Saint Anything…new from Sarah Dessen


Dessen, Sarah. Saint Anything. New York: Viking, 2015. Print. 978-0451474704. 432 p. $19.99. Gr. 9-12.

Sarah Dessen has become well-known for crafting engaging, complex stories of young teens dealing with difficult issues and experiences. Her latest novel, Saint Anything, carries on this tradition and immerses the reader once again in an emotionally charged story. All of her life, Sydney Stanford’s handsome and charismatic brother, Peyton, has stolen the spotlight. Yet his increasingly poor decisions lead to a drunk-driving incident that leaves a young boy paralyzed and Peyton in prison. Sydney’s mother seems to side with Peyton and puts his needs first, forgetting about the victim. She also leans on and trusts Ames, Peyton’s friend, even though he always gives Sydney a “creepy” vibe. Sydney alone seems to carry with her the burden of Peyton’s actions every day. To escape her brother’s shadow, she decides to leave Perkins Day, a private school, and attend Jackson High, the local public school. One day she walks into Seaside, a local pizza place, and meets the Chatham family, the owners of the establishment. She quickly becomes friends with the beautiful and vivacious Layla and her handsome yet quiet brother Mac. Soon, Sydney becomes a part of their family, attending concerts for Mac’s band and exploring the woods behind their house. However, things become increasingly tense at home between Sydney and her parents as their relationship with Peyton becomes strained. The resolution is a bit predictable, but the characters are interesting and engaging as usual and readers will fall easily into the story. Most will empathize with Sydney and wonder why her mother insists on siding with Peyton (the one character I would have liked to have heard more from). Overall, this is a strong addition to Dessen’s line up, and will be well-received by her fans.

It is no secret that I love Sarah Dessen, and always enjoy picking up one of her books. I fall so easily into the story, and Dessen’s writing is simple and comforting. This story does deal with a very serious issue, but not from the point of view of the one committing the crime. Instead, viewers are given a glimpse into the lives of those affected by the actions of the perpetrator. While I did enjoy Sydney and her point of view, I would have liked to have heard more of Peyton’s story, and how he was dealing with the guilt. I do, however, I understand that this was Sydney’s story, not Peyton’s. Possibly, Dessen could write a short novella about his experiences? This would expand a reader’s empathy and maybe even further develop the character of Peyton’s mother as well. Or, maybe I need to begin writing some Sarah Dessen fan fiction…

Realistic Fiction      Lindsey Myers, Peters Township High School


Review 2:

Living in her older brother Peyton’s shadow, Sydney is longing to feel the sunshine of her parents’ affections. Peyton is incarcerated after a string of bad decisions, resulting in a stay in rehab and being jailed for drinking and driving which resulted in paralyzing a boy who was riding home on his bike. Sydney has never been the child her parents have had to worry about, but after mounting bills for her brothers’ defense start to become overwhelming, she decides to help her parents by enrolling in a public school and exiting her elite private school.  It is by accident that she wanders into a local pizza  place where she meets the Chathams, a brother and sister duo who will change her world.  For Sydney, this unconditional acceptance and love is eye-opening.  It gives her the confidence and support she is lacking in her own family. Told with the sweet teenage voice of Sydney, the novel captures the way in which teenagers are constantly looking to fit in somewhere and when they do, the way in which they flourish emotionally is truly incredible.

Dessen, known for playing on the heartstrings, hits it out of the park with this novel.  She creates characters who share commonalities with readers, allowing them to relate to the situations and problems. The main conflict of the novel is the way Sydney’s parents are so wrapped up in the issues surrounding her brother, rather than her own emotional well-being. Dessen gives credibility to teens who are searching for change and the confidence to achieve it.

Realistic Fiction, Romance               Brooke Gerlach, Manheim Central Middle Schoo

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B

Toten, Teresa. The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B. New York: Delacorte Press, 2015. 978-0-553-50786-7. $17.99. 289p. Gr. 8+.
Adam Spencer Ross.  Meds:  Anafranil 25 mg 1 x per day; Ativan as needed 4-6.  Primary presenting compulsions: ordering, counting, magical thinking (re: clearing rituals).
Adam struggles with the same issues other 15-year-olds encounter: divorced parents, a challenging step-brother, and making friends.  He also has more critical issues including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and a mother who hordes mass quantities of accoutrements.  With the help of his small group therapy sessions and individual counseling with Chuck, Adam believes he’s adequately coping with life.  Then enters Robyn Plummer, and Adam’s overwhelming desire to save her compels him to follow her home, through the cemetery, where he learns her mother committed suicide.  While Robyn is older and incredibly beautiful, she is drawn to Adam, someone she can finally confide in with honestly.  Masked in the superhero identities chosen during group session, Batman (Adam), Robin (Robyn), and the rest of the lovable group of mavericks venture to town, exploring the realm of the Catholic Church, friendships, and first love.  Adam truly believes he can save Robyn, but suddenly he’s getting worse.  In order to be a hero, he will have to sacrifice his beloved and be candid with the people who care about him.


