This Book is Gay…new LGBT nonfiction


Dawson, James.  This Book is Gay.  Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2015. 978-1-49261-782-2. 272 p.  $15.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

A solid addition to LGBT collections, this book answers all the questions people have about the LGBT experience.  Directed not only at gays and lesbians but also at straight readers, the book covers many topics that are often overlooked in school curricula.  For instance, the author discusses homosexuality as it relates to various religions, gives tips for coming out and dealing with homophobia and bullying, describes international laws pertaining to homosexuals, makes suggestions for using sex apps and online dating websites, explains the ins and outs of gay sex, and more.  Scattered throughout the book are humorous cartoons, helpful charts, and descriptive quotes by LGBT individuals.  A useful cheat sheet of terminology as well as contact information for support groups is included at the end of the book.  The author uses a light, humorous tone throughout the book and provides guidance and encouragement for teenagers struggling with their sexual identities.  The enthusiastic and straightforward way in which information is presented will appeal to all teens who are curious about LGBT issues.

300s; Homosexuality      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

The teenage years are difficult for everyone, but they can be especially hard for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals, all of whom society considers abnormal.  Furthermore, because these topics are considered taboo, LGBT teens do not have access to many nonfiction resources that address these topics.  Not only does this book help to fill that void, but it does so in an easily accessible, humorous way that teens will appreciate.  The book is a great addition to a sex ed curriculum and would also pair wonderfully in a display with David Levithan’s books – who, incidentally, wrote the introduction for this book.

New Realistic Fiction: 99 Days and My Heart and Other Black Holes


Cotugno, Katie.  99 Days.  New York: Balzer + Bray, 2015.  978-0-06-221638-0. 372 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

After her mother wrote a best-selling novel about her tragic love life, Molly Barlow ran off to boarding school in another state to avoid the backlash.  Now, however, she is back in her hometown for 99 days of summer before her freshman year of college.  Unfortunately, her year-long absence didn’t seem to help matters; she is still despised by everyone in town.  Julia Donnelly, the sister of the two boys whose hearts she broke, eggs Molly’s house and leaves her nasty letters.  She can’t talk to her mom, as she doesn’t want her pathetic life to end up being the subject of another novel.  Even her former best friend doesn’t seem to want anything to do with her.  The only person who seems happy to see her is Gabe, Julia’s oldest brother.  As she tries to mend broken relationships, Molly begins a tentative relationship with Gabe.  Things become complicated, however, when Patrick – Gabe’s brother and Molly’s first love – returns home.  Caught in a steamy love triangle, Molly finds herself right back where she started when she left town in the first place and looks forward to starting over again with a clean slate in college.

Realistic Fiction          Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

Despite her transgressions, Molly is a very likeable protagonist, and I found myself rooting for her throughout the course of the novel.  I was disappointed, though, that while she​ grew emotionally and became more thick-skinned as the novel progressed, she did not seem to learn from her mistakes.  There are definitely themes in the book that will resonate with young readers, including sibling rivalry, adolescent love, and unfair double sexual standards.  I would give this book to anyone looking for a dramatic summer romance.  Be forewarned, however: the book does contain off-page sex, swear words, and instances of underage drinking.


Warga, Jasmine. My Heart and Other Black Holes. New York: Balzer + Bray, 2015. 978-0-06-232467-2. 302 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 & up.

The only way Aysel can be sure she doesn’t end up like her mentally ill father is to kill herself — or so she thinks.  Ever since her dad murdered her town’s star athlete, she’s been ostracized and depressed.  She spends her days surfing a suicide website, looking for a partner to help her commit the act.  She finds one in Roman, who on the surface seems to have everything going for him — athleticism, friends, good looks — but carries an enormous amount of guilt from a heartbreaking loss.  As they plan their deaths, a slow shift in perspective causes Aysel to begin to waver on carrying out their pact.  Readers will hang onto Warga’s honest and graceful narrative to find out whether Roman can be saved, too.  Teens struggling with depression can relate to the “black slug” devouring Aysel, whose dark humor makes her an endearing narrator.  The list of resources in the back for depressed and suicidal teens is essential.  Suggest to teens who couldn’t put down Jay Asher’s immensely popular Thirteen Reasons Why.

