MS & YA – Patron St. for Jr. Bridesmaids; Tetris

Tougas, Shelley. A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. Print.  978-1626724037. 272 p. $16.99. Gr. 7-12.

Author Shelley Tougas has written a sweet, engaging, and fun novel about one girl’s experience with religion and her family’s influence in her life. Mary Margaret Miller has always been a good Catholic girl, attending church and praying to her favorite patron saints – until Brent Helzinski gets on her last nerve, and she impulsively punches him. Worried about the reaction of her mother, she is soon distracted by the fact that her shy, quiet, and socially awkward cousin Eden is engaged. Mary is designated as junior bridesmaid (but really the only bridesmaid since Eden does not have any friends, besides their grandmother). Mary’s family is also in the process of moving to a new state for her father’s job working at oil company, since their family hardware store was put out of business by the new local big box store. Mary and her brother stay with their grandmother over the summer and assist with planning a “spectacular” wedding that Eden may or may not really want. The characters are well-drawn and true to life, with the adults exhibiting as many flaws as the children. Mary’s relationship with a non denominational boy next-door adds a level of intellectual engagement not usually seen in books written for middle schoolers. THOUGHTS: This is a great novel to give to young girls, and should be in all middle school collections.

Realistic Fiction    Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

I am so used to reading angsty teen novels that this novel for younger readers was a breath of fresh air. I loved Mary’s character and feel that my middle school self could truly relate to her and her engagement with religion. My father is a minister, and growing up in an intensely religious family can be taxing, as Mary experiences in the story. I hope to read more by this author soon!

Box, Brown. Tetris: The Games People Play. New York: First Second, 2016. Print. 978-1626723153. 256 p. $19.99. Gr. 9 and up.

This graphic novel presents an immersive history of one of the most famous video games of all time. The story begins with Russian scientist and computer programer Alexey Patjitnov discussing with his friend the importance of gaming. Then, the story moves to tell the origins of the Nintendo company and the evolution of the gaming world. Alexey creates Tetris to share with his friends, but others soon realize the immense monetary potential of selling such a game all over the world. The story moves quickly, as we hear how the major companies of the day- Nintendo, Atari, and Sega- fought over various rights and with the Russian government to have access to Tetris. It is interesting for the reader to see Alexey’s experience in all of this back and forth. Box Brown’s graphics quickly engage the reader and merge seamlessly with the text. The tale is not simple, but Brown does his best to share all that happened throughout the history of the game. THOUGHTS: This is an excellent title to give to gamers and lovers of classic games. Highly recommended for high school libraries.

Graphic Novel (Nonfiction, 794.8)    Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

As an owner of the original Game Boy, I was eager to read this novel and learn more about the history of a game I loved as a child. I ended up reading the book in one sitting- it was so interesting and engaging!  But, as a history buff, I also appreciated the fact that Box Brown spent time giving the reader context by providing a history of the gaming industry in general. I cannot wait to share this title with my brothers, who recently became excited when my mother unearthed their original Nintendo system. Tetris lives on!

Upper Elem/MS Fiction – Secret Coders; Spirit Animals; Charlie Joe Jackson; Best Friends…

Yang, Gene Luen and Mike Holmes. Secret Coders: Paths and Portals. New York: First Second, 2016.978-1-62672-340-5. $18.99. 94 p. Gr. 3-6.

Readers have a chance to write the programming codes throughout the book and take delight in a programmed turtle.  Eni, Josh, and Hopper look forward to working with the school janitor, Mr. Bee, and learning more about technology. In the past Mr. Bee was a professor and in charge of The Bee School. When Hooper doesn’t answer what helped her with her homework, the principal has the rugby team closely watch them. The trio doesn’t want to upset Mr. Bee that they lost the turtle known as Little One. At the end of the novel, Mr. Bee is captured by the rugby team and principal. The artwork throughout the novel is in shades of green and black. THOUGHTS: This is the second book in the series and will be continued with Secret Coders: Secrets and Sequences. There is a website to visit as well: The website includes a video lesson on coding and downloadable activities.

Graphic Novel     Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

Auxier, Jonathan. Spirit Animals: Fall of the Beasts: Book 4 The Burning Tide. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-83214-4. $12.99. 181 p. Gr. 3-8.

Meilin is caused great pain when the dark Wyrm infection controls close friend and fellow Greencloaks, Conor. Conor rallies “The Many” to fight against Meilin and the others trying to save the universe. Meilin continues to distrust Kovo since she had troubling experiences with him in the past. Abeke like Meilin is battling matters of trust while struggling with the capture and betrayal of her Spirit Animal. Are the Redcloaks to be trusted during this final battle? The book allows for unlikely heroes and even at times an opening for readers to cheer for those thought to be on the dark side.  THOUGHTS– There is a happy moment in the return of a character missing for quite some time in the series. It is impressive how character from books ago weave into the story. The series continues to deliver action and adventure for readers.

Fantasy; Action/Adventure   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

Greenwald, Tommy. Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Growing Up. Illustrated by J.P. Coovert. New York: Roaring Books Press,  2016. 978-1-62672-169-2. $13.99. 173 p. Gr. 5-8.

Charlie Joe is not thrilled to share his birthday with middle school graduation. In fact, Charlie Joe is not happy getting older and having more responsibilities. This book is told in chapter format going back to the start of the day and sprinkled with flashbacks to other milestone events.  The book is peppered with humor at a pool party, air hockey championship, baseball game, and dog tricks. Charlie Joe has a few bonus tips for the readers before the book concludes.

THOUGHTS– This is the sixth and final book in the Charlie Joe Jackson series. Fans of Janet Tashjian’s The My Life Series (Henry Holt)  series are sure to like this series as well.

Realistic Fiction   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Vrettos, Adrienne Maria. Best Friends for Never. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-56149-5. $16.99. 229 p. Gr. 3-6.

Hattie was perfectly content  living in Brooklyn, NY, and spending time with her best friend, but now her father has an opportunity to take over a dentist office in Trepan’s Grove, Massachusetts. Hattie has made new friends over the summer, but she feels like she can’t wear the clothes she really likes or share her reading interests. Hattie is warned not to fall into a jinx at her first fall harvest. After seeing a classmate face betrayal from friends at school, Hattie is inspired to write a friendship pact. Her new trio of friends sign the pact, but something very odd happens shortly making them forget Hattie. At school she is assigned to be partners with Zooey, the girl who was betrayed by friends at school. While Hattie would like their history project to focus on the local lore of the Harvest Jinx, but Zooey sees the topic of colonial women to be more important. Through research and the help of  Maude, an 18 year old of town prodigy now already a  professor, will the jinx be broken?  THOUGHTS– The book celebrates acceptance of the individual. Since writing adds an element of magic, another good book to partner with Best Friends Never is All the Answers by Kate Messner (Bloomsbury, 2015).

Realistic Fiction    Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

MS Nonfiction – Shark Week; Kindertransport; WWI Spies

Brockenbrough, Martha. Shark Week: Everything You Need to Know. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2016. 978-1-250-09777-4. $19.99. 149 pp. Gr. 5-8.

Shark Week is one of the Discovery Channel’s highest rated programs each year, so it only makes sense that they would want to draw in younger viewers.  Shark Week: Everything You Need to Know will not only draw out the shark lovers, but may also create shark enthusiasts.  With life-like color photographs, Shark Week aims to please the middle school (and older/younger) reader.  Sectioned into chapters about life, predatory nature, types of sharks, “Shark Fight[s]”, and survivor stories, each topic is further explored in detail through general overviews and bold sections (a great text for textual analysis and reading for information).  Some fun shark facts include the fact that sharks don’t chew; in clear water sharks can see further than their prey; great whites enjoy death metal, and sharks can’t move if flipped over.  THOUGHTS:  This is a perfect addition to middle school nonfiction collections.  The text is easy to read and includes amazing photography and images throughout.  The information is accessible and not overwhelming for readers and will definitely spark further investigation.  