Adam is an incredibly charming and endearing character.  Readers will cheer for him as he helps his friends overcome problems and comforts his step-brother “Sweetie” during recurring meltdowns.  His indelible strength and compassion for others make him simply irresistible.  Readers will learn more about the complexities and hindrances of OCD, the poignant intervals of debilitating agony relieved with surprising moments of clarity and humorous witticism.  Fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars will enjoy Toten’s latest book.

Realistic Fiction    Christine Massey, JWP Middle School

May 2015 BOB Picture Books


Lawson, Jon Arno. Sidewalk Flowers. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2015. 978-1-55498-431-2. Unpaged. $16.95. Grades K-2.
One red-hooded girl on a city walk with her distracted father teaches us about acts of simple kindness, small gestures, and noticing the beauty around her in this brilliant wordless picture book. The message is noticeable in the colors and character faces of Sydney Smith’s gorgeous illustrations in watercolor and ink. As the girl collects flowers from various parts of the sidewalk, the reader can notice how small details can be bright and beautiful. Then, as she begins to distribute her small gifts, there are times to ponder deeper values and appreciate the variety of life around us. Her gifts to the dead bird and the homeless man struck me as good life lessons for our youngest readers. This story is so subtle and simple, yet eloquent and timeless. It deserves to be treasured and shared!
Picture Book; Wordless             Dustin Brackbill State College Area School District


Reagan, Jean. How to Surprise a Dad. 978-0-553-49836-3. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. 26p (unpaged). $16.99. Gr. PK-2.
Jean Reagan and illustrator Lee Wildish bring us another entertaining take on how kids can entertain the grownups they love, after their amusing How to Babysit a Grandpa (2012) and How to Babysit a Grandma (2012).  In this book the brother and sister learn that to surprise a dad you need to be super tricky, super sneaky, and creative. There are suggestions that will make adults and young listeners laugh such as “get his toothbrush ready” (with illustration of dad’s toothbrush piled high with messy toothpaste) and “reorganize his shoes and hats,” to seriously helpful suggestions, “help him with the grocery shopping,” and going on nature hunts. At the end the siblings are preparing a surprise party for dad for no particular occasion, but this read-aloud would be the perfect vehicle to get little ones excited about Father’s Day in June.
Picture Book     Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Newman, Leslea. Heather Has Two Mommies. 978-0-7636-6631-6. Sommerville, MA: Candelwick, 2015. 32p (unnumbered). $16.99. Gr. PK-2.
This is a 25th anniversary re-issue of the classic from 1989, with appealing watercolor illustrations and a comforting message for children that is more relevant than ever today. Heather has a happy life with two of everything she loves: two arms, two legs, two eyes, two pets, and two mommies. She lives a blissful life of play in the grass and now she is excited to start school. When Heather volunteers that her mom is a doctor a classmate ask what her dad does. “I don’t have a daddy,” she shares and begins to wonder if she is the only one there without one. Her loving teacher Ms. Molly suggest the children all draw pictures of their families and Heather realizes they come in all different shapes and sizes. Ms. Molly beautifully sums it up: “The most important thing about a family is that all the people in it love each other.” I would use this in the library or classroom as a valuable discussion-starter to build empathy and awareness during units on types of families.
Picture Book     Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Oldland, Micholas. Walk on the Wild Side. 978-1-77138-109-3. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2015. 32p (unnumbered). $16.95. Gr. PK-2.
Three friends, moose, bear and beaver, set out on a mountain hike.  They are all adventure lovers but we find out from the get-go that “sometimes their competitive natures got in the way of having fun.” To illustrate this, beaver suggests they turn their hike into a race, and predictably, several disasters ensue. In the end, friendship and ingenuity save the day, and the three agree that sometimes going slowly allows one to savor an experience. Readers and listeners alike will enjoy the full-bleed woodcut print illustrations and spare text. This entertainingly told and illustrated tale is the perfect salve for little ones who want to rush through everything and feel the need to be first in line. This is Oldland’s fifth installment featuring beaver, moose and bear in his “Life in the Wild” series of picture books.
Picture Book     Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School

