In Real Life


Doctorow, Cory and Jen Wang. In Real Life. New York: First Second, 2014. 978-1-59643-658-9. $17.99. Gr 6-12.

Shy, teen Anda and her family have recently relocated to Flagstaff, Arizona. One day in programming class, a guest speaker invites students to participate in Coarsegold, a massive-multiplayer online role playing game. In Coarsegold, Anda makes friends and soon joins a league of guild members who work for real-life cash by destroying gold farmers that are seemingly corrupting the game. Anda isn’t quite sure this is fair gaming and becomes concerned when she talks to one of the farmers and learns that gold farming is actually his job. It’s through this friendship with the farmer, Raymond, that Anda discovers that behind these avatars are real people and actions in the gaming world sometimes have real-life consequences. Doctorow presents readers with the economics of so many popular online role playing games, while gently reminding us of the humanity that’s hidden in the virtual world. Wang’s illustrations are beautiful frames of jewel toned watercolors that help to bring the comic to life. Recommend this to gamers, Cory Doctorow fans, or anyone who loves graphic novels.

Graphic Novel     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

I am a big Cory Doctorow fan, and while this graphic novel was good, it wasn’t my favorite. The artwork was truly beautiful, and very unlike other artwork I see in graphic novels, which was refreshing. The story was fine, and I liked the idea of exploring the virtual economy of massive multiplayer online RPGs. The climax didn’t have a big impact on me, so I admit I was a little disappointed. However, my students have been enjoying it, and I’m always happy to promote a graphic novel that features a female gamer, so I don’t think I’ll share my disappointment with the student body!

Southern Reach Trilogy…Annihilation


VanderMeer, Jeff. Annihilation. New York: FGS Originals, 2014. 978-0-37410-409-2. $13.00. Gr 9+.

Area X is a unknown and mysterious plot of land where 11 prior expeditions have failed; members have either disappeared, committed suicide, turned on one another during the mission, or returned as shadows of their former selves only to be consumed by cancer within months of their return.  The most recent, 12th expedition follows 4 women into the unknown in this first book in The Southern Reach Trilogy. Known only by their titles, a surveyor, an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a biologist, who also happens to narrate, descend into Area X to record their observations in the field and report back to a part of the government know as the Southern Reach. Immediately upon arriving in Area X, distrust runs between the group, and tensions flare when a tower is discovered that is not on any map from the previous expeditions. Mysterious writing on the wall of the tower turns out to be a life form, and the tower, a tunnel, and things get even stranger when the anthropologist disappears. Through tense, and possibly unreliable narration, the biologist discovers that Area X is not at all what it seems.  VanderMeer is a master of suspense. Give this to fans of almost any genre. It is a superb combination of sci-fi, mystery, dystopia, action, and thrills. This trilogy will be flying off the shelves!

Science Fiction, Mystery     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

This is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It is short and suspenseful, and you have this sense of dread the entire read; it’s amazing that an author can do that in 200 pages! I love that it’s a blend of so many genres, while never fully settling on one. The story is creepy but not gory, or illicit, or chock full of violence and sex. While categorized as an “adult” book, its totally suitable for older teens. I can’t recommend this one, as well as the entire trilogy, enough!

Between Two Worlds


Kirkpatrick, Katherine.  Between Two Worlds.  New York: Wendy Lamb Books, 2014.  978-0-38574047-0. 285 p.  $16.99.  Gr. 9-12.

Between Two Worlds is the fictionalized account of a real sixteen-year old Inuit woman, Eqariusaq (also known as Billy Bah) who traveled to the United States with explorer Robert Peary when she was a child.  In this novel, she is back in her native Greenland and married but feels conflicted and doesn’t know where she really belongs.  This book is set during the years of 1900 and 1901, when an American ship arrives with supplies for Admiral Peary.  Peary’s wife and daughter are on the ship and are eager to see him, but he has gone further north to explore.  Eventually, it is decided that the ship should travel north to “Musk Ox Land” to try to find Peary.  It is a given that Billy Bah will be a part of the expedition.  She is an expert in the English and Inuit languages, as well as an accomplished seamstress who will be charged with making native clothing for the Peary family.

