New YA Fiction – The Girls; Essential Maps…


Cline, Emma. The Girls. New York: Random House, 2016. 978-0-8129-9860-3. 355 pp. $27.00. Gr. 10 and up.

In the summer of 1969, California girl Evie Boyd finds herself stuck in between childhood and adolescence, junior high and boarding school, and her recently divorced parents and their new love interests. She’s also bored and looking for something, or someone, to inject a spark into the long summer days. She stumbles into a friendship with an older girl named Suzanne, who soon introduces her to Russell and the makeshift family he’s assembled on a decaying desert ranch. Charismatic Russell brings 14-year old Evie into the fold through lavish attention and sexual initiation. Russell is a fictionalized version of Charles Manson, and The Girls is loosely structured around well-known historical events. But, as the title suggests, Cline’s focus is Evie, her relationship to the other girls on the ranch (especially Suzanne and the “blessed space of her attention”), and how close Evie drifts to life-altering violence. This impending violence filters through the entire narrative, and is also referenced in alternating chapters told from a middle-aged Evie’s point of view. Cline’s writing is atmospheric and inventive; for example, she describes a picture as “the unreal ocean and sky sandwiching a sugary rib of beach.” However, at times her style overwhelms the storyline’s pacing. THOUGHTS: Emma Cline’s debut novel is a compelling portrait of pivotal female connections. The perennially intriguing Manson Family premise will attract readers to this coming-of-age novel, but note that Evie’s sexual encounters (an indelible part of her loss of innocence) make this book most appropriate for very mature teens.  Plenty of books, articles, and documentaries about the Manson Family exist, but for an age-appropriate overview visit’s “Charles Manson Biography.”

Historical Fiction (1960s)      Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School Library



Caletti, Deb. Essential Maps for the Lost.  New York: Simon Pulse, 2016.  978-1-4814-1516-3. 325 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

Madison “Mads” Murray is spending the summer with her aunt and uncle in Seattle in order to finish up her real estate courses.  Despite the fact that she wants to go to college, her future has already been decided for her; she will pass her exams and then go into business with her extremely needy mother.  Everything changes, however, when she goes for a swim one morning and discovers the body of a woman who committed suicide. Unable to forget the woman’s face, Mads begins to research the woman, and when she discovers that the woman left a son, Billy Youngwolf Floyd, behind, she is unable to contain her curiosity.  What she doesn’t know is that the friendship she is about to begin with Billy will turn into so much more, and by not being honest with him about his mother, she might just destroy herself and everyone she cares about.  Told in alternating chapters from Mads’s and Billy’s points of view, this love story will give readers hope that even when the world seems dark and cruel, there is always love and beauty in it.  THOUGHTS: This book would pair well with From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, as there are multiple references to this title throughout the book.  It is also a great addition to any high school collection on depression and suicide, as both main characters struggle with bouts of depression and thoughts of suicide at some point in the book.  Because of these heavy topics and because of a few steamy love scenes (“Mouths on mouths, hands shoved down pants, if he doesn’t get them a bed soon, he’ll go crazy”), I would recommend this book to older students.

Realistic Fiction        Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

Elementary Picture Books – Swap!; I Love You Already


Light, Steve. Swap!. Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2016. 978-0-7636-7990-3. 40 pgs. $16.99. Gr. K-2.

Anyone who ever tried to play a game of ‘Trade Up’ will appreciate this simple yet smart picture book by Steve Light. We begin the game with a genial pirate captain and his trusty young first mate who are unsatisfied with their dull, run-down vessel. Soon an idea develops when they reach the market and barter a button for two teacups, which then gets traded for three coils of rope and then six oars. Before long, the reader is drawn into the game, the visual sub-stories, and the changing use of color and black & white. With minimal words and plenty to discuss, this book develops into a problem solvers dream, and may lead youngsters to start a swap of two of their own!  THOUGHTS: I really like the process of this book the more that I look at it. There are lessons on fairness, friendly interactions, sailor life & lingo, and resourcefulness. All that makes for easy extensions to the classroom and various subject areas.

Picture Book; Fantasy       Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District


John, Jory. I Love You Already! New York: Harper, 2016. 978-0-06-237095-2. 32pp. $17.99. Gr K-2.

Duck and Bear are neighbors, and each has a different idea about what constitutes the perfect weekend morning. Bear is eager to spend the day relaxing in his cozy chair with a pot of tea and a pile of books. He’s looking forward to a pleasant day by himself when Duck strolls over and insists they go for a walk. Duck lists many reasons why this is the perfect activity, including his hope that a walk will make Bear like him more. Bear assures Duck that he likes him already, but Duck doesn’t take no for an answer. Duck keeps up an exhausting banter all morning, oblivious to Bear’s one-word responses and to the fact that his companion just wants some quiet time alone. It isn’t until Duck falls out of a tree that Bear’s true feelings shine through and we realize the depth of their friendship and that opposites truly do attract. The book’s vibrant, expressive illustrations will draw readers in, and the use of different font styles ensures there’s never any confusion about which character is talking.  THOUGHTS: This book is the companion to Goodnight, Already! and the back-and-forth banter will make it a good read aloud. It is the perfect title to share with fans of the Pigeon and with Peter Brown’s You Will Be My Friend.

Picture Book; Animals      Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County


Elementary NF – Animals


Olien, Jessica. The Blobfish Book. New York: Balzer + Bray, 2016. 978-0-06-239415-6. 40pgs. $17.99. Gr K-2.

The deep sea dwelling blobfish is ready to surface as a star in this blended informational picture book. Using a traditional basic reader book about creatures in the deep ocean, the pretty pink protagonist searches for his namesake, getting more impatient as the story goes on. When its moment finally arrives, the text claims it “was once voted the world’s ugliest animal.” Will the cast of characters manage to shed some light on this dark mood? Readers will be entertained and informed in their exploration.  THOUGHTS: This book is a great mix between the Pigeon books with his mood swings and the recent I’m Trying to Love Spiders. As an interactive story between the narrator and reader, the blobfish will be an empathetic favorite, and also open up lessons about bias, point of view, and the definition of nonfiction.

Animal Nonfiction    Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District



Andrus, Aubre. Now You See It: Small to Scary Animals. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-88960-5. 64pp. $5.99. Gr. 2-4.

This nonfiction title highlights fifteen different animals and shares facts and photos of them when they’re babies and when they’re grown up. The text describes how these animals may look cute when they’re tiny, but they can grow up to be deadly predators as adults. Each double-page spread features three sentences about the animal on the left-hand page and an image of the animal on the right, and there are two double-page spreads for each animal. Featured animals include a variety of mammals, amphibians, and reptiles, including gray wolves, stingrays, porcupines, lions, moose, snakes, hyenas, and poison dart frogs.  THOUGHTS:  The large, close up photos and straightforward text make this a great fit for students who love animal facts, and it has been a huge hit in my library’s browsing basket.

Animals; Nonfiction   Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

Elementary Series NF – Healthy Habits


Sjonger, Rebecca. Healthy Habits for a Lifetime series. New York: Crabtree Publishing, 2016. $17.95 each. 24 p. Gr. K-3.

Do Your Bit to Be Physically Fit! 978-0-7787-1879-6.

On a Mission for Good Nutrition! 978-0-7787-1880-2.

Stress Less! A Kid’s Guide to Managing Emotions. 978-0-7787-1882-6.

You Need Rest to Beat Your Best! 978-0-7787-1881-9.

This series seeks to help children learn how to lead healthy lives by eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, and learning how to be emotionally balanced. Each title begins by introducing the topic of the book and why it’s important in leading a healthy life. Various aspects of the topic are reviewed.  For example, in “You Need Rest to Be at Your Best!”, readers will learn about the sleep cycle and it’s five stages, the amount of sleep that they need to be healthy, what happens to our bodies during sleep, and tips for how to get a good night’s sleep. The information is easy to read and presented in visually appealing ways, such as giving “Sweet Dreams Tips” in clouds that span the two-page spread. While these topics are not new, this series will be a fresh, updated set to add to your collection if your old set on healthy living is dated. Each title has a Table of Contents, a “Show What You Know!” section with short questions about the book’s content, a Learning more section of resources, a glossary, and an index.  THOUGHTS: An attractive collection that provides a fresh look at common topics.         

613 Health, Wellness            Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

Elementary Graphic Novels – The Babysitters Series; CiCi; Nathan Hale


Telgemeier, Raina. Claudia and Mean Janine. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-88623-9. 162pgs. $24.99. Gr 3-6.

Although Claudia and Janine are sisters, they have nothing in common. Claudia loves art and hanging out with her friends in the Baby-sitters Club. Janine loves school and spends all her free time in her room studying. But when their beloved grandmother, Mimi, suffers a stroke, the family needs to figure out a care plan, and Claudia and Janine discover they have more in common than they originally thought. While Claudia is dealing with this family emergency, the other members of the Baby-sitters Club plan and carry out a summer play group for some of the neighborhood children. There’s a bit of friction between Kristy and the club’s newest member, Dawn, but the they soon bond over an afternoon of rope swinging in Dawn’s barn. THOUGHTS: All the Club members come to life in this book, and this reimagined, full-color volume ensures that Ann M. Martin’s original characters and stories will be cherished by a new generation of readers.

Raina Telgemeier’s titles are some of the most-circulated graphic novels in my school’s collection, and I know this book will be no exception. One bonus feature this book offers is a “Making of the Baby-sitters Club” section at the back of the book. These pages walk readers through step-by-step descriptions of how one of Ann M. Martin’s original Baby-sitters Club titles is reinvented in graphic novel format. The section includes behind-the-scenes peeks at Raina’s notes and rough drafts, and readers are able to follow the progress from initial idea to finished full-color panel illustration.

Graphic Novel; Realistic        Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary School, Southern York County



Doerrfield, Cori. Cici, A Fairy’s Tale: Believe Your Eyes. Minneapolis: Graphic Universe, 2016. 978-1-4677-6152-9. 47p. $20.00. Gr. 2-4.

Cici’s tenth birthday brings a rather special gift; the discovery that she is actually a fairy! She has one day to decide if she wants to keep her fairy powers, and it’s a tough choice. Her first power allows her to see people as they really are, and that’s not an easy thing to handle. Luckily, her abuela (also a fairy) is there for support, and Cici realizes that being a fairy has plenty of advantages. The graphic style is very straightforward and would be an excellent choice for a beginning graphic novel reader. The illustrations are colorful and will definitely give you a chuckle. THOUGHTS: While Cici isn’t facing any new ground as a growing girl, adding the fairy element gives the story a fun twist and will surely make for lots of excellent adventures in this new series.           

Fantasy; Graphic novel       Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools



Hale, Nathan. Alamo All-Stars. New York: Amulet Books, 2016. 978-1-4197-1902-8. 122 p. $12.95. Gr. 3-6.

Nathan Hale offers another “hazardous tale” from history, this time the epic tale of the Battle of the Alamo. The land now known as Texas saw lots of fighting between settlers, the Mexican government, and native people in the 1800s, and Hale follows the Alamo all-stars Jim Bowie, Stephen Austin, Davy Crockett, and Vincente Guerrero as they change history. Hale uses his patented combination of interesting history, humor, and colorful characters to keep kids interested and reading. The graphic-style panels are sometimes a bit hard to follow but if your kids are experienced graphic novel readers they will likely have few problems. THOUGHTS: The latest addition to this fantastic series is just as good as the first five—give it to graphic novel fans or any kid who likes a good adventure.

Graphic novel; History       Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

New for Upper Elementary – The Wild Robot; The Terrible Two…; Clatter of Jars


Brown, Peter.  The Wild Robot.  NY: Little, Brown, and Co., 2016.  978-0-316-38199-4.  $16.99. 279p.  Gr. 3-6.

