One day Madeleine notices a piece of white paper sticking up between a crack in the sidewalk and a parking meter.  The white paper is a letter from Elliot a fifteen year old boy in the Kingdom of Cello.  The Kingdom is fantastical land where Colors are living organisms that can kill people.  Elliot is looking for his father who disappeared suspiciously and through their letters in the crack between worlds Elliot and Madeleine develope a relationship.  Readers along with Madeleine will be confused by Elliot’s world initially but will be drawn into the story of Cello in A Corner of White.

Fantasy (Fairytale)          Robin Burns, Salisbury High School

The story while told in two completely different worlds is one of teenagers trying to find themselves and make order of the confusing world’s each reside in Earth and Cello.  The story is told between the crack through letter Madeleine and Elliot exchange.  Their communication explains to the reader what it is like in Cello but Elliot needs no explanation of our world since it is taught at a young age to all children in Cello.  Recommended for fans of fantasy and fairytale stories.



 Patrick, Cat. Just Like Fate. New York: Simon Pulse, 2013. 978-1-44247-271-6.  304 p. $16.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Caroline has been taking care of her grandmother since she suffered a stroke but the decision of whether or not to join her friends at a party one evening  sends her life in two very distinctive paths.  The book begins with “Before” explaining what has happened in Caroline’s  life and how she came to live with her grandmother. The two alternating plots are set into the two later thirds of the book, “Stay” and “Go”.  “Stay” recounts what happens if Caroline decides not to attend the party and instead stays by her grandmother’s bedside.  This version includes a touching goodbye from her grandmother and final words of wisdom.  In “Go” Caroline attends the party and is not able to say goodbye to her grandmother or receive any parting words.  The consequences of both decisions are detailed and given the dual narrative readers are able to decide for themselves which of the two realities they would choose.

Realistic               Robin Burns, Salisbury High School

This book was one of my favorite realistic fiction titles of the year.  It reminded me of the movie Sliding Doors where one small decision changes everything else in a person’s life.  Caroline’s decision to attend a party may seem small but it sets off a chain of events in her life that alters everything in her future.  Readers who like Dessen and Colasanti will find enough romance to keep them turning pages and find out who Caroline ends up with in both “Stay” and “Go”.

Realistic Attitude – More 2013 Picks in YA Fiction

Stevenson, Robin. Attitude. Victoria: Orca Book Publishers, 2013. 978-1-4598-0382-4. 137p. Gr. 7 and up.
Australian native, Cassie Jordan, is heading to Vancouver, Canada, to dance in a summer initiative at the Pacific Coast Ballet Academy.  But the cutthroat competition turns personal when Melissa and her group of sidekicks decide to vote girls out of the program.  Cassie votes the first time, thinking it’s just a silly game.  When disaster strikes, she learns Melissa can be ruthless.  With the increasing pressure to compete and keep her friends, Cassie hears her dad’s voice, “Just do what you know is right, Cassie, and everything else will fall into place.”  Dancing might take audacity, passion, and diligence, but so does standing up for what you believe in.  Cassie can only hope her desire to stay true to herself doesn’t end up costing her a chance to become a world-renowned dancer.

Being so far away from home and living with a family, Cassie shows an admirable amount of determination and courage.  She only speaks to her parents occasionally, yet their words of  wisdom and advice still resonate within her heart.  She and other girls are bullied in subtle ways, including cyberbullying, and her quiet resolve to stand up for herself and others is quite remarkable and sends a positive message to young girls.  

Part of a series, Attitude is a great hi-lo choice for reluctant readers.

Realistic Fiction                            Christine Massey, JWP Middle School


Blumenthal, Deborah. The Lifeguard. Chicago: Albert Whitman & Company, 2012. 978-0-8075-4535-5. 277p.
Gr. 9 and up.
Instead of spending the summer at camp with her best friend Marissa, Sirena is sent to Rhode Island to live with her aunt while her parents finalize their divorce.  Thousands of miles away from home, Sirena continues to struggle with her parents’ separation, the idea of returning to two houses, and the image of her dad leaving a tawdry hotel with another woman.  Then she meets Pilot, the lifeguard who patrols the local beach.  He’s gorgeous and mysterious, and Sirena is attracted to him on a primeval level she doesn’t fully understand.  Tormented by his taciturn demeanor and the ghosts in her aunt’s house, she finds herself confiding in a local artist at the beach.  Then, in a moment of irrational conviction, she sheds all inhibition, steps into the ocean and is pulled under by a riptide.  Only Pilot will be able to save her if he finds her in time.

An alluring coming-of-age story about first love and the power of friendship and sacrifice.  With summer just around the corner, take this straight-forward novel to the beach.  Enjoy a little romance with a supernatural twist.

Supernatural Fiction                        Christine Massey, JWP Middle School


Hucklesby, Jill. Samphire Song. Chicago: Albert whitman & Company, 2013. 978-0-8075-7224-5. 287p. Gr. 6 and up.
It has been two years since Jodie’s dad died, but the hurt still burdens her heart.  She tries to keep busy with school and working at the stables but feels lonelier with each passing day.  Then an unexpected surprise from her mother allows Jodie to realize her dream of owning a horse.  She stumbles on Samphire at a horse auction, and their immediate bond is undeniably powerful.  He is a spirited stallion, and some would even claim hostile and damaged, but Jodie only sees a kindred spirit.  When her brother’s kidney disease takes a life-threatening turn and her mother loses her job, Jodie must make the ultimate sacrifice for her beloved brother.  Through tears, she promises Samphire they will be reunited one day, but providence may have other plans for her cherished horse.
Girls in the middle school seem to truly enjoy animal stories, especially about horses.  The plot is fairly predictable, but the love between Jodie and her horse is undeniable.  She relentlessly searches for him after raising enough money to buy him back and discovers the sordid world of animal abuse and trafficking.  The story will appeal to animal lovers and tug at their hearts.

Realistic Fiction                            Christine Massey, JWP Middle School

April 2014 BOB Nonfiction Reviews


Kennedy, Caroline. Editor. Poems to Learn By Heart. Paintings by Jon J. Muth. New York: Disney/Hyperion, 2013. ISBN 978-1423108054. 191 p. $19.99. Gr. 3 and up.

The latest poem collection from Caroline Kennedy has received great acclaim and earned starred reviews from Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. Poems are divided into distinct groupings that address different themes such as self, family, friendship, supernatural, nonsense, school, games, war, and nature. Each section begins with an overview from the author and also with a full page painting by Muth. The variety of poems is vast containing poets that have graced pages for centuries including William Shakespeare, Edward Lear, or Ovid but also contains contemporary poets including Billy Collins, Nikki Grimes, and Naomi Shihab Nye. An index of the first lines and an index by author last name is also included.

With the fine selection of poetry complimented by emotive paintings, the imagination of readers will carry a spark the entire way through the book, and for these reasons Poems to Learn By Heart is one of my selections for the best of the best in children’s literature list.

Poetry   (821.008)                                                    Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School



Swanson, James L. “The President Has Been Shot!”: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy.  New York: Scholastic, 2013. ISBN 978-5-545-49007-8. 270 p. $18.99. Gr. 6-10

Swanson’s novel was published when fifty years passed since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The novel is divided into two main sections.  An introduction of John F. Kennedy’s life and key events such as The Cuban Missile Crisis, The Space Race and Civil Rights is found in the first part. The assassination is broken down day by day in the second part of the book. Throughout the novel pictures are included as well as maps and images of artifacts.  The entire book is highly stylized with borders, images and text boxes to highlight the well written book. An epilogue concludes the book with diagrams such as the steps Oswald made to escape or his three shots at JFK. Detailed source notes, further reading and a bibliography can be referenced.

The novel has earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly in addition to earning a place on Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books 2013 and YALSA for Excellent in Nonfiction for YA Finalists- 2014. “The President Has Been Shot!”: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy has the ability to reach both children and young adults to the background and impact of our thirty-fifth president and for these reasons I have selected this book as one of my selections for the best of the best in children’s literature list.

History, John F. Kennedy          (973.922092)          Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Cover image

Roth, Susan L., and Cindy Trumbore. Parrots Over Puerto Rico. New York: Lee & Low Books Inc., 2013. 978-1-62014-004-8.  42 p. $19.95. Gr. K-3.

This is one of my favorite books of the year. Parrots Over Puerto Rico combines Susan Roth’s gorgeous collages with a story that is both heart-breaking and hopeful. Wild parrots were once extremely plentiful in Puerto Rico, with numbers between 100,000 and 1,000,000 in the days before Columbus landed on the island. Sadly, man had a devastating effect on the parrots—through settlement (rats from ships climbed trees and ate parrot eggs!), habitat destruction, and aggressive hunting, the population of native parrots dwindled to just twenty-four in 1967.

The governments of the US and Puerto Rico knew that something had to be done. They created the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Progam to save and protect the parrots. Aviaries were built and experts were hired to help these beautiful creatures become numerous once more. Currently there are about 95 birds in the wild and 300 between the program’s two aviaries.

The authors do a fantastic job of showing how “The history of the parrots is closely linked to the history of Puerto Rico.” This title will make a fantastic addition to a unit on habitats, endangered animals, or Puerto Rico. The amazing collage pictures command repeated viewing.

Each title includes an afterward with facts and photos, a timeline of important dates, and a section with authors’ sources.

597.7                                                                                       Lindsey Long, Nye Elementary School




Leyson, Leon. The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible . . . on Schindler’s List.  New York: Atheneum Books for Young  Readers, 2013.  978-1-4424-978-8   231p.  $16.99   Gr. 5-8
Each memoir written by a Holocaust survivor is a unique and personal account of the individual’s   experiences.  In many respects, Leon Leyson’s  was very unusual, he owed his life to a famous  Nazi, Oskar Schindler.  As a boy, Leon and his family endured life in the ghetto in Krakow, Poland, eventually being sent to one of the numerous work camps.  They became employees in a factory operated by a German businessman. Schindler persuaded the Nazi high command of the invaluable work done by his Jewish munitions workers, thus saving thousands of lives. As one of the youngest employees, Leon was so small he had to stand on a wooden box to reach his workstation.  Mr. Leyson wrote this book in the hope “that he (Oskar Schindler )will become part of your memory even as I was always part of his”.  Years later, when they met  Schindler  remembered The Boy on the Wooden Box.
 Biography        Martha Trzepacz   Strath Haven Middle School


Brown,Don.  Great American Dust Bowl. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2013. 978-0-547-8155-3. 80p  $18.99  YA
This nonfiction graphic book is a perfect introduction to the 1930’s and the catastrophic dust storms that enveloped the midwestern United States.  Dotted with personal antic dotes and statistics, the author has given the reader a brief overview of one of our greatest environmental disasters.  Ending with a summary of present conditions, this work forecasts the potential for such storms in the future.  The dusty, sepia, earth tone illustrations done by the author do a lot to enhance the text.
978                                        Martha Trzepacz  Strath Haven Middle School


Rusch, Elizabeth. Eruption! Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives.  Photographs by Tom Uhlman.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Books For Children, 2013. 978-0-547-50350-9.  76p. $18.99. Gr. 5-8.
After the 1980 eruption of the Mt. St Helens volcano, scientists realized they had to find a way to predict the sudden severity of such eruptions. They began collecting data, taking samples and surveying the extent of the damage.  Ultimately, volcanologists in the United States formed an organization called VDAP( Volcano Disaster Assistance Program).  The primary aim of this group is to help international scientists anticipate volcanic activity.  Understanding the trends in volcanic activity has enabled officials to protect those living in the affected areas.  Follow members of the VDAP team as they study the world’s most active volcanoes  and see how far they have come in helping those who live in  its shadow.
363.34                Martha Trzepacz  Strath Haven Middle School

GO Chip Kidd

Kidd, Chip.  Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design.  New York, NY: Workman Publishing, 2013.  978-0-7611-7219-2.  150 pages.  $17.95.  Grades 5 – 12.
Stop!  Look around you and think about all of the things you see that actually were designed to help or warn or inform or  persuade or entice YOU!  Now, look at the cover of Chip Kidd’s informative and entertaining tour of design tools and try to avoid being drawn in.  That should be no surprise to people familiar with Chip’s impressive collection of book covers (such as Jurassic Park) or graphic novel work (recently designed a Batman story) or his TED talk (2012).  However, the true test is whether it holds the attention of the book’s intended audience, ages 10 and up.  With his ample illustrations and examples, his eye catching layout, and his straight forward sense of humor, there should be no doubt that Mr. Kidd has mastered his audience.  Through tricks with form, typography, content, and concepts, we become aware of what we naturally react to and process on a daily basis.  In fact, the real goal is to morph the readers into observers, judges, and eventual creators.  The last chapter is a challenge of exercises to get people creating and sharing through gothebook.com.  OK, now is your turn to GO!

My view:  For full disclosure, I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing Chip speak at an event through my public library last year.  Chip is a Penn State alum, even fictionally reliving his time through a novel called Cheese Monkeys.  But his experience came through decades of effort, experimenting, editing, and enduring in the publishing world.  I have used picture books for studies with students on the art of layout, but now I may need to rework my lessons through the eyes of a graphic designer like Chip, and then challenge my classes to follow their own visions.  My art teacher is already on board!  This is an essential addition for middle and high schools, and really a one-of-a-kind text from a one-of-a-kind guy.

Partner Text: Write This Book: a Do-It-Yourself Mystery by Pseudonymous Bosch
I chose this because of the design and voice of the book, and also the creative do-it-yourself encouragement.
– Booklist starred
– School Library Journal starred
– Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults (YALSA) 2014
– ALSC Notable Children’s Books 2014
740; Graphic Design     Dustin Brackbill State College Area School District


nelson mandela

Nelson, Kadir.  Nelson Mandela.  New York, NY: Katherine Tegen Books, 2013.  978-0-06-178376-0.  $17.99.  Grades 1-5.
As the life of this inspirational leader was coming to an unavoidable end, Kadir Nelson honors his life in a simple and effective biography.  Nelson uses his artistic gift of powerful contrasting color and deep facial emotions, much as he has to enliven the stories of Coretta Scott King, Abe Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, and several other fictional stories of amazing African Americans.  In this case, he also uses his own words in a sparse and meaningful way to show younger readers the trail of Nelson’s education, profession, passion, imprisonment, and eventual reward.  He keeps the story relatable to a child’s view, even while depicting apartheid and its consequences.  In the end, after the recap on the last two pages, Kadir Nelson has given readers a remarkable impression on the lasting legacy of Nelson Mandela.  Hopefully, new generations will look into the wise and warm eyes on the front cover to make their own connections and pay their respects to Madiba.
My view:
Given the uncanny timing of this book and the movie and the final days of Nelson Mandela, it is hard to not feel an emotional pull to this book.  Just to have a stunning visual reminder of his life through the art of a master illustrator is reason enough to purchase this book.  It can, however, easily be a tool to demonstrate connections to other leaders of civil rights, or even to the value of perseverance and education.  There are literacy discussions that would likely arise as students interpret the pictures with the words, describe allusions and ambiguities in the text, or discuss the imagery and schema during close reading sessions.  More importantly, children may grow their world view and seek more knowledge of Mandela and his legacy.
Partner Text: Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales by Nelson Mandela (2007)

– Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book 2014
– Kirkus Review Starred
– Publisher’s Weekly Starred
–  a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book 2013
– PSLA BOB selection!

Biography         Dustin Brackbill State College Area School District


Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table. Bellevue: Readers to Eaters, 2013. 978-    0-9836615-3-5.  32 p.  $17.95. Gr. K-3.
Farmer Will Allen didn’t like to farm, when he was a young boy helping with his family’s farm. Yet, he recalls always having delicious fresh food on the table.  His mother would make plenty of extra food for exhausted folks, perking them up with sustenance and good cheer. Will fulfills his goal of leaving the farm, graduating from college, and even becoming a professional basketball star. While playing basketball in Belgium, a friend asks for help digging potatoes.  As he digs in the earth, Will realizes how much he enjoys the work. His enthusiasm for gardening grows and, when he returns to the U.S. and marries, he looks for a place to grow his own garden.  He finds it in an unlikely place; six empty green houses are for sale in the middle of Milwaukee. Imagining the city garden he will build, Will buys the lot. Unfortunately, the soil is polluted and the plants won’t grow. Undeterred, he searches for solutions. He remembers learning how to make good soil through composting, in Belgium. With the help of the neighbor children, friends, and red worms, his plants begin to thrive. Will Allen’s goal expands to feeding the whole world, through educating farmers on techniques for growing good, healthy food. There is a “Note from the Author” page, and an afterwards from Will Allen, giving the reader tips on how they can help grow healthier food, and helpful websites. The gorgeous ink, pen, and marker illustrations and powerful text make this a great read aloud for Earth Day or any day of the year.
630; Urban Gardening                                                     Martha Lambertsen, Wallingford Elementary School