597.3; Sharks     Erin Parkinson, Beaver Area MS-HS


Berne, Emma Carlson. Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport. North Mankato, MN: Capstone Press, 2017. 978-1-5157-4545-7. $22.49. 112pp. Gr. 3-6.

The Kindertransport is perhaps the most famous children’s refugee program.  From December 1938 until May 1940, Jewish children were brought from Germany, German occupied countries, and the Netherlands to Great Britain to be cared for until the fall of Hitler when they could return home to their families.  With the onset of World War II in 1940, many of the children ended the war with no home or family to return to and limited memories of what had been.  This narrative nonfiction text intertwines the experiences of seven Kindertransport survivors with the history leading up to and during World War II.  Each chapter includes primary source text and images exploring both the individual refugee experience and the universal World War II experience.  This text ends with a timeline, glossary, information section, and bibliography for further exploration.  THOUGHTS:  Although recommended for grades 3-6, this text could easily extend into middle school, especially for reluctant or struggling readers.  The text is large with lots of white space on the page.  Any schools reading The Diary of Anne Frank or Boy in the Striped Pajamas or a similar World War II or Holocaust book would benefit from this purchase.  Even if World War II research is not completed, students would gain great knowledge just by flipping through this text.

940.53; World War II; Holocaust      Erin Parkinson, Beaver Area MS-HS

Lassieur, Allison. Courageous Spies and International Intrigue of World War I. North Mankato, MN: Compass Point Books, 2017. 978-0-7565-5499-6. $25.49. 64pp. Gr. 4-8.

Courageous Spies and International Intrigue of World War I is the first title in a new series from Compass Point Books that focuses on spies during war times.  This text begins with the story of the Black Hand, a Serbian national group solely focused on bringing Bosnia back to Serbia.  The Black Hand’s goal was to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which, as history shows, was successful and ignited World War I.  Since most Black Hand members were teenagers, they were arrested, served prison sentences, and were later released.  Only those twenty and over were sentenced to death for their conspiracy and assassination crimes. This is just the first chapter of Courageous Spies and International Intrigue of World War I.  Later chapters explore the code breakers of Room 40, London (who cracked the Zimmerman telegram, the greatest code at the time, and then went back to normal lives at the end of WWI, but returned to Room 40 with the start of World War II); female spy, British nurse Edith Cavell; “Ace of Spies” Sidney Reilly, a Russian trying to overthrow Vladimir Lenin (Reilly was Ian Fleming’s inspiration for James Bond); Mata Hari, a famous dancer who is believed to have been a German spy, double agent, both, or nothing at all, and La Dame Blanche, a network of Belgium spies working for the Allied forces.  In addition to the intriguing stories, primary sources are scattered throughout the text, with a timeline, glossary, resources, and bibliography at the end. Additional titles in this series include Fearless Spies and Daring Deeds of World War II; Deep-Cover Spies and Double-Crossers of the Cold War, and Cyber Spies and Secret Agents of Modern Times, all set to release later this year.  THOUGHTS:  This is an excellent purchase for middle schools.  The excitement of spies has great appeal, and why not include some of the most famous spies from history.  If nothing else, this is a fun, quick read, especially for reluctant readers and conspiracy theorists :-), and it’ll help with Jeopardy answers!

World War I; Spies      Erin Parkinson, Beaver Area MS-HS


MS/YA Nonfiction – Krysia; Rocks Minerals & Gems

Mihulka, Krystyna and Krystyna Poray Goddu. Krysia: A Polish Girl’s Stolen Childhood during World War II. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2017. Print. 978-1613734414. 192 p. $17.99. Gr. 7-12.

Since many lessons taught about the European Front during WWII are focused on the experience of individuals in the Holocaust, this is an interesting title to share with both classroom teachers and students as an example of what happened to Polish non-Jews during the war. Krysia lived a happy childhood in Poland with her mother, father, and brother, before the start of WWII. When the Soviets take over her area of Poland, the family is forced to share their home with Russians, and her father must go into hiding because of his previous occupation with the Polish court system. Soon, Kyrsia, her mother, and brother are forced to leave their home and board a cattle car for unknown lands. They live as political prisoners in Kazakhstan, struggling to survive bitter cold, snowy winters and plagued by diseases and malnutrition. The story is well-told and fast-paced, perfect for the younger audience for which it is intended. The authors include a glossary of Polish terms, a map of Krysia’s journey, and photographs of her family throughout the text. THOUGHTS: This is an excellent addition to memoirs of WWII, and can easily be incorporated in lessons about the experiences of children during the war years.

Autobiography (WWII)     Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

I truly enjoyed this story, as it shared a part of the War that I had not previously studied or knew much about. Krysia is a strong and resilient young girl, and I think that many middle school and high school students will be interested in reading her story. I am eager to learn more about the Polish experience during WWII, and the path they were forced to take to eventual freedom.

Callery, Sean and Miranda Smith.  Rocks Minerals & Gems: The Definitive Visual Catalog of the Treasure Beneath Your Feet. Gary Ombler, Photographer. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-94719-0. $19.99. 224 pp. Gr. 5-8.

This is a stunning addition to any middle school science collection.  Each page includes beautiful, full color photos of various rocks, minerals, and gemstones in varying degrees of formation.  Text boxes and captions include information about the rock, mineral, or gem presented on the page including, but not limited to, formation information, usage (historic and present), varying degrees found in nature, location, general information, such as group, formula, color, form, luster, etc., and fun facts.  For instance, did you know that “[m]any objects are misnamed and the Emerald Buddha […] is carved from jade” (165) or “[c]innabar is the chief ore of mercury” (83).  THOUGHTS:  Rocks Minerals and Gems is a fabulous addition to any middle school (and high school) science collection.  The photographs are gorgeous and the information is very user-friendly.  This is a must-have text (and an affordable one).

552; Science    Erin Parkinson, Beaver Area MS-HS  

MS – The Return; The Enemy Above; Rescued

Johnson, Varian. Spirit Animals: Fall of the Beasts: Book 3 The Return. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0545-84207-5. 186 p. Gr. 3-8.

The Greencloaks and their new friends are divided into two groups. The dark Wrym infection continues to get worse for Conor. Meilin struggles to trust Kovo, despite Takoda being helpful. When trying to find the Evertree on boat they struggle until they come across Pirates while sailing the Sulfur Sea. The Pirates are much different from the tales they have heard as they group contains all well groomed female Pirates. The other group has disguised themselves as servants. Abeke is assigned as servant to Kirat, new spirit animal partner with Cabaro, and she thinks that she can truly help Kirat. The bond with Spirit Animals continue to lessen and the book concludes leaving high levels of suspense.  THOUGHTS: This book has endearing moments of others remembering those that they have lost and those that  they look up to. Some characters from other books show up in surprising ways. The compelling series continue with another novel.

Fantasy; Adventure   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Spradlin, Michael P. The Enemy Above: a Novel of World War II. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-85782-6. 232 p. Gr. 4-6.

The year is 1942, and twelve year old Anton often hears artillery in his home of Ukraine. His father joined the Polish army three years ago, and now his 19 year old Uncle Pavel wishes to fight against the Nazi’s. Bubbe (grandmother) tells Anton to hide when they overhear a sound. They eventually escape to a cave. While there Anton befriends Daniel who saw the Nazi’s take his mother and sister, he wonders where God was during that nightmare. It is becoming more dangerous for the adults to explore from the cave at night to locate water. Anton and Daniel are tasked to explore the cave and find water and also a way out. Will they survive and get past Gestapo Colonel Karl Von Duesen who takes delight in rounding up Jews like a hunting sport?  THOUGHTS: The Enemy Above is perfect for fans of survival or historical fiction. Scholastic produced an engaging book trailer:

Historical Fiction (WWII)    Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Schrefer, Eliot. Rescued. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-65503-3. 261 p. Gr. 7-12.

You might think if your pet orangutan accidentally eats your finger that your bond with the pet would shatter. This in not the case for John and his orangatang, Raja, that his father got for him while overseas at work. Growing up together an hour away from Atlanta, the divorce of his parents finds John moving to Oregon with his mother. Raja will stay with his father.  While the plan was for John to regularly visit his father, this did not occur.  Years later when John’s  father has to move, he can no longer keep the orangutan and finds a new home for Raja called “Friendly Land.”  Even after being separated from Raja for years, John has not lost his brotherly bond or ability to sign with Raja. John deeply desires a better life for Raja. John finds himself on a wild car ride and plane trip to return Raja home. John’s mother, a teacher, uses her savings to attend the flight back with John and Raja. Ultimately she allows John to decide if Raja should remain in a safer environment or reenter his natural homeland. Readers will find themselves   considering what they would do if they were in a similar situation and reflect upon what it means to be “rescued.” A question and answer session with the author concludes the book encouraging readers to learn more. Rescued is the third novel in acclaimed Schrefer’s Ape Quartet and the novels can be read in any chosen order.  THOUGHTS: Present information about habitat found in Indonesia and Sumatra can add to discussion leading readers to ponder if there a point that industrialization can go too far. Those who grew up reading Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan (Harper Collins, 2012) will be extra delighted to journey John and Raja.

Realistic Fiction   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

Upper Elementary/MS Fiction – Varmints; Dear Dumb Diary; Royal Wedding Disaster; Sealed with a Secret

Hirsch, Andy. Varmints. New York: First Second, 2016. 978-1-62672-279-8. $16.99. 213 p. Gr. 3-7.

Varmints, set in the Wild Old West, details the journey of a brother and sister on a quest to find their Pa.  Opie and Ned are in for more adventures and skirmishes than they planned in the seven chapters. They come across horse thieves, work at the Silverfish Lodge, escape a fire, survive an eventful train ride, purchase a new donkey, and participate in a downright dangerous derby. The siblings don’t always get along, but their emotional connection and love is clear through the danger and humor. THOUGHTS: This book provides an excellent combination of dialogue, plot, and full color artwork to hook readers. Readers will want more of the adventures of Opie and Ned!

Graphic Novel      Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Benton, Jim.  Dear Dumb Diary, Deluxe: Dumbness is a Dish Best Served Cold. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-93228-8. 197 pp. $12.99. Gr. 3-6.

While the narrator, Jamie Kelly, warns the reader to stop reading her diary, they will continue to enjoy the tale filled with humor and full color artwork. In this diary, Jamie is trying to help make her friend feel better. Jamie’s mother secretly tells Jamie that Angeline’s father recently lost his job. This explains why Angeline has been so focused on personal finance and money. To make Angeline feel better, Jamie makes up a story that their handmade plates might make them some money. But, when Angeline learns the truth, she feels betrayed. The book allows reads to value honesty in friendship.  Unexpectedly, Jamie has an invention that will help add to both of their savings accounts. The end concludes with recipe suggestions to make your own “salad glamorizer” and “health-o-plate” allowing readers to continue the fun when the chapters end.

THOUGHTS: This is an ideal choice for fans of the Dork Diaries series.

Realistic Fiction     Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Cabot, Meg. Royal Wedding Disaster (From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess Bk. 2). New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2016.  978-1-250-06604-6. 283 p. $16.99  Gr. 4-7.

Helping with the her half-sister Mia’s wedding is consuming for middle schooler Olivia. Finding time to go to school is exhausting. Will she be able to make friends at her new royal school and withstand the teasing of not being a true royal since she is from a mixed family? Grandmother is still a task master and training Olivia to be the best royal possible. Olivia’s best friend will fly in for the wedding from New Jersey, and she misses seeing her since Genovia is far away. A problem on the royal ground is an influx of iguana. PK, passionate about Genovian Herpetology Rescue Society, is able to help with the iguana situation. The wedding turns out to be successful and the purple dresses are a surprise for Mia.  THOUGHTS: This book demonstrates that you don’t have to be locked into a stereotype. You can be royal and have other hobbies like swimming, art, fashion, or reptiles! Mia and Michael’s wedding introduces Lilly, Lana, Boris, and hair dresser, Paolo, into the story.  If readers are new to Meg Cabot, they can read this series and then continue to The Princess Diaries novels.

Realistic Fiction     Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Schroeder, Lisa. Sealed with a Secret. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-90734-7. 217 p. Gr. 3-6.

Phoebe keeps the Cartier makeup compact that she purchased at the flea market a secret even though it could be worth a lot of money that her family could use to help with expenses.  The compact has a unique photograph and a letter behind. The letter helps her learn history from 1941 and the ARP (air raid precautions.)  Ned agrees to help her find places in the letter if she helps find a gift for his mum’s 40th birthday. Their travels take them to locations including the Peter Pan Statue, Kensington Gardens, London Music Hall, Trafalgar Square, and a historic crypt! With all of the adventures, will she help find the best gift for Ned’s mum, and what happens when her family learns about the compact? THOUGHTS: This book could be tied to Kate Messner’s The Fourteenth Goldfish (Bloomsbury, 2016) as both books feature a younger sister drifting from their older sister.  Adventure and historical elements make this book come alive.

Realistic Fiction     Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

MS NF – Lost in the Pacific, 1942

Olson, Tod. Lost in the Pacific, 1942: Not a Drop to Drink. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-5459-2811-3. $12.99. 176p. Gr. 6-9.

Over the Pacific Ocean, on October 21, 1942, a B-17 bomber was flying with eight men aboard. The purpose of the flight was a secret mission to deliver celebrated WWI flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker to the Pacific theater of the fighting on a fact-finding trip. But when the plane runs out of fuel, the pilots are forced to ditch into the Pacific Ocean. Amazingly all eight men survive the crash landing of the plane, but the chances of their survival seem slim. They are afloat in three small rafts in shark-infested waters in enemy territory with minimal supplies of food and water. Author Tod Olson relates their amazing survival story in Lost in the Pacific. Over 22 days adrift at sea, the men faced hunger, illness, exposure and more. Sadly, one airmen did not survive the experience at sea. As time elapsed, personality clashes emerged (particularly between the authoritarian Rickenbacker and the men) as they debated the best course of action to take. The text is enhanced by the presence of photos, maps and historical images. THOUGHTS: This title is sure to be a hit with fans of WWII literature as well as fans of adventure stories. Reluctant readers will also find them drawn into the engrossing and action-packed tale. Olson does an excellent job of conveying the personalities of the individual airmen and emotional stressors they faced while adrift at sea. Recommended for middle school purchase.

940.53; World War II      Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

YA Mystery – The Leaving; Bad Blood

Altebrando, Tara. The Leaving. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016. 978-1-6196-3803-7. $17.99. 421p. Gr. 9-12.

One late summer day six students left home to attend their first day of kindergarten. They never made it home. Seemingly vanished without a trace, they left heartbroken family and friends fearing the worst. Eleven years later, five of the children have suddenly returned. Now teens, Scarlett, Lucas, Sarah, Adam and Kristen reappear when they are dropped off at a local playground, but they have no memory of the past eleven years. Where were they? Who took them (and why)? And, most importantly, where is Max, the sixth missing student (and why can’t they remember him at all)? Readers follow the alternating voices of returnees Scarlett and Lucas as well as Max’s younger sister Avery as they attempt to discover the truth behind the event that has become known as “the leaving.” As time goes by, the returnees begin to remember bits and pieces of their lost time, but are these memories reliable? Perhaps the teens would be better off not remembering their childhood for some reason. THOUGHTS: This is a great choice for fans of mysteries or thrillers who will quickly find themselves engrossed in the unfolding drama. Thought provoking concepts about the power and importance of memory will remain with the reader long after they reach the final page.

Mystery     Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS


Barnes, Jennifer Lynn. Bad Blood (A Naturals novel Bk. 4). New York: Hyperion, 2016. 978-1-484757321. $17.99. 373 pp. Gr. 8 and up.

Cassie, Michael, Lia, Dean, and Sloane are back in the fourth and (hopefully not) final book of The Naturals.  Each title of Barnes’s Criminal Minds meets Veronica Mars series has ratcheted up the tension and not disappointed.  After learning that her mother is still alive, Cassie and the team are on a mission to track down the Fibonacci cult holding her and figure out why this cult targeted her mother.  Before any headway is made, Michael is drawn back to the Townsend estate when a childhood friend is missing.  Although she goes missing on a Fibonacci date, she is not tied to the “Seven Masters, […] The Pythia. And Nine” (9).  As the Naturals continue searching for clues, Cassie, Agent Sterling, and the others, figure out Nightshade’s real identity and visit his hometown, which Cassie quickly realizes once was her home too.   As the Naturals piece together the puzzle of the Pythia, the Seven Masters, Nine, and the influence of a local cult on Nightshade and Gaither, OK, Cassie must face suppressed memories from her past and the impact of her actions now.  THOUGHTS:  Bad Blood does not disappoint.  It is intense and suspenseful and quite hard to put down.  Give The Naturals series to any student who loves mystery, suspense, and crime dramas.  A perfect ten!

Mystery/Suspense      Erin Parkinson, Beaver Area MS-HS

MS Fiction – The Bicycle Spy; The Wolf Keepers

McDonough, Yona Zeldis. The Bicycle Spy. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-85095-7. $16.99. 195p. Gr. 4-7.

Marcel may be small for his age, but he has big dreams of competing one day in the Tour de France, which has been cancelled for the last two years due to the outbreak of World War II.  Marcel works to improve his cycling technique as he makes bread deliveries for his parents bakery. At school, he makes a friend in Delphine, a new student who shares his enthusiasm for bicycling, but times in his small French town have become tense with arrival of German soldiers. When Marcel discovers a hidden note in one of his bread deliveries, he realizes that his parents are part of the Resistance. His previously carefree bike rides now take on critical importance as he must navigate Nazi checkpoints in order to deliver Resistance communications. When Delphine reveals that her family is Jewish, Marcel and his parents must work with their contacts to arrange escape plans to ensure her family’s safety. THOUGHTS: An excellent historical tale that incorporates a topic (the Tour de France/bicycling) not often featured in juvenile literature. Readers will hold their breath when Marcel must embark on a harrowing bike ride at the conclusion of the story in order to help arrange Delphine’s escape. Historical notes at the end of the book feature an overview of World War II as well as background information on the Tour de France.

Historical Fiction (1940s)     Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS


Broach, Elise. The Wolf Keepers. New York: Holt, 2016. 978-0-8050-9899-0. $16.99. 343p. Gr. 4-7.

Lizzie lives in a zoo–literally. Her father is a zookeeper at the John Muir Wildlife Park in Lodisto, CA, and Lizzie lives with him in a house on the zoo grounds. Lizzie loves observing and drawing the animals, particularly the wolves. During the summer before 7th grade, Lizzie spends time observing the wolves, specifically the pack leader Lobo, for a homework assignment in which she must journal in the style of John Muir. One day she encounters Tyler, a runaway from a foster home who has been hiding out at the zoo. Tyler tells Lizzie about mysterious happenings going on at the zoo at night in the wolf exhibit. Could someone be behind a mysterious illness the wolves (including Lobo) are beginning to exhibit? Lizzie and Tyler are determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, which ultimately leads them to stowaway on a late night ride to nearby Yosemite National Park where they must spend two days on their own in a remote part of the park, where the stumble across the remains of a cabin that may have belonged to John Muir. THOUGHTS: This book is ideal for fans of animal stories or mysteries. The characters realistically cope with with issues such as loss, friendship and the meaning of family. The ethics of keeping animals in zoos is well integrated into the story and gives readers much to think about. The text is enhanced by pencil drawings and an author’s note that discusses the history of Yosemite.

Mystery      Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS