Graphic History – Alexander Hamilton

Hennessey, Jonathan, and Justin Greenwood, Ill. Alexander Hamilton: The Graphic History of an American Founding Father. Ten Speed Press, 2017. 978-0-399-58000-0. 169 pp. $19.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Alexander Hamilton: founding father, familiar face on the $10 bill, subject of a musical you might have heard of, and now the star of his own graphic history! The biography opens with Hamilton’s childhood in the West Indies, where he grew up the “bastard brat of a Scotch pedlar.” Essentially orphaned, Hamilton departed for America after St. Croix’s prominent citizens raised money to fund his education. He went on to serve alongside George Washington in the Revolutionary War before becoming the first Secretary of the Treasury (and full-time thorn in the side of Thomas Jefferson). He also repeatedly crossed paths with rival Aaron Burr, who challenged his rival to the duel that ended Hamilton’s life. Alexander Hamilton casts a wide historical net, covering plenty of background information on the Revolutionary War, the creation of the Constitution, and more. Jonathan Hennessey’s exposition-heavy style of narration may deter readers hoping for a Hamilton highlight reel. This is, instead, a rigorously-researched factual biography, and the text’s challenges occasionally outweigh its rewards. On the other hand, Justin Greenwood’s vibrant, energetic artwork will hold the reader’s interest on every page.  THOUGHTS: Alexander Hamilton is an engaging tour through the life and times of one of the Revolutionary Era’s most well-known but somehow unknowable figures, a man who “straddles history and myth.”

92 (Biography, Graphic Nonfiction)      Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

YA Realistic FIC – In Some Other Life; Upside of Unrequited; The Names They Gave Us

Brody, Jessica. In Some Other Life. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017. 978-0-374-38076-2. 464 p. $17.99. Gr. 10 and up.

It’s hard not to go through life – at least parts of it – without wondering “what if?” Kennedy has gone through high school and achieved great things for herself. She’s editor of her award winning high school newspaper and has big plans for college and her future career. But she always has the nagging “what if?” in the back of her mind. What if she hadn’t chosen public school over the elite private school she wanted to attend?  After witnessing her boyfriend and bestfriend kissing, Kennedy has a bit of a meltdown and eventually rushes to the campus she could have attended. What if she had chosen differently and skipped the possibility of a relationship? While getting a glimpse into what could have been, Kennedy is knocked over and bumps her head. When she wakes up her world flips upside down, and the choice she wishes she had made years ago is suddenly a reality. Kennedy has to realize that things aren’t always what they seem, and the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.  THOUGHTS: I loved this sweet “what if?” story. It goes a long way in showing readers that things aren’t always what they seem – in life and in the happy, smiling posts they see on social media. Life isn’t always sunshine and happiness. For all the readers who have ever wondered what if I made a different choice, this is a great read!

Realistic Fiction      Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Albertalli, Becky.  The Upside of Unrequited.  Balzer + Bray, 2017.  978-0-06-234870-8. 340 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

Although Molly Peskin-Suso has had many crushes, she has never had a boyfriend. In fact, she has never even kissed a boy. When her twin sister Cassie starts dating a girl named Mina, the two are determined to set Molly up with Mina’s cute hipster friend, Will. Molly, however, finds herself intrigued by her geeky coworker, Reid. Will one of these boys, Will or Reid, become Molly’s long-awaited first boyfriend and first kiss? Readers will sympathize with Molly as she struggles to sort out her thoughts and feelings about love, dating, and relationships. THOUGHTS: One of the most notable features of this book is the amount of diversity in its cast. There are characters of various races, body sizes, religions and sexual orientations. Molly, the main protagonist, suffers from anxiety. This diverse cast, along with the book’s familiar themes of dating, love, body image, family, and friendship, make it an easy title to relate to. The humor and honesty with which it is written will keep readers coming back for more. Give this to fans of Jenny Han or Sarah Dessen. Beware, however, that the book contains a great deal of swearing and talk about sex, making it more appropriate for high school readers.

Realistic Fiction      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD


Albertalli, Becky. The Upside of Unrequited. Balzer & Bray, 2017. 978-0-06-234870-8. 352 p. $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Becky Albertalli’s sophomore effort, The Upside of Unrequited, is just as delightful, irreverent, and charming as her first novel, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Molly believes she’s just an average girl, especially when she compares herself to her beautiful, shining star of a twin sister, Cassie. Despite Cassie’s insistence that anybody would be lucky to have her, Molly staunchly refuses to put herself out there, despite her 26 crushes over the years; the idea of rejection is just too unpalatable, and since she’s a self-described “fat girl”, way too likely.  This book has a lot going on – twin dynamics, sibling dynamics (they have a baby brother), wedding drama (Cassie and Molly’s moms are engaged), romantic entanglements, uncool footwear, pansexuality – but Albertalli juggles it all with grace, humor, and empathy.  Readers will cheer Molly on as she finds her courage, and figures out what she’s really looking for. An absolute joy of a read. Thoughts: Albertalli has a gift for writing infinitely relatable, likable characters; Molly is the perfect blend of teenage cynicism, angst, self-doubt, and naivety, and she will resonate with anyone who has ever had a crush or felt the crushing weight of rejection.

Realistic Fiction       Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School


Lord, Emery. The Names They Gave Us. New York: Bloomsbury, 2017. 978-1-61963-958-4. 388 p. Gr. 7 and up.

This is a book about the power to shift your perceptions, and the lasting impact it can have on your life.  Lucy is secure in her faith; her father is a pastor, and Lucy genuinely enjoys going to church each week, and she especially looks forward to being a counselor at Bible camp each summer.  However, after learning that her mother’s cancer has returned, Lucy’s faith is completely shaken.  Her parents convince her to try a new camp this summer, Daybreak, a camp for “troubled” kids, where her mom believes she’ll find solace and kinship. Lucy is skeptical, and after her rocky start, she’s sure she’ll never fit in, or be any help to anybody. Thankfully for Lucy, her fellow counselors are welcoming and forgiving; Lucy finds that the more open she is with them, the more open they are with her. These diverse teens challenge everything she thought she knew and believed; it’s a pleasure to watch Lucy’s transformation as she explores what it means to be a true friend. When Lucy discovers something shocking about her mom’s past, connected to Daybreak, it will test her literal new found faith, and her new relationships. Thoughts: Every teenager should read this book to learn about what compassion looks like, and what allyship looks like, as Lucy expresses and embodies both.

Realistic Fiction    Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

YA Realistic FIC – When I Am Through with You; Thing with Feathers; St. Death; Sunshine is Forever

Kuehn, Stephanie. When I Am Through with You. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-1-101-99473-3. 304 p. $17.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Unreliable from the start, Ben tells the story of what happened on the mountain in his own way, on his own terms, and apparently from his prison cell. So begins Ben’s story and how he got to be on the mountain to begin with.  Suffering from migraines and depression and being the only caregiver for his unwell mother, Ben feels trapped by his life in Teyber. He reconnects with former teacher Mr. Howe to help with the school’s orienteering (exploring) club.  Rose, Tomas, Avery, Duncan, Clay, and Archie join Ben on the first hike into the wilderness. Tense from the start, this group seems to be on a doomed trip. It’s not until the end that readers see just how doomed these adventure seekers are. THOUGHTS: Drinking, drug use, descriptions of casual sex, and violence make this a book for more mature teens.

Realistic Fiction, Adventure       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Hoyle, McCall. The Thing with Feathers. Blink, 2017. 978-0-310-75851-8. 304 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Emilie is perfectly fine staying in the safety of her home with her mom and best friend (her seizure dog). She disagrees with her mom and her therapist: attending public school is not a good idea. She doesn’t want to be known as “that girl that has seizures.” When Emilie starts school, she makes a decision not to tell anyone about her epilepsy. As she gets closer to her friends and a boy she’s paired with her decision not to reveal her medical condition becomes more and more critical. But it’s been months since Emilie seized, so she’ll be okay, right?  THOUGHTS: Readers will fly through this light-hearted and realistic sweet novel about what it means to be different and what lengths we will go to hide our differences. With a compelling storyline – Will she or won’t she tell? Will she or won’t she seize? – readers will fall in love with Emilie as she experiences public school, friendship, and first love.

Realistic Fiction     Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District


Sedgwick, Marcus.  Saint Death.  Roaring Brook Press, 2017 (1st American ed.).  978-1-62672-549-2. 227 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9-12.

Arturo lives in a shack on the outskirts of Juarez, a Mexican city that butts up against the American border. One day, his childhood friend, Faustino, shows up begging for Arturo’s help. It seems that Faustino has joined a gang and has stolen $1,000 from his boss to send his girlfriend and her baby to America. He must replace this money by the next day or he will be killed. Arturo, a skillful card player, agrees to try to win the money back, but soon finds himself in even more debt. Now, Arturo’s life is also on the line. He scrambles to replace the money both he and Faustino owe before they are both killed by gangsters. Fast-paced and devastatingly honest, this title by Printz award winner Sedgwick is an excellent addition to high school libraries. THOUGHTS: Focusing on taboo topics like religion, illegal immigration, human and drug trafficking, and the exploitation of foreign workers by large corporations, this title is sure to spark a great deal of discussion and debate. Because violence is addressed in such an uncomfortable and unflinching manner, this title might be better suited for older, more mature readers. Pair this title with Linda Barrett Osborne’s This Land is Our Land for a unit on immigration or with Patricia McCormick’s Sold for a unit on human trafficking.

Realistic Fiction      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD



Cowan, Kyle T.  Sunshine is Forever. Inkshares, 2017. 978-1-942645-62-7. $11.99. 282 p. Gr. 9 and up.