The conflict between the Inuit and American cultures is vividly illustrated when Billy Bah’s husband, Angulluk “trades” her to white sailors in exchange for guns and bullets.  This practice was somewhat common, but her fellow Inuit did not approve.  On the expedition to find Admiral Peary, Angulluk trades her to a sailor named Duncan and the two fall in love.  There is never any description of explicit sexual situations, but it is clear that the two become very close over the months that the ship is caught in ice.  During the long winter months, Billy Bah is changed by her experiences.  She does not share Duncan’s dream of going back to America to live, but she also does not feel the same way about her husband.  She realizes that Angulluk will always view her as “property” and wants the chance to determine her own destiny.

This novel is filled with historical detail of everyday Inuit life and culture.  In some ways, this makes the book very interesting. However, it also detracts from the dynamics of the many relationships in the story.  The romantic relationships are not explored in depth, and the complexities of the relationships between whites and the Inuit are largely ignored. Although Peary and his crew depended on the Inuit for survival, their contempt for Inuit culture is clear.  The author of this book also wrote a nonfiction book about Peary’s daughter (Snow Baby: The Arctic Childhood of Admiral Robert E. Peary’s Daring Daughter).  Snow Baby is an excellent book; perhaps Billy Bah’s story would have been better told in a nonfiction format.  Still, Between Two Worlds does address a population that is largely ignored in young adult literature and it deserves an extra look from that standpoint alone.

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

I Was Here…new from Gayle Forman


Forman, Gayle. I Was Here. New York: Viking, 2015. Print. 978-0451471475. 288 p. $18.99. Gr. 9+.

The newest novel by Gayle Forman is an intense read, and, yet, sadly, a timely story for today’s youth. Similar in theme to Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and Please Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, I Was Here tackles the difficult subject of teen suicide. Forman succeeds in writing a story with realistic and engaging characters and plot. Meg and Cody have been best friends since grade school. Since Cody’s family consists of only her mother Tricia (who insists that Cody call her by her first name), Cody spent a majority of her time growing up as a part of Meg’s family. But ever since they graduated and Meg moved away to begin her first year at college, they talked less and less and did not see each other as much as they planned. Cody was supposed to go to school near Meg, but did not have the funds to attend school yet, and instead spends her time cleaning houses. Cody’s world is turned upside down when she receives an email from Meg stating that she has committed suicide. While cleaning out Meg’s apartment, at the request of Meg’s parents, Cody finds other emails on Meg’s computer that cause her to wonder why and how Meg got to the point where she felt the only option was suicide. Cody begins communicating with a boy that supposedly broke Meg’s heart, and Cody is confused by her attraction to this boy. As Cody begins looking into the time before Meg’s death, she learns more about a sinister world that exists to assist those who want to commit suicide. This is a story that needs to be handled with care and mainly offered to mature young adults or supported with discussion by an adult. Forman includes a much-needed author’s note describing her connection to the story, why she chose to write it, and avenues for help for those suffering from depression.

I absolutely LOVE Gayle Forman and became a big fan of hers after falling in love with If I Stay. Though her sequels do not always hit the mark, I also loved Just One Day. After reading the premise for I Was Here, I was interested to see what path Forman would take when discussing the subject of teen suicide. Unfortunately, this topic has been foremost in our minds lately due to news reports of teen suicide and the prevalence of mental disorders and depression among teens and young adults. At first, and through many parts of the novel, I was apprehensive about the direction the plot was taking. At one point Cody discovers how Meg decided to commit suicide and what prompted her to do so, and I was nervous about the possibility of exposing susceptible teens to these ideas. Forman, however, handles the plot and characters’ actions well and clearly shows the negative outcomes of access to an unlimited amount of information (both good and bad) on the Internet. Her much-needed author’s note at the end is something that all teens should read when finished with the novel. I am eager to share this title with students and hear their reactions, especially since Thirteen Reasons Why was such a popular title for so long. I still keep in touch with one former student who is also a fan of Gayle Forman, and I am excited to discuss this new novel with her as well!

Realistic Fiction          Lindsey Myers, Peters Township High School



Forman, Gayle. I Was Here. New York: Viking, 2015. 978-0-451-47147-5. 270p. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Meg and Cody were inseparable until Meg’s college scholarship took her to the University of the Cascades and way from their Eastern Washington town.  Although they tried to remain as close as always, physical distance separated their once inseparable friendship.  Now Meg is dead, and Cody is determined to figure out why her best friend committed suicide.  As Cody tries to deal with the lack of information surrounding Meg’s death and the suicide note Meg emailed her family, Cody, and the Tacoma Police Department, she is determined to find out what happened to Meg, their friendship, and the life she once knew.  Gayle Forman eloquently explores the impact of suicide on loved ones, friendships, growth, and separation in I Was Here.  Focusing on the impact Meg’s death has on Cody provides a unique perspective into how and why people choose to commit suicide and the impact death has in a young person’s life.  As Cody tries to piece together Meg’s life in college, she not only figures out who Meg was without her, but who she can become without Meg and because of Meg.  I Was Here is one of the most beautifully written novels of love and loss.

In my opinion Gayle Forman is the best young adult writer currently publishing.  She tackles difficult issues and emotions with beauty and tack that many writers could only imagine.  She takes on the emotions and the maturation process of teenagers and young people and weaves them into magical stories of reality that draw forth reader emotions and connections to all of her characters.  Often adult novels or authors are described as YA crossover; Gayle Forman is a YA author that is an adult crossover.  I Was Here may focus on the friendship between two teens and the loss one feels, but Meg’s parents feel things too, and it is through Cody that they find a way to cope.  Parents who feel loss will understand and relate to this novel as much as students who have dealt with grief.  This novel is a novel of healing, and in a world with much grief it provides hope.

Realistic Fiction   Erin Parkinson, Lincoln JSHS, Ellwood City

The Bane Chronicles…a superstar compilation by Clare, Brennan, and Johnson


Brennan, Sarah Reese, Cassandra Clare, and Maureen Johnson.  The Magnus Bane Chronicles.  New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014.  528 p.  978-1442-495999.  $22.99.  Gr. 9+.

This collection of short stories is a supplement to both of Clare’s The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series.  Each story features the elusive and flamboyant warlock, Magnus Bane, and back story about specific events or characters mentioned throughout both series.  In one story, Magnus attempts to help a targeted Marie Antoinette escape from France in order to impress an attractive and persuasive soldier.  In “The Midnight Heir”Magnus returns from a 25 year hiatus to England where he runs into a debauched, wildly drunk and destructive young Shadowhunter, who just happens to be the son of his friends, Will and Tess Herondale.  He escorts James, the appropriately named teen, back to the London Institute and learns there is more to the boy’s troubling behavior than meets the eye.  Fans will appreciate learning just what happened in Peru, more about Bane’s torrid affairs, and awkward details about when he began dating Alex.

I really enjoyed this collection because Magnus is one of my favorite characters in Clare’s series.  The writing is witty and the historical references are carefully plotted. I have a group of girls who are obsessed with The Mortal Instruments and were counting down the days till I got this one in.  The short stories were previously released monthly throughout the year of 2013 as Kindle singles on Amazon, which leads one to question why it was republished in a physical form if not for any reason other than profit.  Also, if you have not read any titles in this series, Magnus is gay, just in case that is something you have to watch out for in your collection. Throughout the series he has relationships with males, females, vampires, and Shadowhunters.

Fantasy            Melissa Daugherty, Sharon City Schools 

Meet the Masters


Meet the Masters (series).  New York: Cavendish Square, 2015.  112 p.  $30.00 ea.  Gr. 9-12.

Bowler, Peter J. An Interview with Charles Darwin. 978-1-62712-909-1.

Cox, Neil. An Interview with Pablo Picasso. 978-1-62712-912-1.

Curnutt, Kirk. An Interview with Ernest Hemingway. 978-1-62712-915-2.

Kaplan, Fred. An Interview with Mark Twain. 978-1-62712-900-8

Moor, Donald R. An Interview with Plato. 978-1-62712-906-0.

​Oliver, Joan Duncan. An Interview with the Buddha. 978-1-62712-903-9.               

These uniquely written biographies provide insight into the lives and times of important figures throughout history.  Each book begins with a brief biography of the person and then delves into a fictionalized interview with that person.  The interviews touch on each figure’s personal life and career, focusing on their inspirations, their accomplishments, and the legacies they  left behind  in their respective fields.  Each subject’s biography and career is presented in the historical context of the era during which they lived and worked, giving readers insight into the social, economic, and political climates of these eras.  Both black and white and color photographs add to the experience.  Each book ends with a glossary of terms and a list of books and websites for further information.

920; Biographies        Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

As I was reading An Interview with Plato, a few thoughts occurred to me.  First, these titles would make an excellent addition to school libraries, as there are so many cross-curricular connections embedded within them.  Not only are they biographies of leaders in different fields presented, but there is a great deal of history included within the books.  In addition, the glossaries in each book present many vocabulary terms.  Another thought that occurred to me was that the format of these books is very unique.  I have never read a biography in the format of an interview with the subject.  I think this would be a great idea for a collaborative research project.  Rather than simply having students write a research paper on a person, teachers could have them use higher level thinking skills to create an interview with their subject.  These books would serve as a good example for such a project.


February BOB Nonfiction


Language Arts (Series). North Mankato: Capstone, 2014. 24p. $18.49ea. Gr. K-2.
Rustard, Martha. Learning About Fiction. 978-1-4914-0578-9.
Rustard, Martha. Learning About Folktales, Fables and Faiorytales. 978-1-4914-0577-2.
Rustard, Martha. Learning About Nonfiction. 978-1-4914-0579-6.
Rustard, Martha. Learning About Poems. 978-1-4914-0580-2.
This clear, simple series with big bold photos is a perfect introduction to genres for the beginning reader.   The text progresses logically from start to finish with examples and critical thinking skills. Each book contains a table of contents, glossary, index and “Read More” resources. Perfect for library class or as an introduction to basic literary genres in the classroom!
800; Language Arts                  Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary School


Telgemeier, Raina. Sisters. New York: Scholastic, 2014. 978-05455-4060-5. 200p. $10.99. Grade 4 – 8.
In a followup to last year’s graphic novel Smile, Telgemeier “graphically” describes her childhood as the oldest child in a family of 3 living in a small apartment where money is often tight. The major plot is a family trip in the VW minbus from San Francisco to Colorodo Springs, but subplots give background through flashbacks. The often contentious relationship between Raina and her little sister Amara, which will resonate with anyone who’s ever experienced sibling rivalry or any family member that just plain drives you nuts. Telgemeier’s illustration style is super colorful and engaging and the reader quickly forgets this is a “cartoon,” because the people and situations ring true. Where her artistic gift really reveals itself is in the landscape spreads during the family’s trip. I predict my middle graders (especially girls), who LOVE Telgemeier’s Drama and graphic Babysitters Club series will scoop this book off the shelf and I will not see it for the rest of the school year.  This book was named to best of 2014 lists in: SLJ and Kirkus, and won a Newbery Honor Medal!
741.5 Graphic Novel/Memoir/Humor   Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. New York: Penguin, 2014. 978-0-399-25251-8. $16.99. 337p. Gr. 5+.
Jacqueline is born in Columbus, OH in 1963, “a country caught between Black and White.” Her dad’s family is from OH, land of the free, and mom’s is from Greenville, SC, where colored folks still have to sit toward the back of the bus, there are “white’s only” restrooms, and many are marching for the right to sit at the counter at Woolworth’s. Mom takes Jacqueline and her sister and brother to stay with grandparents and visit the family in Greenville each summer, but dad doesn’t come along, because “no colored Buckeye in his right mind would ever want to go there.” This is a hint of the marital tension that follows, but also paints the vivid picture of Jacquie’s own mixed emotions about each of her two homes. Greenville means warm summers, open spaces, the smell of pines, and her loving grandparents, but the north means freedom.


Told in lyric verse, Woodson reveals her inner voice, shows us her world, and lets us grow to know her family and friends in unforgettable ways. She touches on civil rights and related conflicts she lived through as a young girl, her struggle to reconcile who she was with her family’s strict faith, and some of the financial and other challenges they faced as they made a new life in Brooklyn. We learn that while Jacqueline was always a storyteller, she struggled to read and write. I found myself continually flipping to the family tree in the beginning of the book and an 8-page photo spread of family members at the end of the book as I became increasingly involved with the characters. This is a beautiful, masterly work you won’t be able to put down. I’d recommend it to your readers 5th grade and older, but it would also make an excellent read aloud as students learn about the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. Awards for this book include: National Book Award, best of 2014 list in: Booklist, Kirkus, PW, Horn Book, and a Newbery Honor Medal.
Memoir in verse   Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School

 air soil rocks water
Natural Resources Close Up (Series). New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2014. 24 p. $16.95ea. Gr. K-3.
MacAulay, Kelley. Why Do We Need Rocks and Minerals? 978-0-7787-0492-8.
MacAulay, Kelley. Why Do We Need Water? 978-0-7787-0494-2.
MacAulay, Kelley. Why Do We Need Soil? 978-0-7787-0493-5.
MacAulay, Kelley. Why Do We Need Air? 978-0-7787-0491-1.
Each book in this wonderful non-fiction series begins by discussing the term “natural resource”. After a brief introduction into natural resources, the books then delve into and focus on the specific subject matter at hand, explaining exactly what each resource is and how each is used. These books really get readers thinking about how important water, air, soil, and rocks are to our current and future lives, something that, without the help of such great non-fiction titles, might be hard for a young person to really understand. One will also find the words “reuse” and “recycle” repeated often throughout each book, reminding us how critical such terms are, even (or maybe especially) for our youngest readers. Along with interesting, easy-to-read text and close-up, colorful photographs, each book in this series also includes a glossary of “words to know” as well as additional books, related websites, and a connection activity.
500; Environment                Lisa Naylor, Concord Elementary

February BOB Fiction


Eaton III, Maxwell. The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Hot-Air Baboons. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014. 978-0-385-75466-8. unpaged. $6.99. Gr. K-4.
Beaver brothers Ace and Bub are back in another wacky adventure. Baboons have invaded Beaver Island with a fancy invention—a giant hair dryer that melts all the snow on Beaver Island, creating a never-ending water supply and swimming pools. Most of the beavers are excited until Ace and Bub get wind that the baboons are acting suspicious. Ace and Bub to the rescue!

Eaton’s signature illustrations combine black, white, and gray illustrations with bright touches of one color. This book uses red, perfect for the heat that comes from baboons’ giant hair dryer. The Beaver Brothers’ stories are never very complicated but are full of slapstick humor and will be popular with graphic novels fans of many ages.
741.5; Graphic Novel                  Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

robot2 robot1 

Pilkey, Dav. Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot. New York: Scholastic, 2014. 978-0-545-63106-8. 108 p. $15.99. Gr. K-3.
Pilkey, Dav. Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot vs. the Mutant Mosquitoes From Mercury. New York: Scholastic, 2014. 978-0-545-63108-2. 124 p. $15.99. Gr. K-3.
Ricky Ricotta is a happy but small mouse who doesn’t have any friends. His father assures him that someday something big will happen and he will find a pal.  This big something comes in the form of a mighty robot created by Dr. Stinky McNasty to destroy the city; instead of following the plan, the peaceful robot becomes best friends with Ricky.  Of course, Dr. McNasty attempts revenge but the mighty robot and Ricky end up on top.  The adventures continue in several other books including Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot vs. the Mutant Mosquitoes From Mercury in which Ricky and his mighty robot save the city from some nasty mosquitoes from Mercury. 

This series was originally published in 2000 but has been redone with art by Dan Santat that includes some graphic novel-style pages and a “flip-o-rama” section (complete with instructions) that readers can flip to animate the action. The illustrations are vibrant and action-packed, and the series is sure to draw in young students and reluctant older readers.
Fiction               Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

glass sentence

Grove, S.E. The Glass Sentence (Mapmakers Trilogy, Book 1). New York: Viking Books, 2014.
978-0670785025.  512p.  $16.00.  Gr. 5+.
A century after  the Great Disruption of 1799 when the world’s continents and countries were fractured into different time periods ranging from decades to thousands of years apart, Sophia lives with her famous cartographer uncle and his amazing collection of maps. Shortly before they plan to depart on a rescue mission to bring her parents back before the borders close forever, Sophia returns home to find it ransacked and her uncle kidnapped. With the help of her new friend, Theo, a refugee from the West, she must travel to the Baldlands to unravel a secret which could restore the world’s time clock. This fantasy adventure filled with time travel, technology, pirates, mythical creatures and  magic will enchant your  fans of Unfortunate Events, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Golden Compass, Wrinkle in Time etc…an excellent segue to young adult steampunk for your upper elementary grades.
Steampunk/Fantasy               Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary School


Harrell, Rob   Life of Zarf: The Trouble with Weasels.  New York: Dial, 2014. 978-0-8037-4103-4       . $14.99. 282p. Gr. 4 – 7.
Zarf is a troll: yes, the kind that lives under a bridge. You may’ve heard of his grandpa, who made the papers for scaring a few billy goats, who eventually outwitted him. Yes, he was outsmarted by farm animals. Well, everyone knows trolls aren’t too bright. But they are strong, brave, and have a fierce temper! Zarf is a middle schooler, who along with his neurotic best friend Kevin Littlepig (of the “3 Littlepig”s family), and Chester, the totally unfunny son of the King’s court jester, have to navigate middle school life at the absolute bottom of the social strata. Things start to get really interesting when the kindly King Cheznott and a band of royal knights set off in pursuit of the menacing and deadly 7’ Snuffweasels who’ve been meancing the town, and the royal party goes missing. This puts the King’s bratty son Prince Roquefort in charge, and the Prince HATES Zarf. Zarf’s temper gets the best of him, the ugliness between troll and Prince comes to a head, and before you know it the Prince and his ogre body guards, and Zarf and his ragged band of buddies, set off separately in hot pursuit of the Snuffweasels, to hilarious effect.

This super funny book is illustrated on every page, Wimpy-Kid-style, with many of the black and white cartoonish scenes integral to the story and moving along the action and dialog. A host of characters from fairy tales and folk tales appear, twisted fairy-tale style, and Harrell tosses in lots of jokes for grownups that perhaps many kids won’t get, so I’d highly recommend this as a “read together” for ages 9+ and their parents or babysitter. This could also be a fun read-aloud in a small group so illustrations could be shown, or shown on a projector, because they are not to be missed! Highly recommended for fun.
Magical/Humorous Fiction   Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Faulkner, Brian. Northwood.  North Mankato : Capstone, 2014.  978-1-4342-8667-3.  271 pages. $26.60.  Grades 3-6.
Cecelia Undergarment has an unusual name. She also lives in an unusual house made of giant balloons .  One day as she attempts to rescue a neglected dog from the neighborhood, Cecelia’s life takes a dramatic turn. Her room, the topmost balloon in the house is knocked free and begins to float over a dark forest. The forest of Northwood is a wild and forbidding place, and those who have ventured there never return. Rumor has it that lions also live there, hunting anyone or anything that enters. Cecelia’s balloon comes to rest at the top of a tree in the middle of Northwood. And so begins her harrowing journey to escape. This book is action packed, yet an easy read (it is part of the Stone Arch series of high interest/low reading level series). Readers will love the twists and turns and high suspense of Cecelia’s journey through the woods.
Fantasy          Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy 


Miller, Davis Worth. HG Wells’s The War of the Worlds (Graphic Resolve: Common Core editions series). N. Mankato, MN: Stone Arch, 2014.  978-1-4965-0018-2. 72p. $26.65. Gr. 4-9.
This beautifully illustrated retelling of the classically chilling HG Wells tale will surely entice your SciFi fans. Written with spare, easy-to-read dialog and narration to appeal to lower level and reluctant readers of any age. The book is prefaced with a page detailing Orson Welles’s 1938 radio broadcast that hoaxed and shocked the nation. Unlike the War of the Worlds movies, the original tale is set in the English countryside and begins with a meteor seen 6 years prior to the Martian attack. End features include glossary, and common core-aligned reading and writing questions. There are now 20 titles in this Graphic Resolve collection and I’d recommend them for librarians looking to beef up their graphic novel collection for early and reluctant readers.
741.5 Graphic Novel   Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraf. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. (Graphic Resolve: Common Core editions series). N. Mankato, MN: Stone Arch, 2014.  9781496500090.  72p. $26.65. Gr. 4-9.
This beautifully illustrated book opens with a page explaining the origins of Mary Shelley’s story – she and other authors thought up a ghost-story contents in 1816 and the idea for her masterpiece came to her in a dream! – and explains how the monster’s name never was Frankenstein. Written with spare, easy-to-read dialog and narration to appeal to lower level and reluctant readers of any age. The book is prefaced with a page detailing Orson Welles’s 1938 radio broadcast that hoaxed and shocked the nation. End features include glossary, and common core-aligned reading and writing questions. There are now 20 titles in this Graphic Resolve collection and I’d recommend them for librarians looking to beef up their graphic novel collection for early and reluctant readers.
741.5 Graphic Novel   Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Martin, Ann M. Rain Reign. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2014. 978-0-312-64300-3. 223 p. $16.99. Gr. 3-6.
Rose Howard lives in rural Hatford with her single father who works (sometimes) at a garage down the road and spends a good deal more time at the local pub. Rose is a special child with a diagnosis of high-functioning autism, and while she’s bright and caring her special interests and rules are hard for most people, including her father, to understand. Her Uncle Weldon serves as a caring, compassionate adult who takes an interest in Rose’s unusual hobby of keeping a list of homonyms, but she blossoms with the love of a stray dog that her father finds in the rain and brings home one evening. She names the dog Rain (rain, reign, an excellent homonym), and they become best friends. When Hurricane Susan hits Hatford, Rain goes missing in the storm and Rose and Uncle Weldon do everything imaginable to find her—but when they do, Rose learns that Rain was microchipped as a puppy and really belongs to another family who has been looking for her for over a year. Rose feels compelled to both follow the rules and follow her heart and find Rain’s original family. Break out the tissues!

This is one of my favorite books that I’ve read in some time. The book reminds me slightly of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Rose is a fascinating narrator but as an adult it was difficult to read about her solitary life. Her father provides for her but clearly does not have the patience to understand how his daughter’s mind works nor does he have the ability to understand what she needs from an adult caregiver. Luckily, her Uncle Weldon is there to fulfill this role. The real highlight of the book is Rose’s relationship with Rain. If you own a dog or are a dog lover you will appreciate this authentic bond between a girl and her best four-legged friend, making it all the more difficult to see Rose part with her dog in hopes of finding Rain a happier home. Rose may not express emotions frequently but she has a very caring heart. Both boys and girls will love this story and it would make an excellent read-aloud for a classroom (noting that there are several mentions to her father’s frequent stops at The Luck of the Irish bar). A must read.
Fiction                Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools


Allen, Elise, and Halle Stanford. illustrated by Paige Pooler.  Jim Henson’s Enchanted Sisters: Autumn’s Secret Gift.  New York: Bloomsbury, 2014. 978-1-61963-256-1. 123 p. $15.99. Gr. 2-4.Sisters Summer, Winter, Spring and Autumn are responsible for changing the season and live away from the Outworlders and their existence is unknown to humans. Of all of the sisters, Mother Nature bestows Autumn with a gift to keep as a secret for Serenity’s birthday. Normally Autumn serves as the judge when Summer, Winter and Spring participate in a Sparkle-Powers Contest, but this time she participates and things go wrong with keeping the surprise safe. The sisters work together to try and save the gift, but will Autumn have the courage to tell Mother Nature the truth?  The series is a fine introduction to chapter books for readers and continues with  Winter’s Flurry Adventure, Spring’s Sparkle Sleepover, and Summer’s Friendship Games.
Fiction, Friendship, Seasons     Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Brown, Jeffrey. Star Wars Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan. New York: Scholastic, 2014. 978-0-545-62125-0. 176 p.$12.99. Gr. 3-7
Enter the second novel in the hit series Jedi Academy. The start of this school year is very different because now Roan is thrilled to continue Jedi Academy and spend time with his friends Gaiana and Pasha. Homeroom teacher will be the famous Master Yoda and a major challenge will be learning to compete in the lightsaber fencing tournament. The novel presents a contemporary feel with posts and comments to his ‘holobook,’ “holochat,’and ‘holomail’account.Fans of the Origami Yoda books by Tom Angleberger series will also enjoy seeing the Jedi Academy series develop. The style of the novel with narrative and comic panels will also appeal to readers of Big Nate or Diary of the Wimpy Kid.
Fiction, Friendship      Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


February BOB Picture Books


McLeod, Elizabeth. Bunny the Brave War Horse. Tonawanda: Kids Can Press, 2014. 978-1-77138-024-9. $16.95. 32 pages. Grade 2-5.
This picture book is a great tribute to the brave, hard working animals that assisted the army throughout the First World War. Bunny is a police horse who gets “drafted” to be a mount for a soldier. Tom and Bud are brothers who enter the war together. Bunny faithfully carries Bud through poison gas attacks and gunfire.  He bravely works to free a cart before the enemy overtakes them. When Bud is killed in battle, Tom takes comfort with Bunny and they become a team. Tom vows to honor Bud’s memory and do his best with Bunny as his partner. Together they earn many medals, and Bunny is the only horse from the group to survive the war. He is sold to a farmer in Belgium and Tom returns home.  This could be a great addition to a unit on service animals or animals used by soldiers during war time, or even a history lesson about World War I. The stories of war and the fact that Bunny and his rider part ways at the end make it a book for a slightly more mature crowd.
Picture Book (Based on a True Story)           Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Frazee, Marla. The Farmer and the Clown. New York: Beach Lane, 2014. 978-1-4424-9744-3. 32p. $17.99. Gr. PK-2.
Frazee brings us a beautifully quiet tale of finding comfort and love in unexpected places. A farmer grimly working his field sees the circus train in the distance, and is startled to see a member of the troupe fall off the back of the caravan. Even more surprising: it’s a toddler clown!  The formerly grouchy-looking farmer shows us a different side as he cares for this lonely little visitor, and the child in turn, teaches the lonely farmer a thing or two. Told in exquisite illustration, this wordless picture book is bound to delight readers of all ages. Frazee’s won acclaim for this book, to date: named to Best Books of 2014 lists by SLJ, Publishers Weekly, Horn Book and Kirkus. WHY did it not a Caldecott honor or medal???!!
Picture Book (wordless)  Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Rosenthal, Krouse Amy. Uni the Unicorn. New York: Random House, 2014. 978-0-385-37555-9. 40 p. $17.99. Gr. PreK-2.
Uni is a unicorn, like any you might imagine. Magnificent mane and golden hooves? Check. Purple eyes and a magical, swirly horn? Check and check. Uni is not only on par with your average unicorn, Uni is in fact, slightly more amazing in almost every way! Really, the only thing holding Uni back is the very small problem of, well, believing in girls. You heard that right, folks. Uni the unicorn actually believes that little girls are real. Not only that, she believes that she will meet a little girl some day soon and become best friends with her. All of the other unicorns in Uni’s life assure her that little girls are just make-believe, but this does not deter our steadfast protagonist who knows that a loving and REAL little girl is out there, just waiting to be best friends.


I cannot wait to get this book into my library, although I know it will not stay on the shelves for very long. I get requests for unicorn books multiple times a week and this will certainly be a welcome addition. Also, it’s not just a filler unicorn book. You know the kind, any old book on a popular topic to keep the children happy. Not this book. This one is a whimsical, darling story with amazing illustrations to boot, which happens to have a unicorn as a central character. This one is a keeper!
Picture Book Lisa Naylor, Concord Elementary


Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom


Johnson, Rebecca L.  Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom: Life in the Dead Zone.  Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, 2015.  978-1-4677-1154-8. 64p.  $34.60.  Gr. 7-12.

In April 1986, Reactor Number 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine was scheduled to be tested.  The check was being held to see if the turbine blades of the reactor’s main generator would keep functioning if the reactor experienced a power loss. The turbine needed to work long enough to keep the cooling pumps running until back-up generators took over.  Everything that could possibly go wrong did. Reactor Number 4 exploded a short time after the power was cut, releasing more radioactivity than the first atomic bomb in Hiroshima.    The firefighters at Chernobyl and the citizens of the nearby town of Pripyat had no idea how serious these events were, until the nearby town of Pripyat was evacuated two days later.  Russian “liquidators” came to Chernobyl to put the reactor fire out and enclose its remains.  Soon, the Soviet military established a 30 km exclusion (“dead”) zone around the reactor, and it was abandoned.  Any wildlife that remained died, and most people assumed that the exclusion zone would become a lifeless territory.

It almost seems miraculous that life has returned to the dead zone.  Some species have been adversely affected by the radiation, but others show no obvious changes (other than the fact that they are highly radioactive).  Human beings have even begun to return to the outer perimeter of the exclusion zone, although those who were at Chernobyl during the explosion have experienced a high cancer rate.  Much of this book focuses on the scientists who are studying the wildlife and their methodologies for determining why some species aren’t affected.  Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom also features an informative discussion of radioactive isotopes, their degradation, and the amount of radiation humans are exposed to during various nuclear “events” (like an x-ray).  The book ends with a thoughtful discussion of nuclear catastrophes, including the 2011 tsunami and explosion at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.  The world’s dependence on nuclear power means that there is a strong chance that there will be similar incidents in the future.

This is a slim, beautifully photographed volume.  Students will find this story to be highly engaging, and it is attractive to even the most reluctant readers. When used in the classroom, Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom can promote discussion of how plant and animal species respond to negative environmental effects.  It can also promote conversations on the costs and benefits of nuclear power, the role of governments in discussing disastrous events with citizens, and how scientists perform complex research while in the field.  All in all, this is a versatile and enjoyable book.

590.9477 Chernobyl; Nuclear Power Effects

Susan Fox, Washington Jr. /Sr. High School