Walk on Earth a Stranger…new YA Historical Fiction


Carson, Rae. Walk on Earth a Stranger. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2015. 978-0-062-24291-4. 448 p. $17.99. Gr. 7-12.

Fifteen year old Leah Westfall lives on a quaint farm in the rural town of Dahlonega, Georgia, with her mother and father. It’s 1849, and word of the California Gold Rush hits the area, exciting locals and sending ambitious prospectors west. Among this excitement, Leah holds dear to a secret; she can feel the presence of gold much like a bloodhound can find a scent. With her “witchy” sense, Leah and her family make a comfortable living, never drawing attention to themselves. But one day Leah arrives home to find her parents robbed and murdered, and her spiteful Uncle Hiram set on exploiting Leah’s gift. Frightened and alone, Leah heads west after her best friend Jefferson, who is half Cherokee. After being robbed again, and often seen as insignificant as a girl, Leah disguises herself as Lee, a runaway boy looking for work. While desperately trying to conceal her gender and her gold sense, Leah also realizes that her Uncle Hiram will do anything in his power to find her. Leah’s journey is both physically and mentally difficult; she experiences rampant racism, sexism, disease, hunger, thirst, stampeding buffalo, and one tricky amputation; all which shape her character and strength. Carson spent time researching the time period and it shows; the story mirrors the taxing but rewarding experience of families headed west during the Gold Rush, while weaving a coherent and exciting story. THOUGHTS Readers will find Leah a smart, empathetic, and strong protagonist, eager to finish the journey with her- and eager for a sequel, too!

Historical Fiction (California Gold Rush)   Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

New series Fantasy…The Winner’s Crime


Rutkowski, Marie. The Winner’s Crime. New York: Farrar Straus Books for Young Readers, 2015. 978-0-374-38470-8. 402 p. $17.99. Gr 6-12.

Rutkowski continues the fervent story of Kestral and Arin in this worthy follow-up to The Winner’s Curse (2013). Kestral is now engaged to the crown prince of Valoria, Prince Verex, a proposal she made in order to guarantee Arin’s freedom while also remaining loyal to the Valorian crown. With this agreement, Valoria places a new tax on the Herrani people, ensuring a life of starvation and struggle. As their leader, Arin struggles with his people’s limited independence and what he sees as Kestral’s betrayal. In secret, Kestral plots to help Arin, even if she can’t be with him. While an overall romance, the story is also ripe with fierce sword fights, enchanting parties, and thrilling twists, making it hard to put down. The brief scenes between Arin and Kestral drip with tension and unrequited feelings, and will leave reachers itching for the final book in the series, The Winner’s Kiss, to be published in March 2016. THOUGHTS: While the ending leaves the fate of Arin and Kestral in question (again), Rutkowski’s strong writing, vivid descriptions and star-crossed-lover-like protagonists make this book (and series) a must-read for any fan of high fantasy.

Fantasy      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

My Secret Guide to Paris


Schroeder, Lisa. My Secret Guide to Paris. New York: Scholastic, 2015. 978-0-545-70808-1. $16.99. 224p. Gr. 5-7.

Nora loves everything about Paris, from the dizzying heights of the Eiffel Tower, to the masterpieces of the Louvre. The only thing Nora doesn’t like about Paris is that she has never actually been there. Nora’s beloved Grandma Sylvia is about to change that. She promises Nora the trip of a lifetime to the City of Lights as a very special birthday present. Sadly, Nora’s grandmother unexpectedly passes away before they get to take their trip. Nora is deeply saddened about losing her grandmother, but just as sad that her opportunity to visit Paris has slipped through her fingers. She convinces her mother to take the trip with her. When they get to Paris they uncover a treasure map of surprises, leading them around the city, uncovering a side of her grandmother she—and her mother—never knew.  THOUGHTS: If you never wanted to visit Paris, you will change your mind after reading this book. The author takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of the city to places the typical French tourist many not think to visit.

Realistic Fiction     Jane Farrell, Dallastown Area Intermediate

French Lesson: “Delightful” is Delicieux. My Secret Guide to Paris is simply that…delightful! Schroeder does such a wonderful job describing French landmarks in this book; the reader feels as if she is actually walking the streets of Paris with Nora.  

New Picture Books…The Very Stuffed Turkey and A Dog Wearing Shoes


Kenah, Katharine. The Very Stuffed Turkey. New York: Scholastic, 2015. 978-0-545-76109-3. Unpaged. $6.99. Gr. K-3.

Turkey is invited to five Thanksgiving dinners! He doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings so he decides to attend all five celebrations. Each family has a delicious feast (beet, corn, and worm stew at Pig’s house; birdseed, soap, and berries at Mouse’s house) that is happily turkey free, and Turkey has a wonderful time. He loves spending time with his friends and feels like a part of each family. The only problem? He is stuffed from all the feasting! He decides that the best solution is to host next year’s dinner and invite all his friends to his house so that they will all enjoy the holiday together. THOUGHTS: Adorable Turkey and friends are sure to be a hit with young readers during the Thanksgiving season.

Picture Book, Thanksgiving    Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

Binny Talib’s illustrations are full of autumn colors and textures that create a festive air for Turkey’s many celebrations. This book is only available in paperback and won’t hold up to years of library circulation but will be a welcome addition for most schools, especially where Thanksgiving books are needed.


Ko, Sangmi. A Dog Wearing Shoes. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2015. 978-0-385-38396-7. 40p. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

Mini and her mother save a dog wandering through traffic and Mini wants to keep the dog for a pet when they can’t find his owner. The dog is wearing bright yellow shoes and Mini’s mother insists that he must have an owner who misses him, but Mini is too happy with the well-mannered and trained dog to care. After the dog runs away in the park, Mini and her mom visit the animal shelter and find the dog wearing shoes. Mini realizes that someone else is probably missing the dog like she had, so she hangs up posters and finds the owner who is happy to have his dog back. A few days later, Mini and her mom visit the shelter again to adopt a dog of their own. THOUGHTS: Funny and adorable illustrations pair with an ageless story to create a winner.

Picture Book  Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

Mini’s story might not be brand new, but it’s wonderful to see her visit a shelter for a dog rather than buy one at a pet store. The dog wearing shoes is spunky and hysterical, and Sangmi Ko’s black and white illustrations with pops of color (like the dog’s yellow shoes) are perfect with the story. This one is already flying off the shelf.


In a Dark, Dark Wood


Ware, Ruth. In a Dark, Dark Wood. New York: Scout Press, 2015. 978-1-5011-1231-7. 310 p. $26.00. Gr. 9 and up.

Leonora, known to some as “Lee” and others as the reinvented “Nora”, is invited to a girls’ bachelorette weekend for an old friend.  It seems strange to her, as the friend, Clare, hasn’t spoken to Nora since high school, ten years ago. In fact, Nora isn’t even invited to the wedding.  She is talked into going by a mutual friend that she is still in contact with, Nina,  and Clare’s maid of honor, Flo. Well, the weekend away at the cottage in the woods ends in murder, and Nora has amnesia from a head wound. As she tries to piece together what happened she realizes, she’s become a suspect. Who died, and why?  That’s the great mystery that will keep readers reading.  The characters are well developed and the setting is just creepy enough.  The back-story between all the characters is slowly and deliciously revealed.  THOUGHTS:  I was sucked in by the great cover of this book, and the promise from the book jacket that it would be like The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl.  This book would appeal to mystery loving teens and those advanced readers reaching beyond YA titles.

Mystery/ Suspense      Rachel Gutzler, Wilson High School


Another Day…companion to Every Day


Levithan, David. Another Day. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. 978-0-385-75620-4. 330 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 & up.

This companion novel to Levitan’s memorably unique Every Day (2012) is strong enough to stand on its own.  Rhiannon’s rocky relationship with her boyfriend, Justin, miraculously improves one day when the two spontaneously take a trip to the beach.  She’s puzzled and sad when Justin returns to his normal, moody self the next day; how could he be such a different person for one day?  The answer arrives when A officially introduces him/herself to her: A wakes up in a different body every day, and on that magical day s/he was in Justin’s body.  As Rhiannon tries to wrap her head around this seemingly impossible idea, she begins to fall for A, whose devotion to Rhiannon is solid despite his fluid state.  Readers will be hoping Rhiannon extracts herself from Justin’s hold on her, which is so obviously bad for her self-esteem.  This book explores the same identity questions in Every Day, such as how much does appearance matter if personality shines through?  Rhiannon’s point of view is one readers can more easily latch onto, especially as she ponders her relationship with A as s/he switches back and forth between male and female bodies.  The ending leaves hope for a sequel; a third book that converges the simultaneous storylines would be welcome, similar to Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone converging in This World We Live In.  THOUGHTS:  I preferred A’s perspective as the narrator of Every Day, but Another Day was worth the read despite the slower pace.  Students who prefer the drama of romance would likely gravitate toward Another Day; students who would rather put themselves in A’s unpredictable shoes would enjoy Every Day more.  Recommend the two accordingly or as a pair.

Romance      Kristen Rowe, Plum Senior High School

Vincent Paints His House


Arnold, Tedd. Vincent Paints His House. New York: Holiday House, 2015. 978-0-8234-3210-3. 26p. $16.95. Gr. K-3.

Fly Guy author Tedd Arnold departs from his usual silliness with this nod to the painter Vincent Van Gogh. While the artist is never actually mentioned in the book, the main character Vincent, complete with reddish hair and beard like his namesake, sets out to paint his house. He struggles with what color to paint, as each page introduces another critter who voices its opinion. Through repetitive text, the story can be a simple introduction to colors or a more complex look (each page has a set of paint tubes with varying shades of the color, such as Cyan, Royal and Cerulean). As he gets increasingly covered in paint, the story builds to the final page which is a colorful house set in a “starry night” background.  Thoughts: This is book will be a hit on so many levels! Fly Guy fans will love the similar pictures, the bugs, and humor. Art teachers can use it to teach colors, basic or detailed, or to introduce Van Gogh. Definitely properly shelved as “E ARN”, it can be paired nicely with many primary art books for library or art class lessons.

Picture Book     Lisa Weiss, Churchville Elementary School


Sunny Side Up


Holm, Jennifer L. and Matthew Holm. Sunny Side Up. New York: Graphix, 2015. 978-0-545-74166-8. 217p. $12.99. Gr. 3-7.

Sunny Lewin is a ten year old girl growing up in Pennsylvania in the mid-1970s. She is being forced to fly to Florida alone to spend part of her summer vacation with her grandfather. Through flashback chapters, we learn that she is being sent away while her family deals with her older brother’s drug problem. In Florida, she meets another boy whose obsession with comic books rubs off on Sunny. Together, they debate the pros and cons of hiding one’s identity and keeping secrets. Sunny eventually bursts from the strain of keeping her family’s secret and realizes she does not have to keep holding everything inside. The authors’ note at the end explains that the story is somewhat autobiographical and hopes to help children deal with the stress of addiction in their family.  Told with warmth and humor, and many detailed nods to the time period (Dorothy Hamill haircuts, Eastern airlines, and metal lunchboxes with a thermos inside!) unpeeling the layers of Sunny’s story through the graphic format is a wonderful experience. Thoughts: Fans of Raina Telgemeier’s books (Smile, Sisters, Drama) and Jennifer Holm’s novels (The 14th Goldfish) will enjoy this one as well.

Graphic Novel     Lisa Weiss, Churchville Elementary School

New early chapter series…Little Rhino

My New Team

Howard, Ryan and Krystle Howard. Little Rhino: My New Team. New York: Scholastic, 2015. 978-0-545-67490-4. 96pp. $4.99. Grades 2–3.

Rhino rushes home from third grade every afternoon to play backyard baseball with his grandfather. But one day, Grandpa James has a big surprise: he’s signed Rhino up to play in a real baseball league! Rhino can’t wait to wear a real jersey and hat like the pros! He’s excited for his first day of practice until he finds out the class bully, Dylan, is on his team. Rhino must learn how to be a good teammate and a good sport, even when he doesn’t get along with all the players on his team.  This is the first title in a beginning-chapter-book series written by Major League baseball player Ryan Howard and his wife. The Howards do a nice job balancing on-the-field baseball action with interpersonal dynamics all young readers must learn how to deal with. This title tackles sportsmanship, bullying, standing up for yourself, and making new friends all while centering on the excitement of playing on a sports team for the first time. This title has been especially popular with my second and third grade boys.

Sports Fiction                   Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County


The Best Bat

Howard, Ryan and Krystle Howard. Little Rhino: The Best Bat. New York: Scholastic, 2015. 978-0-545-67493-5. 96pp. $4.99. Grades 2–3.

In this second title in the Little Rhino series, Rhino is excited to receive a brand new bat from Grandpa James for working hard both in the classroom and on the baseball field. Rhino can’t wait to use the bat in his team’s first official game on opening day! But when he returns to the dugout after practice one afternoon, his new bat is missing. Mysterious clues start appearing in Rhino’s cubby at school, and it’s up to Rhino to piece them together if he wants his bat back before the team’s season opener.  This title is a solid follow-up in the series, and like the first book, it strikes a balance between game-time action and off-the-field interactions with Rhino’s family and friends. While the first title focused on good sportsmanship, how to handle bullying, and how to make new friends, this title centers on personal responsibility, owing your actions, and treating all members of a team with respect.

Sports Fiction               Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

The Cemetery Boys and Seed…new YA Suspenseful Reality


Brewer, Heather. The Cemetery Boys. New York: Harper Teen, 2015. 978-0062307880. 48p. $17.99. Gr. 9 & up.

Forced to make some huge changes, Stephen is moved by his father to desolate Spencer, Michigan, a sparsely populated town with an old-fashioned blue collar community. Mounting hospital bills have driven his father to move in with his estranged mother who has never engaged in a relationship with her grandson. Apprehensive Stephen befriends a set of twins, Cara and Devon. Hardened by their father’s death and their mother’s obvious mental health issues, Cara and Devon introduce Stephen to the town’s paranormal urban myth. Meeting at the cemetery nicknamed “The Playground” on a nightly basis, the teens drop subtle clues to build up Stephen’s anxiety about his new living arrangement. Even more, Stephen questions himself and his sanity, focused on his own mother’s breakdown as he puts together the “Winged Ones” legend and its hold on the town. Determined to fit in and make this town a stepping stone to move on and move out, Stephen uncovers the hard truth about the myth and his new “friends”. Suspenseful and filled with the unknown, the book details Stephen’s inner struggle with his own demons while discovering the myth behind Spencer.

Originally, this book was chosen because it promised paranormal suspense. If I was aware of the bird myth, I would not have chosen the book, as realistic fiction is my first choice. It did not fall short in twists, fear factor, or reckless teen behavior. Filled with reckless behavior and peer pressure, the book had characters who failed to pique interest, but readers can relate to the characters’ traits and those of their own peers. Loyalties and deception are paramount, keeping the reader cheering on Stephen and Cara, while disliking Devon. Educators may use this as a way to show the power of suggestion, twisted plots, and surprise endings. If nothing else, it is a guilty pleasure read to be shocked. There will be no sequel, as a definite ending is imminent.

Suspense    Brooke Gerlach, Manheim Central MS




Heathfield, Lisa. Seed. Philadelphia: RP Teens, 2015. 978-0762456345. 336p. $16.95. Gr. 8 & up.

Seed is home for 15-year-old Pearl. Within the first pages of the book, Pearl is being held in seclusion as she goes through her first monthly cycle.  Confused and frightened, she is helped through the week by a woman who Pearl wishes to be her “biological mother”. A child of Nature, Pearl does not know her biological mother. In Seed, girls are raised to become companions of Papa S. Each girl, after they have successfully gotten through their first menstrual cycle, will eventually be chosen to spend time in Papa S’s living quarters.  Old enough to finally be a companion to Papa S., Pearl is confused when Ellis, a well-rounded and versed young man, moves to Seed with his mother and younger sister. Selling produce to the outside world, members of Seed are discouraged from creating acquaintances, much less friends.  Therefore, when Pearl’s friend strikes up a conversation with a boy from the outside, Pearl becomes fearful of the repercussions.  Pearl begins to question the world around her and the people who she once thought protected her. Eventually, Pearl has more questions than answers in her quest for what is real and what is her perceived reality.

Heathfield creates a book rich in the power of brainwashing and mind control. Reminiscent of recent polygamist cults, the book details a cult in which Nature is considered as supreme mother and to be held in high regard. The characters are similar to polygamists who have asked congregations to abandon worldly possessions and live secluded from the norms of society. Heathfield creates the characters to further aid Pearl in her search for answers.  Readers will do a lot of self talk with this book, especially when female characters are made to lie with grown men. Educators will be able to discuss the ways in which cult mentality is formed and the characteristics of human behavior in a group. Recommended for grades 9-12.

Realistic Fiction       Brooke Gerlach, Manheim Central MS