YA Fantasy…Six of Crows; The Shadow Behind the Stars


Bardugo, Leigh. Six of Crows. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2015. 978-1-6277-9212-7. 480 p. $18.99. Gr 9-12.

Kaz Brekker, aka Dirtyhands, is the most infamous criminal in Ketterdam. As a notorious master of lockpicking, disguise, and thievery, Kaz leads a gang of misfits known as the Dregs. Each member is unique: Inej, trained as an acrobat is known as The Wraith; Nina, a Grisha Heartrender, can manipulate internal organs; Jesper, is a gambler with a secret; Matthias, a prisoner, is trained to hunt and kill Grisha, and Wylan, is a boy with a penchant for explosives. When Kaz is offered a small fortune for breaking a prisoner out of the impenetrable Ice Court, he knows only the right crew can help him pull off the job. So, Kaz and the Dregs set off towards the frozen city of Fjerda, uncovering dark and deadly secrets along the way. Leigh Bardugo outdoes herself in this outstanding, well-crafted story that takes place two years after the best-selling Grisha Trilogy. Told from five different narratives, the life, and often heartbreaking history, of each character is drawn out as the story progresses. THOUGHTS: An excellent addition to the world of YA fantasy; look for the next book in the series to hit shelves in September 2016.

Fantasy     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School


Bardugo, Leigh. Six of Crows. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2015.  978-1-62779-212-7. 465 p. $16.99. Gr. 9-12.

Six of Crows is the story of six young people who have been offered the chance to pull off the greatest (and possibly riskiest) heist in history. Ketterdam is a city ruled by the Merchant Council; however, rival gangs rule the streets, brothels, and gambling houses. When presented with the opportunity to rescue a prisoner from the most secure prison imaginable, Kaz Brekker can’t resist. He assembles the best crew he can: “A convict with a thirst for revenge, a sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager, a runaway with a privileged past, a spy known as the Wraith, and a Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.” There’s also Kaz himself, an expert lock pick, illusionist, and thief who takes calculated risks. Bardugo expands on the world of the Grisha trilogy and sends readers on a journey into a world that blends magic and mystery with heist and suspense. Readers will like the well-developed characters and their interactions, rooting for them along the way. Bardugo leaves readers with an unresolved ending, which will have them anxiously awaiting Crooked Kingdom.  THOUGHTS: Six of Crows was the most enjoyable fantasy novel that I have read in the past few years. It may be one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in the past few years. Kaz Brekker is the anti-hero that you can’t help but like. Magic, suspense, danger, mystery, romance, and a heist, what’s not to love?

Fantasy    Graig Henshaw, Littlestown Senior HS/Maple Avenue MS




Hahn, Rebecca. The Shadow Behind the Stars. New York: Atheneum, 2015. 978-1-4814-3571-0. 240 p. $17.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Chloe, the youngest of the three sisters, or three Fates, tells the story of what happens when a human comes to their world.  The three Fates are immortals, the ones who shape lives, and they live alone on a Greek island.  Aglaia, the mortal, has a tragic story, and the Fates getting involved with her can lead to disaster. The Fates know this as they also know they can’t change destiny.  The story of Aglaia is the most interesting part to read and has a darkness much like any traditional Greek Tragedy.  THOUGHTS: Hahn has a beautiful, poetic style.  This book will appeal to students interested in Greek mythology but not many others because it reads a bit dry due to lack of adventure.  

Mythology      Rachel Gutzler, Wilson High School

YA Realistic Fiction – Weird Girl…


Brothers, Meaghan. Weird Girl and What’s His Name. New York: Three Rooms Press, 2015. 978-1-9411-1027-0. 336 p. $16.95. Gr 9-12.

Lula and Rory are best friends, sci-fi geeks, and huge fans of The X-Files. They even have their own X-Files online guide, where they post reviews and discuss episodes with other fans. In their small North Carolina town, they confide only in each other; Rory knows that Lula’s mother left her with her grandparents and nothing but a backpack and a few books.  Lula knows Rory’s gay, and that his mother is a functioning alcoholic who frequently rearranges their furniture. But, Rory has been keeping some secrets from Lula, like the fact that he’s seeing his older boss, and also tried out for the football team.  When Lula finds out, she feels betrayed and heartbroken. In an instant, Lula’s world is turned upside-down, and she embarks on a cross country trip to find her mother and also herself. THOUGHTS: While at times  a bit predictable, Lula and Rory are extremely endearing characters that most teens can relate to. The X-Files references may seem outdated, but a recent Fox reboot of the series may peak reader interest.

Realistic Fiction        Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School



Take a Stand – New YA NF – Between the World and Me; Three More Words


Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015. 978-0-8129-9354-7. 152 p. $24.00. Gr. 9 and up.

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes this book for his son.  It’s written as a letter to Samori, and what a beautifully written piece. Coates began to write this book after a grand jury declined to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. This was his attempt at explaining the world as he sees it; his experiences as a boy in school and his neighborhood in Baltimore; his college experience at Howard University, and his life since.  “Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains—whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains.”  There is fear, sadness, harsh reality, and hope in this work.  THOUGHTS:  Being a huge fan of “The Atlantic” magazine, I have read many articles by Coates and was very interested in reading this book. What a powerful work!  My copy is flagged, underlined, and full of post its. Teachers and students should read this book.  Its commentary on growing up black in America is necessary and important.  

Social Commentary        Rachel Gutzler, Wilson High School




Rhodes-Courter, Ashley. Three More Words. New York: Atheneum, 2015. 978-1-4814-1557-6. 290 p. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Ashley Rhodes-Courter was a child of the foster care system.  Taken from her mother at age three, she spent her childhood in 14 foster homes over ten years. She didn’t come out of it totally unscathed, but she was resilient, finding strength to advocate for herself and others in the system, and writing a book (Three Little Words) about her early life.  Years later, she continued the story with this book, Three More Words. Ashley seems to have it all: a bright future with a career and speaking engagements.  She was helping other children in the system, and she got her “happily ever after”, but it wasn’t always easy.  She had to deal with issues from her past, and does so with great honesty in the book.  She is very honest about her biological parents, foster parents, the foster care system, and all the struggles she had.  The photos are a great addition, as are the updates included at the end of the book.  THOUGHTS:  I was touched by Ashley’s first memoir, Three Little Words, and her struggle spending almost 10 years in the foster care system, ultimately being adopted by a family.  I was very excited to read more of her story.  This was a wonderful follow-up, and I highly recommend both books.  

Memoir       Rachel Gutzler, Wilson High School

Backlash – YA Realistic Fiction


Littman, Sarah Darer. Backlash. New York: Scholastic, 2015. 978-1-545-65126-4. 321 p. $17.99. Gr. 7-10.

Littman tackles the topic of cyberbullying via the perspectives of four teenagers, Lara, her sister Sydney, Bree, and her brother Liam.  The story opens in the present.  Things are finally looking up for high school sophomore Lara.  She’s become more confident and involved in school activities since battling depression in the years prior.  She’s even landed a boyfriend online.  She hasn’t met Christian, but she knows he is going to ask her to homecoming.  She is shocked when Christian publically posts horrible things about her online.  Lara soon spirals downward and sees suicide as the only option.  Found in time, she is rushed to the hospital.  The story then flashes back to two months prior.  Seamlessly moving between the perspective of the four teens, the reader learns what lies at the root of the cyberbullying situation (Bree’s jealousy of Lara), and also learns how younger siblings Sydney and Liam are affected by what occurs.  The consequences of cyberbullying (for both the bullied and bullier) are also addressed when the truth is revealed; Bree created “Christian” to cyberbully Lara.  THOUGHTS: This novel will spark conversation and cause readers to reflect on the actions of the various characters within the story.  Be aware (per the summary above) that the novel does contain an attempted suicide as well as scenes with a severely depressed Lara.  

Realistic Fiction       Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

Series Nonfiction – Finance, Energy, Mythology, US History


Financial Security and Life Success for Teens (series). New York: Rosen, 2015. 80 p. $25.70 ea. Gr. 7-12.

Bickerstaff, Linda. Smart Strategies for Saving and Building Wealth. 978-1-4777-7626-1.

Harmon, Daniel E. Smart Strategies for Buying a Car. 978-1-4777-7622-3.

Landau, Jennifer. Smart Strategies for Sharing, Subletting or Renting an Apartment. 978-1-4777-7630-8.

Peterson, Judy Monroe. Smart Strategies for Investing Wisely and Successfully.978-1-4777-7618-6

Prentzas, G.S. Smart Strategies for Paying for College. 978-1-4777-7614-8.

Swanson, Jennifer. Smart Strategies for Turning an Idea into a Product or Service. 978-1-4777-7634-6.

Dealing with financial-related issues can be intimidating to many of today’s teens.  The purpose of Rosen’s Financial Security and Life Success for Teens series is to help students plan and strategize in order to properly manage their personal finances.  Each volume of the series addresses a financial-related topic (buying a car, investing, paying for college, etc.) that teens are likely to encounter in high school or shortly thereafter.  Each title offers step-by-step advice on how to plan and budget for the scenario under discussion.  Common myths about each topic are addressed and disproven.  Each volume also includes lists of questions to ask when preparing to make an investment (ie. what to ask the car salesman, what to ask a potential landlord, etc.).  Financial-related terms and concepts are defined and explained throughout the text.  THOUGHTS:  The title reviewed in this series, Smart Strategies for Buying a Car, did a credible job of making a financial-related topic accessible to secondary readers.  Each step of the car purchasing process is broken down and clearly explained.  Especially useful is the list of questions to ask the salesman prior to making a purchase.  Students facing decisions in any of the financial  issues under discussion will gain insight from this series.  

300s, 600s; Economics, Management    Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS


The Economics of Energy (series). New York: Cavendish Square, 2015. 80 p. $24.95 ea. Gr. 7-12.

Bjorklund, Ruth. The Pros and Cons of Hydropower. 978-1-6271-2930-5.

Bjorklund, Ruth. The Pros and Cons of Natural Gas and Fracking. 978-1-6271-2921-3.

Hicks, Terry Allan. The Pros and Cons of Biofuel. 978-1-6271-2933-6.

Hicks, Terry Allan. The Pros and Cons of Oil. 978-1-6271-2927-5.

Stefoff, Rebecca. The Pros and Cons of Coal. 978-1-6271-2918-3.

Sullivan, Laura. The Pros and Cons of Solar Power. 978-1-6271-2924-4.

Pro and con perspectives on various types of energy are the focus of this Cavendish Square series.  Each energy topic is introduced via a chapter discussing the history of the energy resource as well as descriptions of how the energy is harvested/created.  Further chapters explore the benefits and disadvantages for each type of energy and the future of the each energy in today’s world.  Fact boxes highlight topics of special interest or provide definition of key terms.  Critical thinking boxes ask questions of the reader in order to stimulate a deeper understanding of the topic (and might also serve as inspiration for research paper topics).  THOUGHTS:  These accessible volumes provide up to date information on current energy topics and trends.  Particularly of note to PA librarians may be the volume reviewed, The Pros and Cons of Natural Gas and Fracking, as fracking has become a large (and often controversial) part of the energy industry within the state.  Recommended for purchase in schools where energy-related research occurs.

333; Energy      Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

african myth

Mythology and Culture Worldwide (series). Farmington Hills, NJ: Lucent, 2015. 104 p. $39.40 ea. Gr. 7-12.

Kallen, Stuart A. African Mythology. 978-1-4205-1145-1.

MacKay, Jennifer. Hindu Mythology. 978-1-4205-1260-1.

Nardo, Don. Aztec Mythology. 978-1-4205-1166-6.

Nardo, Don. Celtic Mythology. 978-1-4205-1107-9.

Lucent Books has added four new titles to their existing Mythology and Culture Worldwide series in 2015.  Each title focuses on a popular (and frequently researched) single cultural/national mythology.  The origins of the mythology within the culture are presented and explored.  Key myths and mythological characters and gods/goddesses are explained and defined.  Connections are made between the mythology under discussion and culture that created the mythology.  Readers will learn how the mythology was influenced by the culture’s history, religion, social organization and geographical/natural resources.  Numerous full-color photos supplement the text, as well as charts that list key mythological characters, including descriptions and pronunciations.  THOUGHTS: This series does an excellent job of placing mythology within the overall context of the culture.  Readers will not only learn quite a bit about myths, but they will be well-informed on the history of the culture.  The text of the volume reviewed (African Mythology) was greatly enhanced by the inclusion of numerous high-quality images, both historical black and white and color photos, of cultural artifacts and scenes.  

290s; Mythology   Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS


In United States History (series). Berkley Heights: Enslow, 2015. 96 p. $20.95 ea. Gr. 6-12.

Fremon, David K. The Great Depression. 978-0-7660-6087-6.

Fremon, David K. The Salem Witchcraft Trials. 978-0-7660-6340-2.

Zeinert, Karen. McCarthyism and the Communist Scare. 978-0-7660-6345-7.

Enslow added to their existing In United States History series with the publication of these three titles.  The series spotlights key events in US History and are primarily intended for research projects and reports.  Each title explores the background and causes of each event (Great Depression, Salem Witch Trials, McCarthyism), then examines each topic in-depth, identifying and explaining key events as well as profiling figures associated with the event.  Each title also includes a limited number of black and white illustrations (photos, diagrams, etc.).  THOUGHTS:  This series is a solid addition to the shelves for student researchers.  The text is written at accessible level appropriate for middle and high school researchers.  Large margins and line spacing make the text easy to read.  While these titles are likely most appropriate for research purposes, students with an interest in the topic/event may find them enjoyable leisure reading material.     

300s; Economics, Law, Politics     Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS