YA Fiction – Loving vs. Virginia; The Cruelty; Frostblood

Powell, Patricia Hruby.  Loving vs. Virginia. Illustrated by Shadra Strickland, Chronicle Books, 2017. 978-1-4521-2590-9. 260 pp. $21.99. Gr. 7 and up.

“Here in Washington my name is Mrs.  Loving. / That is one good thing about Washington, D.C.” (181).  In 1963, at the height of the Civil Rights movement, 24 states had laws making interracial marriage illegal.  In 1958, five years prior, Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who grew up together on Passing Road, Central Point, Caroline County, Virginia, married in Washington D.C.  Upon their return to Caroline County, they were arrested in the middle of the night by the Sheriff.  They were found guilty of miscegenation and sentenced to one year in prison or a suspended sentence for 25 years so long as they left Caroline County and the Commonwealth of Virginia.  They returned to Washington D.C. but did not give up their fight.  For nine years they fought for the freedom to love one another publicly, through marriage, in their home, Caroline County, Virginia.  On June 12, 1967, Richard and Mildred Loving were granted the ability to return home when the United State Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the Lovings.  “Upholding the Virginia laws amounted to ‘legalized prejudice’ and relegated the Negro to second-class citizenship” (232).  The Lovings’ 14th Amendment Right would no longer be denied.  THOUGHTS:  Loving vs. Virginia is one of the most amazing historical fiction/documentary novels/novel-in-verse available for young adults.  It beautifully captures the Lovings’ relationship and the prejudice and discrimination they fought daily while highlighting the love of family and spirit necessary to forge on in a fight that seemed hopeless.  This is a must-have for all high school libraries.

Historical Fiction (Novel-in-Verse/Documentary Novel)     Erin Parkinson, Beaver Area

This is the best historical, documentary novel I’ve read in awhile.  It literally gave me goosebumps as I read about Mildred and Richard Loving, especially when Mildred writes a letter to Attorney General Bobby Kennedy about their situation; all I could think was, “You Rock!”  It’s hard to imagine that interracial marriage was once a felony in almost half of the United States and that the last miscegenation law wasn’t abolished until 2000.  This novel is eye-opening and beautifully written and illustrated.  It shares the story of love overcoming all without being sappy or romantic.  It takes a little known court case that was crucial to Civil Rights and presents it in a very understandable setting: two people just want to be married and live in the home they’ve known all their lives.  The interspersed primary sources are excellent and add just enough for context and connections.  The timeline at the end and the notes add to reader’s understanding.  I read about the film Loving earlier in the year and thought it sounded interesting.  Now, I have to see it.  It’s a shame  the Lovings never lived to see the full impact they made on our society.


Bergstrom, Scott. The Cruelty. Feiwel & Friends, 2017. 978-1-250-10818-0. 384 p. Gr. 9 and up.  

With the roles reversed from the Taken movies, The Cruelty begins by building the backstory of Gwendoyln Bloom’s life with her father before he disappears. Upon her father’s disappearance, though not always believable, Gwendoyln transforms from average high school student to mafia/mob spy infiltrator after her father goes missing. Instead of trusting the authorities, Gwendolyn follows a series of clues left behind by her father. THOUGHTS:  Readers looking for a fast-paced, though not necessarily realistic, action-packed adventure around the world will enjoy The Cruelty. Though the ending is somewhat resolved, it absolutely sets up book two, and readers will anxiously await more of the story.  

Action/Adventure       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District


Blake, Elly. Frostblood. Little, Brown Books, 2017. 978-0-316-27325-1. 376 p. Gr. 9 and up.

With action, adventure, revenge, and a little bit of romance all set in a fantasy world of frost and fire, Frostblood does not disappoint! Readers will devour this book and won’t be able to wait for book 2, Fireblood, release!  The twists and turns of the story are unexpected, and one cannot easily predict how the story will end. There certainly is something for everyone in this genre-blending YA book!

Fantasy       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

YA Realistic Fiction – The Takedown; The Last Thing You Said; Shooter

Wang, Corrie. The Takedown. Freeform, 2017. 978-1-484-75742-0. 384 p. Gr. 9 and up.

