New YA Realistic Fiction – Faking Perfect; Sugar; Everything, Everything


Phillips, Rebecca. Faking Perfect. New York: Kensington, 2015. 978-1-61773-881-4. 250p. $9.95. Gr. 9 and up.

Lexi is a high school girl hiding her real self, flaws and all, behind the perfect facade.  Her home life isn’t so great, and she’s figured out how to fit in, even if it means hiding her feelings from her “friends”.  As much as she tries not to, she follows in her mother’s footsteps and chooses high school “bad boy”, Tyler Flynn, to secretly date.  Even that seems perfect, since he doesn’t want much more than a good time.  Tyler begins to break their agreement and develops feelings for Lexi.   As Tyler is falling for Lexi, she starts dating Ben, the high school golden boy, perfect in every way. Lexi eventually learns that true friends are your greatest asset, and even though relationships with your parents can be complicated, it’s okay to take risks and reveal the true you.   THOUGHTS: This story was enjoyable.  I love the premise that being fake is too hard to manage, and it’s better to accept who you are and stop trying to fit in.  Lexi discovers that the people you need aren’t always the people you think you want.  I also like that this book deals with other high school struggles and teen issues: popularity, teen pregnancy, drinking, sex, and complicated relationships with parents.

Realistic Fiction       Rachel Gutzler, Wilson High School



Hall, Deirdre Riordan. Sugar. New York: Skyscape, 2015. 978-1477829387. 266 p. $9.99. Gr. 9+.

Sugar is one of those wonderful books that you pick up and never want to put down. I was mesmerized from the beginning. Mercy, aka Sugar, faces difficulties in all sectors of her life. Her mother is obese (and, incidentally, gave her daughter the nickname Sugar), and remains in bed day in and day out, expecting Sugar to be her nurse, cook, and housemaid. Sugar has two older brothers: one who lives at home and makes her life miserable, and one who has escaped and lives with his girlfriend. Sugar has always loved sweets, but her relationship with food and her body has been tarnished by repeated bullying at home and at school. Her mother, brother, schoolmates, etc., all make fun of her size, which only causes her to eat more to attempt to drown out her feelings. Her life is miserable. That is, until she meets the new boy, Even. Even is sweet (no pun intended), and begins to draw Sugar out of her shell, and show her what life can be like when people show compassion. With Even’s guidance, she slowly begins to show kindness to herself and, subsequently, to her body. The two bond over motorcycle rides and commiserate about their difficult home lives. Hall’s writing is fluid and authentic, and she clearly shows how Sugar evolves as a person and how empathy and understanding are truly important in human relationships. I hope that this updated coming-of-age tale gains more notoriety and is widely read by teens and adults alike. I look forward to reading more books by this great new author.

Realistic Fiction      Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

Some of the best books that I have read have been student recommendations. It is important not only because it assures students that I actually do read and enjoy what they like, but also because it is necessary and helpful for me to stay up to date with some of the best books in YA fiction. Sugar was recommended to me by a discerning student who is very particular about what she reads, so I knew that if she loved it enough to recommend it, it must be a great novel. I have to admit that she was right: it is truly one of the best books for young adults that I have read in recent months. I have already shared this title during bullying book talks, and hope that many students and faculty read it. It can truly open up discussions on bullying, coping, and surviving difficult environments. It would also be a great selection for a book club, and I hope to recommend it for one, soon.



Yoon, Nicola.  Everything, Everything.  New York: Delacorte Press.  2015.  978-0-553-49664-2. 310p.  $18.99. Gr. 9+. 

Madeline Whittier has spent her entire life inside her house thanks to Sever Combined Immunodeficiency or SCID, a rare disease that compromises the immune system.  She has spent every day of her eighteen years with her mom and her nurse, Carla.  Her only visitors must undergo a one hour decontamination process before visiting with her.  This life has been enough for Madeline, that is  until a moving truck pulls up next door.  The moment Madeline lays eyes on Olly Bright, everything changes.  She begins to see the world in a whole new way.  Olly’s life isn’t perfect, but it’s enough to show Madeline that there is a whole world out there for her to live in.  Maddy has to choose the life she’s always lived or the one with endless possibilities. THOUGHTS: This is a cute story.  I had a feeling how it would turn out, and I was right.