Realistic Fiction     Kristen Rowe, Plum Senior High School

Realistic Fiction – Orbiting Jupiter; A 52-Hertz Whale, and This Raging Light


Schmidt, Gary D. Orbiting Jupiter. New York: Clarion, 2015. 978-0-544-46222-9. 192 p. $17.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Jack is a typical 6th grade boy. He lives on a farm in rural Maine, is responsible for daily chores, and is a good student at his school. One day his world changes when his parents tell him they are taking in a foster child. Jack meets his foster brother, Joseph, a dark, brooding, 8th grader who exhibits signs of abuse and neglect. As the two get to know each other, Joseph reveals a secret that he has been hiding. He has a daughter named Jupiter, and he will stop at nothing to find her in the foster system, even if it means risking his own life in the process.

The author shares a strong connection to the foster system and how family isn’t always made up of blood relatives. He presents a balanced view of the struggles facing social workers as they fight for the rights of the children and families they serve. The author also addresses difficult issues such as child abuse, bullying, and teenage pregnancy, in a way that is honest and fair.

This book is an excellent resource to share with students who may be struggling with some of the same things that Joseph is dealing with, particularly the death of a loved one, abuse, or bullying. It would be a great addition to a “survival” or “overcomer” unit.

Realistic Fiction    Corey Hall, Elizabethtown Area School District




Sommer, Bill., & Tilghman, Natalie. A 52-Hertz Whale. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Lab, 2015. 978-1-4677-7917-3. 200p. $18.99. Grades 8 to 12.

You never know where you will find a friend. James is a 14-year old who struggles with social skills and feels like his only friend is a humpback whale named Salt that he follows online. When Salt separates from his pod and is beached, James contacts a very unlikely ally. He emails Darren, a 20-something “wannabe” filmmaker who once volunteered as a tutor in James’s classroom. The two strike an unlikely friendship, and although Darren knows nothing about whales, he provides wacky advice on everything from girls to friends to jobs.

The story is told through a series of emails that pass between not only James and Darren, but also a host of supporting characters that connect and strengthen the story. This book is a unique look at friendship in the technology age, along with love, loss, and yeti suits (yes, yeti suits). Even though much of the interaction is silly and funny, there are some serious interactions that would be excellent for book group or small group discussion. Students who appreciate Eleanor & Park and Winger will enjoy the strange and eccentric world of A 52-Hertz Whale.

Realistic Fiction     Corey Hall, Elizabethtown Area MS/HS




Laure, Estelle. This Raging Light. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. 978054453429-2. 288 p. $17.99. Gr 8 to 12.

Lucille is an ordinary 17-year old girl. She hangs out with her best friend Eden. She has a secret crush on Eden’s brother, Digby. Everything looks normal on the outside, but what Lucille is hiding is that her mother took off, and her father was committed to a psychiatric ward, so Lucille is raising her 10-year old sister, Wren. Alone, scared, and out of money, Lucille has to find a job and childcare in order to keep her little family together. In this sweet story, Lucille learns that she is not alone, that she has a community that surrounds her and watches out for her.

Highly recommended for late middle school or high school students. Themes of family, loss, friendship, and independence permeate the book. This is a great option for discussion starters or book club.

Realistic Fiction    Corey Hall, Elizabethtown Area MS/HS

New Mysteries – Where They Found Her and Descent


McCreight, Kimberly. Where They Found Her. New York: Harper, 2015. 978-0-06-222546-7. 326 p. $26.99. Gr. 10 and up.

When the body of a newborn is discovered in a shallow grave, residents of the posh college town of Ridgedale, New Jersey, quickly turn suspicious eyes on friends, neighbors, and newcomers alike. Reporter Molly Sanderson, who is still grieving the loss of her own stillborn child, tries to tease out facts without stepping on toes. Supermom Barbara, married to the chief of police, is sure it all circles back to one of her son’s classmates and his single-and-proud-of-it mother. And teenager Sandy, whose own mother has just gone missing, may hold at least one of the missing puzzle pieces. This is a fast-paced, juicy whodunit with lots of crossover appeal thanks to the character of Sandy. It’s a great choice for high school students who are ready to try an adult mystery, but may struggle to relate to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl or Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train.

Mystery            Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

McCreight’s debut novel, Reconstructing Amelia (Harper, 2013), has been popular with students and teachers alike at my school. Her latest would be a great choice for a mother-daughter book club, an independent read for Journalism or Criminal Justice electives, or a fiction/nonfiction pair with Missoula by Jon Krakauer (Doubleday, 2015).



Johnston, Tim. Descent. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2015. 978-1-61620-304-7. 384 p. $25.95. Gr. 10 and up.