Hunter S. Thompson spends his days smoking pot with his only friend until a tragic “incident” changes everything. Desperate for acceptance and connection and wracked with guilt, he blames anyone else for the events in his past.  When he makes a couple of suicide attempts, he is sent to Camp Sunshine for depressed teens.  After being in therapy for months and on several medications, Hunter is not optimistic about the Camp Sunshine Program.  A few of the counselors and guards on staff are cruel and clueless,  though one or two seem genuinely interested and concerned for the kids.  But Hunter finds a real friend in his bunkmate Quint and a potential girlfriend in the charismatic but manipulative Corin. These connections and the questions of his therapist are helping Hunter make progress with his mental state, but when Corin convinces Hunter and a few others to join her in an escape plan, all of their chances for recovery are threatened.  THOUGHTS:  Sunshine is Forever is a raw and darkly humorous tale that tackles adolescent depression, suicide and mental health treatment in a believable way. A fast-paced read – a good choice for reluctant readers and for those who appreciate darker realistic fiction titles.   The mature themes and make it more appropriate for older teens.
Realistic Fiction            Nancy Summers, Abington School District

YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy – Meant to Be; Girls Made of Snow & Glass; Jane Unlimited

Halpern, Julie. Meant to Be. Feiwel & Friends, 2017. 978-1-250-09498-8. 320 p. $17.99. Gr. 10 and up.

When it comes to love, Agatha Abrams is disenchanted. Her parents’ relationship didn’t survive the MTBs (meant to be), and she firmly believes in free will and choices. Instead of jumping for joy and spending a lot of money to locate her meant to be (or even conducting an online search for him), Aggy rebels against the system. She is determined to fall in love on her own terms – when, where, and with whom she wants. Who more appropriate than Luke, they boy she’s been crushing on for the past few years at her summer amusement park job.  Meanwhile, Aggy’s best friend Lish has found her meant to be and fallen head over heels in love, and she’s moving way too fast for Aggy! Aggy is begins to question the future she planned and wonders if anyone else feels the way she does.  THOUGHTS: Aggy isn’t sure college is for her, and she fights against the norms of society, much like teenagers often do. I really wanted to like this book. I loved the idea of MTBs and a teen girl rebelling against society’s new norm of finding one’s soul mate; however, I wanted more. How could the “meant to be” phenomenon exist for years without more of an uprising? Many pre-existing relationships in the society crumble…did no one fight for the love they had? I wanted more answers. That said, I sometimes loved Aggie and her best friend complemented each other. Without giving too much away, I could have read a whole novel that started with the last few weeks in the book and skipped the whole summer fling. This book is definitely for a more mature audience, as the summer fling had casual, unsatisfying sex, fairly graphically described.

Romance/Science Fiction       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Bashardoust. Melissa. Girls Made of Snow and Glass. Flatiron Books, 2017.  978-1-250-07773-8. 375p. $18.99.  Gr. 7 and up.

Linet and Mina are both unusual girls who grew up without their biological mothers.  Their lives are intertwined in what could be a fight for a kingdom.  Told in alternating perspectives between Mina and Linet, the chapters are not chronological at first.  It took me some time to affirm my suspicion that this is a retold fairytale. Full of intrigue, secrets, lies, and magic, this story will keep the reader’s interest.  It also explores the larger issues of family and the ability to love.  THOUGHTS:  This is Bashardoust’s first novel.  I look forward to reading more of her work.  There is a same-sex romance where the only concern is that the love interest is a commoner.  For my liberal school, this is a great step forward.  

Fantasy (Fractured Fairytale)     Toni Vahlsing, Abington Friends School


Cashore, Kristin. Jane Unlimited. Kathy Dawson Books, 2017. 978-0803741492. 464 p.  Grades 9 and up.

Devoted fans of Cashore’s Graceling trilogy have eagerly awaited this new book.  Jane Unlimited is a marked departure from Cashore’s successful series and is an ambitious and bizarre tale that presents the possibility of multi-verses and alternate realities.  Jane is a quiet, orphaned girl who recently lost her beloved Aunt Magnolia and is overcome with grief and indecision. When her former tutor, Kiran, invites Jane to travel with her to her family’s fabulous island estate, Jane follows her aunt’s advice: visit the Thrash estate, Tu Reviens, if she is ever given the chance. So off Jane goes, and there she meets a quirky cast of characters, among them Kiran’s art collecting twin brother Ravi, family servants Patrick and Ivy, Lucy, the art theft investigator, a bloodhound named Jasper and several others. The story is retold in six possible realities which are presented in separate long chapters which begin as Jane makes a simple decision to follow one or another of the other people at the estate. Jane confronts alternate versions of the intrigues on the island which include art thievery, kidnapping, international espionage, and romance. Each chapter has a distinct style that ranges from mystery to thriller to sci-fi to fantasy and each chapter is more bizarre than the last.  THOUGHTS:  Jane, Unlimited is a challenging read with a creative and promising premise.  A few of the chapters are wonderfully realized, but some fall short with confusing details that make it difficult to suspend disbelief.  Recommended for more dedicated and intrepid readers, but it could be too confusing and circular for many students.

Fantasy       Nancy Summers, Abington School District

Elementary NF – Money Math; Project Passion; Dropping In On; Abandoned Places; Dragonflies

Adler, David A. and Edward Miller, Ill. Money Math: Addition and Subtraction. Holiday House, 2017. 978-0-8234-2698-9. 32 p. $17.95. Gr. 1-3

A great book to fill in that 513 Dewey section in your library that might be languishing. Cartoon kids want to buy things but need to understand how money works first. In jump the Presidents who are on the different coins and bills and talk about how to add, then subtract money. Decimal points and coins are discussed, and the math in the book gets progressively harder the further you go.  THOUGHTS: I thought it was interested that they had half dollar coins in the book, but they didn’t discuss the $1 Sacagawea coin.  Overall it’s a good addition (pun intended) to the library, but not a must read.

Math; Money       Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


Bolte, Mari. Project Passion (series). Capstone, 2018. 32 p. $20.99 ea. Gr. 4-6.

Bit by Bit:  Projects for Your Odds and Ends.  978-1-5157-7375-7.

Bought in Bulk:  Projects for Surplus Supplies.  978-1-5157-7376-4.

Create and Keep:  Projects to Hang On To.  978-1-5157-7373-3.

Share the Love:  Projects You’ll Love to Give.  978-1-5157-7374-0.  

Bit by Bit:  Projects for Your Odds and Ends and Bought in Bulk: Projects for Surplus Supplies are similar titles that include simple craft projects that can be made using common household objects and leftover craft supplies.  The books include photographic illustrations for nearly every project, including variations on each project, and clear, easy-to-follow directions.  Most of the projects can be completed entirely by children, although a few do require adult supervision or assistance.  THOUGHTS:  These books are useful additions to a makerspace which often include many of the supplies needed. Recommended for upper elementary and middle schools needing to update their craft book collections.

Handicraft 745.5                Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD


Dropping In On… Rourke Educational Media, 2017. 32 p. $23.00 each, $268.00 for set of 12. Gr. 3-6.

Barger, Jeff. Dropping In On…Atlanta. 978-1-68191-404-6.

Canasi, Brittany. Dropping In On…Boston. 978-1-68191-408-4.

Staton, Hilarie. Dropping In On…Chicago. 978-1-68191-406-0.

Greenspan, Judy. Dropping In On…Dallas. 978-1-68191-407-7.

Staton, Hilarie. Dropping In On…Denver. 978-1-68342-173-3.

Canasi, Brittany. Dropping In On…New Orleans. 978-1-68342-174-0.

Staton, Hilarie. Dropping In On…New York City. 978-1-68191-403-9.

Waxler, Melanie. Dropping In On…Orlando. 978-1-68191-402-2.

Nelson, Deb Tuttle. Dropping In On…Philadelphia. 78-1-68191-409-1.

Canasi, Brittany. Dropping In On…San Francisco. 978-1-68342-172-6.

Greenspan, Judy. Dropping In On…St. Louis. 978-1-68342-175-7.

Barger, Jeff. Dropping In On…Washington D.C. 978-1-68191-405-3.

Calling all travelers! The Dropping In On… series is ready to prepare students for their next big family vacation or city trip. Each title provides a basic historical overview of the title city, including facts on how that city was developed or discovered and information about major historical events impacting the city. For example, Dropping In On…St. Louis reviews the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark’s explorations, while Dropping In On…New Orleans details New Orleans history both before and after the Civil War and the changes in laws and life felt by African Americans like schoolgirl Ruby Bridges. Series titles also focus on each city’s landscape, parks, monuments, major sports teams, cultural history and attractions, and spots that every tourist must visit. Each book is packed full of beautifully colored photographs, often displayed in overlapping style like a traveler’s scrapbook of photographs. Illustrated children hop into some photographs to point out interesting tidbits, similar to tour guides. Each book features a table of contents, city facts section, glossary, index, and before and after reading activities for educators. THOUGHTS: Not an essential purchase but an interesting, fact-filled introduction to several major US cities.

900s     Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Abandoned Places (series). Bellwether Media, 2018. $19.95 ea. Set of 6 $119.70.  24p. Gr. 2 – 5.

Leaf, Christina. Machu Picchu: The Lost Civilization. 9781626176966.

Owings, Lisa. Craco: The Medieval Ghost Town. 9781626176959.

Owings, Lisa. Battleship Island: The Deserted Island. 9781626176935.

Owings, Lisa. Pripyat: The Chernobyl Ghost Town. 9781626176973.

Schuetz, Kari. Bodie: The Gold-Mining Ghost Town. 9781626176942.

Schuetz, Kari. Roanoke: The Lost Colony. 9781626176980.

This informative series checks all the boxes of a good non-fiction book: Table of Contents, Glossary, To Learn More, and Index. Some of the best features in this series are the maps showing where the site is located, and the timelines that are in each book. The full-color modern pictures with interspersed historical ones provide a good viewpoint for young learners. THOUGHTS: The reinforced library binding makes this series worth its cost. I liked all the features, and it’s a series that won’t be quickly outdated, so will have a long shelf life.

Nonfiction; Historical Places       Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


Perish, Patrick. Dragonflies. Bellwether Media, 2018. 9781626176621. $19.50. 24 p. Gr. K-3.

In this attractive early reader, Perish presents basic information about the dragonfly. Despite its length, the book is set up like a traditional nonfiction book with a table of contents, pictorial glossary, index, and bibliography.  The author gives the insect’s physical description, habitat, diet and life cycle in a succinct manner, as is typical of books in the Blastoff Readers series.  The stunning photographs complement the text and the reader sees full-page images of the insect on each two-page spread. One can see why this particular series is called Insects Up Close after examining the pictures, like the one which shows the size of the dragonfly’s eyes.  There are also some inset images, which are used to further explain such terms like nymph and molting.  Other interesting photographs include a dragonfly swimming underwater and one eating a mosquito.  Children will enjoy poring over the photos. This series includes a web resource called Factsurfer.  Readers are told to enter the term into the search box and get a list of websites.  One link from the San Diego Zoo did not have the referenced article and one site contained ads.  There are other books in the “Insects Up Close” series, which follow the same format.  Also examined were Cicadas, Grasshoppers, and Ladybugs.  THOUGHTS: This series is a great addition to any library collection serving children, despite the problem with the web resources. These texts would be useful in science units on insects and children will enjoy reading them for personal interest.  They are a good choice for emerging readers.

595.7  Science; Bugs            Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD

Elementary Early Chpt. Books – Dyamonde Daniel; Noodleheads See the Future

Grimes, Nikki. Dyamonde Daniel (series). Puffin, 2017. $5.14 ea. (paperback). Gr. 1 – 3.

Almost Zero (Book 3). 978-0-425-28855-9.

Rich (Book 2). 978-0-425-28854-2.

Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel (Book 1). Puffin, 2010. 978-0-14-241555-9. $5.14 (paperback)

Halfway to Perfect (Book 4). G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012. 978-0-399-25178-8. $9.49 (hardcover)

Dyamonde Daniel is a spunky, outgoing girl whose classmates go through a variety of difficulties. The topics that are brought feel genuine (being new in school, someone who lives in a homeless shelter, a classmate who loses everything in a house fire) to the story and are great discussion topics with students.  THOUGHTS:  Books 2 and 3 in this series are re-releases in paperback in 2017. Although not brand new to the publishing world, I still highly recommend these books. Finding early chapter books with such important topics and racially diverse characters are difficult. This series is a great addition to any library, no matter the publication date.

Easy Chapter Book, Realistic Fiction        Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


Arnold, Tedd et al. Noodleheads See the Future.  Holiday House, 2017. Unpaged. 9780823436736.  $15.95. Gr. 1-4.

Tedd Arnold has teamed up with Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss to create what seems to be a silly early chapter book about noodles. Quickly one realizes that there is more here than first meets the eye.  In a series of three short chapters, the reader learns about the antics of the hapless Noodlehead brothers, who take what is said to them literally, which leads to some humorous situations.  Mac and Mac also have problems with logical thinking. In one incident, they are sawing off a branch that they are sitting on.  They are amazed that their friend Meatball can “predict the future” when he tells them they are going to fall on their bottoms, which of course does happen.  In the back matter, the authors explain that their stories are based on the traditional “tales of fools,” also known as noodle tales.  They discuss which folktales or motifs were the inspiration for the stories in this book. Arnold uses a graphic novel approach and his illustrations are over the top funny.  It is amazing how Arnold can make the faces of the noodle characters so expressive.  Children will laugh out loud at this pair and will eagerly await the next book. Thoughts:  This book would serve well in folktale units and is a good example of the noodlehead motif with a modern touch.  Children will enjoy reading this one on their own as well.

Early Chapter Book; Folktales      Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD


MS – Posted; Witness Protection; Shadow of the Sun

Anderson, John David. Posted. Harper Collins, 2017. 9780062338204. $16.99. 384p. Gr. 5-8.

Branton Middle School bans cellphones after a student gets caught posting during class about a teacher. The students have a difficult time being without their phones for the length of a school day, but a class assignment with Post-it notes is the catalyst for the students to start communicating via the small, sticky squares. Because the Post-it notes still allow for anonymity, some students begin to use them as a substitute for online bullying. The book deals primarily with Eric and his small group of friends, and the new girl, Rose. Rose is a large girl that adopts Eric’s lunch table and friend group much to their dismay. Due to her size and her recent addition to the school, she becomes a target for some of the worst Post-it Note bullying. Fortunately, Rose is also a confident young woman and she encourages a positive change in the school.  THOUGHTS: I loved this book. It was fun and had a good, but non-preachy message – that words hurt. More importantly, it was a book that I have no qualms book talking to my 7th and 8th graders. It was realistic without the need for additional mature content.

Realistic Fiction    Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Burt, Jake. Greetings From Witness Protection. Feiwel & Friends.  2017. 978-1250107114. 368 p. Gr. 5-8.

Nicki , a thirteen-year- old girl in foster care, has a troubled past and an unfortunate case of kleptomania that has derailed several of her previous placements. She is back in the group home and desperate for a permanent home when she is unexpectedly selected to be part of a new placement in the witness protection program.  She must step into the role of the daughter in a family in hiding from the mob.  Nikki’s new mom is a member of a notorious New York crime family and has recently turned state’s evidence against her brothers and many others in the family.  She, her husband and son are now under protection, and Nicki joins the family to change the family profile  so that they may better escape detection. With her street smarts, quick wits and charming personality, Nikki hopes to keep her family safe and find a place for herself in her new  home. Filled with heart, humor, some typical girl drama at school, some sibling rivalry at home and an element of danger, it is an enjoyable and fast-paced read. Thoughts: With its strong and smart main character, Greetings is a great choice for middle grade readers. The frequent literary references will appeal to avid readers and the page turning plot will appeal to both reluctant readers and fans of adventure tales.  

Realistic Fiction             Nancy Summers, Abington School District


O’Brien, Anne Sibley. In The Shadow of the Sun. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2017. 978-0-545-90574-9  338 p. $17.99  Gr. 5-8.

Mia’s father, a white humanitarian aid worker, has chosen to take Mia and her older brother Simon sightseeing in the unlikeliest of vacation spots: North Korea. Mia is willing to make the best of it, but Simon, who didn’t want to go anywhere with his family, let alone to a country where Americans aren’t allowed to use their cellphones, is furious. Mia, who is adopted, was born in South Korea, and soon finds it both unsettling and wonderful to be in a place where everyone looks like her. Then, the unthinkable happens: their father is arrested.  Simon and Mia have come into possession of illegal photographs depicting atrocities in North Korean camps that they fear may further endanger their father, so they decide to make a run for the Chinese border.  With only a few snacks Mia has stowed in her backpack, they must find a way to navigate through one of the most isolated and dangerous countries on the planet, all the while knowing they are being hunted. Simon and Mia must work on their own strained relationship in order to work as a team.  Additionally, Mia struggles with identity issues stemming from her adoption. Throughout the novel, the author weaves in short vignettes from the point of view of a variety of (fictional) North Koreans, providing a glimpse of what life is like for people who actually live there. The author has personal ties to South Korea and has clearly done extensive research, as is evidenced in the front and backmatter. THOUGHTS: This is an eye-opening but still age-appropriate introduction to a mysterious country that is particularly timely. Kids will enjoy the survival/adventure aspect of the novel. Of course, it isn’t at all realistic that two American teenagers can escape North Korea with very little help, and although I’m all for suspension of disbelief, the final impression is that escape from North Korea is easier than it is.  Still, this is fiction, and interested readers will hopefully take the author’s advice and seek out more information on their own.  Overall, a fascinating and gripping read.  

Action/Adventure               Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Upper Elem/MS – Adventures of John Blake; Good Story Someday; Orphan Island;

Pullman, Phillip. The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship. Scholastic, 2017. 9781338149128. $19.99. 159p. Gr. 3 to 7.

Philip Pullman’s first foray into graphic novels is The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship. The story involves a time-traveling schooner that many people seem to know about and want to find, including the billionaire, Dahlberg, and, Danielle, a young woman who works for a maritime organization in San Francisco. The boat appears mysteriously after an otherworldly storm followed by a dense fog. The story includes a boy that can mysteriously kill you within a month if you look into his eyes, a 3D object related to time travel, an unsolved murder, and a monitoring device called an apparator, that the billionaire uses to keep tabs on everyone in the world who has one (which is most people.) THOUGHTS: I couldn’t wait to read this graphic novel from Philip Pullman since I’m a big fan of the His Dark Materials books. Although I wasn’t in love with the illustrations, they don’t detract from the story. The story itself kept me interested and the book’s characters are diverse: age, sex, and ethnicity are represented in a natural way. This is a an excellent addition to a school library and even though the publisher rates it for ages 8 to 12, older students and even graphic novel reading adults will enjoy this story.  

Graphic Novel      Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Levy, Dana Alison. This Would Make a Good Story Someday. Delacorte Press, 2017. 978-1101938171.  315 pp. $19.99. Gr. 4-8.

Sara is going into Middle School after the summer and has detailed plans to spend time with her friends and improve herself. But surprise, Mimi (one of Sara’s moms) has won a month long train trip! Mimi is going to write about the trip and their family, college age Laurel, her boyfriend Root, Sara, their other mom, and Li, the little sister. Sara does not want any part of it but is dragged along anyway. To make matters worse, the other prize winner and his family are going to be traveling companions with them.  THOUGHTS: I loved the fact that the two moms are not the central theme of this book. It also brings up some difficult and current topics through Laurel (very granola and political) but don’t force the reader to agree with the character’s views.

Realistic Fiction       Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


Snyder, Laurel. Orphan Island.  Walden Pond Press, 2017.  978-0062443410.  288 p.  $16.99  Gr. 4-7.

Each year, a new child mysteriously arrives in a green boat on an island where nine orphans live on their own, with no adults to care for them. Then, the eldest must leave because of a rhyme that has been passed down for as long as anyone can remember: Nine on an island, orphans all/ Any more–the sky might fall.”  When little Ess arrives, and Deen leaves, Jinny becomes the eldest, and she is haunted with the knowledge that her days on her beloved island are now numbered. The island is a safe, almost magical place, with gorgeous sunrises, snakes that don’t bite, and cliffs that are impossible to fall off. Only the water is dangerous, and no one knows where the new orphans come from or where the eldest orphans are headed.  There are not a lot of rules to follow, but when rules are broken, there are consequences.  “Never pick the last of anything” is a rule that was broken once, and as a result, there are no more curlyferns on the island.  Jinny does not want to leave, and so, when a new orphan arrives, she simply refuses to get in the boat.  When terrible things start happening, Jinny fears that her choice to break the most important Island rule is wreaking havoc on the only home she can remember.  THOUGHTS: Orphan Island is an allegory about the transition from childhood to adulthood. The fact that it offers far more questions than answers might be frustrating to some readers. However, it is a beautifully written and thought-provoking book that rewards those who enjoy participating in the creative process of making meaning.  A must-buy for upper elementary and middle school libraries.  This book will stand the test of time.

Fantasy                  Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Picture Books – Pandamonia; Not Quite Narwhal; Dino-Dancing; Rolling Thunder; Pink Lion

Owen, Chris and Chris Nixon.  Pandamonia.  Kane Miller Publishing, 2017. 9781610676199. 32 pp. $12.99. Gr. PS-3.

This Australian import is an enjoyable romp through the zoo.  The reader sees and hears about the wild reactions of various zoo animals when a panda is awakened.  The author uses rhyming text to explain the ensuing chaos, and readers meet some unfamiliar animals along the way.  Occasionally the rhyme seems forced and the cadence off-balance.  This book was written to be read aloud, but it lacks a refrain for the listeners to join in.  The illustrations are wild and expressive and are better appreciated by a small group. The panda itself is calm and portrayed in a meditation type pose. Readers only see him just awaking with one eye open and don’t find out what he does to create such pandemonium or as the authors put it, “pandamonia.” This work is somewhat reminiscent of Klassen’s texts.  Thoughts:  Children will find this book enjoyable, especially where zoo stories are popular.  It is an additional purchase for elementary collections.

Picture Book                 Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD


Sima, Jessie. Not Quite Narwhal.  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-1-48146-909-8. 32 Pages 32. $17.95. Gr. Pre-K and up.

Kelp was born under the sea in a clamshell. He feels he is different from the other narwhals; he can’t swim as quickly (thank goodness for water wings), and he is less than enthusiastic about their squid dinners. One day he gets swept away by a current and sees a figure like himself! Pursuing the phantom, Kelp must swim for hours and learn to walk on land which is no easy feat. He eventually finds the unicorns (or land narwhals as he calls them). Kelp loves learning and tasting new things, but will he go back to his narwhal home?  THOUGHTS: I adored this book. It’s soft, pastel illustrations are inspiring, and the humor of the storyline and characters are fantastic. Not Quite Narwhal is a fantastic book for any age about acceptance, being yourself, and understanding differences can be good.

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


Wheeler, Lisa. Dino-Dancing. Carolrhoda Books, 2017. 978-1-5124-0316-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-2.

In the tradition of Wheeler’s other fun-filled dinosaur sports books comes Dino-Dancing, a fast-paced twirl through the world of competitive dance. Dino dancers show off moves in various styles including ballet, acrobatic dance, jazz, swing, Latin ballroom, and a particular fierce hip-hop showdown. Wheeler smartly combines dance terminology and diverse dino species, making this book a must-read for both dance and dino lovers. Barry Gott’s illustrations are colorful and clever and do a fairly good job of accurately representing different dance moves (those dinos aren’t always very limber but they do their best!). Wheeler always teases her next dino sports book at the end, but this one is a bit different…the dino dancers are practicing the Nutcracker ballet because Christmas is coming! Perhaps the dinos are moving into holiday celebrations and away from sports. THOUGHTS: Another fun addition to the dino sports series to be read and enjoyed by long-time dino sports fans or those new to the action.

Picture book                  Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Messner, Kate. Rolling Thunder. Scholastic Press, 2017. 978-0-545-47012-4. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-2.

A fresh look at Memorial Day through the eyes of a boy who accompanies his biker grandpa on the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally in Washington DC. Grandpa rides for those he was with in Vietnam, and the youth rides for his Uncle who is currently enlisted and deployed. After camping out, the pair ride to the Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Wall Memorial. The concepts of POWs, MIAs, and death is brought up, but not explained in depth. The poetic verse and pastel pictures provide a powerful, yet appropriate message for young and old alike. THOUGHTS: I got goosebumps when I read this book. It is a good introduction to Memorial Day, and as a read-aloud educators can elaborate about POWs or MIAs as needed. One complaint that has been brought up with this book is the lack of cultural diversity in the illustrations.

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


Porter, Jane. Pink Lion. Kane Miller, a division of EDC Publishing, 2017. 978-1-61067-611-3. Unpaged. $19.99. Gr. PreK-1.

Arnold is a pink lion who happily grows up thinking he’s a flamingo. When a gang of lions comes by they insist that Arnold is a lion and should come with them. The pink lion isn’t a big fan of licking himself clean, hunting, or roaring. But when he tries to go back to his flamingo family a big mean crocodile has moved into the pond. Arnold finds his inner lion and roars to scare the green enemy away. His fellow lions come to join him, and the two species live happily ever after together.  THOUGHTS: A nice book about adoption, acceptance, and families.

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


YA Fiction – Disappeared; Warcross

Stork, Francisco X. Disappeared. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2017. 978-0545-944472. $17.99. 326 pp. Gr. 7-12.  

Stork’s latest novel shows the effects of secrets, crime, socioeconomics, and morality on journalist Sara Zapata and her brother Emiliano in the harsh “spiderweb” of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.  Sara is committed to her work and to her weekly column on the “Desaparecidas”,the disappeared girls, ostensibly killed or hidden in the sex trade.  Sara and her best friend Linda always followed the safety rules for young women in their town; never travel alone; always tell friends when and where to expect you, and always carry extra taxi fare.  Yet not long ago, Linda became one of the disappeared girls, leaving not a trace.  Sara is relentless but stalled in finding answers and torn when her bosses tell her to stop the column due to an encrypted email threat directed at Sara and her family.  Sara is no fool; she knows that quietly powerful people think nothing of her life and everything of their drug and sex cartels, but she is thrown by the war within her.  Can she live knowing she was the cause of harm to her brother or mother?  Can she live knowing Linda could be alive but enslaved while Sara did nothing?  Dare she continue, when trust is broken at every turn?  Meanwhile, Emiliano is troubled, wanting to prove himself worthy of wealthy Perla Rubi and her lawyer father, Mr. Reyes, and tired of being smart about business but still poor and struggling.  The Reyes’ lifestyle is exactly what he wants for himself, his mother, and his sister.  So when he is offered a business boost from Mr. Reyes himself, respectable on the surface, but undermining the community, he, like Sara, is torn.   Stork brilliantly, even softly, portrays their individual anguish in chapters told from their alternating points of view.  Make no mistake people will be hurt.  It Sara’s and Emiliano’s choices that determine who those people will be: Linda and her family? Perla Rubi? Themselves? Mama? Former or future drug addicts? Where does it the spiderweb end?  THOUGHTS: This is a riveting look at moral determinations when even the monsters have humanity, and humans can become monsters so easily.  “Maybe the bad people look more like the good people” (115).  A fascinating, insightful, and top choice for middle and high school.  

Mystery; Suspense      Melissa Scott, Shenango Area School District


Lu, Marie. Warcross. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017. 978-0-3995-4796-6. 368 p. $18.99. Gr. 7-12.

In the future, millions login and play Warcross every day, a virtual reality game that for many is a way of life. Teenager Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who gamble illegally in the game. During a Warcross championship, Emika takes a risk and hacks the game but accidentally glitches herself into the championship and is seen by everyone watching. Emika is shocked when the young and handsome creator of Warcross, Hideo Tanaka, offers to hire her to look into another hacker who could compromise the future of Warcross. Emika goes undercover and enters the championship as a Wild Card player and discovers someone is planning to sabotage the game. As she digs deeper, she uncovers a vindictive plot that could not only compromise the future of Warcross but could hurt those she loves. THOUGHTS: Marie Lu’s newest title should find a niche with fans of Ready Player One, but also appeal to fans of her immensely popular Legend series. Warcross is a smart, thrilling read for older middle school and high school students.

Fantasy      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School


Lu, Marie. Warcross (Warcross #1). G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-0-399-54796-6. 320 p. $18.99. Gr. 7 – 12.

Not so distantly in the future, Emika Chen, a struggling teenage hacker, works as a bounty hunter to make ends meet. Recently, she hasn’t been doing so well, and Emika is behind on her rent by several months and down to her last few meals. When her newest bounty catch falls through, Emika makes an impulse decision to hack into the Warcross Championships with the plan to steal a valuable power up. When she accidentally glitches into the game and is visible – to millions – Emika catches the attention of Warcross’s billionaire creator, Hideo Tanaka. It seems like her problems are about to vanish, as she now has an incredible job offer, but all isn’t as it seems, and Emika’s success may also be the downfall of Warcross.  THOUGHTS: Marie Lu’s newest book will reach a vast group of readers – gamers, dystopian/fantasy/mystery fans, as well as fans of Marie Lu’s previous books. This thrilling fast-paced gaming world will have readers anxiously awaiting book two.

Fantasy   Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District