Kyla Cheng appears to have everything going for her; she’s the girl you want to be (or maybe the girl you want to hate). Among the top of her small Brooklyn prep school’s social food chain (and top of her class), Kyla has a long way to fall, and boy does she ever. When an explicit video of her and her teacher goes viral, Kyla gains instant, yet unwanted, fame. The catch? Kyla says the video is a fake and wants to know who would do this to her, a high school girl who won’t even date because she’s so focused and driven. The fallout ensues, as Kyla tries to pick up the pieces of her life and figure out whom she can trust, how she can repair her unjustly damaged reputation, and learn how she can recover from this takedown. Being so connected and relying heavily on technology, everyone’s a suspect.  Part cautionary tale, part high school social commentary, Wang delves into a world where technology rules. The pacing and paranoia of this book grabbed my attention and held on right from the start. As Kyla begins to reevaluate choices she’s made, readers will empathize with how challenging teenage social circles can be. THOUGHTS:  Though Kyla’s story is a bit extreme, there is little privacy these days with so much handheld technology. Hopefully teen readers will remember this important lesson as images and videos are rarely truly gone.

When I described the book to my students, they thought it could easily take place today, but the characters seem slightly more connected than today’s teens. Reading The Takedown reminds me of reading Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, only it seems less of a distant future. Like Fahrenheit 451, The Takedown is certainly a possible, scary future. Whatever you’re looking for, this book has it all: mystery, drama, technology, romance, parent/teen relationships, and it packs a satisfying punch!  

Realistic Fiction       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District


Biren, Sarah. The Last Thing You Said. Amulet Books, 2017. 978-1419723049. 320 p. $17.95. Gr. 9-12.

This sweet, poignant tale is the perfect selection for an easy and engaging summer read for teens. Lucy and her family live along the Halcyon Lake in Minnesota, and their lives revolve around the tourist season in the summer. Lucy’s summers are spent working for her mother and exploring with her best friend Trixie and Trixie’s brother, Ben. When Trixie dies tragically, Lucy’s budding relationship with Ben is halted as he struggles with his sister’s death. The story follows the characters in their first summer without Trixie. Ben continues to ignore Lucy, dealing with his anger by drinking often and fighting with his parents. Lucy tries to move on, making friends and going on dates with the boy who moved in next door for the summer. The story moves fairly quickly, and the characters are realistic if a bit mature for their ages (yet, tragedy does bring maturity). Readers will feel as though they are with the characters at the lake, spending their summers figuring out who they want to be in life and how to find and deserve love in the midst of sadness. THOUGHTS: This is an excellent title to recommend to fans of Sarah Dessen, and a great addition to a high school library’s realistic fiction section.

This was a sweet book, if a bit overly dramatic and hard to believe at times. It was a fast read, so teens will devour it quickly and want more immediately. I have a feeling that this author will easily find a place beside Sarah Dessen, Maureen Johnson, and other popular Young Adult romance writers.

Realistic Fiction     Lindsey Myers, Shadyside Academy


Though Trixie’s tragic death occurs well before the book begins, her absence remains an obvious hole in the lives of alternating narrators Lucy and Ben – and of the friends and family that try to help them deal with their grief while also dealing with their own. Readers will be compelled to watch Ben and Lucy as they orbit each other in their small, lakeside town. Though seeing the other brought raw feelings to the surface, Ben and Lucy are inexplicably drawn to each other through their shared loss, former friendship, and hope for the relationship they may have had. THOUGHTS:  This book is not just about grief over losing a person so integral in one’s life. It is about struggling to move on, to remember, and to deal with guilt and everyday reminders of her absence.

Realistic Fiction       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District


Pignat, Caroline. Shooter. Razorbill Canada, 2017. 978-0-143-18757-8. 336 p. Gr. 9 and up.

Multiple narrators tell this story which gives a unique and an added struggle to the situation unfolding at this school, which could be anywhere. Readers will race to uncover the personal struggles of each character as they deal with being locked together in the boys’ bathroom during a school lockdown. As readers get to know the characters, suspicions will rise, wondering if each character could be somehow involved or targeted. THOUGHTS:  Shooter is a fast-paced, raw, emotional novel that packs a punch and makes readers think about what goes one when no one else is looking – really looking – at us. This book is for fans of Jennifer Brown’s Hate List, Shaun David Hutchinson’s Violent Ends, and Marieke Nijkamp’s This is Where it Ends.           