The Courtland family is on vacation in the Rocky Mountains for some bonding time before daughter Caitlin heads off to college on a track scholarship. But when Caitlin and her younger brother Sean go out for a morning run in the mountains, only Sean comes back. How can the Courtlands return home to Wisconsin without their daughter? How can they stay in Colorado when Sean needs to go back to high school in a matter of weeks? And how can a vibrant young athlete just vanish into the thin air of the Rockies? This spellbinding mystery rotates between the perspectives of the four family members. Jumps in time (indicated by italics) occasionally get confusing, but as the narrative picks up steam the suspense is almost unbearable. Grant Courtland’s love for his lost daughter is exquisitely rendered: “In his dreams she was running – always running. Her heart strong and her feet sure, never stumbling, never tiring, mile upon mile, coming down like water.” This novel would be an excellent choice for fans of Michael Koryta’s Those Who Wish Me Dead (Little, Brown, 2014). Some violent scenes, particularly a rape scene, make this adult mystery appropriate for mature teen readers. I’d recommend it to students in grades 11 and up.

Mystery           Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

The disappearance of Caitlin Courtland brings to mind a real-life mystery: Amy Wroe Bechtel, 24 at the time, vanished while jogging in Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains in 1997. Though she has never been found, there are some recent developments in her case.

Red Queen


Aveyard, Victoria. Red Queen. New York: HarperTeen, 2015. 978-0-605-85200-6. $17.99. 383p. Gr. 9 and up.

Mare Barrow is a Red, the lowest class of citizen in Norta.  Silvers, who rule Norta, do not bleed red blood like the reds.  Instead, they bleed silver and have powers that allow them to control elements of nature, the mind, and others.  Living in the Stilts, Mare has learned to thieve her way through life to provide for her family.  As she nears her eighteenth birthday and conscription (a life in the army due to lack of skill), she has accepted her future until her best friend, Kilorn, loses his apprenticeship and must enter conscription, a fate that caused him to lose his father and family at a young age.  Mare has always felt the need to protect Kilorn, so she sets out to steal enough to buy their freedom.  An attack by the Scarlet Guard, a Red rebel group, ruins her plan to escape and her own family’s future, so Mare does the only thing she knows and runs.  As she pickpockets outside of a tavern, she’s caught, but instead of being punished her capture gives her a tetrarch, a silver coin worth much more than the pennies Mare has stolen.  Soon after this encounter with Cal, a royal servant arrives at the Barrow home for Mare.  Mare is taken to Summerton, the royal’s summer home, where she is to serve the royal family and high houses.  With conscription no longer looming over her, Mare accepts a life of servitude, but during Queenstrial, Mare falls from a balcony into an electrified dome and is not burned up.  Instead, lightning surges from Mare, and she almost kills Evangeline, the front-runner for future queen.  Mare shouldn’t have powers; she’s a Red, yet she just summoned lightning and electricity.  The royals must cover up Mare’s powers because Reds cannot be equal to Silvers, and they cannot kill her because too many questions would arise.  Queen Elara creates a ruse around Mare, which she must play along with to protect her family.  Within the day, she is betrothed to Prince Maven and learns that Cal, the man who caught her stealing outside of the tavern, is actually the king’s first son.  As Mare is schooled in all things Silver, she learns of the evil living in the royal family and high houses and their need to maintain power.  When approached by the Scarlet Guard to fight against the Silvers, she accepts and learns that her betrothed, Maven, is also a sympathizer and has joined the Scarlet Guard.  As they work together to learn more about the guard and help them rebel against the Silver ruling class, Mare learns that trust should not be given lightly and anyone can turn at any moment.

Fantasy           Erin Parkinson, Lincoln JSHS, Ellwood City SD

Red Queen (to me) is a mash-up of The Selection by Kiera Cass, The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, and Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini. It’s fantastical due to the powers that Silvers possess but also very realistic.  Aveyard does a great job providing characters to love, hate, root for, and root against, while maintaining the reality of the world: a ruling class enslaving those “less than them”.  The need for rebellion is clear in the novel, but Aveyard does not shy away from the intensity needed for change to occur nor the pitfalls and defeats found in revolution.  The Scarlet Guard do not win; evil wins, which then leads the reader to consider our world today and how we govern ourselves, treat one another, and think about why people chose to commit evil acts against others.  Red Queen is an excellent debut novel.  Aveyard has set the bar high for her follow-up novels and the remaining pieces of this anticipated series.

June 2015 BOB Fiction

The Great Chicago Fire 1870 cover image

Tarshis, Lauren. I Survived The Great Chicago Fire, 1871. New York: Scholastic, 2015. ISBN 978-0-545-65846-1. 96pp. $4.99. Grades 3–5.
Eleven-year-old Oscar never wanted to leave his family’s Minnesota farm and move to the bustling city of Chicago. But after Papa dies and Mama remarries, Oscar finds himself on a train with his father’s star-shaped sheriff’s badge as the only reminder of his former home and life. Oscar’s first night in Chicago proves to be a terrifying one when his suitcase is stolen, he is separated from his mother and step-father, and he finds himself in the middle of an enormous, out-of-control fire. All alone in an unfamiliar city, Oscar relies on the help of two orphaned street-children to navigate the city’s burning sidewalks and alleys and ultimately reunite with his family. Lauren Tarshis’s fast-paced storytelling places Oscar in the center of one of the country’s most famous and deadly fires. Oscar faces danger on every street corner, and readers will be glued to the pages as he tried to outrun the wide-spread flames and escape the burning city.
Historical Fiction (post-Civil War).               Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary School

Titles in the I Survived  series are always popular with my students – fourth and fifth grade boys in particular. This book is no exception, as it flew off the shelves at our school’s spring book fair. I purchased several copies for the library, and they were in constant circulation until the end of the school year. The book’s cliffhanger chapter endings, fast-paced storyline, and realistic characters combine to create gripping historical fiction, and the ‘Question and Answer’ section at the back of the book answers some of students’ questions about how the fire started, how many people lost their lives, and why the fire department couldn’t do more to fight the flames.


Weeks, Sarah. Honey. New York: Scholastic, 2015. ISBN 978-0-545-46557-1. 152pp. $16.99. Grades 3–6.
Ten-year-old Melody and her widower father have always been extremely close. So Melody is shocked when she overhears part of a phone conversation where he calls someone “Honey.” Melody and her best friend, Nick, are determined to uncover the mystery woman’s identity, and information from Melody’s annoying six-year-old neighbor, Teeny, leads them to Royal, Indiana’s newest beauty salon: The Bee Hive. The point-of-view shifts several times throughout this story, and at the Bee Hive, readers hear from its proprietor, Bee-Bee Churchill and from her small dog, Mo. Each character’s separate storyline ultimately connects, leading to a satisfying, if predictable, conclusion. This title will appeal to middle-grade students who enjoyed Weeks’s previous stories, including Pie, as well as realistic fiction and animal fiction titles.
Realistic Fiction    Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary School

I added this title to my collection in late spring, and for the rest of the year, it was popular with my fifth and sixth grade girls. Sarah Weeks’ Pie (2011) remains popular with my fourth, fifth, and sixth grade girls, so I was not surprised when they gravitated towards this book as well. To me, this book is appealing because of its timeless feel. It focuses on life in a small town, and the main characters are trying to get to the bottom of a realistic mystery: who is “Honey?”


Goldblatt, Mark. Finding the Worm.  (Sequel to Twerp).  New York: Random House, 2015. 978-0385391085. 344p. $14. Gr. 4-7.
Julian and the Ponzini gang are now in 7th grade. Julian, who is preparing for his bar mitzvah and has a crush on Bev, faces accusations of vandalism by the principal, while Quentin has been diagnosed with cancer. A balance of humor and sentiment describe the difficult struggle of a boy who is becoming a man. Themes of fairness, faith and friendship emerge as the reader laughs and cries along with Goldblatt’s richly developed characters. This book is a perfect companion to his first novel, Twerp, but is strong enough to stand by itself.
Realistic Fiction   Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary


Adderson, Caroline.  You’re in Trouble. (Book 4, Jasper John Dooley Series). 978-1554538089. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2015. 122p. $13. Gr. 2-4.
Jasper goes to the vending machine for juice after soccer practice but instead of juice, a Torpedo energy drink falls out. Jasper knows he shouldn’t drink it but finds the ice cold can feels so good he decides to take just one sip. That sip is sweet and leads to another. Jasper is hiding the drink in the refrigerator and sneaking sips over the next day. His sudden high energy gets him into trouble and is very addictive. He tries to stop himself and cover up his mistakes, which just makes matters worse. This is a perfect series for emerging readers containing valuable lessons about consequences and making good choices.
Realistic Fiction   Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary


Grabenstein, Chris. The Island of Dr. Libris. 9780385388443. Random House Children’s Books: New York. 2015. 8-12 years old. $16.99.
Billy has a ‘magical mind’, in the sense that he is able to think stories to life. Upon moving to a cottage with his mother for the summer, Billy discovers that the books and the island in the middle of the lake are quiet amazing. With the help of his friends Walter, Robin Hood, The Three Musketeers, and a few other story favorites, they work together to fight evil by intertwining stories from the library of Dr. Libris. Billy and Walter also learn that all of this is possible due to a scientific scheme Dr. Libris has put into place on the island to make money. Students of all ages will enjoy this book for it’s’ adventure as well as other true to life situations such as bullying and family problems.
Magic/Fantasy/Realistic Fiction      Krista Goodzinski/Mars Centennial


Look, Lenore. Alvin Ho: Allergic to the Great Wall, The Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions (Alvin Ho series). 978-0385369725.  New York: Random House, 2014.  $15.99. 176p.  Gr. 2-4.
Lenore Look is back with this 6th installment in the Alvin Ho series, however readers who haven’t caught up can jump right in and start with this book. I’m betting they’ll love it and circle back to read the others! The author provides a paragraph at the beginning of the book explaining that she spent over a month traveling around China to research and get the details just right. Alvin Ho is a Chinese American kid with more than a few neuroses, and as a result has taken to carrying a PDK – personal disaster kit – everywhere. Well now his parents have decided to take the whole Ho clan, Alvin and his 3 siblings, on a takes-forever-to-get-there 16-hour plane ride, in a tin can of a plane!, to Beijing to visit the grandparents.  Yikes! Don’t even get Alvin started on all the things that could go wrong. Illustrated everywhere a la the Wimpy Kid series, this book is a hilarious and relatable multicultural read for lower level readers and other grade schoolers just reading for fun.
Fiction/Humor   Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Dashner, James. The Rule of Thoughts (Mortality Doctrine, book 2). 978-0385741415. New York: Random House, 2014.  $18.99. XXp.  Gr. 6+
Fans of the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games, the Matrix movies, and The Maze Runner series by this author, will enjoy Dashner’s new Mortality Doctrine series. Reminiscent of The Matrix, Dashner’s latest series is set in a world of futuristic technology, cyber spying and threats and a web of gaming turned bad. The protagonist Michael is an extremely talented gamer who spends more of his life in the VirtNet than in the real world. The addictive VirtNet allows gamers complete mind and body experience and allows anyone with enough money to create and inhabit a complete risk-free fantasy world. In the first book, The Eye of Minds, one gamer, Kaine, goes too far and holds hostages inside the VirtNet, killing their minds. No one knows why this is happening. The government recruits Michael to “go off the grid,” deep into the VirtNet to hack his way in, untangle the mystery, and prevent further loss of life.  In this second book, Michael completed his mission and will never be the same as a result of what he’s experienced and learned, and in fact he almost did not survive.  It turns out Kaine is not a person but a computer game gone rogue to the point of becoming a sentient being.  Kaine’s goal, The Mortality Doctrine, will turn all humans on earth into robots for Kaine’s purposes.  It’s a fast-paced techno-thriller filled with high tech fantasy, lots of futuristic plot twists and turns to keep the story moving. My reluctant reader 6th grade students have been gobbling up this series so far!
FICTION/FANTASY   Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School

aaron1 aaron2

Eastman, P.D., Aaron is a Good Sport. New York: Random House, 2015.978-0-553-50842-0. 32p. $3.99. Grades PK-1.
Eastman, P.D., Aaron has a Lazy Day New York: Random House, 2015. 978-0-553-50844-4. 32 p. $3.99. Grades PK-1.
Aaron is a loveable alligator who always seems to be in trouble. From his adventures with roller skates, to planting a garden, he always seems to find himself in a challenging situation! This enthusiastic alligator from the author of the beloved “Go Dog, Go”, P.D. Eastman, is another irresistible character for first time readers to relate to. With simple vocabulary and pictures that coincide with the action and words, early readers will find success and maybe some fun along the way. There are two books in this series so far, and both will offer the early reader a great way gain confidence with their reading skills!
Easy Reader/Fiction  Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Weatherford, Carole Boston, Gordon Parks; How the Photographer Captured Black and White America. Chicago: Albert Whitman & Company, 2015. 978-0-8075-3017-7. 32 p. $16.99. Grades 1-4.
Gordon Parks was the youngest of fifteen children born on the prairies of the Midwest. His white teacher informed her black students that they would grow up to be waiters and porters. But Gordon doesn’t want to do those jobs. When Gordon’s mother dies, Gordon moves north to Minnesota to live with his sister. While there, he buys a used camera and his life is changed forever. After receiving recognition for his black and white photos, Parks takes a job in Washington, D.C. In Washington, he sees the ugly face of segregation and begins to photograph the plight of the African-American community. His photos gain national attention and he is hired as Life magazine’s first black staff writer and photographer. Later, Parks writes books, poetry and eventually becomes the first African-American to write and direct a feature film. This inspiring story of a young man who follows his dreams and uses his talents to draw attention to the inequality of life for people of color is a wonderful addition to a biography or non-fiction
collection. This simple story includes easy to read text and an informative section in the back with some examples of Gordon Park’s most famous photographs.
Nonfiction   Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Manushkin,Fran. Katie Woo: Katie and the Fancy Substitute. Mankato, Minnesota: Picture Window Books, 2015. 978-1-4795-5188-0. $19.99. Gr. K-2.
In Katie and the Fancy Substitute, Katie’s teacher Miss Winkle is sick and Miss Bliss takes her place as the substitute for the day. Katie immediately notices how fancy Miss Bliss is, with her sparkly shoes and jewelry. Katie is enthralled by Miss Bliss and spends most of the day trying to get her attention and impress her. While Miss Bliss is trying to be fair and give all of the students equal amounts of attention, Katie mistakenly believes that the fancy substitute teacher must not like her. When Katie finally gets a chance to help Miss Bliss, she spills the materials that she was instructed to pass out and feels very embarrassed. As the story comes to a close, Katie eventually helps Miss Bliss and the rest of her class in a big way by finding the class pet, Binky, who accidentally got out of his cage. Miss Bliss provides Katie with the attention she has wanted throughout the whole story, complimenting her helpful and cheerful behavior.