Brown, Don. Henry and the Cannons. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2013. 978-1-59643-266-6. 32 p. $16.99. Gr. 2-5. In the winter of 1775, general George Washington enlisted bookseller Henry Knox to deliver 59 cannon from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston (225 miles) a feat thought to be nearly impossible. This is the story of Knox’s determination and ingenuity as he navigated his perilous journey across lakes, mountains and rivers with very few roads and often frigid weather. Illustrations use a winter watercolor palette with black outlines to show the weather transitions bringing the struggle to life. The book is an excellent accompaniment to a lesson on the Revolutionary War.
973.3 Revolutionary War            Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary


PlayMakers (series). Minneapolis: ABDO, 2014. $18.95 each. 32 p. $18.95 Gr. 3-6.
Graves, Will. Robert Griffin III: RGIII-NFL Sensation. 978-1-61783-700-5
Gitlin, Marty. Joe Flacco: Super Bowl MVP. 978-1-61783-699-2.
Hoblin, Paul. Andrew Luck: Rising NFL Star. 978-1-61783-702-9.
—. Colin Kaepernick.: NFL Phenom. 978-1-61783-701-2.
The books include fun facts and quotes, web links, glossary, index and further resources. The book is divided into four chapters. Learn about their childhood and how Colin was adopted and Andrew started with soccer. Both topics include unique facts such as Kaepernicking to kiss a bicep or Andrew calling Peyton Manning to discuss entering the NFL draft or finishing college at Stanford University.
796.332, Football players/biography             Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Sports’ Biggest Moments. (series). Minneapolis: ABDO, 2014. 64 p. $22.95 each. Gr. 3-6.
                Gitlin, Marty. Weirdest moments in sports. 978-1-61783-926-9.
                Hawkins, Jeff. Biggest chokes in sports. 978-1-61783-922-1.
                Hoblin, Paul. Biggest blunders in sports. 978-1-61783-921-4.
                Lee, Tony. Greatest rivalries in sports. 978-1-61783-925-2.
                Long, Dustin. Greatest comebacks in sports. 978-1-61783-924-5.
                Rappoport, Ken. Biggest upsets in sports. 978-1-61783-923-8.
Each tale is told with pictures to compliment the story. A wide variety of sport episodes span the sports of basketball, baseball, football, NASCAR, WNBA, Olympic events, tennis, snowboarding, figure skating, gymnastics, boxing, soccer and hockey. In the Weirdest Moments book readers learn about the kissing bandit that visited baseball stadiums and sporting events kissing many players over 20 years including Pete Rose.
796; Sports/Recreation                  Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School.


Super SandCastle: More Super Simple Science (series). Minneapolis: ABDO, 2014. 32 p. $18.95 each. Gr. K-3.                Kuskowski, Alex. Science experiments with light. 978-1-61783-851-4.
                —. Science experiments with liquid. 978-1-61783-852-1.
                —. Science experiments with food. 978-1-61783-849-1.
                —. Science experiments with magnets.978-1-61783-853-8.
                —. Science experiments with sight and sound. 978-1-61783-854-5.
Each experiment offers clear directions, a pictorial supply list, and full color step-by-step pictures of the process. Acid and Base tie into the out-of-sight secret message. Densities are demonstrated with floating on liquid rainbows. Phosphors are demonstrated with top secret glowing lights. Each volume has a glossary of terms.
535 (Light) 530.4 (Liquid); Nonfiction science experiments                   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

 bull riding

Xtreme Rodeo. (series) Minneaopolis:ABDO,  2014. 32p. $18.95 each. Gr. 3-6.
Hamilton, John. Bull riding. 978-1-61783-979-5.
—. Roping. 978-1-61783-982-5.
—. Bareback riding. 978-1-61783-977-1.
—. Barrel racing. 978-1-61783-978-8.
—. Saddle bronc riding. 978-1-61783-980-1
—. Steer wrestling. 978-1-61783-981-8.
Readers will notice clear images throughout the books with both historical and current images. The elements of scoring are detailed as well as the outfit of a rider. There are times where the images are full page in color and many large images can be viewed in the books. Rank bull is the most challenging to ride. At the end of the books one can visit a glossary and index.
791.8; Rodeos                     Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Anderson, Jennifer Joline. Bigfoot and Yeti (Creatures of Legend series). N. Mankato, MN: Abdo, 2014. 9781-624031502. 48p. $32.79. Gr. 2 – 5.
A fun and easy-reader approach to these scary and large mythical creatures. Contains information on sightings of different big, hairy creatures around the world and through history, and encourages readers to see fact vs. fiction. Concludes with a “Stop and Think” 2-page spread which provides questions and extension activities that provide opportunities for students to activate critical thinking skills. Includes glossary, index, web links and additional recommended reading on the topic in the “Learn More” section.
001.944 Mythical Creatures   Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


 Aloian, Molly. The Green Scene (series). New York: Crabtree, 2014. 24p. Gr. 2- 5.
__. Green Gardening and Composting. 978-0778702627.
__. Going Green at School. 978-0778702641.
__. What Does it Mean to Go Green? 978-0778702757.
__. Living Green at Home. 978-0778702740.
__. Green Energy. 978-0778702658.
__. Eating Green. 978-0778702634.
Beautifully lay out, rich in information and easy to read, this series will instantly appeal to your young environmentalists.  Short chapters are fully illustrated and contain numerous “Take Action!” call-outs that suggest hands-on projects, such as “Collect rainwater in containers, such as a rain barrel, to water your plants. Save water by avoiding use of the tap or hose.” Each book is capped off with a “Learning More” section that provides additional research, glossary and index. Highly recommended.
641.028 Environment/Ecology    Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School

Jennings, Ken. illustrated by Mike Lowery. Maps and Geography.  (Ken Jennings’ Junior Genius Guides) New York: Little Simon, 2014. ISBN 978-1442498488. 160 pgs.  $16.19. Gr. 3-8.
Maps and Geography is the second book in the Ken Jennings’ Junior Genius Guides and earned a star review from Booklist. The structure of the book is to mimic a school day with seven class periods including art class, music, lunch, recess, final examination and homework.  Throughout each section readers can take delight with extra credit fact boxes, pop quiz boxes, maps and illustrations. Topics include the time zones, highest and lowest points in the world, the oceans, capitals, population, and national anthems. The final examination is twenty questions and upon completion, readers can go online to http://pages.simonandschuster.com/juniorgeniusguides and print their certificate in addition to exploring different activities and games.  This book is one of my selections for best non-fiction book. I suggest partnering this novel with Battle of the Beasts by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini and illustrated by Greg Call. Readers can plot a map of the journeys made in the novel and apply concepts and different geographic features learned from reading Maps and Geography.
910, Maps and Geography                 Beth McGuire Wendover Middle School

Blazers: Legendary Warriors.(series).North Mankato: Capstone, 2014. 32p. $25.99 each.  Gr. 3-6.
Lee, Adrienne. Aztec Warriors.
—. Gladiators. 978-1-4765-3114-4.
—. Knights. 978-1-47653-115-1.
—. Ninja. 978-1-47653-112-0.
—. Samurai. 978-1-47653-113-7.
—. Vikings. 978-1-47653-116-8.
Each page spread includes at least one picture or illustration. The text introduces readers to the time period such as ancient Rome. Terms are in gold font with the definition also on the page. “It’s a Fact” boxes add additional information relating the content on each page spread. The training of a warriors and the value of the games to society is included. The book contains a table of contents, glossary, read more, internet sites and an index. The internet sites are maintained through Facthound.com and can be retrieved with a code.
796.8   Gladiators                                           Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

Chanda, Justin. Editor. Acting Out: Six one-act plays! Six Newbery Stars. New York: Antheneum, 2008. 978-1-4169-3848-4.  $16.99 Gr. 3-8
Newbery recipients Avi, Cooper, Creech, MacLachlan, Paterson, and Peck each selected one word that must be included in all of the plays. Each play contains a variety of characters and each play is widely different. Settings include a school detention environment, a publishing house, a wealth person’s home, a potential site for new housing, a one room school house and a closet. After each play authors include production notes and suggestions for acting their play. This collection is one of my best book selections to tie-in with the novel Fix, six, seven Nate. Readers will be inspired to read and act out plays like Nate. The one-act plays can also be turned into more of a musical with the inspiration of the readers.
812, Plays                         Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

 Days of Decision. (series). Chicago: Heinemann, 2014. 64 p.  $26.30 each. Gr. 5-up
Barber, Nicola. Churchill and the Battle of Britain. 978-1-43297-634-7.
Green, Jen. Gandhi and the Quit India movement. 978-1-43297-635-4.
Langley, Andrew. Bush, Blair and Iraq.978-1-43297-633-0.
—. Hitler and Kristallnacht. 978-1-4397-636-1.
Senker, Cath. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis  978-1-4329-7637-8.
—. Mandela and Truth and Reconciliation 978-1-43297-638-5.
The book has contents, timeline, notes on sources, glossary, find out more and an index. Find out more includes books, DVD, website and additional areas for research. Terms are placed in bold fonts. Each page spread includes fact boxes, colored images or photography and captions. Throughout the book there are “What do you think” boxes encouraging the reader to reflect upon the issues further. An example is “Should –and could- Castro have rejected nuclear missiles?” Maps and information charts are also included to help illustrate concepts. Also looking at quotations from primary sources adds to reflection such as Castro’s threat on October 23, 1962. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis is one of my selections for best non-fiction books and ties into From Norvelt to Nowhere. During the book, Mrs. Volker is livid that blowing up the world is suggested in a local editorial. When going to Mrs. Roosevelt’s funeral, Jack wonders if he walked in JFK’s footsteps. Later in the novel, the missile crisis is downgraded. The background in this nonfiction book helps set the historical time setting of the novel.
 973.922 Cuban Missile Crisis/ John F. Kennedy    Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

Photography for Teens. (series). North Mankato: Compass Point Books, 2012. 48 p.  $21.54 each. Gr. 5-8.
Skog, Jason. Photography for Teens. 978-0-7565-4491-1.
—.Setting up the shot. 978-07565-4489-8.
—.Taking the shot. 978-0-7565-4490-4.
This series will help students develop their photography skills. Topics in the books include finding the right light, trick photography tips, photographing architecture, special effects, framing tips and special modes.  Each novel is three chapters with a glossary, further reading, information on the web, selected bibliography and an index. I have selected this series as a selection for the best of the best in children’s literature list for linking to the novel The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing. In this book Mo is suggested a hobby of photography. She is given a very old camera and learns how to develop pictures in a dark room. Mo hopes to capture the ghost using the camera. Now, many children and teens have access to or may own their own digital camera.
770  Photography, Digital Cameras                       Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

Lewis, Anna. Women of Steel and Stone:  22 Inspiration Architects, Engineers & Landscape Designers. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2014.  978-1-6137-4508-3. 272p. $19.95. Gr. 4+.
This book can be used as a companion book to Doll Bones when identifying the aspects of imagination and creativity and how when combined with innovation can create great contributions to science and technology.  Combined with STEM lessons and Common Core for Science and Writing this book can introduce a variety of successful women that overcame many barriers to reach their potential and develop their ideas through ingenuity.  The connections through these lessons can develop skills and thoughts for all students to create from their own imaginations and ideas.
920 Collective  Biography                      Denise Naumann, Eisenhower Elementary

Jackson, Donna. Every Body’s Talking: What We Say Without Words. Connecticut: Twenty-first Century Books, 2014.  978-1-4677-0858-6. 64p. $23.69. Gr. 4+.
Throughout the book, The Boy on the Porch, Jacob never speaks.  Everything that he conveys is through motions, drawings, nonverbal communication and his body language.  As humans we convey more through our body and facial expressions than we do through our words.  This book can provide connections in many common core areas of writing, reading, and speaking and listening.   Every Body’s Talking, helps students identify what they are conveying and how to read the body language of others, it also addresses taboos in other cultures.  By providing information by scientific experts combined with every day experiences the reader is able to identify and utilize the information.  The connections between these two books can stimulate discussion and writing projects that connect cultures, communication venues and evaluating what we communicate and write to others.
153.6 Sociology/Cultures                                     Denise Naumann, Eisenhower Elementary

Bekkering, Annalise. Rabbits. New York: AV2 by Weigl, 2013.  978-1-6191-3068-5. 24p. $19.04. Gr. K-3.
This book is part of the Backyard Animals series, and provides early readers with engaging photographs along with easy to understand text.  The book, Rabbits, provides information regarding the animal, the habitat, its characteristics, life cycle and behavior.  Common core connections can be made with both science and writing.  Students can make connections to this animal that is common in almost everyone’s yard and can make connections from the book in how we impact our environment and can change the story by what we do in our own backyard.  Perfect discussion starts for ecology, habitat protection and Earth Day.
599.32 Rabbits                                    Denise Naumann, Eisenhower Elementary

Ganeri, Anita. Writing Stories Fairy Tales. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2013.  978-1-4329-7531-9. 32p. $20.04. Gr. 1-4.
This book is part of the Writing Stories Series and combined with common core standards for writing provides a map for how to create a fairy tale.  By providing easy to understand definitions and examples of plot, setting, and character and story development while defining fairy tale characteristics this resources provides excellent guidance for the young writer.  Easy to follow examples and questions at the end of every section to make the writer/reader ponder the concepts provide discussion starters and enrichment for writers that want to pursue this form of writing.  The Glossary utilizes definitions that are easily understood and connections to information outside of the book are found in the Find Out More section.  Young writers will be drawn to the format, the colorful pages and the text layout and varying fonts.
808.06 Writing/Creative Writing                 Denise Naumann, Eisenhower Elementary

Stone, Tanya Lee. Who Says Women Can’t be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell. New York: Henry Holt and Compan, 2013.   978-0-8050-9048-2. 39 p. $17.99. Gr. 2-5.
This non-fiction book is inspiring to women everywhere. It tells the story of Elizabeth Blackwell who was the first woman to be accepted to medical school to become a doctor. She overcame all fears and criticism and graduated the top of her class. It was a long and rough journey she had to take but she never gave up. A perfect read to the beginning of a biography lesson or women rights.
921 BLA; Biography             Jenn Roth, Lincoln Elementary (Gettysburg Areas School District)

Bryant, Jenn. A Splah of Red; the Life and Art of Horace Pippin. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. 978-0-375-86712-5. 34 p. $17.00. Gr. 3-5.
This non-fiction book is inspiring to readers everywhere. Horace Pippin was a young boy who loved to draw. Even he drew in school next to his spelling words. Horace’s drawing became well loved by everyone in the community and he drew until he joined the army. During World War I, Horace was shot in the shoulder and lost feeling in his arm. He was devastated for years that he couldn’t draw anymore until one day he picked up the iron poker and taught himself to draw again by having his left arm guide his right one. Horace’s paintings became a big hit with the community once again. This book shows readers powers to overcome obstacles in life and to never give up on their dreams.
921 PIP; Biography                 Jenn Roth, Lincoln Elementary (Gettysburg Areas School District)

April 2014 BOB Picture Book Reviews



Park, Linda Sue. Xander’s Panda Party. Illustrated by Matt Phelan.  Boston: Clarion, 2013. ISBN. 978-0547-55865-3 40 p. $16.99. Gr. K-3.
Xander is planning a party for the bears in the zoo. When Xander invites the koala bear, he learns that the koala is not a bear so the invitation list grows to include mammals. The rhinoceros will not attend the party without his bird so the party list expands to include birds. Next, the crocodiles and reptiles wish to attend. Can Xander plan a party that pleases all of these guests?  The story is told lyrically as the illustrations show charm. The author’s note further describes the issue of animal extinction and classification. With the link to these topics this picture book can be shared with middle school students learning about vertebrates or conservation. This picture book has earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, The Horn Book, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books and School Library Journal in addition to being a Junior Library Guild selection. Due to the great rhyming tale with a theme of inclusivity and phenomenal artwork found in Xander’s Panda Party, I have selected this novel to be part of the best of the best in children’s literature list.
 Fiction picture book, zoos                                  Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Willems, Mo. That is Not a Good Idea! New York: Harper Collins Publisher, 2013.   978-0-06-220309-0.  42 p. $17.99. Gr. K-3.
This is another creative piece of work by Mo Willems. It is creative, humorous, and keeps readers wanting more. There is repetitive text which makes the book interactive since readers will start to participate while you read. It is a twist to the classic story, “The Three Little Pigs.” Instead, the characters in the story are a wolf, duck, and her little chicks. By the end of the story, readers will think they know the ending but then a sweet surprise happens which creates laughter.
Picture Book                              Jenn Roth, Lincoln Elementary (Gettysburg Areas School District)


Click for more information on this title

Park, Linda Sue. Xander’s Panda Party. Illustrated by Matt Phelan.  Boston: Clarion, 2013. ISBN. 978-0547-55865-3 40 p. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

Xander is planning a party for the bears in the zoo. When Xander invites the koala bear, he learns that the koala is not a bear so the invitation list grows to include mammals. The rhinoceros will not attend the party without his bird so the party list expands to include birds. Next, the crocodiles and reptiles wish to attend. Can Xander plan a party that pleases all of these guests?  The story is told lyrically as the illustrations show charm. The author’s note further describes the issue of animal extinction and classification. With the link to these topics this picture book can be shared with middle school students learning about vertebrates or conservation.

This picture book has earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, The Horn Book, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books and School Library Journal in addition to being a Junior Library Guild selection. Due to the great rhyming tale with a theme of inclusivity and phenomenal artwork found in Xander’s Panda Party, I have selected this novel to be part of the best of the best in children’s literature list.

For tie into the common core I suggest the book Pandas (National Geographic Readers Series) by Anne Schreiber (National Geographic Society, 2010). By linking this book to the story, students will see photographs of the images that can compare to the artwork while learning additional information about pandas.

Suggested nonfiction pairing:

Schreiber, Anne. Pandas (National Geographic Readers Series). Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4263-0610-5. 32 p. $3.99 Gr. K-3.

 Fiction picture book, zoos                                  Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School



Becker, Aaron.  Journey.  Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2013.  978-1-489-81936-9.  $15.99.  Unpaged.  Grades K-3.
Review: What does a creative and bored girl do when no one will play and things seem drab and dull at home?  In the case of Aaron Becker’s wordless picture book, she grabs a red marker and takes a cue from Harold and his purple crayon by drawing a door into a world of adventure.  As she journeys by boat and balloon through exotic lands, the reader realizes that she is choosing her actions from page to page and inviting us to do the same.  As a purple bird becomes an ally following a daring rescue, we also realize she may find that which she most seeks: companionship for her adventure.  Becker’s debut work has all the artistry and imagination that make a successful wordless book.  The color splashes with pen and ink and watercolor detail make it visually absorbing and enticing for rereading.  Plus, the ending has the reader imagining where they could go on their next journey! As with the best of David Wiesner or Anno’s work, a great wordless book like this leaves enough room for wonder and interpretation to go with story and direction.  Likewise, Journey is easy to enjoy and hard to resist.  I first saw this in a bookstore, and wanted it immediately- mostly because I am a sucker for child led adventure stories and also for amazingly illustrated wordless books.  The extensions through this book are easy to pick from, whether analyzing the plot, predicting, inferencing, or sequencing.  Best of all, of course, could be a writing exercise in adding a voice and text to the illustrations.
Fiction: Wordless Picture book, Fantasy Dustin Brackbill State College Area School District



Snicket, Lemony. The Dark. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013. 978-0-316-18748-0 [32 p.] $16.99.  Ages 3-6 (and up.)
As it says in the book, Laszlo is afraid of the dark. It never says why or how: just that he is. The dark comes and goes but never appears to be afraid of Laszlo.  Then one night the dark visits Laszlo and something happens that Laszlo is never afraid of the dark again.  Even my second and third graders enjoyed this story as they remembered what it was like to be in the dark!
Picture Book                 Lourie Stewart Dunbar Township/Dunbar Borough Elementary Schools


Wiesner, David. Mr. Wuffles!. New York: Clarion Books, 2013. 978-0-618-75661-2 [32 p.] $17.99. Gr. K-2.
A 2014 Caldecott Honor Book
Almost wordless, much like a cat, this story is wound around what really matters without regard to what others think. Because Mr. Wuffles has found something! Aliens: not just aliens, but a whole way of doing things. A wonderful collaboration and communication leads to the Aliens escaping in the end and Mr. Wuffles with just another toy.  This book can be used so many different ways and with so many different outcomes it is almost out of this world!
Picture Book                     Lourie Stewart Dunbar Township/Dunbar Borough Elementary Schools


Scieszka, Jon & Barnett, Mac. Battle Bunny.  New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013.  978-1-4424-4673-1. 32p.  $14.99. Gr. K-2.
A humorous spin for a picture book.  Alex receives a book from his “Gran Gran” for his birthday, which is sweet, kind and compassionate.  Alex uses his imagination and his pencil to create an entirely different story.  Each time you look through the book and read the additions you find more to the story.  Readers are drawn to the changes to the text and the illustrations.  What boy hasn’t received a book that he thought would be so much better with a few changes.  For the book to have it’s full effect the reader/listener has to view all the images and changes, unless using a document camera, not recommended as a read aloud for a group.  Although a book that can be read purely for enjoyment, it can also stimulate discussions regarding habitat, ecology and animals, as well as creative writing prompts.  The white space and combination of illustrations are engaging for young readers, however all the changes could be a distraction for struggling readers.
Fantasy/Humor                  Denise Naumann, Eisenhower Elementary                                                 


Holub, Joan, and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Little Red Writing. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2013. 978-0-8118-7869-2. 31 p.  $16.99. Gr. K-3.
Little Red Writing   is a story about Little Red in Pencil School, where Ms. 2 her teacher instructs the class on how to write a story. The other pencils; birthday pencil, state pencil, and basketball pencil can’t wait to write their happy, nonfiction “Great State of Pencilvania,” and sports stories. Ambitious Little Red truly wants to write an adventure story about a brave and courageous character, who journeys through the school, fighting evil to “save the day.”  Little Red begins by traipsing through the gym, bouncing, boogieing, and finally cartwheeling   into the “deep, dark, descriptive forest,” the school library on the next page. Full of sophisticated  adjectives such as deciduous, verdant, and bosky,  the reader  itches for a dictionary to find their meaning, as they admire Melissa Sweet’s sumptuous watercolor, pencil and collage illustrations of a library nestled in the woods with book shelves, lush fauna, fresh soft flowers, trees, and tiny animals peeking through. Hearing growling, the suspense intensifies as she spots a tail, and follows it into Principal Granny’s office, where Little Red meets Wolf 3000, showing his big sharp teeth, instead of her Principal. Big Red musters her courage and bravery, to combat the fierce pencil sharpener, and save Principal Granny, now a short stub of a pencil, before it’s too late. Full of helpful tips on parts of a story, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions and “sticking to your story path,” this clever version of Little Red Riding Hood leaves the audience inspired and ready to create their own. Little Red Writing makes a perfect read aloud, especially as an introduction to a story writing project. Team this up with Little Red Pen by Janet Stevens, another clever tail also starring characters from the school supply closet.
Picture Book                                Martha Lambertsen, Wallingford Elementary School


Fera, Doreen. Rodney Robin’s Fabulous Adventure. Turnersville, NJ: Rittenhouse Publishing, 2013. 978-0-9911449-0-7. 32p. $16.99. Gr. PreK – 2.
“One summer day, young Rodney Robin spread his little wings and flew far, far from home. He wanted an adventure! He wanted to explore!” Rodney goes too far, of course, and now it’s dark. He hears strange noises and sees creatures of the night and is afraid! But through a series of fun encounters with fearsome animals Rodney learns to confront his fears, make new friends, and slowly make his way back home safely. This wonderful little picture book is brightly illustrated and sure to engage your young read-aloud audience eager to hear about other little ones who can overcome the fears we all face. Recommended.
Picture Book              Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Elliot, David. Henry’s Map. New York: Penguin, 2013. 978-0-399-16072-1. 32 p. $16.99. Gr. K-2. Henry is a neatnik pig who likes “everything in its place”.  He looks out his window at the farm and decides he needs to organize the mess he sees. He makes a map to make sure all the animals find their proper places. The idyllic watercolor illustrations and the stick figure map drawn by ‘Henry’ create a warm and loving story which will be enjoyed alone or as an ideal introduction to a map lesson/study for grades K-2.
Picture Book                 Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary

A Golden Day that Matters – New YA Fiction


Kizer, Amber. A Matter of Days. New York: Delacorte, 2013. 978-0-385-73973-3. 276 p. $16.99. Gr. 6-12. 

Following the release of a deadly virus which killed ninety-eight percent of the world population, sixteen-year-old Nadia and her little brother Rabbit must follow Uncle Bean’s plan to join him and their grandfather, Pappi, across the country. Chapters are divided by the amount of days since the outbreak, beginning on day 56, when their mother dies and the pair set out in their loaded Jeep.  Throughout their journey they encounter problems including heavy snow, multiple thieves, and ruthless gangs, but also some kindness. On day 62 they rescue a seriously injured Saint Bernard they name Twawki, and on day 63 they meet Zach, a formerly homeless teen. He kindly shares his resources and on day 75, moves on with Nadia, Rabbit, Twawki and Al, an entertaining parrot. On day 100, exhausted and disheveled, they finally reach Pappi’s survivalist camp, their new home. This adventurous page turner is not as graphically brutal as other recent apocalyptic titles.

Science Fiction                       Michelle Hankin, Sandy Run Middle School

In a four page author’s note, Kizer discusses her interest in viruses as her purpose for writing this story. She speaks directly to readers about viruses in general, the likelihood of a pandemic of this magnitude occurring and past pandemics, recommending reading for those interested in learning more. While reassuring those who may fear these topics, she also recommends survivalist books and possible careers for those interested.



Dubosarsky, Ursula. The Golden Day. Massachusetts:  Candlewick Press, 2011. 1st US Edition 2013.  978-0763663995. 149p. $15.99. Gr. 9-12.

Miss Renshaw is a fourth grade teacher at an all girls private school in Australia and is peculiar to say the least. She regularly takes her class on a walking field trip to a local park, and the girls note that Miss Renshaw is always seen talking to one of the caretakers, Morgan. She talks to the girls about Morgan and asks that they keep Morgan a secret. One day Miss Renshaw takes the girls on a field trip when she and Morgan take them into the caves along the harbor. The girls get scared and go back outside and that was the last time they saw Miss Renshaw. What follows is a strange narrative where the girls collectively decide not to tell anyone where they were and who was there. The story later jumps to when the girls are getting ready to graduate from high school and the girls discover that they have not really forgotten Miss Renshaw and the events of that day so long ago and their part in the mystery.

Realistic                                         Marian Kohan, Erie School District

Overall this was a strange story. Because all of the references are mainly Australian, students may have trouble relating to the characters and their problems. The ending of this novel is just plain bizarre and does little to help give the story a true resolution.


April 2014 BOB Fiction reviews


Williams-Garcia, Rita. P.S. Be Eleven. New York: Harper Collins, 2013. 9780061938627. 276p. $16.99. Gr. 5+
One of my 4 best books of 2013! This 2013 winner of Coretta Scott King Award is the follow-up to Williams-Garcia’s multiple award-winning One Crazy Summer. We pick up where we left off in 1968 with sisters Delphine, Vonetta and Fern flying back from their One Crazy Summer visiting their mother Cecile, the poet and Black Panther sympathizer, in Oakland.  Returning home to Pa and Big Mama, their imposing Southern grandma, in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, they have to assimilate their new knowledge of Black Power and social revolution with the white gloves and “don’t create a grand Negro spectacle” admonishments of their real world. The title comes from the postscript of letters Delphine, about to turn 12, writes to her wayward, troubled mother asking for answers to all the confusing aspects of her world. Cecile’s answers are oblique and vague and in the end she is scolding her oldest daughter to remain a girl a little longer.  But as we learned in the first book, Cecile’s inability to care for her children forced Delphine to be a responsible adult caregiver from a very young age, and  therein lies this book’s heartbreaking dilemma. Mix in an uncle who returns from Vietnam with damage you can’t see from the outside, typical 6th grade school troubles, and tons of laughs, and you have a multi-layered novel that you won’t be able to put down. Many of the life lessons in this book are going to go over the heads of the average sixth grade reader so I’d encourage adults to read this with their kids, and I’d pitch this book to readers all through high school. It is amazingly written and a beautiful story with no easy answers.
Historic Fiction, Vietnam, 1960s Cultural Revolution       Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School                                                                                                                      


Shurtliff, Liesl. Rump, The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. 978-0-307-97793-9. 264p. $16.99. Gr.3-6.

What do you do when your name dictates everything everyone thinks about you, when it dictates your destiny? Rump, wants
to change who he is, what people think of him and his path in life. Throughout this book the humor, adventure and story line, is
perfect for reader age. Liesl Shurtliff takes an unlikeable fairy tale character and has the reader routing for him. The chapter length and the text size are engaging and the language is perfect for readers pushing to the more advanced chapter book level. Rump not only tells the story of Rumpelstilskin in a different light, it also encourages self-discovery and insightful reflection mixed with memorable fairy tale characters. I highly recommend this book.
Fiction/Fractured Fairytales/Humor    Denise Naumann, Eisenhower Elementary


Vawter, Vince.  Paperboy.  New York: Delacorate Press,  2013.978-0-385-744-3. 225p. $16.99 Gr. 6-9.

Starting your first job is an exciting experience, even if it’s only temporary.  Set in the 1950s  in Memphis, Tennessee, our hero takes over his best friend’s paper route for the summer.  His life long struggle with a stuttering problem complicates matters when he has to meet new people and talk to them.  The new route is filled with a number of unusual characters with their own personal problems. As you can probably guess, the novel is in many aspects autobiographical.  The author is an expert at understanding the world of a stutterer. Stuttering is an unseen disability that affects millions of people on a daily basis.
Fiction         Martha Trzepacz   Strath Haven Middle School


Grabenstein, Chris. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. New York: Random House Children’s Books, 2013. 978-0-375-87089-7. 304 p. $16.99. Gr. 4-6
Kyle Keeley is a huge fan of games, all kinds of games but in particular video games. Enter Luigi Lemoncello, Kyle’s idol and hero, inventor of games and the also the town’s new library.  Kyle will an essay contest and is lucky to be of 12 kids invited to the library to spend and overnight filled with fun and adventure. BUT when the morning comes and it is time to leave, the doors are locked and the invited guests must solve clues to escape.
Mystery   Lourie Stewart Dunbar Township/Dunbar Borough Elementary Schools


Columbus, Chris and Ned Vizzini. Illustrations Greg Call. The Battle of the Beasts (House of Secrets Book 2) New York: Balzer + Bray, 2014.  ISBN 978-0-06-219249-3. 465 p.  $17.99. Gr. 5-8.
In the sequel to New York Times bestselling novel The House of Secrets (2013) and a Junior Library Guild selection, the Walker siblings are about to begin further journeys to protect their family. Fitting in at their new private school is not an easy process for anyone regardless as to how much money their family now possesses. To stop The Wind Witch, Eleanor, Cordelia and Brendan will find themselves in the middle of the Roman coliseum, struggling against Nazi cyborgs and in the mountains of Tibet to conquer terrifying monsters. New characters in addition to returning characters from the first book of the series add excitement to the tale. The Battle of the Beasts is one of my best book selections. I suggest partnering this novel with Maps and Geography by Ken Jennings. The Walker siblings travel to different time zones, world locations and time periods addressed in the non-fiction book.
Fiction (Adventure, Fantasy, Family)   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School



Federle, Tim. Five, six, seven, Nate. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014. 978-14424-4693-9. 293 p. $16.99. Gr. 5-8.
Five, six, seven, Nate earned a star review from both Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews and was a Junior Library Guild selection.  This is also the sequel to Better Nate Than Ever (2013). In this novel Nate is thrilled to have earned a role in E.T. on Broadway.. Practice is not all that he expected and it seems as if Libby’s mom is doing worse with her cancer treatments but Libby makes new friends in his absence. Nate is not having the best experience with playing Alien #7. Many wonder if E.T. will become the biggest Broadway flop ever.  While Nate is in NY for the novel, many references from western PA grace the pages with Pirates, Steelers, Penguins, Roberto Clemente, pierogies, and Primanit Bros. sandwich.  Can Nate help to save the performance and will he make any new friends and also keep his old friends?  This is one of my selections for the Best of Best in children’s literature. I suggest connecting this novel with Acting Out: Six one-act plays! Six Newbery Stars edited by Justin Chanda.
Fiction (Theater, Friendship, Social Issues)   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Gantos, Jack.  From Norvelt to Nowhere. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013. 978-0-374-37994-0. 278 p. $16.99. Gr. 5-8.
From Norvelt to Nowhere is the sequel to the 2012 Newbery winning novel Dead End in Norvelt. Star review from Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly as well as a selection from Junior Library Guild. It is Halloween time in Norvelt and Bunny convinces Jack to dress up as Mr. Spizz, who is believed to have murdered all of the older Norvelt women. This does not go well and shortly after Miss Volker calls on a request to Mrs. Gantos. She asks if Jack can accompany her to Eleanor Roosevelt’s funeral. Things continue to occur out of the ordinary including being trailed by detectives, learning Miss Volker’s sister died as Jack tries to enjoy his many editions of Classics Illustrated on their dangerous journeys. From Novelt to Nowhere is one of my selections for the best of the best in childrens literature. Given the time period that the book takes place and events detailed in the book, I suggest linking this novel to Cath Senker’s book Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis from Days of Decision series.
Fiction (Action, Humor, Mystery)   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School 


Turnage,  Shelia. The ghosts ofTupelo Landing. New York: Penguin, 2014. 978-0-8037-3671-9. 352 p. $16.99. Gr. 5-8.
The ghosts of Tupelo Landing earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s books and Kirkus Reviews in addition to being a Junior Library Guild selection.   This novel is the follow up  to Three Times Lucky, 2013 Newbery honor novel. On the first day of school, Mayor Little shares that all sixth graders will interview an elder in honor of the towns 250th anniversary. Mo convinces Dale that they should interview the oldest member, the ghost at the inn. Can they solve the mystery of the ghost and complete their assignment? To complicate matters Mr. Red’s grandson is in twon and they have a difficult time getting along, but it does seem that the pasts of the families are connected somehow. Turnage’s novel is one of my selections for the best of the best in children’s literature. I suggest linking this novel to the Photography for Teens series by Jason Skog as photography becomes Mo’s new hobby in this book.
Fiction (Horror and Ghost Stories, Mystery)   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School 



Black, Holly.  Doll Bones.  New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013.  978-1-4169-6398-1. 244p.  $16.99. Gr. 4-6.
This book is about changing friendships, changing ideas and imagination.  Holly Black has created an incredible novel about what happens when we grow up and start to loose the ability and love for imaginative play.  The books adventure is centered around “The Queen”, a bone china doll, and three friends joining together as life is starting to pull them apart.  The story is based on a ghost story and at times manipulation along with changes in friendships as we grow, older readers will be able to understand the nuances of the story as they are going through similar experiences in their own relationships.  Doll Bones is an engaging story that has a few black and white illustrations interspersed, I highly recommend this book for readers that enjoy this genre.
Fantasy/Paranormal                        Denise Naumann, Eisenhower Elementary


Creech, Sharon.  The Boy on the Porch.  New York: Joanna Cotler Books, 2013.  978-0-06-189235-6. 151p.  $16.99. Gr. 3-6.
When a boy is found on their porch, without a voice, without a reason and no one steps forward to identify him, what are John and Marta to think?  This is a story of family, compassion and understanding.  It is also a story that skirts the issues of abandonment, the foster care system and unexpected family.  The text and chapters are concise and perfect for young readers.  The lack of Jacob’s speech is at the heart of the book and his use of body language, and art convey his thoughts and ideas.  As the story unfolds more information is revealed regarding the boy and his connections with animals and people.  This is an excellent read aloud that generates different discussions based on the text-to-self connections the readers/listeners reveal.  This novel is also an excellent discussion starter for body language and nonverbal communication.
Realistic Ficiton                                 Denise Naumann, Eisenhower Elementary                 

fortunately the milk

Gaiman, Neil.  Fortunately, the Milk.  New York, NY: Harper, 2013.  978-0-06-222407-1.  128 pages.  $14.99.  Grades 3-6.
Oh, bother!  Dad’s been left in charge of the kids while mom is away.  In fact, he fails to have any milk the next morning for the children’s cereal; and so he journeys out to the store and begins an amazing and entertaining romp through time and space.  As the children listen, the dad relays his unfortunate adventures with aliens, pirates, dinosaurs, vampires, and other dangers.  Fortunately, the milk stays in play throughout the story as one bizarre coincidence after another unpredictably unfolds.  Those who are fan of picture book misadventures like Could Be Worse by James Stevenson and Meanwhile! by Jules Feiffer and even Don’t Forget the Bacon! by Pat Huchins, will see this as a quirky chapter book extension.  Neil Gaiman unravels his fantastical tale with dry wit and pleasure in a tone that differs from his other works for youth.  The formatting and design and illustrations from Skottie Young also go a long way to making Fortunately, the Milk succeed.  Fortunately, readers will enjoy the ride and want to hear it again.
My view:
I like quirky and strange tales, especially when they show some intelligence and catch me by surprise in ways that seem bizarrely plausible.  This book was one of those, and I have had a similar reaction from students that I shared it with.  It is a good fit for kids who don’t fit other normal stories, and for those who want a quick adventure before bridging into Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Universe.
Partner text:Journey by starlight: A time traveler’s guide to life, the universe, and everything by Flitcroft, I., & Spencer, B. (2013).  This is an interesting graphic novel for young adults which allows Albert Einstein to discuss the physics and philosophy behind the stuff of science fiction.
Horn Book starred (Spring 2014)
Science Fiction, Fantasy, Time Travel Dustin Brackbill State College Area School District


Keller, Laurie. The Adventures of Arnie the Doughnut: Bowling Alley Bandit. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2013.  978-0-8050-9076-5-51399.  Unp.  $13.99.  Gr. 3-6.
The Adventures of Arnie the Doughnut: Bowling Alley Bandit is the first hilarious title in a chapter book series about Arnie the Doughnut, (inspired by a picture book with the same title.) Sporting 135 sprinkles, and iced with chocolate frosting, Arnie, a donut, convinces his owner that he would make a better pet than a breakfast treat, air freshener, picture frame, or pin cushion.. Mr. Bing decides Arnie will become his companionable donut–dog.  Told through text and fun cartoony illustrations drawn with black felt-tip pens, Arnie spends lots of time hanging out with Mr. Bing and his Bingbat bowling team at the Lemon Lanes Bowling Alley. Mr. Bing’s donut is a popular entertainer there, singing Karaoke songs to the bowlers such as, “Livin’ la vi-DOUGH Loca!”, “Fried in the USA!” or, “DOUGHNUT make my brown eyes blue.” Trouble brews, however, as the Bingbats league enjoys a winning streak against the competitive Yada-Yadas in the 62nd Annual Lemon Lanes Bowling Championship, when all of a sudden Mr. Bing starts rolling gutter balls. Arnie must solve the mystery of Mr. Bing’s erring bowling ball. This “Who-Donut” mystery will fly off the shelves, especially for readers who crave humor. The comical puns, jokes, and whimsical fun illustrations make this clever donut mystery a winner.
Fiction (Donuts)                                                  Martha Lambertsen, Wallingford Elementary School


Hughes, Shirley. Hero on a Bicycle. Sommerville: Candlewick Press, 2013. 978-0-7636-6037-6.  213 p. $15.99     Gr. 5-8.
Paolo, a thirteen-year-old boy living in Florence, Italy in 1944 under Nazi occupation, has an unquenchable thirst for adventure. His father and many other men in Florence are part of the resistance movement, fighting the Nazis undercover.  Paolo doesn’t even know where his father is or what secret missions he is involved with. He is stuck at home with his mother and sister doing chores, while many of the older boys have joined in the covert missions against the Nazis. Sneaking out alone on his bicycle around town late at night gives Paolo the thrill he’s missing at home, even though he’s aware of the risk he is taking with Nazi soldiers about.  Danger finds him in another way however, when Partisans (covert members of the anti-Nazi movement) capture him during one of his suspenseful rides through the unlit city. Paolo has to pay a huge price for his reckless night bicycle riding, implicating his mother and sister in a network of dangerous Partisans missions. This wartime story is exciting from the beginning, and the characters are so expertly developed, you care deeply about them. It is a perfect title for readers interested in war stories with true grit, skillfully showing the pain of war and the bravery and courage these Italians need to survive during their ruthless occupation.
Historical Fiction (World War II)                Martha Lambertsen, Wallingford Elementary School


Kadohata, Cynthia. The Thing About Luck. New York: Atheneum, 2013. 978-1-4169-1882-0. 269 p. $16.99. Gr. 5-9. From the Newbery winning author of  Kira Kira, this is a sweet family story about Summer and her younger brother Jaz, Japanese migrant farm workers who must spend the summer with their traditional Japanese grandparents harvesting wheat in Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma. This coming of age story explores cultural differences, changing family dynamics, and the intricacies of growing up. Despite the hard work, her first romance attempts with the boss’s son, her grandmother’s harsh criticism, her brother’s social awkwardness (possible Aspberger’s), as well as ailing family members, Summer maintains a humorous and positive attitude throughout the book. Reader’s who liked Out of my Mind last year will enjoy this quiet read.

Realistic Fiction                  Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary

great trouble

Hopkinson, Deborah. The Great Trouble. New York: Knopf Publishing, 2013. 978-0375848186. 256p. $14.00. Grades 5+.Eel is an orphan who spends his days searching for food and things to sell. Besides being hunted by Fisheye Bill, he also must pay four shillings a week to keep his secret safe. In August 1854, Mr. Griggs, the tailor, is the first to get sick, with cholera, the “blue death”. Dr. Snow has a theory about how the disease spreads. It’s up to Eel and his best friend Florrie to help prove the doctor’s theory before the city is wiped out. Steeped in fact, the book uses a story to teach students the science of the cholera epidemic as well as the history and class system of 19th century London. An author’s note provides readers with a look at the real story behind the novel.
Historical (Victorian London)              Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary


Snowe, Olivia.  A home in the sky (Twice Told Tales series).  North Mankato, MN: Stone Arch Books, 2014.  978-1-4342-5041-4.  120p.  $23.99.  Grades 3-5.
This tale is a modern retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk, mixing in modern references with the classic features of the story.  Jack and his mom are struggling to get by and afford their apartment, so Jack has to go sell his favorite possession, his bike.  As you can guess, the result is a handful of beans, which in this case leads to a beanstalk rising to the top of a skyscraper where a powerful real estate mogul lives.  Jack still encounters gold and treasure, and makes some modern day choices regarding wealth and happiness.  This twice told tale is worth retelling – and rereading with others.
Fiction; Fantasy and twisted fairy tales   Dustin Brackbill State College Area School District


Galante, Cecilia. Little Wings (series). Milwaukee: Stepping stone, 2013. 112 p. $12.00.ea. Grade 1-4
Most cupids have soft silky hair, rosy cheeks and snow white wings. This series about a lovable crazy-haired, freckled cupid with bright purple wings whose curious and helpful nature gets her into trouble and takes her on many adventures. The books will especially appeal to primary grade girls. Text is arranged in beginning chapters with black and white illustrations throughout.
           __. Willa Bean’s Cloud Dreams. 978-0375869471.
           __. Be Brave, Willa Bean. 978-0375869488.
           __.  Star-Bubble Trouble. 978-0375869495.
          __. Willa Bean to the rescue. 978-0449810033.
          __. The One and Only Willa Bean. 978-0375869501.
Fantasy                        Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary


Jones, Christine Brodien. The Glass Puzzle. New York: Delacorte Books, 2013.  978-0385742979. 336p. $14.00. Gr 3-7
11 year old Zoé and her cousin Ian are spending the summer with Grandad in Tenby, Wales, a mystical coastal town with secret tunnels, tales of pirates. An ancient island, Wythernsea, disappeared off the coast in 1349. When Zoe finds an old piece of glass and looks at some of the villagers through it, they become three-eyed monsters!  She and Ian discover that the glass is part of a puzzle that connects their world to Wynthernsea. The portal allows them to visit the lost island but also allows monsters through who then inhabit the villagers. The two must find the Scraven leader and the rune stone in time to close the portal and save the town.
Fantasy                           Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary


 Seven, John . The Time-tripping Faradays (series). Mankato: Capstone, 2013. 160p. Grades 4-8.
            __.The Alchemist War. 978-1623700119.
            __.The Dragon of Rome. 978-1623700126.
            __.Terror of Tengu. 978-1434291752.
            __.The Outlaw of Sherwood Forest. 978-1434291769.
Dawk and Hypes’ get to travel with their parents for work. Their parents are 25th century researchers who document lost moments in history. The cool part is that they actually go back in time to witness it first hand! In the future, world knowledge is accessed through the NeuroNet and people can communicate instantly via the Link. Their adventures include nearly derailing Hannibal’s march across the Alps, finding a man in ancient Prague who claims he can turn metal into goal, and discovering that mythological dragons may actually be real?? Readers of Magic Tree House, Time Warp Trio and Infinity Ring will enjoy this series.
Science Fiction/Historical                     Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary


Troupe, Thomas Kingsley. Furry and Flo (series). Mankato: Capstone, 2013. 128p. $9.00. Grades 3-4.
            __. The Big Hairy Secret. 978-1623700331.
            __. Problems with Goblins. 978-1623700348.
            __. The Misplaced Mummy. 978-1623700478.
            __. The Skeletons in City Park. 978-1623700485.
Fourth grader, Flo Gardner, has moved a lot with her mom since her dad died. She is tired of moving and isn’t exactly thrilled with Corman Towers, a giant apartment building in the middle of the city. She is calm and cool while her friend, Ferdinand, better known as Furry, is a nervous sidekick. The book contains a mix of spot and full page cartoon style illustrations. An interesting mix of realism as well as the paranormal creates a rather creepy adventure.
Fantasy                             Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary


Jakubowski, Michelle. Sydney & Sidney (series). Mankato: Capstone, 2013. 128 p. $10.00. Grades 1-3.
            __. Third Grade Mix-Up. 978-1404881044.
            __. Dodgeball, Drama and other Dilemmas.
This series is narrated in alternating chapters by two third graders, a boy and a girl, whose names are nearly identical. Sidney just moved to Oak Grove. On the first day of school, things get kind of awkward when Sydney accidentally sits in his seat and even more weird when her mother invites him and his mom for dinner. The two classmates, one- a fashionista, the other a world traveler, find out they actually have a lot in common, including a game called Galaxy Quest. In the second book in the series, their adventures continue as the two, now fast friends, tackle dodge ball, the spelling bee, and the school play!
Realistic                                   Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary


Dana, Reinhardt. Odessa Again. New York: Wendy Lamb Books, 2013. 978-0385739566. 208p. $12.00. Grades 3-7.
Fourth grader Odessa Green-Light’s parents are divorced. She lives with her mom and her little brother, Oliver. Her dad is getting remarried. Odessa moves into the attic room of their new house and one day when she gets mad at Oliver and stomps on the floor, she spirals through time going back an entire day! With her new power she decides to fix things – embarrassing moments, big mistakes, especially reuniting her Mom and Dad.
Odessa matures as she makes discoveries about her relationships with friends and family through the use of her new power.
Science Fiction                     Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary


Kelly, Katy. Melonhead and the We-Fix-It-Company (Melonhead series). New York: Delacorte, 2013. 978-0385-74165-1. 232p. $14.99. Gr. 3-6.
Author Kelly gives us the 5th installment in the hilarious and breezy Melonhead series. Adam Melon, also known as Melonhead, and his best friend Sam have a penchant for daring deeds such as drinking each other’s disgusting concoctions (“the Beast”), getting into “situations,” and breaking things. The problem is that neither Sam nor Melonhead receive an allowance so how can they afford to make things right when they go wrong? You guessed it, their newly formed We-Fix-It-Company. Kelly nails the dialog and inner voice of active, imaginative boys of a certain age and delivers belly laughs a la Judy Blume books. Highly recommended.
Humorous Realistic Fiction Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


McClimans, Todd.  Time Traitor (American Epochs). Charleston: Northampton House Press, 2014.         978-1-937997-36-6. 182 p.  $11.95. Gr. 5-8.
Author Todd McClimans is a Pennsylvanian elementary school principal. His first book in the American Epochs series, Time Traitor, was published by Northampton House Press, a company who publishes works by writers who are just breaking on to the literary scene. It’s available for purchase on the Northampton House Press website or through e-book via Amazon. I will admit, I often judge a book by its cover, and the poor quality artwork on the front cover does nothing for the fantastic story inside. Time Traitor follows two young students from George Washington Prep named Kristi Connors and Ty Jordan. They’ve both been sent there because of family issues (Kristi’s parents are separating, Ty’s mother has just died and his step-father wants rid of him) so neither is happy to be at GWP. The school isn’t exactly welcoming—Ty is constantly followed by bullies and history teacher Dr. Xavier Arnold seems to have it in for class-clown Kristi. Things really pick up in the story when Kristi discovers that Dr. Arnold has built a working time machine, and he whisks her and Ty back to Colonial America so that they can’t spill his secret. Arnold is the distant relative of General Benedict Arnold and is determined to change history so that Benedict Arnold is remembered as a great hero.  Things go from bad to worse when Arnold sells Ty to a farmer as a laborer and puts African American Kristi in a slave auction. Luckily, someone knows their secret and offers to help. Ty and Kristi spend the next few months back in Colonial America, developing a plan to stop Arnold from altering the course of history. The ending wraps up neatly but McClimans has a planned sequel called Time Underground so apparently the story’s not over! I think that this would work very well as a read-aloud in a fifth or sixth grade classroom, or put it in the hands of kids who like the time-travel/historical fiction combo (I’m thinking of my Infinity Ring fans).
Fiction                                             Lindsey Long, Nye Elementary School