One stormy night, a ship of ROZZUM robots sinks near a tiny, uninhabited island.  Most of the robots go down with the ship, but one survives entry onto the island’s rocky coast and is activated by a group of playful otters. ROZZUM unit 7134 (or, Roz, as she is known to the reader) is designed for the civilized world and must quickly adapt to her new surroundings.  Fortunately, she has the ability to learn and adapt.  The animals are fearful of Roz and believe that she is a monster.  Over time, Roz learns to speak the animals’ languages, but they do not truly begin to accept her until she adopts a gosling whose mother she has accidentally killed.  Roz takes her role as surrogate parent seriously; she turns to the other animal mothers for advice on feeding and sheltering her new charge.  The island’s animals begin to offer help and advice as Roz raises “Brightbill”.  Although Roz is not supposed to feel emotions, any parent can empathize with the anxiety she feels when Brightbill must fly south for his first winter.  Eventually, the island’s peace is shattered by RECO robots with guns who are sent out by Roz’s manufacturer to retrieve all missing ROZZUM units.  The animals, who are used to surviving the cruelty of the animal world, band together to protect Roz, but they are no match for the RECOs.  However, the story ends on a hopeful note and hints at a possible sequel.  THOUGHTS:  This book is an intriguing cross between survival stories like Hatchet and robot stories like The Iron Giant.  It will have wide appeal among middle grade students and should be included in any library collection.

I really enjoyed The Wild Robot.  Roz and the island animals have distinct, almost human personalities, and the story is unexpectedly suspenseful.  This book is excellent for students making the transition from picture books to novels.  The chapters are short and generously illustrated.  The “animal-speak” featured in this story will also be easily understood by younger students.  Brief, action-oriented chapters (which often end with some kind of cliffhanger) make this book an appropriate read-aloud for teachers trying share the wonders of literature with their students.  The Wild Robot is truly something special.

Fantasy; Sci-Fi            Susan Fox, Washington Park School


Barnett, Mac and Jory John. The Terrible Two Get Worse. New York: Amulet Books, 2016. 978-1-4197-1680-5. 217 p. $16.95. Gr. 3-6.

The Terrible Two, Miles and Niles, are back at work in Yawnee Valley, pranking any and all…especially their favorite “goat,” Principal Barry Barkin. Unfortunately for the Terrible Two, their favorite target is unexpectedly taken away. Principal Barkin is removed from his job for his inability to control all the pranking, and is replaced by his father, former Principal Bertrand Barkin. Miles and Niles are excited to begin a new era of pranking the Barkins, but the elder Barkin turns out to be quite a formidable opponent. He refuses to acknowledge their pranks, so the boys become ineffective and down in the dumps. They decide that they must resort to desperate measures and recruit a temporary member to their team…Barry Barkin. In typical Terrible Two fashion, they come up with a winning plan that might go down in Yawnee Valley history as the best prank of all time. Barnett and John are their own terrific twosome, writing another hysterical story about Miles and Niles and their friendship. Kevin Cornell’s illustrations are fantastic, adding quirky and fun details to the story. THOUGHTS: Give this winner to your kids who like mixed text and illustration series (think slightly more sophisticated Diary of a Wimpy Kid) who like to laugh. It would make a fantastic read-aloud.

Humorous Fiction    Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools



Graff, Lisa. A Clatter of Jars. New York: Philomel Books, 2016. 978-0-399-17499-5. 217pp. $16.99. Gr 3-6.

Camp Atropos is a place where children with singular talents flock for the summer. Their talents range from being able to identify frogs, to mindreading, to memory recollection, and many more, but not everyone at Camp Atropos possesses a talent. Jo, the camp director, is talentless but has a bustling black-market business copying and selling her campers’ talents. These mimic talents ultimately become her downfall when a group of campers from Cabin 8 discover what she’s up to and set out to expose her. Several children attend camp with their siblings, and these sibling relationships and rivalries take center-stage in this novel as well. Each chapter is narrated by a different camper, and that camper’s name as the chapter title helps keep the large cast of characters straight.  This book is the sequel to Graff’s 2013 title A Tangle of Knots, and several characters from that book make appearances in this story as well. However, it is not necessary to have read A Tangle of Knots to keep up with this title’s storyline.  THOUGHTS: This title will be popular with fantasy fans, and it’s also a good choice for students looking for a summer-themed read. Pair it with another camp title such as Louis Sachar’s Holes or with other summer adventure stories such as The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester or Three Times Lucky.
Fantasy    Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

YA Sci-Fi – Sleeping Giants


Neuvel, Sylvain. Sleeping Giants. New York: Del Rey, 2016. 978-1-101-88669-4. 304 pp. $26.00. Gr. 9 and up.

Rose Franklin was eleven years old when she fell into an enormous hole in the earth near her childhood home in Deadwood, South Dakota. The hole was actually a room with iridescent metal panels for walls and a giant cupped hand at its base. Seventeen years later, Rose is a physicist assigned to a secret, government-funded study of these artifacts. The metals are inexplicably ancient, and the panels contain elegant but indecipherable symbols. What’s more, the iridium in the panels is so rare on earth that Rose concludes, “I don’t believe humans built these things.” Rose discovers that the other body parts buried around the globe are awakened by a radioactive isotope, and she is part of a team dedicated to retrieving and assembling them. Sleeping Giants, Book One of the Themis Files, comprises interview transcripts, news articles, and journal entries from Rose and other team members, conducted by an unnamed agent. Secrets, answers, and even more questions are unspooled with each chapter; the Epilogue leaves the reader with a tantalizing cliffhanger! THOUGHTS: While not an immediately obvious crossover selection, Sleeping Giants would be a great choice for readers of Andy Weir’s sci-fi smash The Martian. Its inventive format is reminiscent of the interstellar Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Finally, it will appeal to fans of Joe Hill’s showstopper NOS4A2, which also features a young woman whose life was shaped by her mysterious childhood excursions.

Waking Gods, Book Two of the Themis Files, will be released in April of 2017. More information about the series, news articles, and information about Sylvain Neuvel is available at

Science Fiction       Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School Library

MS/HS Realistic Fiction – Saving Hamlet; Free Verse; Two Summers


Booth, Molly.  Saving Hamlet.  New York: Hyperion, 2016.  978-1-48475-274-6.  $17.99.  352p.  Grade 7 and up.

Former high school soccer star Emma Allen needs to reinvent herself after a team party disaster and a major summer theater equipment malfunction.  Emma gets her waist-length hair cut into a super-short, super-chic, pixie style, and suddenly, things begin to change.  Emma’s behind-the-scenes stage crew role has grown; after a classmate moves, she is named the stage manager of the school’s annual fall Shakespeare play.  Emma’s best friend, Lulu, is dealing with her own difficulties; she is put on lockdown by her conservative parents after being caught kissing another girl.  Lulu also blames Emma, in part, for her being cast as Ophelia in the school’s Production of Hamlet (Lulu desperately wanted the title role).  Josh, a handsome school athlete who gets the role of Hamlet, is terrible.  Emma and the other directors begin trying desperately to save what appears to be a cursed production.  

One evening, after a long day of rehearsals, Emma is distracted and falls through the stage’s trap door.  The fall takes Emma back in time to the Globe Theatre in 1601.  At the Globe, Emma is mistaken as a boy, which gives her the ability to observe the original Shakespeare production.  She is able to travel between the two worlds via the trapdoor and brings what she has learned from that production to the present day.  In the end, she also brings her knowledge of present day Hamlet to save the Globe’s production of the show.  THOUGHTS:  This enjoyable book seems to have it all; a school play, romance, time travel, and teen drama.  Emma is highly likeable, the characters are diverse without being stereotypical, and anyone who has ever been involved in school theater can agree that the story rings true.  I would recommend this book for all junior or senior high school libraries.  It may actually help to make Shakespeare “cool” again.

I enjoyed the fact that Emma is not an actor; this book gave well-deserved recognition to the people behind the scenes in a theatre production.  The book also touched on some of the deeper themes in Hamlet, and students who are reading the play for school might enjoy the insight Saving Hamlet can give.  Two of the characters in this book are gay, and the treatment of these characters is excellent; the characters are shown to be typical high school age students who have the same hopes and trials that any teen would have.  Emma is a witty and intelligent young lady.  I hope we see more of her in the future.

Realistic Fiction; Fantasy              Susan Fox, Washington Park School



Dooley, Sarah. Free Verse. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016. 978-0399-165030. 335 pp. $16.99. Gr. 6-9.

Sasha lives in the grimy coal-town of Caboose, West Virginia, a place she and her older brother Michael can’t wait to leave.  But Sasha’s mother ran off when she was five, her father died in a mine accident when she was eight, and Michael just died fighting a fire.  It’s too much for one thirteen-year-old to manage, and Sasha struggles with anger and the foster system and this…place.  Fortunately for her, foster mom Phyllis stays steady and encouraging through Sasha’s rages and disappearances, and distant relatives she never knew live just next door.  She struggles and grows, thanks to careful, caring adults, and thanks to her discovery of poetry.  But when another tragedy occurs, will it all be too much?  THOUGHTS: A strong, finely told novel, the poetry and the prose delight and reveal Sasha’s character incredibly well. This is beautiful poetry and a strong award contender.  Recommended for middle school readers and up.

Realistic Fiction    Melissa Scott, Shenango High School



Friedman, Aimee. Two Summers. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-1-338-03571-1. 355p. $7.99. Gr. 7-10.

Summer Everett can barely contain her excitement; she is going to spend her summer visiting her artist father in France! Since her parents divorced several years earlier, her relationship with her father hasn’t been close; he’s not much of a communicator. But, Summer’s looking forward to reconnecting with him, despite her mother’s qualms about the trip. Right before boarding her plane to France, Summer receives a phone call from an unknown caller. Should she answer the call? It is at this point that the storyline of Two Summers diverges. In one storyline Summer doesn’t answer the call and continues on her journey to France. In the other storyline, Summer answers the phone only to discover that her father is cancelling her visit, and she will have to stay at home in Hudsonville, New York over the summer. Though the settings for both storylines could not be more different, in both, Summer will find romance, discover a passion for photography and learn family secrets long hidden. THOUGHTS: This quick and enjoyable read is perfect for readers who enjoy contemporary YA lit with a dash of romance. The alternating parallel storylines will keep readers engaged as they discover how Summer’s snap decision not to answer a phone call might change some elements of her summer vacation, but other parts of her vacation seem destined to occur, not matter what her location.

Realistic Fiction         Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS


MS/HS Nonfiction – Cookbooks; Amish


Jorgensen, Katrina. Ballpark Cookbooks (Sports Illustrated for Kids series).  North Mankato, MN: Capstone. 2016. 64p. $23.49 ea.  Gr 6 and up.

Ball Park Cookbook: The American League:  Recipes Inspired by Baseball Stadium Foods.  978-1-4914-8232-2.

Ball Park Cookbook: The National League: Recipes Inspired by Baseball Stadium Foods.  978-1-4914-8233-9.

Ballpark Cookbooks, from Sports Illustrated Kid, teach students how to cook some of the signature dishes served at baseball stadiums throughout the country.  Each entry in the books features the team’s ballpark statistics.  When was the park built?  Where is it located?  What is the seating capacity of the stadium?  The entries also include interesting background information; the entry for PNC Park in Pittsburgh has a sidebar discussing the importance of Heinz condiments to the city.  The entry for Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia talks about the “Great Cheesesteak Debate.”  Baseball-shaped factoids talk about interesting rituals different players have and ballpark-related trivia.  As for the recipes themselves, each one features an attractive photograph of the finished product, clear directions for making the recipe, and a comprehensive ingredient list.

I would recommend these cookbooks for junior and senior high students largely because they employ cooking techniques that younger children should not try without adult supervision.  There are also a number of ingredients that most families will not have on hand including things like deveined shrimp, yeast, and exotic spices.  It is important to note that the author of these books is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, so the recipes have a level of sophistication usually not seen in children’s cookbooks.  THOUGHTS: These books are a feast for the eyes.  They are well-organized, have colorful pictures of the recipes/ballparks, and the trivia entries are engaging.  I do think that young people will need supervision while making many of the recipes, but it would be good family fun to cook a ballpark style dinner before “the big game.”  I consider these books to be a valuable addition to school libraries, especially since they will appeal to young men who might not otherwise pick up a cookbook.

641.5; Cookbook           Susan E. Fox, Washington Park School



Nolt, Steven M. The Amish: a concise introduction. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2016. 978-1-4214-1956-5. 141p. $16.95. Gr. 9 and up.

The Amish remain a curiosity to many Americans (especially those who do not live in communities where Amish populations are present). Many misconceptions abound about Amish life, such as all Amish teens are wild rabble-rousers or that shunning is a common occurrence within the Amish church. Professor Steven Nolt aims to clearly explain the Amish culture and beliefs in this brief  introductory text. The development and history of the Amish religion in Europe is presented as well as the group’s immigration to America. Also discussed are the basics of Amish religious beliefs and practices. Family life, schooling, work, and the role of the Amish in their greater community are also explained. A chapter on the Amish and the modern media discusses how the Amish are portrayed in film and television. The text is supplemented by photos, maps,  charts, and appendices. THOUGHTS: Though written for the adult reader, the text of this book is quite accessible and can easily be understood by high schoolers.The basics of Amish beliefs clearly explained and common misconceptions are also addressed. Also of note is the discussion of Amish use/non-use of current technologies, which is not present in older works on the Amish. Recommended for schools where the Amish may be discussed in religion or history class, or where Amish are present in the greater community.

289.73; Religion       Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

YA Mystery – With Malice; Study in Charlotte


Cook, Eileen. With Malice. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. 978-0-5448-0509-5. 316 pp. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

When Jill Charron wakes up in the hospital, she has a broken leg, a head injury, and absolutely no memory of the last six weeks. She pieces together that she and her best friend, Simone, were in a car crash while on their Adventures Abroad trip to Italy. Simone died in the crash, and now Jill stands accused of deliberately killing her, fueled by a lifetime of jealousy. A media frenzy surrounds the case, recalling the real-life investigation and trial of Amanda Knox for the 2007 death of her roommate in Perugia, Italy. Cook fleshes out the sensational media attention on Jill through news excerpts, eyewitness accounts, Justice for Simone blog posts, and police interview transcripts. Jill is a sympathetic but necessarily distant main character; readers will pull for her as she strives to recover from both her physical injuries and her memory loss. With the exception of Anna, Jill’s tough-talking rehab roommate, the supporting characters are stereotypical (e.g., the Italian tour guide is a lothario who romanced both girls). That aside, this novel’s strength is its portrayal of a lifelong female friendship that may have gone horribly wrong. Did Jill resent playing second fiddle to vivacious Simone enough to harm her? Did she take the wheel of the car “with malice aforethought” or was it simply a tragic accident? Will her own memories make her wish she could forget again? THOUGHTS: Students who enjoy reading about the intricacies of memory disorders, mysteries, and the nuances of female friendship will enjoy With Malice by Eileen Cook.

Mystery      Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School



Cavallaro, Brittany. A Study in Charlotte. New York: Katherine Tegan Books, 2016. 978-0062398901. 336 p. $17.99. Gr. 9+.

The first in a planned trilogy, A Study in Charlotte introduces many young fans to both the story of Sherlock Holmes and the talented writer Brittany Cavallaro. Unlike some retellings of Sherlock Holmes, this story imagines that Holmes and Watson were real people, and their descendents are following in their respective footsteps. Teenager Jamie Watson has earned a rugby scholarship to a private school in Connecticut, so he sadly leaves his mother and sister behind in London. Though not pumped to be in the States (or near his father, who lives close to the school), Jamie is excited by the fact that Charlotte Holmes, the youngest of the Holmes clan and already known for her detecting abilities, attends the school. After meeting her at a poker game, the two quickly become friends, especially after a fellow classmate is murdered and they both are prime suspects. Jamie is quickly thrown into Charlotte’s world of science, espionage, and intrigue. The characters are interesting yet sometimes slow to evolve from cliches into unique individuals; Charlotte seems rather two dimensional at first, and I was happy Cavallaro slowly gave her more nuances as the story grew. Reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes’s rampant drug use, Charlotte does fight drug addiction and relies on Jamie to draw her out of her shell, as he relies on her to bring excitement to his life, wanted or not. THOUGHTS: Though slow to start, the story does pick up the pace quite a bit and ends with a bang. Readers will be eager to read the original tales, and anticipate the next installment in the trilogy.

Mystery       Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

Though I have never been an avid fan of Sherlock Holmes or the stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I did find myself enjoying the novel and the adventure aspect of the story. Since reading this novel does make me want to revisit the originals, I can bet that our students will feel the same way! I also enjoyed the mystery aspect of this novel, which I am sure will attract many teens.