sweep up the sun

Frost, Helen. Sweep Up the Sun. 978-0-7636-6904-1. Sommerville, MA: Candlewick, 2015. 32p (unnumbered). $16.99. Gr. PK-2.
This breathtaking picture book has received a starred review from Kirkus and PW and I predict more accolades to follow. I admit to being prejudiced as a novice birder and bird enthusiast, but I cannot imagine any reader not being moved by these National Geographic-worthy, full-bleed color photographs of birds in motion, on the wing, and interacting. The enticing photos are accompanied by simple, poetic, inspirational verse: “Spread your feathers, sweep up the sun, ride the wind and explore.” But I believe what will captivate young readers most is the close-up and highly detailed photos of “every day” birds we glimpse at our backyard feeders: Goldfinch, Cardinal, Chickadee and Starling. Because these small creatures move so quickly we rarely get this close a view of truly how beautiful they are. Second-graders in my school are completing a year-long bird study and I cannot wait to share this book with them! A spread at the end of the book contains thumbnail photos and a paragraph identifying and detailing each bird featured. Highly recommended.
Picture Book     Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Pennypacker, Sara. Meet the Dullards. 978-0-62198563. New York: Harper Collins, 2015.
The author of the lovely Clementine series brings us this hilarious tale of parents who are terrified of excitement – including books, “making things,” playing outside, and exclamation marks – and try mightily to keep their three children, Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud, away from any type of adventure. One day Mr. and Mrs. Dullard are shocked to find the children not just reading books, but reading books about the circus. So they “packed up their three dull children and all their dull things and moved.” The problem is, their new neighborhood is just as full of surprises: a neighbor shows up with a cake, and there is flowered wallpaper in one of the rooms that must be painted over immediately with custom-mixed dull paint the color of oatmeal. I laughed out loud at the illustrations – there are all sorts of clever additional things going on that young readers will notice – and the subtext, perfect for children who have ever claimed “I’m bored!” or suspected the grownups in their lives are determined to keep the excitement out of their life (and who hasn’t?).
Picture Book    Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Golio, Gary. Bird & Diz. 978-0-7636-66606. Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2015. 1 fold out page 22 x 25 cm. $19.99. Gr. K-3.
This is an absolutely gorgeous homage to Charlie “Bird” Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, told in chalk on thick, cardboard stock. While I love the beautiful illustrations and lyric text describing the spellbinding ways these two great talents worked together, the single, fold out page format, held together with a wrap-around magnetic clasp, may be impractical for most read-aloud situations and could become damaged after only a few readings unless kept under watch by a teacher or librarian; therefore I suggest it doesn’t circulate. Some ways this can be used instructionally: as part of a biography unit in library or the classroom where the read aloud can occur with students around a long table allowing for complete fold-out of the text; in a music class discussing jazz, Parker and Gillespie; or an art class discussing the forms and media used to tell a story. I’d recommend pairing reading of the book with an audio enjoyment of Parker and Bird music for full appreciation of the subject matter.  Inside back cover contains an afterward, sources for more information and a black and white photo of Parker and Gillespie.
Picture Book     Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School

What You Left Behind


Verdi, Jessica. What You Left Behind. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Fire, 2015. 978-1-49-2614-401. 368 p. $16.99. Gr. 8 to 12.

Ryden Brooks has it all. He is the star goalie for the varsity soccer team and is looking at a free ride to UCLA. He is one of the most popular boys in school, and he has his pick of girlfriends, but his world is turned upside down when he meets (again) and falls in love with smart but nerdy Meg Reynolds. But Meg has secrets. She has terminal cancer, AND she is pregnant with Ryden’s baby! Ryden’s plans crumble as he takes on the role of single father to baby Hope.

This is a sharp and poignant read. Students who fell in love with The Fault in Our Stars and A Walk to Remember will find similar themes and relationships in What You Left Behind.

Realistic Fiction   Corey Hall, Elizabethtown HS/MS

I’m Glad I Did


Weil, Cynthia. I’m Glad I Did. New York: Soho Teen, 2015. 978-1-61695-356-0. 264p. $18.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Justice Jeanette “JJ” Green was born into a family of lawyers and is expected to follow in her parents footsteps, but JJ is not interested in law.  She dreams of being a songwriter!  As a teenage girl in 1963, this is no easy task.  JJ manages to land a job in the music business as a secretary thanks to her estranged Uncle Bernie.  JJ meets Luke in the Brill Building elevator.  He becomes her song-writing partner, and maybe something more?  Can they write a song and record a demo by summer’s end?  Or will JJ’s dreams of working in the  music business be over?  JJ gets the chance to record a demo with Dulcie Brown, a legendary singer who has fallen on hard times and is working as a custodian in the building.  I’m Glad I Did has secrets, a tragedy, hidden identities, and a mystery.  This book will keep you reading to find out what happens to all of the characters.

Historical Fiction    Rachel Gutzler, Wilson High School
JJ is a great character.  She is smart, driven, and follows her passion for songwriting.  I always look for books that have music as a theme, and music was central to this book.  I particularly enjoyed the cultural references of the early 60s and the knowledge that the author had of the recording industry.  Cynthia Weil, although she is a first time YA author, was a songwriter at the Brill Building in the 1960s, and the story seemed very authentic because of her knowledge. It took a little while for the mystery/event to occur, so I kept reading, thinking that something bad was going to happen, but the story really picked up pace during the last half of the book and kept me very interested right up to the end. Great job to this first-time author.

Sneaker Century


Keyser, Amber J.  Sneaker Century: A History of Athletic Shoes.  Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, 2015.  978-1-4677-2640-5. 64p.  $32.75.  Gr. 6-9.

Sneaker Century takes an in-depth look at everyone’s favorite footwear.  Whether you call them sneakers, tennies, or trainers, athletic footwear is a staple of American fashion.  Sneaker-type footwear, shoes that wrap around the foot, have been around many thousands of years.  The modern sneaker came to be in the late 19th century with Charles Goodyear’s perfection of a process for vulcanizing rubber.  Goodyear was not an astute businessman and after his death, companies began to profit by making shoes with rubber soles and lightweight cloth or leather uppers.  Some of the earliest brands (Keds, Converse, and PF Flyers) exist to this day.

If this was simply a book about the history of sneakers, it wouldn’t be anything remarkable.  However, the book discusses a number of fascinating sneaker-related topics.  The World War II intrigue behind the shoe company run by Adi and Rudolf Dassler is intriguing.  Unlike his brother, Rudolf, Adi Dassler did not support Hitler’s politics (and supplied Jesse Owens with a pair of spikes that he thought would improve Owens’ race).  Deep philosophical differences led the Dassler brothers to establish their own shoe companies after the war: Adi founded the Adidas Company, while Rudolf incorporated Puma shoes.  Sneakers are a multi-million dollar industry, so it stands to reason that controversies would abound. Today, highly-paid celebrity endorsers, the marketing of expensive sneakers to inner-city youth, and the exploitation of overseas factory workers, are all points of contention that affect the athletic footwear industry.

At a mere 64 pages, this book is too short to do justice to many of the very interesting topics it discusses.  However, its length makes it highly accessible to reluctant readers.  It has beautiful photographs of (functional and fashionable) sneakers, professional athletes, and design diagrams.  The graphics are arresting and the text is easy to understand.  Students who wish to learn more can consult the bibliography or the links included in the “For Further Information” section of the book.  There’s nothing quite as exciting as a new pair of “kicks”, and Amber Keyser has captured this feeling in Sneaker Century.

685.31 Shoes; Social Aspects            Susan Fox, Washington Jr. /Sr. High School



Braun, Melinda. Stranded. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015. 978-1-48-14-3819-3. 272 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

After the tragic death of her sister, Emma decides she needs a change. On a whim, she signs up for a week-long outdoor adventure in the wilds of Minnesota. She expects to deal with the usual challenges of camping, but what she doesn’t expect is a freak storm that leaves her and three other teenagers fighting for their very survival. Without food or water, the teens must rely on each other to stay alive. Oh, and did I mention that a winter storm is on the horizon?

This is an action-packed adventure that will keep students glued to the pages of the book. Themes of survival, friendship, and death lend themselves well to discussion. However, the strong language and sexual situations make this a book that should be presented to high school students only.

Action/Adventure (Survival)    Corey Hall, Elizabethtown HS/MS

May 2015 BOB Fiction

Holm, Jennifer, Matthew Holm, and Jarrett J. Krosoczka, eds. Comics Squad: Recess! New York: Random House, 2014. 978-0-385-37004-2. 133 p. $14.00. Gr. 3-6.
This collection of short comics is edited by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm, of “Babymouse” and “Squish” fame, and “Lunch Lady” creator Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Each of the eight comics has its own story and style, but the book as a whole has a distinct Holm/Krozoczka feel as it features black and white illustrations with pops of one color—in this case, orange. The characters occasionally pop up in each other’s stories, and the whole book is well done.

If your students are fans of graphic novels, make sure to buy this book. Authors include Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Dav Pilkey, Dan Santat, Rain Telgemier and Dave Roman, Ursula Vernon, Eric Wight, and Gene Luen Yang. It’s an all-star lineup for sure! This one will fly off the shelf, so you may want to consider an extra copy.
Graphic novel; 741.5                Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools


Barshaw, Ruth McNally.  The Ellie McDoodle Diaries: Ellie for President ( Book 6 in the Ellie McDoodle Series).  New York: Bloomsbury, 2014. 978-1-61963-061-1. 170 pages.  $12.99. Grades 2-5.Ellie McDougal would rather draw than speak.  Her work on a fun “magazine” that she and her friends create brings her talents to the attention of the principal.  The principal organizes a school newspaper and Ellie is made Editor in Chief.  Their paper is a huge success until school elections are announced and the paper must interview each candidate.  Friends are encouraging Ellie to run for class president since they all feel she is fair and listens well.  But Ellie isn’t sure that she really wants the job. She isn’t really crazy about the idea of getting up in front of her peers! And then there is the fact that the boy that she really likes is running for president too! A sweet, funny look at life in upper elementary school.  Ellie has a crazy family who loves and supports her in her art and cheers her on to do whatever she decides to do.  This book will resonate with the shy artistic child who wants to stay in the background, but longs to express their feelings.  It also shows how the support of good friends and family can give us the courage to try new things, even though they might seem scary at first.  The doodles are reminiscent of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, but with a bit more substance and depth.
Realistic Fiction    Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Funke, Cornelia. Emma and the Blue Genie. New York: Random House, 2014. 978-0-385-37540-5. $9.99. 90 Pages. Grades 2-4.
In this magical tale, Cornelia Funke, author of the famous Inkheart series, spins a story of a little girl named Emma.  Emma just needs some peace and quiet away from her teasing brothers.  So one night she sneaks out to sit by the ocean and stare at the stars.  When a mysterious bottle washes up at her feet, Emma is whisked into an adventure like she never imagined !  Emma and her dog, Tristan, must help the blue genie retrieve is nose ring from the evil yellow genie so that they can free the city and Emma can finally get her three wishes.  But to succeed, Emma will need all of her wits and courage.  This is a wonderful imaginative “magic carpet ride” of a read!
Fantasy     Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (series) North Mankato: ABDO, 2015. 24 p. $16.95 each.
Lynch, Brian. Leonardo. 978-1-61479-339-7.
—. Michelangelo. 978-1-61479-340-3.  Gr. 4-8.
In Leonardo and Michelangelo, the readers have an opportunity to see the individual traits of the respective turtles. While Leonardo goes alone to try and rescue their father, Splinter, he relives precious memories of his family before the mutations. Leonardo fights valiantly among the numerous foot clan, but he is in need of his brothers. Michelangelo looks for a memorable New Years celebration. He does have this as he uses skills that each of his brothers possess, but he does not want to steal the diamond for the evil doers. The books Donatello and Raphael are also part of the series. Many artists work to bring the series to life including Andy Kuhn, Bill Crabtree, Shawn Lee, Ross Campbell and Jay Fotos.
741.5 Graphic Novels, Comic Strips       Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Proimos III, James. Apocalypse Bow Wow. 978-1-61963-442-8. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. 219p. $13.99. Gr 3-6.
This hilarious first in a new series is sure to thrill your fans of Baby Mouse, Fashion Kitty, and Wimpy Kid books. Apollo and Brownie are doggie housemates who realize they are getting very, very hungry, the water bowl is empty, and still their people are not home. It’s an apocalypse! With the help of a deer crashing through the window, a tick who spent a lot of time between the pages of the ancient text The Art of War, a police dog and others, Apollo and Brownie face innumerable odds to get food and fight their way through the catastrophe. Most pages contain a single panel making this a quick, fun and breezy read. Lots of laughts.
Graphic Novel/Fiction/Humor     Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Klimo, Kate. Dog Diaries: Sweetie (Dog Diaries series). 978-0385-39240-2. New York:  Random House, 2015. Gr 1-4.
Klimo is back with another tale told from the doggie’s mouth, this from one of George Washington’s beloved fox hounds, Sweetie. Reminiscent of Black Beauty, each Dog Diaries adventure is told through the voice of the dog. Readers learn a slice of history not just through the historical fiction in the front of the book, but also through the wonderfully informative, illustrated Appendix at the back of each. In this installment we learn that Washington was not only the father of our country but considered by the AKC to be the father of the American Fox Hound breed as well.  We learn about the history of the breed, its status today, and suitability as a pet. A beautiful black and white reproduction of William Russell Birch’s painting of fox hunting on Mt. Vernon ends the book. I love the Dog and Horse Diary series and have turned on a number of my early grade readers to both series. Highly recommended.
Historical Fiction     Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Mullarkey, Lisa and John. Shakespeare Saves the Globe: The Art of Time Travel Series. Minneapolis, MN: ABDO Publishing, 2015. 978-1-62402-090-2. 128 pages. $18.95. Grades 3-6.
Time travel for young readers is nothing new, and this series (The Art of Time Travel) follows in the vein of Magic Tree House and Time Warp Trio. For example, in this tale, two kids named Mason and Aubrey are hanging out at a theater when they are suddenly whisked away to 1598 London and must find a way to save the Globe and the work of William Shakespeare. They learn about the culture, the dangers of that time, and the joy of the theater. When the day is saved, off they go to the present with lessons in hand. What may help this series stand out are the layers of issues and themes that they experience while on their adventure. There are discussions of gender equality, public sanitation and safety, and class differences that are all appropriately discussed. Also, the other titles in the series cover Frankenstein’s Mary Shelley, Ella Fitzgerald, and Claude Monet – all of which are more advanced topics than M.T.H. and could be an excellent bridge for middle readers into other worlds and literature.
Fiction; Historical          Dustin Brackbill State College Area School District


Stratford, Jordan. The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency (Book 1, The Case of the Missing Moonstone). New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2015.  978-0385754408. 240p. $14. Gr. 3-7.
In a fictional tale of an alternate past, Mary (Godwin) Shelly (author of Frankenstein) and Ada (Byron) Lovelace (first computer programmer) collide during their tween years. Despite the creative license used in finagling this hypothetical friendship, the characters perfectly balance one another. One is extremely observant, noticing details overlooked by others and the other is a math genius. Together they create a Hardy Boys meet Sherlock Holmes style detective agency.
Excellent for promoting strong female characters as well as real life role models, this book is a fun mix of history, mystery and science for fans of series such as Mysterious benedict Society, Spiderwick Chronicles and Series of Unfortunate Events!
Science/Historical Fiction        Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary


Potter, David. The Left Behinds: The iPhone that Saved  George Washington. New York: Random House, 2015. 978-0-385-39056-9. 344p. $14. Gr.3-7.
Debut author David Potter weaves a hysterical, historical, mystery adventure of a trio of friends (Mel, Bev and Brandon) who remain at boarding school for the holidays where they attend a Christmas Day Revolutionary reenactment with one of their teachers. Things get strange when they find themselves facing what appears to be the dead body of real George Washington just BEFORE he is supposed to make his famous crossing of the Delaware! Mel, the history buff of the group discovers that a rogue phone app known as iTime, is responsible for the calamity and the group teams up with a couple colonial lads to try to correct the damage before it devastates history!
Science/Historical Fiction        Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary


Jacobson, Jennifer Richard. Paper Things. 2015. 9780763663230. 384p. $16.99. Gr. 4-6.
Greg is truly trying to take care of himself and his sister Ari. Both of their parents are deceased and Greg doesn’t want to break a promise to his mother of not keeping he and his sister together, even if that means being homeless. Arianna is the star of this realistic fiction novel that truly hits home. Homelessness is more of a reality that we truly know. At the age of 11, Ari is forced to be brave beyond her years. She is forced to bounce from house to house as her brother tries to get a job and find suitable housing for them to live. During their time of homelessness, not only do they bounce from house to house of Greg’s friends, but they also spend time in a shelter, storage unit, and a car. During all of this, Ari begins to see her grades slip, her BFF pull away, and her dreams of attending Carter, the same school her father, mother, brother, and guardian attended. Through a little faith and paper airplanes, Ari discovers that your living situation doesn’t define you and that dreams can come true and that true friends may not be who we expect them to be. This would be a great read-aloud for grades 5-7!
Realistic Fiction/Homeless                 Krista Goodzinski/Mars Centennial


Lord, Cynthia. A Handful of Stars. 978545700276. New York: Scholastic, 2015. 192p. $16.99. Gr. 3-6.
This delightful story of 2 young girls, Tiger’Lily’ and Salma, tells how friendship, courage, imagination, and love can be found in places that you wouldn’t necessary expect it. Lily lives with her grandparents in Maine and is diligently trying to raise money to pay for eye surgery her dog Lucky needs. Lily makes a new friend, Salma, who happens to be one of the migrant workers that comes to Maine to harvest the blueberries. Lily and Salma quickly discover that they both have a love for art and animals and are willing to try anything to raise the money for Lucky’s surgery. This story will touch your heart in so many ways!
Realistic Fiction                Krista Goodzinski/Mars Centennial

May 2015 BOB Nonfiction


Ruurs, Margriet. Families Around the World. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2014. 978-1-894786-57-7. 40 p. $18.95. Gr. K-3.
Margriet Ruurs created a beautiful, diverse introduction to different families around the world. Ruurs interviewed real families in different countries and based each two-page spread on her interviews. She features families such as a large nomadic family in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, in which young son Baatar spends his days tending to the family’s animals and doing chores to help with daily survival; a two-mother family who lives in Amsterdam and spends the weekend together at local sites and visiting an elderly grandmother; an American family that owns a cattle ranch on which son Ryan helps raise a sheep that he will show at a fair; a Chinese family that has moved to Canada and speaks Mardarin at home but English with friends and eats lasagna with chopsticks.  Ruurs included families with single parents, same-sex parents, extended families, biracial families, family members with handicaps, and families that live on five of the seven continents (no Australia or Antarctica). The book includes a map with highlighted countries, a note for parents and teachers, and a glossary with words from other languages that are featured in the text.

This book would serve as a lovely introduction to foreign cultures, different kinds of families, or different lives of children around the world. I think that kids would love to know that the children featured in the book are real children. Jessica Rae Gordon’s colorful illustrations showcase not only the families but different cultural features such as the red double-decker bus in England and the beet soup and pierogies for Sunday dinner in Poland. Introduce this book to teachers who could use it in their classrooms for curriculum connections.
Nonfiction; 306.85           Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools


Schecter, Vicky Alvear. Illustrated by J.E. Larson.  Hades Speaks!: Secrets of the Ancient Gods. Honesdale, Pennsylvania: Boyds Mill Press, 2014. 978-1-620915981. 128 p. $14.46. Gr. 3-7.
Learn more about mythology by taking an underworld from a tour from Hades, the  original “He Who Must Not be Named.”  While Hades was the first born, he frequently discusses the unfairness in the realms and temples his siblings, mainly Zeus, possess. Persephone, the wife of Hades, shares several stories of previous human visitors to the Underworld during the stay at the Black Palace. In addition to learning about mythology, the culture of funeral rites and famous Greek thinkers are introduced.  At the end of the book readers can consult a guide to the Greek Gods and Heroes, a glossary of terms, sources and an index.  Hades Speaks! is ideal for readers that enjoy mythology infused series or learning more about topics covered in World History class.
292.1 Nonfiction, Mythology, History             Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


 Clay, Kathryn. Robots in Space. Mankato, Minnesota: Capstone Press, 2015.  978-1-4914-0585-7. $24.65. Gr. K-3.
This book begins by introducing readers to why we use robots to explore space. Readers learn that humans often use robots to learn about dangerous places that people might not be able to visit. Readers learn about a robot that sends information from the sun, one that has taken pictures of Neptune and deep, dark places in the solar system, and a rover that landed on Mars. The last few pages even explore the future of space robotics, including spider-bots and a humanlike robot that may someday travel to Mars or the Moon! The text in this book is somewhat sparse, however the simplistic information provided will be just enough for the target audience of young readers. Other titles in the Cool Robots series include Animal Robots, Robots on the Job, and Tiny Robots. Anyone interested in science, space, or robots will be an instant fan of this book, and likely the others in the series as well.
629.43 Space, Robotics        Lisa Naylor, Concord Elementary


Lee, Sally. School Long Ago and Today. Mankato, Minnesota: Capstone Press, 2015.  978-1-4914-0296-2. $24.65. Gr. K-3.
Many students in today’s world are used to a certain way of learning in the classroom. Research projects using computers of all shapes and sizes, interactive technology, an ample student body, and a diverse staff to teach many different subject areas are all the norm. However, the education system in our country was not always so vibrant and modern. This book does a great job of providing a simple, brief timeline of the ways schools have evolved from the 1900s to present day, focusing on major points to keep the audience of young readers engaged. Included on each easy-to-read page are photographs, glossary words, and extra fact boxes. I particularly love the addition of the “Amazing but True” and “Hands On” pages in the back of the book. The hands on activity provides directions for creating a hornbook, which is what colonial children used to help them with their reading and writing. Other titles in the Long Ago and Today series include Communication, Food, and Transportation.
370.973 Education History, Schools                  Lisa Naylor, Concord Elementary


Smith-Llera, Danielle-. Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece (First Facts series).  9781491402740. N. Mankato, MN: Capstone, 2015.  24p. $18.49. NF Gr 2-6.

This is a beautifully organized and illustrated primer to Greek Mythology. Beginning with a map of ancient Greece showing the location of Temples for the Gods, the book tells the story of all the major characters on Mt. Olympus. Then each god from Zeus to Apollo has a spread telling their individual tale in simple, easy-to-read format with luscious photography, illustrations, and lots of sidebars for enticing nonfiction read. I’d recommend this book as a pleasure read and also as a classroom resource when teaching mythology to the younger grades. Features at the end include a family tree of the gods, glossary, index, sources for further reading and Common Core critical thinking prompts.
753 Mythology              Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Capek, Michael. Secrets of the Terracotta Army: Tomb of an Ancient Chinese Emperor (Edge Books series).  9781476599175. N. Mankato, MN: Capstone, 2015.  24p. $18.49. NF Gr 3-8.
I’ve long been curious about the Terracotta Army in China. Was it a statue factory? A temple? An artist’s lair? Turns out these thousands of terracotta soldier statues inhabit the tomb of China’s first emperor who lived over 2,000 years ago. In the spirit of the Egyptian pharaohs, he wanted to go into the hereafter with all the comforts, companionship and protection he enjoyed in this world.  So far archaeologists have mapped that this tomb covers at least a 30-sq. mile area, and new discoveries are continuing to be made. This book does an excellent job of showing the artifacts, telling the historical backstory, and detailing the current archaeological science going on.  While composed in a short and easy to read format,  your older students will not find the content too young.  Fascinating! End features include glossary, index, print and online resources for further reading, and Common Core critical thinking prompts. Highly recommended.
931 China History Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School

It’s a “Baby in a box, and its mom packed its lunch”


Hanson, Thor. The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History. New York: Basic Books, 2012. 978-0-465-05599-9.  $26.99. 304p. Gr. 9+
Popular science-style book that connects the history of the plant kingdom, and our world, with the wonder of the “baby in a box, and its mom packed its lunch,” the seed. Seeds are all around us and even those who don’t garden have sipped coffee, chewed sunflower seeds in the summer, or roasted popcorn. But most of us haven’t stopped to think about the ways seeds protect themselves from predators, travel to distant lands, stay dormant for long periods of time, or ensure reproduction of species. In the pre-human era, plants which came from spores and not seeds – ferns and conifers – dominated the Earth, but seeds won the day, why? Thor Hanson covers everything from the remarkable Methuselah date tree, alive and flourishing today, which germinated from a seed that lay dormant in ruins over 2,000 years old, to GMOs and the ways seeds genetically transform themselves for defense. You’ll enjoy Hanson’s down-to-earth writing style, his conversations with experts, and his experiments with his pre-school-aged son as he unpacks some of the greatest biological mysteries and success stories on our planet, as well as predicting some developments in the future of the seed. Thor Hanson is a conservation biologist, Guggenheim Fellow, Switzer Environmental Fellow, and winner of the John Burrough Medal for excellence in nature writing and natural history. He also wrote Feathers and The Impenetrable Forest, which I plan to read soon. Seeds would make a wonderful high school biology text but I could also see it enhancing an AP history course; spice seeds drove centuries of exploration, coffee beans helped fuel the Enlightenment, and the cottonseed was integral to the Industrial Revolution.  Highly recommended.

581.467 Historical; Nature; Science                   Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School