Elementary Fiction – The Extincts; Waylon!; Paper Wishes


Cossanteli, Veronica. Ill. Roman Muradov. The Extincts. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016. 978-1-62779-403-9. $16.99. 230p. Gr. 3-5.

George Drake needs a job so he can replace his stolen bicycle. The employment he finds, or that finds him, is hardly ordinary. The posting for the position at Wormestall Farm seems tame enough:  “Interest In Wildlife Necessary.” Then again, “Wildlife” does not usually include extinct carnivorous ducks or a Dodo bird that has nesting issues, and that’s just the beginning.  There are many more fantastical beasts to be cared for as well. Did you know that snakes that eat their own tails are actually very hard to feed? As George becomes aware of how very real these animals are (as in, they will draw blood when they bite you), he finds himself doing strange things to keep their secret safe. In the middle of all this appears the girl who stole his bicycle. George does not want to be nice, nor forgive her. But the unicorn and dragon at Wormestall seem to think differently.  THOUGHTS: If you enjoyed the Imaginary Veterinary series by Suzanne Selfors, this will be right up your alley. The idea of this book is a great one! George is not an easy character to like in the beginning because of his actions towards the new girl at school.

Realistic Fantasy           Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School



Sepahban, Lois. Paper Wishes. New York: Margaret Ferguson Books, 2016. 978-0-374-30216-0.181p. $16.99. Gr. 4-7.

Ten-year-old Manami is a Japanese American girl living with her family on Bainbridge Island during WWII.  Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, she and her family are forced out of their home and sent to the Manzanar internment camp in the middle of the California desert.  Manami attempts to sneak her dog, Yujiin, into camp with her, but a soldier catches her and takes the dog away.  After that, Manami becomes mute and depressed.  Although she won’t talk to anyone at the camp, she writes and draws her thoughts and wishes down and releases them into the wind in the hopes that they will come true.  As time goes on, Manami learns to find hope in the midst of a somber situation and is eventually able to find her voice again.  Simple vocabulary and prose that is direct and to the point will make this a fast read for students looking for a touching portrait of daily life in Japanese American internment camps. THOUGHTS: There are many excellent fiction and nonfiction titles on the market pertaining to Japanese American internment during WWII, including Kadohata’s Weedflower, Hughes’s Missing In Action, Sandler’s Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II, and Houston’s Farewell to Manzanar.  This title would pair well with any of these.  This title is also an outstanding addition to any multicultural collection, as there are many references to Japanese traditions throughout the book, including tea ceremonies and the use of lanterns and painted fans to honor ancestors.

Historical Fiction                Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School



Pennypacker, Sara. Waylon! One Awesome Thing. New York: Disney Hyperion, 2016. 978-1484701522. 208pp. $15.99. Gr. 2-5.

Waylon knows a lot of amazing facts. He also has tons of great ideas for scientific discoveries, even if adults think it’s science fiction. Waylon has troubles that not even science can fix, all the boys are being put on two different teams by the popular kid. Also, his older sister has transformed into something strange; his parents call her a teenager, and the boy down the street calls her scary. When a known bad boy returns after a year away, Waylon is kicked off his team and only has the delinquent to converse with.  THOUGHTS: Waylon is an odd kid. He blurts out facts in class, and is insecure socially. Yet throughout he is a positive protagonist. Waylon struggles and has his down moments, and his sister helps him work through these times. Then Waylon finds a way to solve his own problems, and in doing so helps everyone around him.

Realistic Fiction          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

Picture Books – Before I Leave; The Squiggly Story; The Christmas Boot


Bagley, Jessixa. Before I Leave. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. 978-1-62672-040-4. $17.99 PreK-2nd Grade.

By the author of Boats for Papa comes another gentle book to help children. Little hedgehog’s family is moving away, but she doesn’t want to leave her best friend. Refusing to go doesn’t work, so her friend tries to help her pack. Instead of concentration on their task, these two friends end up doing all their favorite things. When little hedgehog moves into her new house and goes to unpack she discovers pictures and letters from her anteater best friend. THOUGHTS: A heart-warming way to express to children that change does not mean the end of friendships.

Picture Book       Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School



Larsen, Andrew. A Squiggly Story. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2016. 978-1-77138-016-4. Unpaged. $16.95. Gr. PreK-2.

A young boy wants to write a story, but he doesn’t know many words.  After receiving some encouragement from his sister, he begins by writing down letters and shapes that he does know, and before long, he has crafted a creative tale in which he and his sister are playing soccer on the beach.  When he shares his story with his class for show-and-tell, they suggest several creative endings for the story, but the protagonist has his own ending in mind.  Graphic novel-like illustrations, complete with speech bubbles and boxes on some pages, add to the book’s accessibility and appeal.  THOUGHTS: This playful tale is a great resource for young students learning about the parts of a story (beginning, middle, and end) and anyone looking for strategies for overcoming writer’s block.  It can also encourage brainstorming and creative thinking, as students can be prompted to come up with endings of their own for the boy’s story.  The varied skin colors of the children in the protagonist’s class give this book a multicultural dimension.

Picture Book     Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School



Wheeler, Lisa. The Christmas Boot. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016. 978-0-8037-4134-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

Hannah, an old woman who lives in a cabin in the woods, is gathering firewood when she spots a single boot laying in the snow. When she puts it on to warm her cold foot, it magically becomes a perfect fit for her, and she takes it home where she wishes for its mate. The next morning, she finds a pair of boots next to her bed, and later on she wishes for a pair of warm mittens and a fancy house and feast. She loves the boots and mittens but feels that the house doesn’t quite “fit” the way she’d hoped. Santa comes calling, looking for his missing boot, and Hannah offers it up at once, saying that it doesn’t belong to her anyway. Immediately the other boot, mittens, and house are no more. Santa offers Hannah whatever she truly desires. She replies that she really wants someone to talk to but warm boots and mittens would be fine. Suddenly, Hannah is rewarded with fine new boots and mittens…and a small puppy hiding in one of the boots, ready to be Hannah’s new friend. THOUGHTS: A beautiful story of gratitude and kindness that works well for the holidays and is highlighted by Jerry Pinkney’s gorgeous illustrations.

Picture book Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

YA Fantasy and Sci-Fi – Torch Against the Night; The Thousandth Floor


Tahir, Sabaa. A Torch Against the Night. New York: Razorbill, 2016. 978-1-10199-887-8. $19.95. Gr. 8-12.

Sabaa Tahir’s second installment of the Ember in the Ashes series picks up right where the first book left off. Laia and Elias are fugitives on the run from the cold-hearted Commandment, the evil new Emperor Marcus, and the new Blood Shrike, Helene. Laia is still determined to break her brother out of the impenetrable Kauf prison, while Elias is determined to keep them hidden from his former best friend, Helene, who is now on the hunt to kill him. The book’s biggest strength is the development of Helene, a once cold, smitten female warrior who is given a narrative that develops her into a fierce, multi-layered character. Readers need not fear the sophomore slump; this sequel, like the original, is big on intense action and shocking plot-twists. THOUGHTS: An excellent follow-up to An Ember in the Ashes, this series is a must for any fantasy fan. Tahir recently signed on for 2 more books, so expect more from this excellent author.

Fantasy         Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School



McGee, Katharine. The Thousandth Floor. New York: Harper, 2016. 978-0-06-241859-3. 440 pp. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

In the Prologue of Katharine McGee’s The Thousandth Floor, an unidentified young woman falls nearly three miles from the penthouse of “the Tower” to her death on the pavement below. McGee then rewinds the narrative two months before to the summer of 2118 to introduce the cast of characters who inhabit the Tower’s different levels, and whose storylines will all converge at that fateful penthouse party. Avery, genetically engineered for flawless beauty, lives on the top floor with her parents and adopted brother Atlas (her taboo crush). Avery’s best friend Leda is keeping both a recent rehab stay and a tryst with Atlas secret from everyone. Fellow “highlier” Eris about to have her wealth and status ripped away when a family secret comes to light. Meanwhile, “downTower” Rylin starts working for playboy Cord and hacker Watt is hired by Leda to spy on Atlas. Everyone has something to hide and something to gain as McGee weaves these plot threads into quite the scandalously tangled web. THOUGHTS: Friendships and romances develop and dissolve as the characters angle for true love and a better position in the hierarchy of the Tower. The ending reveals the premise for a 2017 sequel to this addictive debut!

For a fun extension activity, check out Epic Reads’ DIY-A video for a jewelry organizer inspired by The Thousandth Floor:

DIY: Jewelry Organizer Inspired by The Thousandth Floor

Science Fiction; Romance       Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School Library