Realistic Fiction       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District


YA Realistic Fiction – Windfall; The Whole Thing Together; Bang

Smith, Jennifer E. Windfall. Delacorte Press, 2017. 978-0-399-55937-2. 414 p. Gr. 9 and up.

Alice, Teddy, and Leo have been together through a lot, and luck did not bring them together. Alice moved across the country at age 9 to live with her cousin Leo and his family after both of her parents died a year apart from each other. Teddy’s dad disappeared after losing his family’s apartment as a result of gambling debts. Nine years later they’re the best of friends, and their luck seems like it’s about to change. The lottery ticket Alice gives Teddy for his 18th birthday is a winner, a $140 million winner to be exact. What Teddy sees as a blessing, Alice sees as a curse; she’s had more than enough change for one lifetime. With delicate ease, Smith demonstrates how fears can hold us back and how difficult change can be. Windfall approaches many topics like loss, grief, gambling, graduating, families, and relationships while asking what would you do if you won the lottery, and would it change you for the better?  

Realistic Fiction       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District


Brashares, Ann. The Whole Thing Together. Delacorte Press, 2017. 978-0-385-73689-3. 304 p. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Though they share a bedroom on opposite weeks at their families’ beach house on Long Island, Ray and Sasha have never met. Family is a complicated term for these two teens who share three older half sisters (Ray with his mom and Sasha with her dad). From mutual childhood toys to books with notes written in the margins, Ray and Sasha’s lives are more intertwined than one would expect, considering they’ve never met. They’re like siblings, and something about sharing a space has become almost intimate. Not everything is sunshine and summery as one may expect of a book set at the beach. The carefully constructed modern day blended family dynamics show just how complex relationships can be. Told through multiple points of view, Brashares’s The Whole Thing Together will charm readers with it’s idealistic setting and family drama.

Realistic Fiction       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District


Lyga, Barry. Bang. Little, Brown Books, 2017. 978-0-316-31550-0. 304 p. Gr. 9 and up.

Sebastian is 14, and 10 years ago he did something so unspeakable, so unthinkable, so unintentional: he shot and killed his infant sister. Though he has no recollection of the tragic moment, Sebastian has lived his life full of guilt. Now he’s ready for some relief. Bang approaches so many “headline” issues – gun violence, broken families, lack of communication, depression, suicide, Islamophobia, and more – with a gentle yet compelling voice. Readers will root for Sebastian to find some peace in life, and he will stay with them long after the last page.  THOUGHTS:  I’m truly at a loss for words after finishing Bang. To put things simply, this book is incredible, and it is a must read!

Realistic Fiction       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

YA Realistic Fiction – Coming Up for Air; Seven Days of You; After the Fall

Kenneally, Miranda. Coming Up for Air. Sourcebooks Fire, 2017. 978-1492630111. 304 pp. $10.00. Gr. 10 and up.

Miranda Kenneally returns to the world of Tennessee’s Hundred Oaks High School with Coming Up for Air, a mature-YA sports romance centered on swimming. Maggie King has never had time for boys; she’s totally focused on securing a spot on a top-tier college team, and maybe even snagging an Olympic trial cut, too. While on a visit to Berkeley, she realizes that heading off to college with a total lack of romantic experience might be a mistake. Who better to teach her the lessons of “hooking up” than her best friend and fellow swimming star, Levi? Unsurprisingly, things get complicated when their electric chemistry threatens both their friendship and their focus on training and competing. Throw in bad-girl Roxy, Maggie’s rival in the pool who suddenly shows an interest in Levi, and sit back to watch the drama unfold on every page. THOUGHTS: This sweet-and-steamy romance is so much fun you will want to join Maggie, Levi, and the gang at Jiffy Burger for fries on Friday just to see what happens next! Another excellent novel that focuses on swimming and romance between friends is Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner.

Realistic Fiction, Sports Romance      Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District


High school senior Maggie is always poolside or working out to do better in the pool, trying to earn an Olympic cut. With three friends who understand the lifestyle of a competitive athlete (one a swimmer, one a gymnast turned cheerleader, and one a baseball player), Friday night dinners at Jiffy Burger have been the glue that holds them together. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with this group?   On her college visit to one of the best swimming schools in the country, Maggie is quickly distracted by swimming rival Roxy and the fact that Maggie hasn’t had time for boys and doesn’t know how to be more than just friends. Upon her return home, Maggie makes a plan and enlists the help of her best friend and swimming male counterpart Levi. Levi is an expert in keeping things casual, and he will show Maggie the ropes. She trusts him, they’ve been best friends since middle school, and they understand each other, so what could go wrong? Neither of them predicted what is in store in this hot and heavy romance.  THOUGHTS: This was my first Kenneally book, but I can see why the high school girls devour them. The friendships and banter between characters are compelling. Plus, readers will want to know what the outcome is. With descriptions of casual sex and drinking, it may be for more mature readers.

Realistic Fiction      Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Vinesse, Cecilia. Seven Days of You. Little, Brown Books, 2017. 978-0-316-39111-5. 336 p. Gr. 10 and up.

Sophia dreads leaving Tokyo, and she has only one week to come to terms with leaving her home –  the only place that’s ever felt like home, her friends, and her school behind. Just when things can’t seem to be any worse for Sophia, Jamie comes back to Tokyo. Having left on bad terms for boarding school in the states years ago, Sophia wants nothing more than to wish Jamie’s return away. The connection she feels immediately, however, is strong. Within the seven days, only a few of them actually involve Jaime, so the title may seem slightly misleading. Really, Sophia’s seven days are about her sadness over leaving Tokyo.  THOUGHTS: Assuming the descriptions are realistic, this book is a whirlwind, one week trip around Tokyo. The teenagers freely come and go, but maybe that is part of the international school lifestyle. Though there is some language, drinking, and non-explicit descriptions of sex, this book will be a hit where first love (with an international flair) is popular. For fans of Stephanie Perkins, Jennifer E. Smith, and many other YA romance writers!

Realistic Fiction      Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District


Hart, Kate. After the Fall. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017. 978-0-374-30269-6. 336 p. $17.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Raychel has a lot going on in her life; she has a promiscuous reputation around school; she and her mom struggle financially, and she is sort of part of her best friend Matt’s family. Unbeknownst to Raychel, though how I’m unsure since it’s obvious to everyone else, Matt is in love with her. The alternating chapters set a nice pace and allow readers to experience the emotions and events from both teen perspectives. The mess of Raychel’s life is built up throughout Part I, however, the backstory is necessary to emphasize the sheer loss experienced during Part II. Readers will appreciate the honest portrayal of small, college town teens and the desire to fit in with friends and family. Feeling left behind with friends off in college, animosity between parent and child, sexual assault, sibling rivalry, poverty, and grief are all topics covered. Ultimately, Raychel learns that secrets don’t help your situation, and facing one’s fears (even if it is a daily struggle) is the way to move forward.

Realistic Fiction     Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District


YA Graphic Novels – Pashmina; Wires & Nerve; Decelerate Blue

Chanani, Nidhi. Pashmina. First Second Books, 2017. 978-1-626720886. 176 pp. $21.99. Gr. 6-9.

When Priyani puts on the pashmina that she finds in a hallway closet, she is transported to India, and author Nidhi Chanani’s black and white artwork is transformed into rich color. Priyani is greeted by new friends Kanta and Mayur (an elephant and a peacock), her tour guides through her mother’s home country. She’s captivated by the sights, sounds, and tastes, but she’s also pursued by a mysterious shadow figure. The pashmina slips off, and Pri is back home again, desperately hoping to talk her mother into letting her travel to India IRL. Her mother relents after receiving a phone call from Pri’s aunt, who is pregnant and seeking family to support her. THOUGHTS: This middle-grade graphic novel charmingly depicts the many ups and downs of a mother-daughter relationship, the pashmina’s true purpose, and the importance of connecting with one’s familial culture. It’s a wonderful choices for readers who find themselves somewhere in between Raina Telgemeier’s and Lucy Knisley’s books.

Graphic Novel     Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District


Meyer, Marissa, and Doug Holgate, illustrator. Wires and Nerve. Feiwel and Friends, 2017. 978-1-250-07826-1. 238 pp. $21.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Return to the world of Marissa Meyer’s much-beloved Lunar Chronicles with Wires & Nerve, a graphic novel told from the point of view of Cinder’s android companion, Iko. The revolution is over and Cinder is queen, but dethroned Queen Levana’s wolf-hybrid soldiers are still terrorizing residents of earth. Iko, the proud owner of a new escort-droid body, has been tracking and apprehending these wolf packs all over the globe and she’s got the battle scars to prove it. Everything comes to a boil with a gala, a huge announcement from Cinder, and a plot against the queen. Wires & Nerve has a rollicking, getting-the-gang-back-together tone that balances the complex back-story and long roster of characters. The fun, slate gray-colored artwork is a good fit with the novel’s futuristic plot. And the cliffhanger ending guarantees a sequel or two! THOUGHTS: Newcomers to Meyer’s stories might find themselves a little lost, but what better excuse could you need to dive into the stellar Lunar Chronicles series?

Graphic Novel, Science Fiction Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District


Rapp, Adam, and Mike Cavallaro, Illustrator. Decelerate Blue. First Second, 2017. 978-1-59643-109-6. 188 pp. $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Lois Lowry’s The Giver meets M.T. Anderson’s Feed in Adam Rapp’s graphic novel Decelerate Blue, a creative exploration of a hyperkinetic future and the resistance movement dedicated to slowing things down. Angela Swiff is uncomfortable with a world that prizes speed, brevity, and constant connectedness. For example, she studies a “clipped and cleaned” version of Romeo and Juliet in Brief Lit. Someone who calls himself “The Silent One” senses her discontent and anonymously delivers her a contraband book entitled Kick the Boot. Meanwhile Angela’s beloved grandfather is scheduled to be moved to a reduction colony, but first he asks her to dig up a shoebox he buried under a tree behind the Megamall. While doing so she is literally pulled into an underground community that rejects New World alertness in favor of Old World mindfulness. New love with a girl named Gladys makes the Underground even more appealing, but joining the resistance has high stakes. Angela is a perfectly teenaged mix of spunk, vulnerability, and passion. Mike Cavallaro’s artwork is wonderfully expressive and well-suited to this cautionary tale of technology gone hyper. THOUGHTS: Grab a cup of Rapid Jo and prepare to fly through this gripping and, yes, fast-paced graphic novel. It’s perfect for fans of Matched by Ally Condie.

Graphic Novel, Science Fiction     Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

YA Mystery – City of Saints & Thieves; Embassy Row Book 3

Anderson, Natalie C. City of Saints & Thieves. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017. 978-0-399-54758-4. 401 pp. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

As a small child, Tina fled Congo with her mother Anju and relocated to Sangui City, Kenya. There Anju found work as a maid at the estate of Mr. Greyhill, a mining executive with questionable business dealings. She was murdered in his home office several years later, and the case was never solved. Now orphaned, Tina has nursed her thirst for revenge for years. She joins a street gang called the Goondas who provide a family of sorts and even a way to bring down Greyhill via a complicated heist. When the break-in is interrupted by Greyhill’s son, Tina’s childhood friend Michael, the two form an unlikely alliance in a quest for the truth about Anju’s murder and Extracta Mining’s role in trading conflict minerals. THOUGHTS: This powerful debut novel has an enticing premise, a richly realized setting, strong characters, and more than one big reveal. It’s got elements of a murder mystery, techno-thriller, and refugee story rolled into one wonderfully complex page-turner!

Realistic Fiction, Thriller, Murder Mystery      Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District


City of Saints & Thieves takes readers on a fast-paced adventure as Tina seeks revenge on the man she has always believed killed her mother. Set in the Congo and Kenya this mystery/adventure will draw readers in as they puzzle the mystery surrounding Tina’s mother’s death and their escape from the Congo years before.

Realistic Fiction       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District


Carter, Ally. Take the Key and Lock Her Up (Embassy Row Book 3). Scholastic Press, 2017. 978-0-545-65495-1. $17.99. 327 pp. Gr. 7 and up.

Grace Blakely is back in book three of Embassy Row.  After learning of her royal lineage, Grace, Alexei, and Jamie are on the run from those who want them dead (and want to arrest Alexei for murder).  When they are found by the prime minister of Adria, Grace realizes that she cannot hide forever and must return to Adria to face her future.  Of course, Grace doesn’t go quietly and first returns, although inadvertently, to the town where they lived when her mother died.  After a visit to her mother’s store, Grace, Jamie, Alexei, and Dominic find a hidden basement that holds the truth (and some secrets) to her mother’s past, death, work, and Grace and Jamie’s future.  With the help of Rosie, Noah, and Megan, Alexei and Grace set out to find the truth behind the society, the work that killed Grace’s mother, and the future of Adria.  THOUGHTS:  Take the Key and Lock Her Up is a great conclusion to another fabulous Ally Carter trilogy.  Although Grace Blakely is one of the most annoying characters in recent years, she is a strong (and annoying) female protagonist, who truly understands the world around her, but still remains (and acts) like a teenager.  Embassy Row is a must-have series for any library serving teens.

Mystery         Erin Parkinson, Beaver Area School District




Picture Books – A Perfect Day; No More Bows

Smith, Lane. A Perfect Day. Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 978-1-62672-536-2. 32pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

It’s a bright summer morning, and the animals are relaxing, enjoying a perfect day in Bert’s backyard. Cat is appreciating the warm sun and the colorful flowers; Dog is relaxing in the pool’s cool water; Chickadee is nibbling seeds from the freshly-filled birdfeeder, and Squirrel is snacking on a corncob. Everyone is having a perfect day….until Bear shows up. He lumbers into the yard snagging frightened Squirrel’s corncob. He also tips over Chickadee’s feeder, dumps Dog’s pool water all over himself, and rolls around in Cat’s flowerbed. Then, Bear, feeling refreshed by the water and having a full belly from the seeds and corn, settles himself into the flowerbed for a nap in the sun, making it a perfect day for Bear. Smith’s oversized textured-surface paintings perfectly complement the story’s brief text and capture each animal’s surprise at being interrupted by Bear. Young readers will laugh at how quickly the mood shifts and will enjoy seeing Bert, Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel all warily giving Bear plenty of space on the book’s final page.  THOUGHTS: This book is perfect for teaching point-of-view since each animal’s idea about how the day is going shifts so dramatically as the story progresses. Smith’s use of repetition also ensures even the youngest readers will be able to fully appreciate how Bear’s arrival affects everyone.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Southern York County


Cotterill, Samantha. No More Bows. Harper, 2017. 978-0-06-240870-9. 32pp. 17.99. Gr K-2.

Hugo is a large yellow dog who patiently endures playing house, tea party, and dress-up with Milly all morning, knowing that his favorite part of the day, going for a walk, is coming soon. He fetches his leash and races to the door but stops short when Milly presents him with a large, red bow to wear during their outing. Hugo isn’t amused and wrestles the bow off as soon as he can. The next day, Milly has an even bigger, frillier bow for him. Hugo manages to bury this one in the dirt, but it’s the same thing every day; the bows get more sparkly, and Hugo gets more upset until he resolves that there will be no more bows! Hugo runs away to the city but misses Milly almost immediately. After noticing a happy girl and a happy bowtie-wearing dog, Hugo races home to Milly, then drags her to the pet store to show her the kind of bow he really wants. The next day, Hugo proudly debuts his new bow (and his new smile) on their walk together. Young readers will pore over this book’s vibrant digital illustrations, savoring details such as Hugo’s painted red toenails and his expressive face. THOUGHTS: This book is a perfect addition to a dog-themed storytime, and it also lends itself to discussions about the compromises friends must sometimes make. Additionally, it could be used to teach point of view since Milly and Hugo each have very different opinions about wearing bows.

Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Southern York County

Graphic Novels for Elementary – Super Narwhal & Jelly Jolt; Cici #3

Clanton, Ben. Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt. Tundra Books, 2017. 978-1-101-91829-6. 64 p. $12.99. Gr. K-3.

Narwhal and Jelly return for more undersea fun, this time as superheroes! Super Narwhal and his trusty sidekick Jelly Jolt have super outfits, super names, super secret identities, and superpowers…well, Jelly Jolt has a superpower (that nasty jolt felt by beachgoers everywhere), but Super Narwhal isn’t quite sure about his super ability. In true Narwhal style, his optimistic attitude wins the day. It turns out that his superpower is the power to “bring out the super in others!” Ben Clanton’s new easy graphic novel series is packed with humor, fun characters, and waffles (Narwhal and Jelly’s favorite food, of course).  His style is great for beginning graphic novel readers–a lot of the story is told in full-page panels rather than many panels on one page, making it an easy read. THOUGHTS: Funny and likeable, Narwhal and Jelly are new super stars in the graphic novel world. A great choice for most kids.

Graphic Novel       Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin School District


Doerrfield, Cori. Cici #3, A Fairy’s Tale: A Perfect View. Graphic Universe, 2017. 978-1-4677-6154-3. 47 p. $20.00. Gr. K-3.

Cici learned on her 10th birthday that she is a fairy, and now her world’s turned upside down! Her abuela, also a fairy, is helping Cici learn how to navigate the world now that her “sight” is a bit different. For example, she now sees her mom as an octopus with many tentacles! Cici is planning her annual camping trip with her dad and younger sister; she’s excited to swim in the lake, hike in the woods, roast marshmallows, and share the fun with her friend Kendra. Abuela warns Cici that nature has powerful magic and that she needs to be prepared, but Cici is armed with bug spray and a sleeping bag, which she thinks is all the preparation she needs. When they arrive at the campsite, one thing after another goes wrong for Cici. Kendra and Cici’s family enjoy every minute of the trip, but Cici has a hard time coping with all the changes, including the addition of a mysterious creature who keeps popping up in the woods asking to be her friend. In the end, with the help of the mysterious forest sprites, Cici realizes that she can still enjoy the magic of nature and the trip, even if it’s different than she planned.  THOUGHTS: With bright illustrations and a likeable main character, this story will be popular with existing fans of the series and new readers alike.

Graphic Novel          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin School District

YA Realistic Fiction – By Your Side; You I’ve Never Known; Hello Sunshine; Words in Deep Blue

West, Kasie. By Your Side. Harper Teen, 2017. 978-0-06245-586-4. 352p. $9.99. Gr. 6-12.
When Autumn finds herself accidentally locked in the library for the weekend (she’s in the restroom when the library closes, and she doesn’t have her phone with her), she’s pretty upset. And then, she realizes she’s not the only person locked in the library. Dax Miller is also there. She doesn’t know much about Dax, except that he’s a loner and rumor has it he spent some time in juvie. Forced to spend hours with each other, the two begin to open up – Dax about his life in foster care and Autumn about her secret struggle with anxiety disorder. When the two get out of the library, Autumn is shocked to find out that her family and friends thought she was in a car accident involving one of her friends. Feeling stressed, Autumn leans on Dax for support. But can their tenuous friendship survive outside the after hours world of the library? THOUGHTS: While By Your Side is predictable is some aspects, West’s characterizations of Autumn and Dax elevate the novel above traditional romantic fare. Autumn’s struggles with stress and her anxiety disorder are deftly handled and not glossed over. Likewise, Dax’s fear of commitment and forming connections are realistically integrated within the overall plot. Recommended for middle school and high school readers.

Realistic Fiction      Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg School District


Hopkins, Ellen. The You I’ve Never Known. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2017. 978-1-4814-4290-9. 590 pp. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Ariel Pearson and her father have always moved around a lot. Ever since her mother abandoned them, it’s just been Ariel and her dad against the world. But after a few months in Sonora, California, Ariel wants to stay. She’s a member of the basketball team; she likes her dad’s new girlfriend Zelda, and she has some new friends. Ariel has romantic feelings for one of these friends, Monica, who reciprocates her feelings but doesn’t pressure her. Things get complicated when Zelda’s dreamy nephew, Gabe, arrives in town and shows a keen attraction to Ariel, an attraction she also feels. Things come to a boil as Ariel’s father becomes more volatile, possessive, and even abusive toward her. Ellen Hopkins’ signature chapters-in-verse alternate with prose chapters from the point of view of a young woman in Texas named Maya, who gets pregnant and drops out of high school to marry an older career soldier. Readers may intuit Maya’s relationship to Ariel before the reveal, but this emotionally resonant narrative will hold their interest throughout. Ariel’s exploration of her bisexuality is skillfully portrayed and a needed addition to the coming-of-age experience in YA fiction. THOUGHTS: It’s not quite Crank, but it’s well worth reading and sharing with teens.

Realistic Fiction (Novel-in-Verse)     Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District


Howland, Leila. Hello, Sunshine. Hyperion, 2017. 978-1-4847-2545-0. 368 pp. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Leila Howland charms with this depiction of one aspiring actress’s quest to realize her dreams! Boston girl Becca Harrington is crushed when she’s not accepted at even one of the eleven colleges where she applied. Since her boyfriend is off to Stanford, she decides to road trip cross-country with him to Los Angeles, giving herself one year to become a working actress. Unfortunately, Alex breaks up with her just as they pull up to their destination. Heartbroken but resilient, Becca makes a list of her goals and sets out to achieve them one by one. Get curtains and a kitchen table? Done. Get a part-time job and make a friend? Done, thanks to sweetly supportive neighbors Raj and Marisol. Getting an agent might take a little longer, and getting Alex back might be trickier still. After all, odds for success are long even for a fresh-faced ingenue! Becca’s adventures and missteps will delight readers, and her independence is really inspiring. THOUGHTS: This fun, breezy read perfectly fills the void between high school and college, in the tradition of Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr.

Realistic Fiction    Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District


Crowley, Cath. Words in Deep Blue. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-1-101-93764-8. 288 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.  

Rachel and Henry were the best of friends until three years ago. On the eve of her move to the Australian coast, Rachel left Henry a letter that declared her love for him and told him to call, no matter what time. Henry never called. Instead, he fell in love with Amy.

Fast-forward three years. Heartbroken in their own ways, Rachel and Henry meet back up when Rachel returns to the city for a distraction from her grief over her brother’s death. They reconnect in Henry’s family’s adorable secondhand bookshop, Howling Books. While Rachel catalogs the Letter Library, a room in the bookshop where visitors may leave markings, notes, or letters within the pages of a book, Henry tries to help her heal by writing letters to her.

Narrated by Rachel and Henry and interspersed with letters and notes from the Letter Library, Crowley expertly writes about grief and missed opportunities. THOUGHTS: At its heart, Words in Deep Blue is about second chances – in life, friendship, and love – and learning how to move forward when living seems impossible.

Realistic Fiction    Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

Middles School – EOD Soldiers; Victoria Torres

Manning, Matthew K. Art by Carlos Furuzana and Dijo Lima. EOD Soldiers. Capstone, 2017. 978-1-4965-3415-6. 40pp. $19.49 ea. Gr. 4-8.

Enter with the U.S. Army’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal in Afghanistan in this new graphic novel series. In Go Slow, Specialist Rose Campbell is reminded by her protective father to take everything in while being careful throughout the dangers of Afghanistan. In The List, Private Matty Giaconne makes note of experiences in Afghanistan to have answers prepared when he returns and others ask about his service there. He also worries about the disagreements he has had with his wife. Both books show the danger faced and the bravery displayed by those in the EOD. Full color artwork clearly captures the emotion and danger facing our EOD soldiers.  Back matter includes more information about EOD such as schooling or badges, visual questions, and a glossary. THOUGHTS:  This series is excellent for students that love to learn more about the military and those who gravitate towards graphic novels and artwork. The stories will leave an impact on the reader. The books could be included in a lesson as they are not too long, but leave room for discussion and research.

Graphic Novel; War      Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District


Bowe, Julie. Victoria Torres Unfortunately Average. Stone Arch, 2017. 978-1-4965-3800-0. 148p. $19.49 ea. Gr. 4-8.

In Vicka For President!, 6th grade Victoria is inspired to run for class president by her parents, siblings, and closest friends.  At her school, the President is the student receiving the most votes and the person with the second most votes becomes Vice President. Her classmate Annelise is very popular and also is able to spend her parents wealth on tokens and stickers. Henry will also run for president as challenge with a campaign around mud.  Victoria determines her slogan, stump speech, and ways to improve the school with a compost and garden. Will that be enough with all of Annelise’s trinkets and the boys all clamouring for humourous Henry and his campaign of mud?

In So Much Drama, it is time for the big 6th grade Shakespeare play. This year will be Romeo and Juliet. Vicka’s best friend is the director, and Vicka is upset to be cast as Friar Lawrence. Will everything work out in the end?

THOUGHTS: In 2016, the first four books in the series were published. The realistic fiction hooks upper elementary and middle school readers.

Realistic Fiction      Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District