This story, similar to others in the Katie Woo series, includes discussion questions, writing prompts, and related activities in the back of the book. Readers will have the opportunity to consider topics based on friendship, how to treat others, and best ways to be helpful. This is a great beginner chapter book with large, easy-to-read font, colorful illustrations, and a glossary for extra guidance.
Juvenile Fiction              Lisa Naylor, Concord Elementary


Reeve, Philip and Sarah McIntiyre. Cakes in Space: A Not-So-Impossible Tale. New York, NY: Random House, 2015. 9780385387927. 211 p. $12.99. Gr 1-4.
This tasty book will have you thinking twice about venturing into space or eating cakes! The well written adventure takes Astra and her family on a long space journey to Nova Mundi, and has some well thought out space travel technology to get them there. The problem begins when Astra makes one seemingly harmless request for a piece of cake before hibernation. When she wakes up earlier than she should, she must battle killer cakes, a group of pirating aliens, and a Nameless Horror to save the entire ship from doom. This clever tale will appeal to creative sci-fi fans and strong young readers, though they may never look at a cupcake the same way again!
Fiction; Science Fiction   Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District


Wallace, Rich. The Room of Woe (UP2U Adventures series). Minneapolis, MN: ABDO Publishing, 2015. 978-1-62402-094-0. 80 p. $27.00. Gr. 2-4.
Woe to the child who makes friends or enemies with this ghost! Max is on a visit with his parents to see Aunt Ida, who lives alone after a terrible accident with her son years ago. But it seems that Worthington, Woe for short, is still very present and in the mood to play, whether Max is ready or not. When Max gets lost in the woods at night, we are brought into the story to decide his fate and how to handle Woe. Unlike a choose your own adventure, the reader must wait until the climax and then weigh all sides to decide upon three possible endings. It’s worth reading all three of course, and then the writer even encourages us to write our own ending. This is a nice twist for younger readers who want a digestible ghost story to keep them up at night!
Fiction; Horror       Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District


Lai, Thanhha. Listen, Slowly. Harper Collins: New York. 2015. 9780062229182. $16.99. 260p. Gr. 6-8.
Mai is about to take the trip of her life. At first, she doesn’t realize the impact it will make because she is too concerned about what she will be missing during her summer break. She eventually learns that family, culture, and the past will be more important than any time spent at the beach. Mai, only 12 years of age, will be spending her summer with her grandmother, Bà, in Vietnam. Bà seems to think that a detective can help her learn whether or not her husband survived the war. Through the help of the detective, the ‘guard’ in charge of Bà’s husband was located and may be the only person able to provide any information. Mai is anxious to go home and resume her summer, but learns that it’s ok to slow down, listen, and enjoy the new friends and unique relationship she has with her grandmother. This is a great read for advanced readers, more towards the 7th and 8th grade levels.
Historical/Realistic Fiction           Krista Goodzinski/Mars Centennial


Edwards, Karl Newsom. Fly! New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. 978-0-385-39283-9. 26 p. $15.99. Gr. PreK-1.
Fly is a loveable but confused little guy. His friends all know how to move in just the right way for them—the worm can wiggle, the cricket can jump, and so on. Unfortunately, Fly hasn’t quite figured out his own movement yet. With the help of some friends he tries out several ways that don’t quite fit until he starts to work those wings and “fly!”

Edwards’ Fly! Is a simple but winning story that is perfect for preschoolers, and possibly kindergarteners, who are trying to learn something new.  Sometimes it takes a few tries to get something right! The illustrations are bright and fun with lots of white space, giving them a fresh feeling. Included in the back are bug facts that showcase each bug friend of Fly and how these critters move.
Easy Fiction                                         Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools


Eaton III, Maxwell. The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Crazy Critter Race. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. 978-0-385-75469-9. unpaged. $6.99. Gr. K-4.
Beaver brothers Ace and Bub are back again, this time in a crazy critter race. Crazy Critter, houseboat salesman, is holding a race to replant trees that were destroyed by baboons (The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Hot-Air Baboons). The winner gets a new houseboat! The Flying Beaver Brothers are excited to start until they notice that the “trees” aren’t exactly trees and something seems fishy with Crazy Critter. Ace and Bub will need to save the day before the islands are taken over by crazy, giant vines!

As always, Eaton combines black, white, and gray illustrations with one bright color—in this case, yellow. This book is another winner for fans of the wacky brothers who always seem to find themselves involved in strange situations that require quick thinking and lots of humor.
741.5; Graphic Novel                  Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

June 2015 BOB Nonfiction



Manning, Jack. Voting in Elections. Mankato, Minnesota: Capstone Press, 2015.  978-1-4914-0334-1. $24.65. Gr. 1-3.​
As part of the “Our Government” series, Voting in Elections provides easy-to-read, detailed information about one of the most important rights that we have as Americans. Readers learn why voting is a meaningful part of being a U.S. citizen, how voting has changed throughout the years, where to vote, and how voting takes place. Each page includes the main text, along with supporting color photographs and glossary boxes. While there is also a glossary in the back of the book, including a glossary box of complex words on each page is especially useful for young readers. Other titles in this series include: The City Mayor, Serving on a Jury, and The State Governor.
324.6 Voting, Elections, Government   Lisa Naylor, Concord Elementary


Schuette, Sarah L. Garrett Morgan. Mankato, Minnesota: Capstone Press, 2015.  978-1-4914-0504-8. $21.32. Gr. K-2.
As part of the “Great African-Americans” series, this book introduces readers to the successful life of inventor and entrepreneur Garrett Morgan. Morgan is best known for inventing a safety hood for firefighters and soldiers as well as a traffic signal which has been so effective, it is still used to this day! Each page in this informative yet simple biographical profile includes photographs and even sketches of some of his inventions. There is also a timeline on the bottom of each page that continues to expand as readers learn more about Morgan’s life. This is a great choice for young students working on biographical research or a Black History Month project. It is easy-to-read yet still very thought-provoking and appealing.  Other titles in this series include Benjamin Banneker, Frederick Douglass, Jackie Robinson, W.E.B DuBois, and Wilma Rudolph.
Biography, Inventors   Lisa Naylor, Concord Elementary


Ross, Sheldrick Catherine. Shapes in Math, Science and Nature: Squares, Triangles and Circles. New York: Kids Can Press, 2014.  978-1-77138-124-6. $19.50. Gr. 3-6.
Originally published as three separate books, Shapes in Math, Science and Nature has now been reprinted into one, easily accessible compilation. The focus of this book is on squares, triangles, and circles, and interestingly offers much more than one could possibly imagine about these basic shapes. Topics in each shape range from science and math lessons to language and history lessons. Projects, puzzles, games, and fascinating anecdotes are all included along with colorful illustrations to help readers connect with the text. With so many different perspectives presented, the audience is likely to extend far beyond science and math lovers.
516 Mathematics, Geometry   Lisa Naylor, Concord Elementary

June 2015 BOB Picture Books


Fatio, Louise. Illustrated by Roger Duvoisin. A Doll for Marie.  New York: Knopf, 1957.  978-0-385-75596-2. 32 p. $16.99. Gr.K-3.
A new generation of readers have access to the book by the Caldecott winning duo. The dolls was gorgeous but without a home. Marie longs for the doll but lacks the money. A wealthy older lady purchases the doll and in the new home is surrounded by antiques.  Cat knocks the doll off the piano and the dog carries the doll outside into the street. First published in 1957 and now includes a miniature version of the story to share with your doll.
Fiction, Picture Book, Friendship, Classic tale  Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Gavin, Ciara. Room for Bear. New York: Knopf, 2015. 978-0-385-75473-6. 32 p.  $16.99. Gr. K-3.
Bear is happy with the ducks, but he does not fit perfectly in their house. Bear finds a more suitable place for the ducks to move in with him. Calming artwork tells the emotions of the bear and ducks to support the text. The picture book could be introduced when starting a unit on housing.
Fiction, Picture Book, Family, Housing  Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School




Sullivan, Derek E. Biggie. Chicago: Albert Whitman, 2015. 978-0-8075-0727-8. 266p. $16.99. Gr. 7 and up.

“People call me Biggie. Not all people.  Mom and some teachers call me Henry, but for the most part, I’m Biggie.”  Biggie has tried as hard as he can to avoid sports and focus on getting straight As, but it’s not easy when the dad you’ve never met was the town baseball legend.  Of course, it takes a girl he likes, Annabelle, to get Biggie to try baseball and get in shape.  It turns out Biggie is a good pitcher, but will he be able to: make friends? get a date? impress his step father? make the team?

Realistic Fiction       Rachel Gutzler, Wilson High School

I found myself really liking and cheering for Biggie, even though he didn’t always make the best decisions.  His character was very believable as an underdog, bullied kid, and just as a high school boy.  I found myself cringing when Biggie admitted to hacking into Annabelle’s computer to read her emails, and I was so angry at him for quitting the baseball team because he wasn’t selected as a starting pitcher, but the story went in a great direction.  He had hard lessons to learn, and there isn’t always a perfect answer to problems like being abandoned by your birth father or being bullied throughout school.  This book would appeal to a variety of students, and I could see it especially appealing to some of our reluctant boy readers.



Sullivan, Derek. Biggie. Chicago: Albert Whitman & Co., 2015. 978-0807507278. 266p. $16.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Bullied by his peers and nicknamed “Biggie”, Henry is the 300 lb son of a baseball legend. A straight A student, he makes himself invisible at school but has a rich social life online where he chats with girls.  He has had a crush on Annabelle, the popular girl at school, for years. It is not until he is forced to attend the gym classes he’s been cleverly avoiding that he pitches a perfect whiffle ball game and sees he may have potential after all. He decides to lose weight and pursue Annabelle.  THOUGHTS: The characters are believable, realistic, edgy and sometimes unpleasant. They will stick with you even after you finish the book. This is recommended for high school students due to language.  

Realistic Fiction    Robin Bartley, William Tennent High School


When My Heart Was Wicked


Stirling, Tricia. When My Heart Was Wicked. New York: Scholastic Press, 2015. Print. 978-0545695732. 192 p. $17.99. Gr. 9+.

This debut novel packs a lot into a quick 173 pages, but Tricia Stirling succeeds in creating a darkly enchanting tale of one young girl’s quest to define herself. When we first meet Lacey, her beloved father has recently passed away and she is living with Anna, her stepmother. Suddenly, her mother, who had been missing for 3 years, returns and forces Lacey to move back to Sacramento with her. Though unwilling, Lacey complies. Her unwillingness stems from her feeling that she becomes a completely different person when she is in the shadow of her mother- dark, angry, and evil. With her father and Anna she is light, happy, and kind. She knows that this Lacey cannot be sustained when she is living with her unpredictable and dangerous mother. Her mother is some sort of witch (her powers are never clearly defined), and her ability to craft spells has been passed on to Lacey. These skills prove to be useful in her new school in which she is bullied by a group of girls. Lacey is also singled out by a boy with a sketchy reputation, and though warned by one of his prior victims, she falls prey to his advances and becomes the target of his vicious rumors when she refuses to have sex with him.  Lacey begins to perform small spells and have occasional outbursts that make her feel like she is once again turning into the evil daughter of her evil mother. The text occasionally falls into a stream of consciousness narrative, and the reader must keep up with Lacey throughout her rambling thoughts. She jumps back and forth between past events and the present, and the reader is left to pick up the pieces and figure out what it is that makes her both love and hate her mother. This ambiguity works well with the novel’s theme of the difficulties that lie in defining oneself outside of one’s family and friends. Lacey does make friends in her new school, and these relationships keep her grounded amid the fraying relationship with her unpredictable mother. The characters are interesting and realistic, though one wonders how Lacey’s mother can be considered a fit guardian for her daughter. This novel will engage readers who enjoy dark tales with a realistic edge to them.

Realistic (Supernatural) Fiction           Lindsey Myers, Peters Township High School


Similar to how the main character struggled to define herself, I struggled to define my feelings about this novel from beginning to end. It is captivating and Lacey has a unique voice, but the interspersing of witchcraft caught me off guard on occasion, possibly because the rest of the novel is typical young adult drama- dealing with a new school and friends, bullying, fighting with parents, etc. The witchcraft did lift it up out of the “general” realistic fiction into something supernatural and dark, which I believe will appeal to teens looking for something more than the standard fare. I am eager to see more from this author.