Realistic Fiction       Laura Ward, Fox Chapel Area High School


Easy Fiction – Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat; Marilyn’s Monster


Underwood, Deborah. Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015. 978-0-525-42774-2. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

Deborah Underwood’s delightfully spunky Cat is back and missing a tooth. In true Cat fashion, he tries to use some creative thinking and trick the Tooth Fairy into leaving him more money. The Tooth Fairy is too smart for Cat, though, and instead convinces Cat to help with a few deliveries…and to work with a partner. Cat and partner work together successfully, and Cat gets a major surprise when he finds out that his partner is the Tooth Fairy in disguise! As always, the narrator communicates with Cat through a series of exchanges in which the narrator talks and Cat answers with comedic signs and facial expressions.  THOUGHTS:  My students love these books (Here Comes Santa Cat, Here Comes the Easter Cat), and they are constantly checked out. Chaudia Rueda’s illustrations pair perfectly with Underwood’s text to make giggle-worthy stories that are loved year round. This would be a great gift for a child who just lost their first tooth.

Easy Fiction        Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementaries




Knudsen, Michelle. Marilyn’s Monster. Somerville: Candlewick Press, 2015. 978-0-7636-6011-6. 36p. $15.99. Gr. K-3.

Why doesn’t Marilyn have a monster? Most of the kids in class have monsters, and Marilyn wants a monster, too. But you have to wait until your monster finds you, and Marilyn’s just doesn’t seem to have her address. She tries “to be the kind of girl no monster could resist”, but it still doesn’t happen. Marilyn goes from hopeful to frustrated and grumpy. Finally, she decides to seek out her own monster. She packs some peanut butter and banana sandwiches and gets going. After searching high and low, Marilyn finds her monster stuck in a tree. He tells her that he was lost and got scared. Good thing Marilyn went looking! She and her monster share her sandwiches and fly home, already the best of friends.

This book reminds me of The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santaat. When Marilyn’s monster doesn’t appear, she takes charge and finds him herself. The story speaks of going after what you want even when people tell you otherwise. Marilyn’s emotional range is believable and delightfully illustrated by Matt Phelan. Phelan’s monsters are colorful, quirky, and often pair nicely with their child friends. Meet Marilyn and her monster—you won’t be disappointed.

Easy Fiction          Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementaries


New Chapter Books – Rescue on the Oregon Trail; The Marvels; Danger in the Darkest Hour


Messner, Kate. Ranger in Time: Rescue on the Oregon Trail. New York: Scholastic, 2015. 978-0-545-63914-9. 125p. $5.99. Grades 2–4.

Ranger, a golden retriever who is trained as a search and rescue dog, loves playing outside with his owner, Luke. One day while he’s digging for bones in the backyard, Ranger unearths a metal box containing a first aid kit. The discovery magically transports Ranger back to the year 1850 where he meets a boy named Sam Abbott who is travelling west on the Oregon Trail. Ranger accompanies Sam’s family, and his search and rescue training helps them avoid danger as they journey westward. Ranger locates Sam’s little sister when she wanders off, alerts the family to a nearby buffalo stampede, protects Sam from a rattlesnake bite, and helps rescue Sam’s dad from rushing river waters. This fast-paced story is packed with adventures, and readers will also learn historical details about day-to-day life on the Oregon Trail. When Sam and his family reach Oregon, Ranger’s job is finished, and the first aid kit transports him back to present-day where he’s ready for his next adventure with Luke.

Historical Fiction, Animal Fiction    Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary School, Southern York County

This title will be a perfect supplement to social studies units that cover westward travel on the Oregon Trail. The text is easily accessible for third and fourth grade readers, and it would make a wonderful read-aloud as well. Additionally, a detailed author’s note at the end of the book contains information about primary sources Kate Messner used to write this story, including diaries, journals, maps, trail guides, and artifacts. There is also information about real-life search and rescue dogs and the training they receive in order track down missing people.



Selznick, Brian. The Marvels. New York: Scholastic Press, 2015. 978-0-545-44868-0. 665 p. Gr.3-6.

Brian Selznick has once again created a lavishly detailed story told both through illustrations and text. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with the story of Billy Marvel whose ship is destroyed in a storm. He and his brother make it to land, only to have his brother, badly injured, pass away leaving Billy alone. The illustrations continue to tell the story of Billy’s life in London, getting involved in the theater and the generations of famous actors to follow him. At a crucial moment, the story turns to text in 1990, in which we meet Joseph Jervis. A runaway from school, Joseph arrives at his uncle’s house in London and thus begins a new story. Albert Nightingale appears quite the eccentric uncle, living in a museum-like house that he keeps frozen in time. Naturally curious, Joseph attempts to learn more about his uncle, the house, his family and eventually ties together the two stories – illustrative and narrative.  (It should also be noted that Joseph’s uncle Albert has a relationship with another man. Selznick does not come right out and discuss homosexuality or AIDS but both are alluded to in the story. Younger readers will likely not pick up on these but older readers may.)

Beautiful artwork instantly creates an emotional connection to the Marvel family, with intricate details including newspapers and letters. Readers of Selznick know the stories will eventually intertwine, yet it is deliciously drawn out as readers are given clues and random ideas to ponder. Profound quotes are sprinkled in the text, including the theme “You either see it or you don’t.” Finishing the book leaves the reader a bit bereft, almost with a desire to read it over simply to be immersed in the world of the Marvels once again.

Realistic Fantasy      Lisa Weiss, Churchville Elementary School




Osborne, Mary Pope. Danger in the Darkest Hour. (Magic Treehouse, Super Edition #1). New York: Random House, 2015. 978-0553497724. 180p. $13.00. Gr. 3-5.

The first book of the new Super Edition series finds Jack and Annie appearing older (though their age is not stated) and parachuting into France to help their friends, Teddy and Kathleen, during the Nazi Occupation in 1944. The book is a natural progression for fans of the original series who have reached the preteens and are ready for a somewhat longer, more complex story allowing for the more mature subject matter of World War II.  THOUGHTS: An excellent segue for loyal fans into a new level of exposure.

Historical Fiction        Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary

New Picture Books – Little Red’s Riding ‘Hood; Sleeping Cinderella…; There’s No Such Thing as Little; I Will Fight Monsters for You

Little Red's Riding 'Hood

Stein, Peter. Little Red’s Riding ‘Hood. New York: Orchard Books, 2015. 978-0-545-60969-2. 40p. $16.99. Gr. K–2.

Little Red is a scooter who loves racing around the streets in his neighborhood. After learning that Granny Putt Putt is feeling run-down, he rides over to her garage to deliver some goodies that will get her back in working order. Along the way, he encounters a huge monster truck named Tank who diverts his trip. As Little Red makes a pit stop to pick up additional items for Granny’s basket, Tank zooms ahead to Granny’s house, bursts through her garage door, and swallows her whole. Although Tank disguises himself with a frilly car cover, Little Red’s caution lights flash when he arrives at Granny’s garage. He closely examines “Granny’s” wheels, headlights, and grille before Tank throws off the disguise and attempts to have some scooter dessert. Little Red is too quick, though, and he leads Tank on a high-speed chase that culminates in Tank’s crash-landing in Jumbo Jim’s Junkyard. Granny pops out of Tank’s hood, and she thanks Little Red for being the bravest scooter in town.

Picture Book              Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York Co.

This fractured fairy tale will be a great addition to most elementary collections. Car fans will enjoy watching Little Red scoot around town, and they will pick up on details like Tank’s pointy fangs and yellow wolf-like eyes. I plan to share this title with third grade teachers as they introduce fairy tale variations because this title has a lot of great parallels to the traditional Red Riding Hood story, making it great for comparing and contrasting.




Clarkson, Stephanie. Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups. New York: Orchard Books, 2015. 978-0-545-56564-6 34p. Gr. K-3.

Did you ever wonder if a princess was dissatisfied with her life? Clarkson does, and her clever humor and rhyming text explain what happens. Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty are all a bit unhappy with their various surrounding and situations. One by one, the princesses trade places. Snow White moves in to Rapunzel’s tower; Rapunzel heads to Cinderella’s ball; the latter rests in Sleeping Beauty’s bed who then heads to Snow White’s cottage. Of course, none of these new options work out to be for the better, and they do eventually return to their original “stories.” However, they have each learned some lessons along the way and make improvements to their situations. (For example, Snow gets the dwarves to help with the housework!)

