Tsarina…a story of the Fall of the Romanovs and Russia


Patrick, J. Nelle. Tsarina. New York: Razorbill, 2014. 978-1-59514-693-8. 328 p. $17.99. Gr.7-12.

Tsarina takes place in Imperial Russia during the fall of the Romanov Family. Natalya Kutepova is the beloved of the Tsarevich, Alexei Romanov. She is not royal, but she is from a noble family; her father is the head of the Russian Military. She and Alexei have been in love for most of their teenage years. Alexei suffers from hemophilia and was always sickly when he was young. Gregori Rasputin created a Faberge Egg that contained protective magic for the Tsar and those he loved; he called it the Constellation Egg. When Alexei shows Natalya the Egg, he lets her in on two secrets that no one outside of the family knows; that it exists, and where it is kept. The Constellation Egg is the reason that Alexei is not sickly anymore. Turmoil is brewing in Russia. The Reds riot in St. Petersburg, and Natalya flees to free her friend Emilia, a noble. Emilia just wants to go to Paris until things settle down, but getting there turns out to be a problem. Natalya rescues Emilia from her house as the Reds are starting a fire that will end up consuming the house. They run away and end up at the home of their Tailor who promises to shelter them for the night and get them to the train station in the morning. The tailor’s nephew, Leo, picks the girls up, but rather than take them to the train station, he kidnaps them. Leo is a Red. This is just the beginning of this enchanting novel. Leo is kind to the girls, but they are still his prisoners. The key is to find the Constellation Egg, but to claim it and which group? The Reds, the Whites and a surprising third party, The Mystics, all want to lay claim to the egg. St. Petersburg to Moscow to Siberia, they travel across Russia in search of the magical egg, a magic that lives on even though the Romanovs were murdered.

This book is an interesting companion novel for students studying Imperial Russia. Many of the facts are true, the author outlines in the endnote where she deviated from the truth. I have always been fascinated with Russia, and Anastasia was one of my favorite animated movies. The fantasy element was just enough; I imagine it was a very magical time for the nobility, not so much for the peasants, hence, the Russian Revolution.

Historical Fantasy (Imperial Russia)   Kathryn Gilbride, North Pocono High and Middle Schools

Don’t Look Back…a new YA mystery


Armentrout, Jennifer L. Don’t Look Back. New York: Disney Hyperion, 2014. 978-1–42317-512-4. 384 p. $16.99. Gr. 9 and up.

The mystery of what happened to seventeen year old Samantha is a matter of life and death, just not hers.  Best friends Cassie and Samantha both went missing on the same night, but police in a nearby park found only Samantha four days later.  Suffering from a severe concussion that has obliterated her memory and changed her personality, Samantha is the only lead to finding Cassie and what really happened that night.  Samantha is disgusted to learn that she is a mean girl at her high school, her so called friends really hate, and that she is nothing like the girl she wants so desperately to become.  Once Cassie’s body is found Samantha is left wondering if she could have committed the murder and needing to know what really happened the night she went missing.  The only person Samantha trusts is a boy she barely knows, Carson Ortiz, but who knows the old Samantha and her wicked ways.

Mystery              Robin Burns, Salisbury High School

The story unfolds in layers as Samantha attempts to put together her life before the night she lost her memories.  Once her best friend’s body is found Samantha wonders if she could have committed murder or if there is still a killer on the loose.  The plot is quick paced and fans of the Pretty Little Liars series will enjoy following Samantha’s journey to find out who is out to get her and what she has done in the past to be their target.  Although not a must have title a good book to pair with other mystery fiction and thriller novels.

Let’s Get…New YA Realistic Fiction


Alsaid, Adi.  Let’s Get Lost. New York: Harlequin Teen, 2013. 978-0-373-21124-1. 352 p. $17.99. Gr. 11 and up.

Leila is seventeen years old and on the ultimate road trip to visit Alaska and see the Northern Lights.  Along the way Leila meets four teenagers who she attempts to help with their own issues.  The novel is broken up into five chapters with each character retelling their own backstory and accepting help from Leila.   Hudson is a young mechanic who fixes Leila’s car in Vicksburg , Virginia, and after a brief romantic encounter, she leaves Hudson as suddenly as she drove into town.  In Kansas, Leila meets a young woman, Bree, who has been orphaned and is on her own road trip to find herself.  The two girls get into trouble with the law, but after a night of mischief, Leila helps Bree understand the importance of family.  Bree is reunited with her estranged sister and finds the importance of family.  Elliot meets Leila when she nearly runs him over in Minneapolis after being dumped at prom.  The two teenagers work together to prove Elliot’s love for his unrequited love, Maribel.  The last teen, Sonia, has been stranded at the Washington/Canadian border and must now smuggle wedding rings across the border to help a friend in need.  The final chapter is Leila’s story about her own lost love and the struggle to move on with life.  Leila is a mystery up until the last chapter with the first 4/5ths of the story told entirely in the third person point of view.

Realistic                 Robin Burns, Salisbury High School

Leila’s story is slowly revealed through her interactions with the four very different strangers she meets during her cross-country road trip to Alaska.  The main character, Leila, is never the focus of the story, but instead acts as the catalyst for change in the lives of those she meets.  This title is recommended for grades eleven  and up because of the teens’ reckless situations with driving, drinking, a night in jail, and no strings attached romantic relationships.  Fans of John Green’s Paper Towns will find similarities with the story line and content but will enjoy the story for its own unique examination of a life.



Betts, A.J. Zac and Mia. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. 978-0-544-331648. 304 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Zac and Mia are two teenagers that are too old for the children’s ward at their local Australian hospital, but the youngest people on the adult wing receiving cancer treatment.  Life outside of the hospital was very different for the two teens and without their treatments to bond them they would never have met let alone become friends.  The two teens start their friendship by tapping on their shared wall and carrying on Facebook conversations.  One day Mia disappears suddenly, and then reappears just as suddenly in Zac’s life asking for his help.  During their time apart Mia has lost her leg to cancer and must re-enter the hospital for the infection that has spread but wants to take one final trip while they are both well enough to travel.

Realistic         Robin Burns, Salisbury High School

Readers who are fans of John Green’s Fault in Our Stars will find similarities with the storyline and content but will enjoy the story for its own unique blend of romance and realistic fiction.  This book has recently been published but has already become a fan favorite at my local high school.  Students have shared that they enjoy the story while also learning about a different culture, Australia, and what teens in another country like to watch on TV, eat, and live their day-to-day lives.  A great addition and a must have for high school libraries looking for readalikes to Fault in Our Stars.



Han, Jenny. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014. 978-1-44242-670-2. 368p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Lara Jean  has been in love.  She has been in love more than once.  Each time Lara Jean falls in love she pours out all of her feelings into heartfelt love letters but does not give those letters to anyone, especially her great loves.  Each time Lara Jean falls in love it is a crush and by writing her letters she is able to deal with her feelings. This has always worked for her until one day her letters go missing.  Lara Jean quickly learns that the letters were mailed, and when one of her crushes, Peter, reads his letter the two team up to mend both their broken hearts.  Peter has been unable to get over his ex-girlfriend, and Lara Jean is trying to ignore the boy next door, Josh, who used to date her sister, Margot.  Readers will be rooting for Lara Jean and all of her relationships not just with boys but her sister, father, and friends.

Realistic               Robin Burns, Salisbury High School

Jenny Han fans will not be disappointed with her newest novel and will eagerly await the sequel.  Lara Jean is a very likable character and is relatable to many teenage girls regardless of their own romantic lives.  The struggles she faces in life growing up half Korean, dealing with her mother’s death, and the complications of teenage love are realistically depicted and relate-able.  Popular with fans of Sarah Dessen and Stephanie Perkins, this a must have for high school libraries.  The title is a good fit for romance and realistic fiction fans and would be a good addition for high school collections.



Kenneally, Miranda. Breathe, Annie, Breathe. Sourcebooks Fire: New York, 2014. 978-1-40228-479-3. 320p. $16.99. Gr. 11 and up.

The fifth installment of the Hundred Oaks series focuses on Annie picking up the pieces of her life after the sudden death of her high school boyfriend.  Annie resolves to run the Music City Marathon in memory of her late boyfriend, Kyle.  The training is hard, but dealing with her grief is even harder.  Six months of intense training has helped to get Annie physically ready for the race, but meeting her trainer’s brother, Jeremiah, causes Annie to examine if she is mentally ready to race and move on with her life.  Readers will root for Annie to race and love again.

Realistic                Robin Burns, Salisbury High School

The series Hundred Oaks focuses on a different sport in each book and appeals to mostly female readers but gives enough sports background to keep all students engaged.  Kenneally has written several books in the last two years and all have been wildly popular with my students.  Annie is a strong female character and will be relatable to teens that have suffered loss of any kind.  A great addition and a must have for high school libraries in need of sports fiction.

A Little Fantasy, Horror, and Series Wrap-ups


Ward, Rachel.  The Drowning.  New York: Chicken House, 2014.  272 p.  978-05456-27719. $17.99.  Gr. 9+. 

Carl wakes up with no knowledge of who he, what he is doing laying soaking wet on the river bank, or who the boy is that is being zipped up into the body bag beside.  Upon arriving home from the hospital he begins to understand that he, his brother, and an unknown girl were involved in a bizarre and tragic incident that left him in the hospital and took his brother’s life. As Carl’s memories of that night resurface he begins to realize that his brother’s death was not an accident. When his brother’s dripping corpse begins to haunt him and tell him that he needs to finish the job, he is thrust into a battle against time to save the life of the only girl who has ever meant something to him.  This book is a quick and enthralling read for reluctant readers. The short and suspenseful chapters encourage readers to read just one more page to see how Carl deals with his menacing, dead brother. The Drowning is a different read from Ward’s Numbers trilogy and is a favorite among Mary Downing Hahn fans.

Horror           Melissa Daugherty, Sharon City Schools 



Taylor, Laini.  Dreams of Gods & Monsters.  New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2014. 624 p. 978-0316-134071.  $19.00.  Gr. 9+.

The much anticipated conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy does not disappoint.  Karou is still at odds with her feelings for Akiva. She has not come to terms with his actions against her family, but she has accepted that they must combine forces in order to stop Jael’s disturbing plans to take over the human world. The story actually begins hours after Days of Blood and Starlight with Eliza, a new character with a mysterious secret that can help the  misbegotten and chimaera save humanity.  Karou, Akiva, Zuze, Mik, Ziri and Liraz and the rest of their ragtag group fight unlike ever before as the misbegotten enter Uzbekistan under the disguise of angels sent to save mankind.

Taylor does an excellent job of tying up loose ends and sets the scene for a companion series that is sure to follow. Fans of Mik and Suz will be pleased with the large amount of story time the couple receives and will appreciate Suz’s humorous one liners.  The writing in this series is truly beautiful and sometimes even poetic – “Once upon a time, an angel and a devil pressed their hands to their hearts, and started the apocalypse.”  Elizabeth’s character seems a bit too convenient, but it provides the answers that the chimaera and misbegotten need and also sets the pace for the yet to be announced new series.

Fantasy                      Melissa Daugherty, Sharon City Schools 



Clare, Cassandra.  City of Heavenly Fire.  New York: Margaret K. McElderberry Books, 2014. 725 p.  978-1442-416895. $24.99.  Gr. 9+.

The sixth and final installment in Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series ends in the same fashion as the previous books in the series, which is with a slight cliffhanger.  Shadowhunters from institutes across the world are being kidnapped or murdered.  Sebastian has figured out a way to turn Shadowhunters into killing machines, free of morals, willed to do his evil bidding, and left with no memories of their loved ones or previous lives.  Relationships end, relationships begin, and beloved characters are killed as Clary, Jace, Alec, Izzy, and Simon enter Sebastian’s new realm, Edom, or what we refer to as the underworld, to try and defeat him once and for all.  New characters, Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorne, are introduced and the storyline is set for Clare’s next series, The Dark Artifices. 

This one was lengthy and covered a lot of different plot lines.  The story goes back and forth between New York, the Los Angeles Institute, Ildris, and Edom.  Cassandra Clare packs the perfect combination of wit, romance, and drama with lyrical lines that almost drip with emotion. My students who were already fans of the series loved this one and are already counting down till the release of Lady Midnight, which is the first title in the new Dark Artifices series.  I especially like how Clare draws in characters from her other series, such as The Infernal Devices, and gives readers a glimpse into how those characters are doing.  There is also a lot of Magnus in this one, which in my opinion, is a major plus.

Fantasy             Melissa Daugherty, Sharon City Schools

Welcome to the…Grasshopper Jungle


Smith, Andrew. Grasshopper Jungle. New York: Dutton Books, 2014. 978-0-525-426035. 432 p. $18.99. Gr 9-12.

Austin is a typical teenage boy growing up in Iowa. He is confused, horny, and bored with school. He has a girlfriend whom he adores, and a best friend who he has developed strong feelings for, which confuses him even more. Life in Iowa for Austin involves working the day shift at a thrift store, having his step-dad drive him and his girlfriend to the movies, and unintentionally witnessing the start of the end of the world by giant, mutant, man eating praying mantis. Lucky for us, Austin is a compulsive writer, and the apocalypse is described in detail as he watches the turmoil unfold around him. Grasshopper Jungle is a difficult book to describe, but it’s pretty great depiction of  teen years- those confusing, strange, seemingly apocalyptic like teen years where one is just trying to figure out who he is, and who he wants to be. Smith, who also wrote the prep-school set Winger, clearly remembers what his teen years were like, and how funny, rude and outrageous they can be, which will appeal to teen and adult readers alike.

Science Fiction      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Grasshopper Jungle is a perfect example of why I love young adult literature.  It is a blur of genres, exciting, honest, blunt, funny and heartfelt and a novel that I think is important for teens because they can identify as Austin or his friend Robbie or girlfriend- and his words are so honest and real.  I felt myself thinking, “I remember that. I remember just what that was like.”  This is another book I read from my local library and then ordered for my school library. I can see it appeal to boys because it’s a little brazen and honest- something I’m not sure is reflected in other items we have. I hope they like it!

A New Take on Oz…Dorothy MUST Die


Page, Danielle. Dorothy Must Die. New York: HarperCollins, 2014. 978-0-062-28067-1. 464 p. $17.99. Gr 7-12.

Amy Gumm is a high schooler in rural Kansas, and every day is difficult- she is picked on at school, and her alcoholic mother treats her like she isn’t even there. One day a tornado sweeps through town, and much like the beloved Dorothy and Toto from The Wizard of Oz, Amy and her pet rat Star wake up in the fairytale land of Oz. Only now it’s a much darker place than before, a post-apocalyptic wasteland, with no bright yellow brick road, welcoming munchkins or catchy songs. Amy and Star begin their journey through the new Oz, and discover that Dorothy has gone crazy with power, stealing Oz’s magical powers and recruiting the Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion to hunt down those that oppose her. Amy is eventually recruited by the Order of the Wicked to restore Oz to it’s former glory, with one cryptic instruction: Dorothy must be stopped- so Dorothy must die. Diehard fans of the classic Wizard of Oz series may find it hard to suspend belief for certain plot elements or characters to work together, but Page is a gifted writer who makes Amy a mature and believable heroine. The ending will leave readers ready for the second book in the series, due in 2015.

Fantasy         Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Fairytale retellings seem to be very popular in YA, so I always wonder if and when the trend will run out. I am not a dedicated fan of The Wizard of Oz (the book series or the movie, though I have seen it), and I really enjoyed Page’s story. I think this will decide if you like this story or not- it may be hard to see Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tinman and Lion as villains- if you love the stories or movie.

We will see soon! I read this from my local library, but ordered a copy afterwards since I enjoyed it so much, and it’s currently being processed. My older middle schoolers and 9th graders are already fans of other fairytale retellings- the Cinder series is quite popular, as well as Sweet Venom and Tiger Lily, so I am interested in talking to them about their feelings of a character who is quite beloved in pop culture.

Going Over…Historical Fiction for YA


Kephart, Beth. Going Over. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2014. 978-1-4521-2457-5. 262 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Ada, a teenager living in a divided 1980s Berlin, works at a day care center on the west side of the Berlin wall by day.  At nighttime, however, she leaves the tiny apartment she shares with her mother and grandmother in order to paint graffiti on the wall.  Her graffiti depicts images of daring escapes by East Germans to the west.  It is intended for Stefan, the boy she loves, who lives east of the wall with his grandmother and looks for her messages through a telescope as the two plan his escape.  The story is told in alternating voices; Ada full of hope that Stefan will one day join her in the west, and Stefan hesitant to risk his life for love.  The story is one of courage and hope even in the most desperate of times.

Historical Fiction        Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

Although this book took me awhile to get into, I am glad I stuck with it.  The plot starts out rather slow, but picks up quickly towards the middle of the story as one of Ada’s day care clients disappears and Stefan begins preparing for his daring escape.  Ultimately, the ending is satisfying.  Additionally, Kephart does an excellent job of portraying what life was like in 1980s Berlin as friends and families were separated by politics, and movement between the east and west was highly restricted.  She even includes an author’s note at the end of the book that gives a brief history of the Wall and informs readers that some of her characters and escapes were based on actual people and events.  This would be an excellent choice for readers looking to learn more about the history of the Berlin Wall.  Fans of Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire might also enjoy this story.

Sept. 2014 BOB Nonfiction


Epic Sports Records(Series). North Mankato: Capstone, 2014. 32p. $19.49ea. Gr. 1-5.
                Storden, Thom. Amazing Baseball Records.  978-4914-0740-0.
Storden, Thom. Amazing Basketball Records.  978-4914-0740-0.
Storden, Thom. Amazing Football Records.  978-4914-0740-0.
Storden, Thom. Amazing Hockey Records.  978-4914-0740-0.
The best of the best of all time! Records, Photographs, and Statistics to thrill your avid sports fan. Includes full color photos, a table of contents, callout definitions, a glossary, read more and index. These would be a great interest starter for reluctant readers.
700; Sports                  Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary School


Hruby Powell, Patricia.  Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker. Chronicle Books, LLC. 2014. 9781452103143. 104 pages. $17.99. Ages: 7-10.
Josephine Baker was a risk taker. She also loved to be the center of attention. From a very young age, Josephine loved to dance and perform in front of a crowd. And because of her love for music and adventure, Josephine Baker left home at an early age to follow her dreams of being a performer. This non-fiction picture book provides a wonderful background of this performer and all that she endured to gain the fame she wanted. It also provides the hardships she endured along the way. Children of all ages will enjoy the fantastic pictures and the flow of the writing.
Non-Fiction/Biographical          Krista Goodzinski, Mars Area Centennial School


The Robotx Get Help from Simple Machines (series). New York:  Crabtree, 2014. 32 p. $20.75 ea. Gr. K-3.
            Bailey, Gerry. Pressing Down: The Lever. 978-0-7787-0416-4.
            Bailey, Gerry. Pulling Up: The Pulley. 978-07787-0417-1.
            Bailey, Gerry. Rolling Along: The Wheel and Axle. 978-0-7787-0418-8.
            Bailey, Gerry. Sloping Up and Down: The Inclined Plane. 978-0-7787-0419-5.
            Bailey, Gerry. Splitting Apart: The Wedge. 978-0-7787-0420-1.
            Bailey, Gerry. Winding Around: The Screw.
RobbO and RobbEE, two robots, create simple machines in each of the books in this series. Each book highlights one simple machine. Explaining the machines and how they work is accomplished through the inventions created by the robots to help them complete their tasks. Real-life examples using photographs provide connections for students to their own lives. Text is large and easy to read. Each book contains a glossary, index and bibliography of additional reading and websites students can visit for more information on the topic presented in the book.
621.8; Simple Machines        Donna Bellerby, Lafayette & Maple Shade Elementary Schools


Hayes, Joe.  My pet rattlesnake. 9781935955627. El Paso, Texas: Cinco Puntos Press, 2014. $7.95. 32 p. Gr. K-3.One day little Joe is out in the desert, walking around, and he sees a rattlesnake in trouble. Joe saves the snake’s life! That’s when things get weird. The rattler follows Joe home. It’s only a rattlesnake, nothing new for a desert boy like Joe, so he keeps him for a pet. His dad is annoyed, the neighbors are terrified, but soon the friendly snake slithers his way into their hearts. The snake cuddles at the foot of Joe’s bed, plays in the yard, he even scares away a burglar and alarms the police. But is this tale too good to be true? You can find out by reading this rattling of a tail or tale.
Picture Book     Lourie Stewart,   Dunbar and Connellsville Township Elementary Schools


Rosenstock, Barb. Ben Franklin’s Big Splash: The mostly true story of his first invention.  978-1620914465.  Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek, 2014. $16.95. 32p.  Grade 2+.
Rosentstock has created an engaging illustrated bio-story of Ben Franklin’s first invention: swim fins! We all know Ben was a renaissance man: inventor, statesman, author and publisher, world traveler. But did you know his inventing began when he was a lad of 11? Turns out the young Ben, in one of the many examples of how unusual a person he was for his time, was a big fan of swimming. Few in the colonies went in the water at all in those days and certainly only for necessity, not for pleasure. But during his long and enjoyable hours in the water – “a delightful and wholesome exercise, one of the most healthy and agreeable in the world” – Ben’s keen powers of observation gave him ideas about how the human body could be adapted to be more fish-like, leading him to experiment with different wooden apparatus for the feet and hands, with varying degrees of success. Sprinkled throughout with quotes from Dr. Franklin, an author’s note at the end, plus timeline, illustrated list of some of Ben’s inventions, and bibliography, I highly recommend this for every elementary school collection. 

Just in time for my 3rd and 4th grade lessons on biography! I have always been a huge fan of Ben Franklin; can’t get enough of his life and his nuggets of wisdom and genius. I have no idea how he fit all that he accomplished into one lifetime, but he did. Rosenstock tells this story to kids with the takeaway: Ben Franklin got an idea, acted on it, and if he failed, tried something else. He was constantly observing, creating, failing, trying again. He wasn’t afraid of what others thought of him, he just did. Kids are sure to find this story of another kid, who was a little odd and not afraid to try weird things, appealing! Use this book to segue into other lessons about Ben’s life and inventions.
Picture Book, Biography   Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Raczka, Bob. Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 2014.    978-1-4677-1805-9. 32 p. $16.95. Gr. K-3.
Santa Clauses: Poems from the North Pole is a thoughtful collection of haiku written by none other than Santa Claus himself. There is one haiku for each day of December, and as readers move through the month there is a growing sense of urgency, excitement, and delight as Christmas approaches and Santa and the elves work tirelessly to prepare for the coming holiday. Some of the short poems describe Santa and Mrs. Claus doing usual holiday tasks (“I untie knots in/strings of lights while Mrs. Claus/ties bows on presents”) while others describe situations that are uniquely North Pole (“Workshop storm warning/in effect, heavy sawdust/accumulation”).  Like traditional haiku, some of the poems focus on the wonders of nature during wintertime. The illustrations by Chuck Groenink are gorgeous and have a very retro feel.  Overall, this is a great purchase to help celebrate the Christmas season or to use in a poetry unit.

I purchase a few new holiday books every year, and this might not have been a first choice—but it should be! You may know author Bob Raczka from books like Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boy, or Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word. This book is a really unique twist on haiku. I love the concept of writing a new haiku for every day of the month, especially when the author is Santa and the month is one so central to his life and livelihood. It’s thoughtful, creative, and lots of fun. This would be a really fun book to share with students during the month of December by reading one or two haiku a day, or a week’s worth during a weekly library class. Don’t be fooled by the cover art—the illustrations are lively and interesting, and students will love the book as a whole.
811.6, Poetry                     Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

 manx calico

Dash, Meredith. Calico Cats. (ABDO Kids Cats series) Minneapolis: ABDO, 2015. 978-1-62970-008-3.       24 p. $19.95.  Gr. K-3.
Dash, Meredith. Manx Cats. (ABDO Kids Cats series) Minneapolis: ABDO, 2015. 978-1-62970-010-6.        24 p.  $19.95. Gr. K-3.
This series has six titles that teach beginning readers about different kinds of cats (Calico cats, Maine Coon cats, Manx cats, Persian cats, Scottish Fold cats, Siamese cats). These books are written for early readers who want to read alone or with minimal help. Each two page spread has a few facts, usually a sentence or two, on the left page, alone with large, colorful photograph on the right page. The facts are basic and teach readers about each kind of cat’s appearance, personality, and habits. Each title contains a table of contents, glossary, and index. These titles serve as an attractive, if unoriginal, introduction to cats.

I have to admit—I’m not a cat person. These books, however, taught me a few new things about cats (most manx cats do not have tails and are called “rumpies”), and I can’t deny that they are attractive. The photos are large and beautiful and will be enjoyed by any reader, regardless of age. I’m sure that they will be very popular with my young cat-loving students!
636.8; Cats      Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools


Phillips, Jennifer. Girls Research! Amazing Tales of Female Scientists. Minnesota: Capstone Press, 2014. 978-1-4765-4056-6. 62 p.  Grade 3 and up.
Girls Research: Amazing Tales of Female Scientists is a great non-fiction addition to any library.  Written in short paragraphs, the author highlights women throughout history who have made groundbreaking discoveries , often with little or no recognition for their significant discoveries.  Spanning several types of science, from nuclear particles to environmental discoveries, these women showed a dedication to their work and to science that was tenacious.  Along with familiar names like Marie Curie are perhaps more unfamiliar names like Frances Glessner Lee (the founder of forensic science).  Each section has easy to understand vocabulary and a simple explanation of what each woman contributed to the field of science.

Girls Research: Amazing Tales of Female Scientists is part of a series of books published by Capstone  called “Girls Rock!”  This book blew me away with the number of women who have won Noble Prizes for their work and others who made HUGE contributions to our world today and were and still are virtually unknown to the general public!   My favorites were Francis Glessner Lee, the founder of forensic science who used her love of doll houses to create crime scene dioramas used to train law enforcement professionals for years.   Another favorite was the inventor Stephanie Kwolek.  She had one small paragraph dedicated to her, but she invented a synthetic fiber that now is used in Kevlar, Spandex and Lycra.  WOW!  Talk about changing our world!  This book was simply formatted with easy to read vocabulary , so it was not intimidating to read, but it really made me want more details about these amazing, tenacious women!  This would make a great non-fiction selection for a research project source or just a great way to introduce women in science.  I can see myself sharing this bit by bit at the beginning of a science lesson to inspire my students, particularly the girls, to follow their dreams and choose careers in science.
Non-fiction        Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy

Sept. 2014 BOB Fiction


De Lint, Charles. Seven Wild Sisters: A Modern Fairy Tale.  Illustrated by Charles Vess. New York: Little, Brown, 2014. 978-0-16-05356-3. 260 p. $18.00. Gr. 3-7 .
Sarah Jane has six other sisters with lovely red hair, but she is the only one who ventures to the old woman’s house known as Aunt Lillian. While there she learns to take joy in doing things the old fashion way and listening to Aunt Lillian’s tales about the Father of Cats, The Apple Tree Man or even fairies. Later when Sarah Jane is walking she decides to help a ‘sangman and heads back for Aunt Lillian’s advice. They find themselves in the middle of the feud between the ‘sangman and the bee fairies which places that places Aunt Lillian and Sarah Jane in addition to her sisters in great peril. Will they be able to end the enchanted feud and find their way back to their mother? Will they learn more about Aunt Lillian and her past or what the future may have in store? Throughout the novel there are colored illustrated for each section, an illustration to begin the chapters, and several page and full page spread illustrations throughout to provide the reader with a look into the vivid imagination of the story. The novel has received star reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews and is a companion novel to The Cats of Tanglewood (Little, Brown, 2013).
Fiction, Fantasy, Sisters, Fairies                              Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Pinkney, Andrea Davis. The Red Pencil. Illustrated by Shane W. Evans. New York: Little, Brown, 2014. 978-0-316-24780-1. 324 p.  $17.00. Gr. 5-7.
Turing twelve years old is a big milestone for Amira as she now can wear a toob, now if she can only attend school. She learns to care for her lambs, but nothing can prepare her for the violent attack from the Janjaweed and the loss her family and community suffer. A Sudan relief worker gives her a red pencil and yellow table which reminds her a little bit of the gift branch from her father. She wonders how her mother carries on and continues to pray but notices that her strength is wavering. Numerous illustrations add to the emotion of the novel told in free verse poetry. The novel is inspired from actual events and the author and illustrator have a note in the book to readers. The novel has received star reviews from School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews and Publisher Weekly.
Fiction, Free Verse, Social Issues                             Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Brown, Jennifer.  Life on Mars.  New York: Scholastic, Inc.,  2014.  978-0-545-77669-1. 229p.  $5.99, paperback. Gr. 3-6.

A moving story, filled with humor and family dynamics for middle grade students.  The novel has both boys and girls taking on more and breaking stereotypes, space, Morse code, entwined with a lot of humor.  The text moves quickly and it is hard to put down.  The main character, who is named after a star, is on a mission to find out if  there is life on Mars, his plan is ruined when his father looses his job and they have to move to LA, a new neighbor helps him get right back on track.  An endearing book about a relationship between an adult and a child that the reader will enjoy and remember.
Science Fiction               Denise Naumann, Eisenhower Elementary


Scieszka, Jon.  Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor.  New York: Amulet Books,  2014.  978-1-4197-1218-0. 180p.  $15.95. Gr. 2-5.
An incredible combination of science, laughter and robots that are in control.  This book contains an extremely entertaining story, mixed with science experiment, hypothesis and observations.  The black, white and red illustrations are phenomenal using labels, charts and maps to build nonfiction text feature reading.  A boy is trying to win a science fair to win the money to pay off his grandpa’s bills.  Not only is he good hearted he really uses his imagination.  This is the first book in an exciting series, with  Frank Einstein 2, being released in the Spring of 2015.  A great read aloud and a great read alone., one that is sure to be reread and explored further.
Science Fiction              Denise Naumann, Eisenhower Elementary


Alexander, Kwame. The Crossover. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014. 9780544107717. 240 pages. Ages 9-12.
This realistic fiction book, that is written in verse, tells the story of twin brothers who are dealing with the popularity of being the best athletes on their basketball team and their search for individuality. One brother is a talented rapper and contributes to the story through his lyrics, which express his feelings and emotions about his brother who has a girlfriend and his once famous father that is ill.
Realistic Fiction/Sports  Krista Goodzinski, Mars Area Centennial School


Verburg, Bonnie. The Tree House That Jack Built. New York: Orchard Books, 2014.  978-0-439-85338-5. 32 p. $17.99. K-3.
A young boy, Jack, has built a magical tree house by the sea filled with animals running and playing all around. The vibrant acrylic paint illustrations by Mark Teague bring the rhyming text to life as the animals romp across the pages. The story closes with the ringing of a bell and Jack and his friends settling in for a story then, to sleep for the night under a moonlit sky.
Easy Fiction                           Donna Bellerby, Lafayette & Maple Shade Elementary Schools


Giff, Patricia Reilly. The garden monster.  New York: Orchard Books, 2014. 9780545244602. 40p. color illustrations, includes index. $16.99. Reading interest level Gr. 1-3. Accelerated Reader.
Jilli and Jim are best friends and gardening partners. Along with a dog named Fiercely they plan, plant and harvest a garden to participate in the local Vegetable Parade. The only way they can be stopped is if the garden monster chooses to attack their garden.  This is a timely book about the rewards of growing a garden. A great way to plan for next year.
Junior Fiction             Lourie Stewart    Dunbar and Connellsville Township Elementaries


Mann, Jennifer Ann. Sunny Sweet is SO Dead Meat. New York: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2014. 978-1-59990-978-3. 198p. $15.99. Gr. 3 and up.
Masha Sweet  is dealing with a lot.  She has a genius younger sister, she is coping with her parent’s recent divorce, and now, her younger sister Sunny has made her into a walking science experiment for her Science Fair.  Masha is furious with Sunny, and attempts to leave the Science Fair, but things go from bad to worse when they accidentally take the wrong bus.  Lost in the city and covered with red dye, Masha must get her younger sister home without calling their mom, who is taking a much needed day to herself.   The relationship that the girls have is strong, but Sunny’s behavior is challenging even Masha’s love for her sister.  Along the way, they meet Masha’s best friend Alice, who is confined to a wheelchair due to spina bifida.  The girls deal with looking and feeling different and how others treat them when they are.   Along the way, they overcome several challenges and find the courage to be who they are despite the reactions of those around them. 

Sunny Sweet is SO Dead Meat is the second of the Sunny Sweet books by Jennifer Ann Mann.  Sunny is a genius whose curious mind and lack of experience with people put her and her older sister Masha into awkward circumstances all throughout the book.  While Masha gets frustrated and angry with her sister, she always takes care of her and helps her. There were several times where I felt upset with Sunny too and marveled at her sister’s love for her that always came through in the end.   This book was a funny and real look at a child who has a sibling who is different, while struggling to fit in as a twelve year old in a new town.  The author also introduces a disabled character who shares her struggles to fit in and her desire to be treated just like everyone else.  This book would be a great read aloud and conversation starter for a unit on diversity or disabilities.  It really connects how everyone feels like they don’t fit in sometimes, but when you have a physical difference, that feeling is constantly with you.   There are lots of things to discuss and lots of ties to Science as Sunny is constantly sharing scientific facts and gathering things for her experiments. I could definitely see this as a book that could be used for writing prompts about many subjects and a tie in to science lessons.
Realistic Fiction                                                                Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy

Sept. 2014 BOB Picture Books


Rockliff, Mara. The Grudge Keeper. Atlanta: Peachtree, 2014. 978-1-56145-729-8. 32 p. $16.95. Gr. K-2.
Bonnyripple is a town where no one holds grudges, that is no one except for the Grudgekeeper, Cornelius. Each instance of bad taste is reported to Cornelius where he keeps them organized and sorted in his home, until one day a rather large wind arrives in town. With the grudges scattered by the wind, how will the town report their grievances?
Picture Book                        Kelsey DeStevens, Harris School

The Grudgekeeper 
is a charming book about forgiveness. It uses the silliness of having a grudgekeeper to reinforce the idea that for you to have a good life, you need to move on from the past. The illustrations are breezy and fit well with the tone of the story. This would make a good read aloud for classroom lessons on how to be good friends or making good choices.


Martin, Emily Winfield. Day Dreamers: A Journey of Imagination. New York: Random House, 2014. 978-0-385-37670-9. 32 p. $17.99. Gr. K-2.
This is a companion book to Martin’s picture book Dream Animals. Like it’s predecessor Day Dreamers features different mystical animals and adventures that young children can meet and take. The only requirement is for the readers and children to open their mind to the possibility.
Picture Book                        Kelsey DeStevens, Harris School

Day Dreamers is a joy to read and look at. The illustrations enhance the minimal words with a feeling being drawn into the magical scenarios.  This could be used as introduction to creative writing or even an opening to a book talk, noting that books can take you on adventures before highlighting the books chosen for the talk.


Bhadra, Sangeeta. Sam’s Pet Temper. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2014. 978-1771380256. 32p. $18. Gr. K-2.
One day Sam gets madder than he has ever felt and meets this terrible thing called a temper that storms around causing havoc by pinching, kicking and terrorizing the other kids and his family. At first having a pet temper was kind of fun but then Sam realizes that a temper is something we need to control. He tries strategies his has seen his father and teacher employ: counting to ten and saying the alphabet backwards. Finally he is able to put his “temper” in its place. It moves on to someone new. An adorable story for teaching young readers about anger and consequences, as well as strategies to deal with it. One of my favorites this year!
Picture Book                    Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary


Price, Ben Joel. Earth Space Moon Base. New York: Random House, 2014. 978-0-385-37311-1. $16.99. Gr. K-3.
The title of this book, “Earth, space, moon, base”, also happens to be the first few lines of text, and while extremely simplistic, it is really all that is needed to set the scene. We are leaving earth, moving into space, traveling to the moon, and eventually ending at a small, secret base on the moon. Using rhyming text, the story takes readers deep into the moon base where we find “a spaceman, a robot, and a cheeky monkey”. This motley crew has a special mission of shooting banana peels into a dark crater. At first it isn’t clear why this seemingly silly mission is so important, but we quickly come to discover that the banana peels are alien food. The story tell us that, “feeding time is important, you see/it stops them from eating you and me!”. Of course, “them” being the slimy, tentacled, hairy, and huge aliens who inhabit the now banana peel filled crater. Thanks to our spaceman, robot, monkey, and of course, all of those banana peels, mankind can breathe easy once again!

Anyone who loves adventure, especially those intergalactic in nature, will find this story fun and engaging. The rhyming text keeps it simple for the youngest of readers, while the sense of anticipation and excitement that the story entices should keep readers at a variety of levels interested. One of the highlights of the book is on the very last page where a list of all of the aliens from the story is provided, names included. Kids will love seeing seeing these pictures and will find the names very amusing (Snoolab, Kroblit, and Voog to list a few).
Picture Book                   Lisa Naylor, Concord Elementary


Brown, Peter. My Teacher is a Monster! (No I’m Not). New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2014. 978-0-316-07029-4. $18.00. Gr. K-3.
The focus of this story is on Bobby and his teacher Ms. Kirby, who also happens to be a “big problem” for Bobby at school. As we get to know Bobby a little better, we find that he has a propensity for paper airplane throwing in class, which tends to get him into trouble with his monster of a teacher, Ms. Kirby. From Bobby’s perspective, Ms. Kirby really is a monster! She is big and green with pointy teeth and sharp claws. According to Bobby, she stomps, roars, and worst of all, takes recess away from paper airplane throwing students. Bobby does not seem to understand or really like his teacher. One day, much to Bobby’s dismay, he stumbles upon Ms. Kirby in the park. At first Bobby does not know how to act around her in this out of school setting. There is some small talk which eventually leads to the pair finding out that maybe they have more in common than they realized. As Bobby gets to know Ms. Kirby as more of a person rather than a teacher, her gruesome features begin to disappear, showing us that Bobby is seeing her in a different, more positive light. By the end of the story, it is apparent that Bobby still thinks Ms. Kirby can be a bit of a monster at times, but he has gained a sense of respect for her that was not there in the beginning.

Young readers will love this, finding the illustrations and descriptions of the monstrous teacher hilarious. While this story is certainly silly and fun, there is also a special and more serious message that shines through. It is easy to perceive people in a negative light when we don’t take time to really get to know and understand them. This story reminds us how important it is to take that time and even our youngest readers will get the message.
Picture Book         Lisa Naylor, Concord Elementary

pet book

Staake, Bob.  My Pet Book.  New York: Random House, 2014.  978-0-385-37312-8.  Unpaged.  $17.99.  Grades K-2.
“A book would make a perfect pet!” / He heard his mother say. / And Dad had read that no pet book / Had ever run away.”  Such a simple, sweet logic in this unique book continues to justify the boy’s decision to pick a pet book and love it as one might care for a puppy or cat.  There are many other animals running amok in Staake’s amusing illustration, but the little red book is indeed the star.  Best of all, this pet can open up the boy’s imagination as he reads the tales inside.  Just when all seems perfect, however, there is a crisis: the book is gone!  Will they find a solution?  Only My Pet Book will tell!  Enjoy the rhymes, the vocabulary, and the humor in this charming picture book for those looking for a different kind of pet.
Fiction: picture book, humor        Dustin Brackbill State College Area School District


Ward, Jennifer.  Mama Built a Little Nest.  New York: Beach Lane Books, 2014.  978-1-4424-2116-5.  unpaged.  $17.99.  Grades K-1.
Nature lovers should flock to this exquisite book playfully showing amazing nests and the variety of bird life which creates them.  It offers cute poems on one side for read-aloud and younger readers, and then short fact based paragraphs on the opposing pages for deeper reading.  The nests range from the huge eagle’s to the minute hummingbird’s, with less common varieties in between.  Of course, the worldwide habitats show how they survive and thrive in almost all ecosystems.  Steve Jenkins’ wonderful illustrations are always a draw for me, and he once again strikes his balance of simple paper collage with detailed realism.  Extra rationale for the book and suggested websites arrive at the end.  This is a pleasing addition to your animal habitats collection.
598; Birds           Dustin Brackbill State College Area School District


Powers, J.L. Colors of the Wind: The story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza. 978-1-930900-738. Cynthiana, KY: Purple House Press, 2014. $18.95. 32p. Gr. 3+.
This is the biography of George Mendoza, who lost 90% of his eyesight at age 15 from a rare disorder called fundus flavimaculatus. George was a terrific athlete and very active kid, so it was a shock when he started seeing bright flashing colors and losing parts of his vision. He discovered running, and in 1980 won the world record for the fastest mile by a blind runner, 4:28, and a US record for the half mile. George subsequently took up painting and has become an accomplished artist; his work is currently traveling with the National Smithsonian Affiliates.

Beautifully illustrated with Mendoza’s own incredibly colorful paintings, this picture book biography can be used in so many ways. I plan to use it with my 3rd graders during biography lessons, and will also use it during Hispanic History month. Additionally, few people ever excel to Mendoza’s extent in any one area, let alone two! This book provides a natural segue to discuss hidden talents, overcoming adversity, and in fact using adversity to discover talents and opportunities you never knew existed.
Picture Book, Biography   Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School