Monumental History…a new series from Capstone


Monumental History (series). North Mankato: Capstone Press, 2015. 32 p. $26.65. Gr. 4 and up.

 Clark, Katie. The Lincoln Memorial: Myths, Legends, and Facts. 978-1-4914-0205-4.

Gunderson, Jessica. The Alamo: Myths, Legends, and Facts. 978-1-4914-0204-7.

Gunderson, Jessica. Mount Rushmore: Myths, Legends, and Facts. 978-1-4914-0203-0.

Murray, Robb. The Washington Monument: Myths, Legends, and Facts. 978-1-4914-0206-1.

Have you ever wondered if there are hidden messages in the architecture of the Lincoln Memorial, in the number of marble steps, or in the positioning of Lincoln’s hair? Are Lincoln’s hands placed to spell his initials, L.A., in sign language? This unique series addresses these rumors and legends in the context of a factual account of the inspiration, design, and construction of America’s most famous monuments. The Lincoln Memorial covers the long road from Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 to the memorial’s construction in 1914, and eventual dedication. Colorful pages, word definitions, and captioned photos all enhance the text’s readability. The last chapter touches on historic events that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial, such as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 speech on its steps. Critical thinking questions that are correlated to the Common Core and a link out to (using the book’s ISBN) complete the back matter. These books are great selections for students who enjoy history, trivia, and conspiracy theories!

975; American Memorials and Monuments            Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

I can imagine these books inspiring students to one day visit these amazing monuments in person! They would also make a great introduction to researching presidents, debunking myths, citing evidence to support your claims, and taking a virtual field trip via sites such as

Women in Conservation…a new middle grades series


Women in Conservation (series). Chicago: Heinemann, 2015. 48 p. $32.65. Gr. 6 and up.

Doak, Robin S. Dian Fossey: Friend to Africa’s Gorillas. 978-1-4846-0468-7.

Doak, Robin S. Jane Goodall: Chimpanzee Protector. 978-1-4846-0469-4.

Fertig, Dennis. Sylvia Earle: Ocean Explorer. 978-1-4846-0470-0

Hile, Lori. Rachel Carson: Environmental Pioneer. 978-1-4846-0471-7.

This series offers appealing, colorful, up-to-date biographies of some of the key women in conservation. Rachel Carson, for example, covers the famous biologist’s childhood, education, and famous publications (most notably Silent Spring). Short chapters, frequent section headings, and lots of photographs and quote boxes make this series very accessible for researchers and browsers alike. “In Her Own Words” and “Did You Know?” sidebars, in addition to informative captions, provide context and interest to the pages. The last chapter on Carson’s legacy will help readers to see how relevant her work still is to today’s headlines. Rachel Carson would make a fun fiction/nonfiction pair with Skink: No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen!

508 Conservation; 92 Biography     Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

Students at my school research Rachel Carson and Sylvia Earle, so I will definitely include these titles in my biography section. The other titles in the series would also be valuable purchases where Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall are assigned research topics.

We Shall Overcome…a new series about the Civil Rights movement


We Shall Overcome (series). North Mankato: Capstone Press, 2015. 32 p. $26.65. Gr. 4 and up.

Krumm, Brian. The Little Rock Nine: A Primary Source Exploration of the Battle for School Integration. 978-1-4914-0225-2.

Schwartz, Heather E. The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Primary Source Exploration of the Landmark Legislation. 978-1-4914-0224-5.

Schwartz, Heather E. Freedom Riders: A Primary Source Exploration of the Struggle for Racial Justice. 978-1-4914-0222-1.

Schwartz, Heather E. The March on Washington: A Primary Source Exploration of the Pivotal Protest. 978-1-4914-0225-2.

This wonderful new series for upper elementary and middle grade readers covers landmark events in Civil Rights history with a focus on primary source material. Short, reader-friendly chapters cover the background, the event itself, and its impact with text, archival photographs, fact boxes, and special bolded vocabulary defined on the page and in the Glossary. For example, Freedom Riders features a photo of a drinking fountain in a segregated streetcar terminal, definitions of “integrate” and “intimidate,” and a 1961 editorial praising the police treatment of Freedom Riders who had been jailed and beaten. Throughout the text, primary source quotes appear in blue, italic typeface to cue the reader that they are reading a quote or excerpt from the time period. Overall, these books make complicated events both clearly understandable and highly interesting. A Selected Bibliography, critical thinking questions that are linked to the Common Core, and a link out to (using the book’s ISBN) round out the back matter.

323.1; American History, Civil Rights            Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

I reviewed Freedom Riders, but based on this title alone, I will definitely purchase the complete series for my library. Using series such as this one, which is designed for younger students, is a great way to differentiate research materials for struggling teen readers. This series definitely fills in some holes in my collection with accessible coverage of these topics.

Sublime by Christina Lauren


Lauren, Christina.  Sublime.  New York: Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2014.  978-1-4814-1368-8.  318p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and Up.

The first thing one notices about this book is its beautiful cover depicting a pale, ethereal, girl gazing up lovingly at a handsome but unconscious young man.  I was drawn to the book by its cover, and many students will borrow this book for the same reason.

The story opens with the beautiful and ghostly Lucy simply walking out of the woods at St. Osanna’s boarding school.  She doesn’t know why she’s there, but when she sees one of the students, Colin, she is immediately drawn to him.  Colin’s feelings for Lucy are similarly intense.  As time goes on, Lucy is revealed to be a ghost who haunts the school after she is murdered.  Colin is also revealed to be the young boy who saw Lucy being abducted and led authorities to her killer.  The yearning (obsession) between Colin and Lucy is difficult to comprehend.  Colin has been an adrenaline junkie for years. He and fellow daredevil, Jay, inadvertently discover that near–death experiences allow Colin to enter Lucy’s world in a physical sense.  Colin begins to take part in ever more dangerous stunts on the school’s icy cold lake, so he can simulate death and be with Lucy.  He begins to suffer physical effects from the frequent near-death experiences at the same time Lucy gains new vitality. It is almost as if she is sapping the life from him.

One of Colin’s later stunts gone wrong almost does kill him. St. Osanna’s nurse, whose experience with the “walkers” has taught her that there is an element of evil to these ghosts, orders Lucy to stay away from Colin. Lucy’s anger/ psychic force is so great that she causes a tray of surgical tools to injure the nurse.  For the first time, Lucy sees herself for what she really is and retreats into the lake to spend eternity.  Colin’s actions following Lucy’s disappearance are drastic.  Many readers and literary critics have taken issue with the ending, but the author hints throughout the novel that there can be no happy endings in ghost-human relationships.  This was a very different kind of ghost story and if the reader tries to keep in mind that it is not another Twilight, he/she may actually enjoy it.

Paranormal Fiction     Susan Fox, Washington Jr./Sr. High School

Great Achievements in Engineering…a new series from ABDO

Great Achievements in Engineering (series).  Minneapolis, MN: ABDO Publishing, 2015. 112 p. $23.95 ea. Gr. 9-12 
Amazing Feats of Aerospace Engineering  978-1-62403-425-1
Amazing Feats of Biological Engineering  978-1-62403-426-8
Amazing Feats of Civil Engineering  978-1-62403-427-5
Amazing Feats of Electrical Engineering  978-1-62403-428-2
Amazing Feats of Environmental Engineering 978-1-62403-429-9
Amazing Feats of Mechanical Engineering  978-1-62403-430-5
The field of engineering is becoming even more prevalent in today’s world, and this series seeks to inform the reader of recent inventions and technologies within engineering.  All of the books focus on about three main topics, such as driverless cars, the International Space Station, and solar panels, and include bright photographs along with interesting facts. The last few pages of the books include one special hands-on project for students to conduct, along with questions for after the project is completed, steps for students to take if they were planning a career in the specific engineering field, essential facts, and a glossary.  These books are helpful primarily for a student who’s interested in the topic and would read the entire book, though they could also be used for research on specific inventions and technologies within the book.
Engineering; 620s   Nicole Starner, Biglerville HS/Upper Adams MS

Pieces of Me


Kizer, Amber. Pieces of Me. New York:  Delacorte Press, 2014.  978- 0385741163  304p. $15.99. Gr. 7-12.

 Fifteen-year-old Jessica is the victim of an act of bullying that leaves her long beautiful hair hacked off, so the cheerleaders can win a contest collecting the most hair to be donated to make wigs for children with cancer. She is promised to be invited to a party that night with all the cool kids and does  not tell her mother about the attack.  On her way to the party, she is involved in an accident and is declared brain dead. Her parents agree to donate her organs so that others may live believing that Jessica has a new-found goal to help others. Thus starts the strange journey readers take with Jessica as she gets to know the young people who receive her body parts, as well as Jessica herself.

There is an exploration of several serious diseases as readers get to know Samuel who receives her kidneys; Vivian who receives her heart and lungs; Leif who receives her tissue to reconstruct his joints, and Misty who receives her liver.  The reader discovers that Jessica is not happy that her body parts are all over the city, and as she finds herself living her life through them, she also comes to terms with her own death and the value of organ donation.  Pieces of Me is an interesting look at a very serious topic that is sure to be of interest to young adult readers.

Realistic Fiction        Marian Kohan, Erie School District

Viewpoints…Cybercrime, Hacking,


Berlatsky, Noah Ed.  Cybercrime: Global Viewpoints. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2014.  978-0737769074. 209p. Gr. 9-12.

This compilation of articles about cybercrime is full of information that is also timely and thought provoking.  Written by experts in the field, it also contains very useful ideas and information for related research projects. The articles do an excellent job of defining what cybercrime is today and how it is affecting people here in the United States and around the world.  Topics include vulnerability to cybercrime, law and cybercrime, organized crime and cybercrime, and cyber espionage and cyberterrorism. This book is a must have for high school libraries.

Cybercrime  364.16         Marian Kohan, Erie School District



Haerens, Margaret and Lynn M. Zott Eds.  Hacking and Hackers: Opposing Viewpoints. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2014.  978-0737766578. 211p. Gr. 9-12.

This compilation of articles about hacking and hackers is full of articles that probably most know very little about. All of the articles are timely, thought provoking, and written by experts in the field. It also contains very useful ideas and information for related research projects. The articles do an excellent job of defining what hacking is today and how it is or is not a threat to individuals, companies, and government agencies. Topics include cybersecurity, wikileaks, cyberwarfare, scandals,  and hactivists. This book is a must have for high school libraries.

Hacking 364.16.8            Marian Kohan, Erie School District

Since You’ve Been Gone…is the song running through your head yet? :)


Matson, Morgan. Since You’ve Been Gone. New York: Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2014. 978-1442435001. 464p. $17.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Emily and Sloane have been inseparable since Sloane moved to Stanwich two years earlier.  But now, Sloane has disappeared leaving Emily with no clue as to where she went, why, or for how long.  After two weeks with no sign of Sloane or her parents, Emily realizes they didn’t just go on a vacation.  So, what happened?  Sloane had never disappeared before, at least not without a call or text.  What is Emily to do without her best friend?  That’s when “The List” appears.  “The List” is the final communication from Sloane to Emily and contains thirteen things for Emily to do before the end of summer.  All of the items, from “1. Kiss a stranger” to “6. Ride a dern horse, ya cowpoke” to “13. Sleep under the stars”, are all things that outgoing Sloane would do, but quiet, reserved Emily wouldn’t consider, until now.  With “The List” as the only connection Emily has to Sloane, she sets out to complete it and ends up finding herself, an Emily without Sloane, in the process.

Matson does it again in Since You’ve Been Gone.  As with Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer, she carefully crafts a bildungsroman different from most in YA because she does it without being graphic in nature.  Instead, she creates characters the reader cares about (and often wishes were their friends) and grows with throughout the novel.  In Since You’ve Been Gone, the novel seems to be plot driven, Emily trying to complete “The List”, but instead, one realizes at the end, is actually a character study and story of identity.  This is a great novel for students who may have lost someone close to them because, although Sloane isn’t permanently gone, the feeling of loss and grief from that loss is what drive Emily to complete, what some may consider, Sloane’s dying wish, “The List”.  As Emily found an identity through Sloane and with Sloane, she now, because of Sloane, has found her true self; an independent, confident Emily.

Realistic Fiction   Erin Parkinson, Lincoln Jr/Sr High School


The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing…a sequel to Three Times Lucky


Turnage, Sheila. The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing. New York: Kathy Dawson Books, 2014. 978-0-8037-3671-9. 352p. $16.99. Gr. 4-8.

Mo LoBeau and the Desperado Detective Agency are back in this hilarious sequel to Newbery Honor book (2013) Three Times Lucky (2012).  After Miss Lana and Grandmother Miss Lacy accidentally purchase the old Tupelo Inn, they find out that with the inn (in very small print) comes a ghost.  Now, it’s up to Mo and Dale to figure out who this ghost is and why he/she is haunting Miss Lana’s inn.  As the Desperados begin their investigation, new kid, Harm Crenshaw, starts lurking around.  As Mo and Dale try to figure out the usually-a-bully-but-once-in-a-while-nice-guy Harm and why he’s hanging about, they must also tackle their living history assignment in order to pass the sixth grade; an assignment that means interviewing the most vial citizen of Tupelo Landing, Red Baker.

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing is a fabulous sequel and middle-grades novel (it earned a starred review from Booklist, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal).  Mo LoBeau is one of the most loveable characters; she’s everything many middle school girls want to me: confident, funny, intelligent, a dare-devil, in love, and loved (and beloved).  Mo is a great character role-model.  I also love Tupelo Landing.  It reminds me over my old home, a town of around 800 people, where everyone supports one another and often knows one another.  I hope to see Mo LoBeau again soon.  One final note…Turnage writes on page 85, “Stress focuses you right up until it sucks your brain dry.  Standardized testing taught me that.”  How true…how true 🙂

Realistic Fiction    Erin Parkinson, Lincoln JSHS, Ellwood City

Those Who Wish Me Dead


Koryta, Michael. Those Who Wish Me Dead. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2014. 978-0316122559. 392 p. $26.00. Gr. 10 and up.

While cliff jumping at the quarry one day, 13-year old Jace witnesses a brutal murder. Now he is the next target of the killers, the merciless Blackwell Brothers. To buy the police some time to find the Blackwells before they find Jace, the boy is given a new identity and hidden in a Montana wilderness skills program for troubled teenagers. Even Ethan Serbin, the survival specialist in charge of the wilderness program, doesn’t know which of the seven boys in his group is the one in hiding. But when the Blackwell Brothers attack Ethan’s wife and set fire to his house, Jace knows in his gut that those who wish him dead are coming for him next. From the very first sentence, this novel will have you on the edge of your seat. With a riveting plot, believable characters, and a setting so real that you can almost feel the heat from the campfire and hear the snap of twigs as the bad guys sneak up behind you, this is a pageturner in every sense of the word!

Realistic Fiction (Suspense)            Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

This is an excellent crossover novel; it’s written for adults, but teenaged Jace and the wilderness survival angle lend it tremendous appeal for young adult readers. It would be interesting to pair it with Becca Fitzpatrick’s recent winter-survival thriller Black Ice (Simon & Schuster, 2014) or have a book discussion including a viewing of Discovery’s popular survival series, Dude, You’re Screwed.