While the lesson of “the grass is always greener…” may be lost on younger readers, the cute text and illustrations will not. The rhyming text is lyrical, not forced, and the word choice is interesting, making it a somewhat more complex read than found in simpler rhyming texts. The prevalence of pink and princess characters will engage Disney fans, but the quirky style will also appear to older elementary grades. A great addition to a fractured fairy tale unit!

Picture Book      Lisa Weiss, Churchville Elementary School




Pham, LeUyen. There’s No Such Thing as Little. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2015. 978-0-385-39151-1. 44 p. $17.99. Gr. PreK-2.

Two little children repeatedly prove that size is a state of mind, and perspective in this thoughtful little book. The pattern is simple, with a question on one page about something small which turns into a piece of something much grander with the refute on the next page. Die-cut circles draw the observer through the pages and connect the text to the picture for interpretation. For example, a little light bulb idea is part of a grand invention; likewise, a little letter becomes an important letter for literature. There will be interesting dialogue as younger readers make meaning of the story and then seek to apply it. “A little book? No, a BIG book!” THOUGHTS: This is tough to make a perfect age level fit because the characters are pre-school age, but the thoughts and skills to decipher the text may be more suited to elementary. Still, it’s a worthy purchase for read aloud use or solo book selection.

Picture Book            Dustin Brackbill, State College Area 




Balmes, Santi. I Will Fight Monsters for You. Chicago: Albert Whitman & Co., 2015. 978-0807590560. 32p. $16.99. Gr. K-2.

Martina, a little girl, and Anitram live in mirrored worlds. Both are afraid to fall asleep for fear of the other. When Martina’s father promises that he will fight the monsters for her, Martina finally drifts off to sleep. As her arm hangs off the bed and accidentally joins that of the little monster below, they suddenly overcome their fears.  THOUGHTS: Illustrations are a black ink with a soothing pastel palette of pink and blue. Perfect for one-on-one or could be used as a read aloud.

Picture Book        Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary




New series NF for Elementary – Get Connected to Digital Literacy (series); You Do the Math (series); Dogs (Checkerboard Library); Daily Life in U.S. History (series)


Gifford, Clive. Get Connected to Digital Literacy (4 volume set with 2 titles forthcoming). New York: Crabtree, 2015. 32 p. Gr. 3-6.

Awesome Algorithms and Creative Coding. 978-0-7787-1508-5.

Computer Networks. 978-0-7787-1509-2.

The Science of Computers. 978-0-7787-1510-8.

Amazing Applications and Perfect Programs. 978-0-7787-1507-8.

This is a series of books that introduces elementary school students to the science behind computers. From the history of computers to their components and how they work, The Science of Computers helps students understand more about how these machines. Computer Networks explains everything from the web and internet to social media. This book covers email, search engines, and filtering searches as well. It also includes cyber-safety tips. Amazing Applications and Perfect Programs gets rather specific with operating systems. But, it then goes on to explain more common processes such as using folders, file types, word processing, and even gaming. Last, Awesome Algorithms and Creative Coding offers readers an overview of how computer programs run on algorithms and explains basic coding. Using steps with blocks, as in Scratch, and flow chart designs, it describes the steps in creating code and the secret behind apps and other common uses.

Libraries often do not invest as much in books on technology since the field is constantly changing, making up-to-date titles a challenge. This series, published earlier this year, is extremely current, tackling concepts of high interest to tech-minded students. The nonfiction text features make it very user-friendly. It has a table of contents, index and glossary. Within the pages, brightly colored graphics and modern photos and icons hold students attention. Certain features appear in each text, including “Stretch Yourself” with a challenge for readers to complete, “True Story” with “cool” facts, and “Computer Heroes” which has mini-biographies on famous computer people. Website links are current and accurate. THOUGHTS:  If your collection needs books on technology, this would be an excellent addition.

005; Digital Literacy        Lisa Weiss, Churchville Elementary School




Koll, Hilary and Steven Mills.  You Do the Math (series). Irvine, CA: QEB Publishing, 2015. 32 p. $17.95 each. Gr 3-5.

Solve a Crime. 978-1-60992-732-5.

Build a Skyscraper. 978-1-60992-730-1.

Fly a Jet Fighter. 978-1-60992-731-8.

Launch a Rocket Into Space. 978-1-60992-729-5.

How do you get kids more interested in applying math to real life? Try showing them how cool careers rely on all types of math skills to help them. That’s the concept behind the You Do the Math series, and for the most part it works to build interest and action to the subjects. Using a mix of comic book style illustration and formating, with activities on differentiated levels, the reader is part of the challenge. In Solve a Crime, readers not only follow the detectives and CSI agents to gather evidence, but also chart and graph, measure, and examine the clues to narrow down the suspects. There is not much instruction of the mathematical skills, so prior knowledge would be advisable. Plus, some of the challenges could require a notebook and calculator, making the tasks for each career seem all the more realistic.

THOUGHTS: It’s worth noting that even if the students aren’t interested in trying the math challenges, they will still learn career skills and enjoy participating in the story. There are red boxes labelled “What About This?” for advanced learners, and an answer key in the back for all questions.

510: Mathematics       Dustin Brackbill State College Area School District




Checkerboard Animal Library Dogs (Set #12 of series). Minneapolis: ABDO, 2015. 24p. $25.00 ea. Gr.2-4.

Finne, Stephanie. Collies. 978-1-62403-673-6.

Finne, Stephanie. Dachshunds. 978-1-62403-674-3.

Finne, Stephanie. Golden Retrievers. 978-1624036750.

Finne, Stephanie. Old English Sheepdogs. 978-1-62403-676-7.

Finne, Stephanie. Yorkshire Terriers. 978-1624036774.

Kallen, Stuart A. Beagles. 978-1624036712.

Discover the many breeds of dogs and how to identify each one. Meet the high energy heavy coated Old English Sheepdog, the sweet little dachshund, and four other breeds in this 12th set of the series! Find out which dog might be right for you, and how to care for it. This series describes the history, biology, habits, and required care for dogs of all types.  THOUGHTS: Full-color photos, easy-to-read text, a glossary and an index make these books perfect for either research or general reading!

636.7; Dogs      Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary




Daily Life in U. S. History (series). Minneapolis: ABDO, 2015.48p. $32. Gr. 4-6.

Halls, Kelly Milner. Life During the Civil War. 978-1624036255.

Onsgard, Bethany. Life During the California Gold Rush. 978-1624036248.

Lanier, Wendy H. Life during the Great Depression. 978-1624036262.

Garstecki, Julia. Life During the Industrial Revolution. 978-1624036279.

Hinman, Bonnie. Life During the Revolutionary War. 978-1624036286.

This series explores the lives of men, women, and children during various events and periods in US History from multiple viewpoints. They include primary source information, sidebars with key ideas, a stop and think at the end of the book to aid in discussion. Graphics include photos, maps, drawings, charts and graphs. THOUGHTS: The series would be an excellent resource to extend the classroom text, bringing a very human perspective.

973; U.S History     Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary




The Tapper Twins Go to War


Rodkey, Geoff. The Tapper Twins Go to War. New York: Little, Brown. 2015. 978-0-316-29779-0. 219p. $13.99. Gr. 5-8.

Battle-lines have been drawn and war has broken out–not between nations, but between two twelve-year-old twins!  Claudia and Reese Tapper are like most siblings, while they love each other, the do have periods where they just don’t get along.  One such time is related in this novel which is constructed and told via an oral-history type of format, incorporating interview transcripts, texts, photos, screenshots, and illustrations.  When Reese says something unflattering about Claudia in front of their classmates, Claudia vows revenge.  Some of the pranks attempted by Claudia include hiding a dead fish in Reese’s backpack and tricking Reese into getting a mohawk haircut.  Soon an all-out prank war has broken out between the siblings, dragging their parents and friends into the fray.  When Claudia’s early attempts at revenge fall flat, she decides to use some special intel to anonymously battle Reese in his favorite online game.  This ultimately results in Claudia’s suspension from school.  In an attempt to explain the events surrounding her suspension, she decides to write an oral history; the result of which is The Tapper Twins go to War.  THOUGHTS:  This humorous tale (and projected first book in a series) is sure to be a hit with students.  The oral-history format of the story is engaging and helps the reader gain insight into the cast of characters populating the novel.  Readers with siblings will find not only the “war” between the siblings relatable, but will also relate to the friendship and love underpinning the twins relationship.

Realistic Fiction   Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

YA Realistic Fiction…Every Last Promise; The Start of You and Me; Charlie, Presumed Dead


Halbrook, Kristin. Every Last Promise. New York: HarperTeen, 2015. 978-0-06212128-8. 272p. $9.99. Gr. 9-12.

“Killer Kayla”–it’s the whisper Kayla hears in the school hallway and on the streets of her small hometown of Winbrooke, MO. Home after a summer of exile in Kansas City, Kayla is dealing with the aftermath of a spring car wreck in which she was at the the wheel, leaving her best friend’s twin brother injured and another classmate killed. But while everyone blames Kayla, they don’t know the real reason she was in the driver’s seat that night.  Kayla has claimed she can’t remember the details surrounding the accident, but that’s not the truth.  The truth is that Kayla witnessed one of her friends being sexually assaulted at a party shortly before the car crash.  Now Kayla finds herself torn; should she reveal the truth about the crash and the assault? Doing so (and naming the perpetrator, the start football quarterback, who also happens to be her friend’s twin brother who was injured in the car crash) will further ostracize her from the beloved hometown where she had imagined herself living forever.  Can she live with herself if she continues to remain silent?  THOUGHTS:  Halbrook effectively uses alternating chapters (set during the spring prior to the car crash and the autumn following the crash) to build tension and suspense that keeps the reader engaged until the actual events surrounding the car crash are revealed.  The effects of peer/community pressure are also realistically portrayed as Kayla struggles with the pressure put on her by friends, classmates and others to keep silent.

Realistic Fiction   Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS



Lord, Emery. The Start of You and Me. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. 978-1-61963-359-9. 373p. $17.99. Gr. 8-12.

For the past year, Paige Hancock’s life has been defined by one event–the drowning death of her first boyfriend, Aaron. Seemingly everywhere she goes, she is the focus of pitying looks from her friends and neighbors. She feels guilty when she has a good time.  As her junior year gets underway, Paige is resolved to move on and make some changes in her life.  On her to-do list are things like joining a club at school and dating again; maybe her former crush Ryan Chase is available.  When Paige joins the high school quiz bowl team, however, it’s Ryan’s cousin Max she finds herself connecting with and falling for.  Paige must break through her fear of loss in order to enter into a relationship and begin living again.  THOUGHTS: This sensitive portrayal of life, love and loss will appeal to readers of Sarah Dessen, Morgan Matson, Deb Caletti and Susane Colasanti.

Realistic Fiction   Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS


Heltzel, Anne. Charlie, Presumed Dead. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers, 2015. Print. 978-0544388499. 272 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

While not the best book I read over the summer, this title is sure to engage students who appreciate a fast-paced read with a mysterious element. Presumably, Charlie Price has died in an explosion while piloting a plane. Upon attending the funeral of her boyfriend in Paris, American, Aubrey Boroughs realizes that not only did Charlie not tell his family about her, but he had a steady girlfriend of three years, Lena Whitney. Lena and Aubrey meet, and Lena shares her suspicions that Charlie is not actually dead. Aubrey is intrigued (why so intrigued, we learn later on), and reluctantly agrees to go with Lena on a trip to various locations to find out more about Charlie’s supposed “death.” They end up flying halfway around the world to India to begin their quest. As they come closer and closer to solving the mystery, they learn about each other as well as their own wants and needs. They both had a complicated relationship with the enigmatic young Charlie, who seems to have enjoyed being a different person around each girl. Against all reason, the girls themselves become close throughout the course of their adventure. Reminiscent of Gayle Forman’s novel Just One Day, this novel takes readers on an adventure to exotic locales but lacks the depth and character development that Forman includes so easily in her stories. Nevertheless, readers will still want to learn what happened to Charlie, and will eagerly await the sequel.

Realistic Fiction, Mystery   Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

Against my better judgement, I did find myself quickly turning the pages in this book. The characters are interesting, and the plot is one that keeps the reader on the edge of her seat the entire time. Similar to other YA novels, this one lacks any sort of adult presence, and an adult reader such as myself had to have a lot of willing suspension of disbelief to believe that any parent would let their 18 year old daughter go on weekend vacations with a boy such as Aubrey did, or allow a daughter to travel around the world as she pleases, as Lena’s parents are wont to do. Yet, this was a fun read, and I will be recommending it to many students who enjoy mysteries!

YA Dystopian…A Girl Undone


Linka, Catherine.  A Girl Undone.  New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.  2015.  978-1-250-06867-5.  $19.99. 296p. Gr. 9 and up.

A Girl Undone, by Catherine Linka, is just as action-packed and fast-paced as its predecessor, A Girl Called Fearless.  In a time when the United States government has made more irreparable mistakes than they would like to admit, women are bought and sold like livestock.  The men with the most money have the best prospects for wives including Jesop Hawkins, California gubernatorial hopeful.   Hawkins has contracted Aveline Reveare to be his future wife, but Avie is now a fugitive and suspected terrorist.  After living in Salvation, a remote Idaho compound, she is forced to leave her longtime boyfriend  in order to save her own life and the secrets entrusted to her by Maggie, a leader in the anti-government organization.  When Avie’s identity is discovered, she is swiftly returned to Hawkins’ estate where she is closely guarded until her wedding day. The Exodus organization  is stronger than Avie ever imagines, and she learns that she too is stronger than she knows.  THOUGHTS:  It has the appeal of a realistic dystopian that will hook readers and a fast-pace that will keep the readers reading.

Dystopian   Laura Ward, Fox Chapel Area High School

Realistic Fiction for Middle Grades…House Arrest; The Honest Truth; Fish in a Tree


Holt, K.A. House Arrest. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2015. 978-14521-3477-2. 304 p. $16.99. Gr. 6-10.

Timothy makes a bad decision for all the right reasons. Dealing with a baby brother with a serious medical condition and a single mother facing deep financial burdens, Timothy takes measures into his own hands to help his struggling family. His bad decision gets him court ordered house arrest for a full year, a weekly check-in with a probation officer, sessions with a therapist, and journal writing to document his thoughts (which of course is under lock and key). Author K.A. Holt manages to take Timothy’s journal entries and turn them into poetic redemption. THOUGHTS:  This unique novel in verse will reach out to middle grade readers with passages that are, at times, both comical and touching.

Realistic Fiction    Jane Farrell, Dallastown Area Intermediate




Gemeinhart, Dan. The Honest Truth. New York: Scholastic, 2015. 978-0-545-66573-5. 240p. $16.99. Gr. 5-8.

Mark is determined. Determined to climb Mt. Ranier, determined to keep it from his parents, and determined to let his best friend since forever know he will be okay no matter what. Mark sets off on his journey alone. Armed with his camera and notebook full of Haiku, Mark devises a plan to go. However, before he can get started, he throws the people who love him and worry about him the most off his trail. It’s not that his mother and father would not be supportive of his Herculean dreams. It’s just that they don’t want him to miss the chemotherapy treatment he has scheduled for the next day. Yeah, there’s that. Faced with death, the threat of a snowstorm, no gear to climb the mountain, and very little money to keep him healthy for the climb, Mark sets off determined to make the climb of his life. His best friend, Jessie, can only worry about him, hoping he makes it before she spills the secret she has to keep. With the characters he meets and the adventures he faces, Mark’s odyssey becomes a life lesson even when survival at home seems pointless.

Readers will keep hoping for a happy ending for this boy. Told through the alternate voices of Mark and his best friend, Jessie, the book gives readers a hole in their stomach to ultimately fill. Gemeinhart creates characters who want to be loved and have their voices heard; a boy who is sick of facing death leaves his family to face another sort of danger and that tiny act brings a new level of courage to his fight. Jessie has a fight on her own, facing the inner conflict of taking Mark’s parents to where she knows he is or letting her best friend die from what he chooses; not from what chooses him. This is a great read for middle grade readers who are interested in The Fault in Our Stars.  This book is one best read alone and with tissues.

Realistic Fiction      Brooke Gerlach, Manheim Central Middle School




Hunt, Lynda Mullaly. Fish in a Tree. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015. 978-0-399-16259-6. 288p. $16.99. Gr. 5-8

Lynda Mullaly Hunt, author of One for the Murphys, hits her new book, Fish in a Tree, out of the park. Ally, the daughter of a soldier stationed overseas, has moved around for much of her educational career.  Landing in 6th grade, she has mastered the ability to be under her teachers’ radars by acting out and diverting attention from her lack of ability.  After making a huge error at her pregnant teacher’s baby shower, Ally is sent to the office where she finds out she will be transferred again; this time into Mr. Daniels’s class.  It’s there she discovers what she is good at and starts to gain the confidence to build on her academic skills while building bonds with her classmates and teacher. Even Ally’s older brother sees the benefit of Ally’s hard work.  THOUGHTS: A middle level read, this book has the ability to engage students who may have academic issues. This book would be a perfect choice for a discussion group or literature circle investigating the reason why students may want to hide things about themselves.

Realistic Fiction    Brooke Gerlach, Manheim Central Middle School




Upper Elementary Fiction…The Pirate Pig; Princess Academy Bk. 3;


Funke, Cornelia. The Pirate Pig. New York: Random House, 2015. ISBN 978-0-385-37544-3. 56pp. $9.99. Grades 2–5.

This high seas tale features Stout Sam the sailor and his deckhand, Pip. The duo lives in a small beach hut, and they spend time ferrying cargo to the neighboring islands. Life is peaceful until the day a barrel containing a pig washes up on their beach. Since they can’t very well send the pig back out into the ocean, the kind-hearted sailors make room for her in their hut and name her Julie. Although Julie is afraid of water, Sam and Pip soon discover she has a hidden talent: her sensitive snout can sniff out underwater treasure. A treasure-sniffing pig is a hot commodity on the open seas, and before long, Julie is pig-napped by Barracuda Bill and his pirate crew. Sam and Pip must take on the meanest and greediest pirate of them all if they want to rescue their beloved pig. Although this title reads like an easy chapter book, it is not divided into chapters. However, colorful illustrations accompany every spread, and the pictures complement the dialogue-rich text. This title will appeal to adventure fans, and beginning chapter-book readers will be drawn in by the pirate lingo and diagramed ship illustrations.

Adventure         Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County SD

Although not as well-written as the Mercy Watson tales, this pig title will appeal to the same age-group. This book was originally published in German, but the translation is good, and it’s very readable in English. The vibrant watercolor illustrations enhance the story and bring the sailors, pirates, and pig to life.





Hale, Shannon. Princess Academy; The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy Book 3). New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. 978-1-61963-485-5. 324p. $17.99. Gr. 4-7.

Miri has finally completed her year at the Princess Academy. Now she is dreaming of returning home to see her father and sister and her beloved Mount Eskel . Peder also plans to ask her father for her hand in marriage, but now the king has a special assignment for Miri. She must become a tutor to three sisters who are living on the far edge of the kingdom. Rumors of war have caused the king to try to make an alliance with the advancing Storan king. He has promised that King Fader may marry a royal princess, and these cousins are the only ones eligible. Miri must educate them in hopes that one of them will be chosen and save the kingdom from war. When she arrives, things are stranger than she imagined. The girls are almost wild, hunting and fishing to survive on their own. Their mother has died, and an evil village council man has been stealing their allowance from the king. Miri begins to get to know the girls and realizes that her letters are not being delivered, so no one knows the desperate conditions they are in. So Miri, showing true strength and determination from her Mount Eskel roots, starts to plan and learn as much as she can in the swampy town of Lower Alva and sets out to outwit the thieves, educate the princesses, and save the kingdom from war.

This is the third book in the series by Shannon Hale that began with the Newbery Honor title, Princess Academy. These books are wonderful books about girls using their own special talents to shine. Miri and the other girls at the academy all learn to use their gifts to benefit each other and their kingdom. This latest episode continues to show that by working with their strengths and supporting each other, girls can do anything. An exciting and empowering journey that resonates for girls of all ages!

Fantasy      Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy