The Way to Stay in Destiny…New Middle Grades Historical Fiction


Scattergood, Augusta. The Way to Stay in Destiny. New York: Scholastic, 2015. 978-0545538244. 592p. $16.99. Gr. 4-6.

In the wake of the Vietnam War, Theo finds himself uprooted from his grandparents when they find themselves too old to care for him.  His Uncle Raymond, a Vietnam vet and loner, agrees to take on Theo. Theo gets off the bus in Destiny and lands at Miss Sister Grandersole’s Boarding House and School of Dance, where Uncle Raymond rents a room.  Alone during the summer days, Theo  meets Annabel, a fellow baseball fan who is avoiding Miss Sister. He also discovers Miss Sister has a beautiful piano. This feel good novel is a great reflection of the time period in which America was at odds with treatment of returning soldiers and defined gender roles.  Scattergood uses humor, friendship, and family to create a story of how sometimes places choose people to live there, not the other way around.

A gentle coming of age story about a boy who is defining family and his place in the world, the novel would be geared towards upper elementary school students in grades four through 8.  Readers will fall in love with the characters, and the plot is rich in mystery and adventure in Destiny, a town defined by its name.

Historical Fiction (Vietnam War)      Brooke Gerlach, Manheim Central MS

New YA Realistic Fiction…Dumplin’; Delicate Monsters; Twisted Fate


Murphy, Julie. Dumplin’. New York: Balzer + Bray, 2015. 978-0-06-232718-5. 384p. $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Willowdean Dickson is a typical teenager; she has a best friend, works in a fast-food restaurant, likes a boy, and doesn’t always agree with her mother.  Her mother, a past winner of the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant, a Texas tradition, doesn’t understand Willowdean, her “Dumplin’”, and her lack of concern with her weight and appearance.  It isn’t until Bo, Will’s crush, shows interest in her, and they being making out regularly, that Willowdean becomes self conscious about her size.  Meanwhile, Will and her best friend, Ellen, are growing apart.  As Ellen and Will try to figure out what’s happening, it’s time for the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant, and both girls enter, along with a few other “misfits” that follow Willowdean and view her as a leader for them.  As the girls befriend one another, they also learn about themselves and their own abilities, while also developing and changing relationships with their families.  With the help of a cross-dressing Dolly Parton impersonator, the memory of her aunt, Lucy, and Dolly Parton, Willowdean is able to realize that her insecurities should not keep her from living up to the expectations her aunt Lucy had for her and she had for herself.  THOUGHTS: This is a charming novel about perseverance, fear, accomplishment, and the importance of self-esteem, in all aspects of life.

Realistic Fiction     Erin Parkinson, Lincoln JSHS, Ellwood City

Dumplin’ is a nice novel, but I did not feel that it lived up to all of the hype.  I understand the importance of Southern beauty pageants, but perhaps even I lost some of the focus because I’m not a Texan; I don’t know.  It is worth adding to a high school and teen collection because of its message to stay true to yourself, no matter what.




Kuehn, Stephanie. Delicate Monsters: A Novel. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015. 978-1-25006384-7. 234 p. $17.04. Gr. 9 and up.

This is a strange, unique, compelling story that you just have to keep reading.  The main characters, none of them likeable, are each deeply disturbed in different ways.  Sadie Su, born into wealth, but sent from boarding school to boarding school because she is violent and shows no remorse, finally is sent home to attend the local public school.  There, she meets a childhood friend.  It seems she tormented Emerson and his brother Miles when they were young.  Now she’s set her sights on Emerson.  Emerson carries scars from childhood and is not dealing with his past in a healthy way.   His father committed suicide; his distant mother works a lot, and his brother, Miles, is sick all the time.  In a strange twist, Sadie ends up looking out for Miles, as he seems more and more mad, seeing visions of destruction in their future.  THOUGHTS: This book is so strange.  It’s hard to even call it “Realistic” because every character is so damaged.  I personally love unreliable narrators and would recommend it to students who like books like We Were Liars.  

Realistic Fiction     Rachel Gutzler, Wilson High School




Olson, Norah. Twisted Fate. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2015. 978-0062272041. 272p. $17.99. Gr. 10 & up.

Allyson is intrigued when new bad boy, Graham moves in next door. For Allyson, who is shy and awkward around people, she feels as though she has found someone to finally share her life. With little friends, Ally struggles socially and with her grades. Sydney, Ally’s sister, is the complete opposite – smoking marijuana, skateboarding in school, getting good grades without studying, and keeping only close friends.  She sees Graham as mysterious and dangerous, hoping her sister, Ally, does not fall for the new neighbor.  The sisters begin to uncover Graham’s secrets and …

Told in alternating voices from Syd to Ally, and again from the police officers who are reporting on the “incident”, the book is full of plot twists, leaving the reader saying “What? I have to read that again!” Readers intrigued by mental disorders and dark emotions will be pulled into this novel. Because the novel deals in detail with sex and drugs, it is recommended for upper grades 9 through 12.

Realistic Fiction        Brooke Gerlach, Manheim Central MS

Fatal Fever


Jarrow, Gail. Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek, 2015. 978-1620915974. 192p. $16.95. Gr. 5 & up.

In 1907, an outbreak of typhoid ripped through New York.  In the process, three monumental people in the middle of the outbreak were brought together.  In this narrative, the lives of George Albert Soper, a typhoid expert, and Sarah Josephine Baker, a doctor working for the New York Department of Health, come barreling into Mary Mallon, an immigrant cook from Ireland.  Mary is one tough lady. Not only does she not succumb to the infectious disease living in her body, but she also runs from the New York City Department of Health when they come knocking on her door. The way she adamantly denies having anything to do with the outbreaks is tenacious.  Mary insists she is innocent and being imprisoned on North Brother Island for no reason.  However, she has shown she will not adhere to the recommendations of the public health officials and resign her position as a cook.  In this nonfiction narrative, readers get primary sources from the time period, a glossary, timelines, and references to the way sanitation played a role in the outbreak.  

Readers will enjoy this page turner about turn of the century overhauls on the way consumers use sanitation and water treatment facilities, and even more, the way waterways are polluted with feces and human waste.  The way in which Jarrow suggests many of the infections could have been prevented just by hand washing makes any reader want to invest in hand sanitizer by the case. The transfer of bacteria and the way human waste traveled to the waterways was almost unbelievable partly because society has evolved so much in the past 100 years in regard to immunizations, hygiene, and sanitation.

614; Disease      Brooke Gerlach, Manheim Central MS



Jarrow, Gail. Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek, 2015. 978-162091-5974 175p. $25.00 Grades 5 and up.

In the early 1900s, typhoid was a dreaded, misunderstood disease. Most people did not understand how it was spread, nor how to prevent its spread by proper hand-washing, especially after toileting and before food handling. One person who certainly did not understand it was “Typhoid Mary,” as Mary Mallon, became known. Mallon never exhibited any typhoid symptoms, yet she was tracked down by sanitation engineer and “germ detective” George Roper as being an asymptomatic carrier, having infected dozens, and killed at least one, in her work as a cook. She vociferously, even violently, refused to agree and refused to cooperate. She disappeared, only to reappear on Roper’s radar after another outbreak. Here he found that she had actively disobeyed their agreement that she not work as a cook, instead changing her name and finding work as a cook, which was a better-paying position than housekeeping for any immigrant woman. Roper understood the disease, even if Mallon and others did not; Mallon was quarantined on North Brother Island despite her objections. Though Mallon sued for her freedom, she lost, and the island remained her home until her death.

Jarrow follows up her book Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat (2014) with this account of Typhoid Mary and the (mis)understandings of the era. A third book in this “series” may follow. Easy to read for middle schoolers, fast-paced enough to keep interest, this is middle school nonfiction at its best. Readers will sympathize with both Mallon and Roper, and the families who struggled with the disease. An excellent, eye-opening book. Author’s Note, Further Reading, Timeline, Glossary, Bibliography, Index.

In our school, this book has been read and lauded by adults, but has taken more selling to get into the hands of student readers. The color, photographs, and easy-to-read, wide pages and, above all, the writing, really help to draw in readers. Pair with Jarrow’s Red Madness or Bryn Barnard’s Outbreak: Plagues That Changed History (2005) as well as Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America (2015) by the renowned Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Fabulous reading for science/biology courses, this can also be used as an example of how to weave primary sources into research presentations.

614; Disease     Melissa Scott, Shenango High School

New Series Nonfiction…Straight Talk About; Ecosystems Inside Out


Bow, James. Binge Drinking (Straight Talk About series). New York: Crabtree, 2015. 978-0778722045. 48p. $30.60. Gr. 7-12.

In the series, Straight Talk About…topics are discussed in detail. A table of contents introduces the sensitive information to readers.  Chapters begin with a clear definition of the topic coupled with pictures and individual personal statements relating to situations teens have encountered when facing the specific issue. The author effectively uses the text to talk to readers in an effort to make authentic connections. Photographs are bright, carefully placed, and whenever possible, symbolic in representing text. A feature specifically helpful from a purchasing standpoint is how the book takes into consideration timeless photos, meaning there are few photos of human subjects, focusing on the subject matter. It creates a longevity of the book making it last longer on the library shelves. Subheadings are clear, important words are bold-faced and further defined within text as well as in the glossary. Because the intended audience is students aged 12 and up, there are other resources listed in the back of the book relative to teens in both the United States and Canada as well as frequently asked questions with detailed answers. Informative and straight to the point, these nonfiction resources are perfect for a struggling teen or a student who is researching specific topics.

The series includes Dealing with Loss, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and Digital Dangers.  Because the books are only 48 pages, students will easily find what they are looking for in researching them. The table of contents outlines what exactly students are looking for. It cannot be stressed enough how the photographs and images in the book are timeless. Too often libraries have resources that are outdated not only because of content, but even more because of the images that turn away readers. The authors did this series justice in being forward thinking and non-judgmental.

362.2; Social Issues         Brooke Gerlach, Manheim Central MS



Cohen, Marina. Deserts Inside Out. New York: Crabtree, 2015. 978-0778706274. 32p. $27.60. Gr. 4-6.

Ecosystems Inside Out is a series filled with short bursts of information about particular biomes throughout the world. Within each double page spread, readers will learn about the animals inhabiting the ecosystem, the keywords hierarchy of its inhabitants, and relationships between the plants and animals that live there and the nonliving resources found there. Text features are obvious and include bright fonts, bold-faced vocabulary, and subheadings. Even more the author gives the reader an activity to extend and enrich. Locator maps help readers visualize the place in the world the biome is found. The text digs deeper with an “Eco Up Close” section providing readers with facts enriching topics discussed. The glossary is thorough and provides definitions students will clearly comprehend. There is a list of additional resources if readers are in need of more information.

Educators will find these resources as a phenomenal extension piece for their science units. Students will be able to learn the basics of the biome, while also enriching their knowledge. The pictures of the biomes and that animals are vibrant and timeless. Taken in the peak seasons for all of these biomes, the photographs and the way they are graphically placed, draws attention to the brilliance in the visuals. Not only will educators embrace the text structure of the books, giving the ability to use each section as one piece to aid in both remediation and enrichment, but also the ability to introduce material initially. Additional titles include: Wetlands, Rain Forests, Grasslands, Oceans, Islands, Tundra, Rivers and Lakes, Mountains, and Forests.  This series is a must have resource for any middle school collection.

577.7; Ecosystems      Brooke Gerlach, Manheim Central MS