YA FIC – Bad Call; Foolish Hearts

Wallenfels, Stephen. Bad Call. Hyperion. 2017. 978-1-48476-813-6. $17.99. 312 p. Gr. 6 and up.

The three, star tennis players at an exclusive California boarding school break the rules to take a secret weekend camping trip to Yosemite.  Ceo, the charismatic playboy of the group, arranges the trip, luring his teammates into a quest to hike the rugged trails of the national park and hopefully find the remnants of a drug smuggler’s plane that crashed in the 70s.  Unknown to Colin and Grahame, Ceo has also arranged for a girl he met at a summer drama camp to join them. Ellie, a soccer stand out and aspiring artist takes a risk and skips out on a college visit to take this spur of the moment adventure with her summertime crush.  As the four arrive in Yosemite Valley, the unpredictable late fall weather and simmering tensions between the boys threaten their weekend plans and their lives. The story is told from the perspectives of Colin and Ellie, who are the heart and conscience of the tale. The strained relationship between the wealthy and manipulative Ceo, scholarship student Colin whose father has just died, and Grahame, an athletic powerhouse with a competitive grudge against Ceo, is revealed through flashbacks of the past school year.  Thoughts: The story starts slow, establishing the characters’ connection, but quickly builds in suspense as the trip turns into a harrowing survival tale. Recommended for fans of adventure fiction.

Realistic Fiction      Nancy Summers, Abington School District

Mills, Emma.  Foolish Hearts. Henry Holt and Co. 2017.978-1-62779-937-9.  $17.99 314 p. Gr. 7 and up.

Claudia, a high school senior on the fringes of the in-crowd, finds herself the unwilling witness to the break-up of Iris and Paige, the cutest couple at Prospect Landower School for Girls. When discovered to be eavesdropping, Claudia becomes a target of mean girl Iris’ wrath. But as the school year begins, Claudia and Iris are unwillingly paired to work on a class project and after they nearly fail this first assignment their teacher forces them to participate in the school play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a co-production with their brother school.  The two girls form a tentative pact, which grows into an unlikely friendship that grows stronger as the year goes on. Meanwhile, the play introduces Claudia to Gideon, the male lead in the play, and a romance begins though Claudia, stung from her first boyfriend’s indifference, doesn’t feel she is worthy of his attention. Another curve comes when Claudia discovers that her best friend, Zoe and her brother are dating. I was slightly disappointed with the all too common cliche of the popular and gorgeous boy falling for the unpopular and nerdy girl. But overall, Foolish Hearts is a positive tale which focuses more on the power of friendships between the girls and their growing realization of the need to accept the people they love as they are, not as they wish they were. Thoughts: A good selection for reluctant readers and fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han will certainly appreciate this light-hearted and heart-warming story.

Realistic Fiction      Nancy Summers, Abington School District

MS FIC – Murderer’s Ape; Whisper of Horses

Wegelius, Jakob. The Murderer’s Ape.  Translated by Peter Graves. Delacorte Press, 2017. 978-1101931752. 624pp.  $17.99 Gr. 5-8.

This beautifully illustrated mystery is the English translation of a Swedish novel published in 2014.  The book’s heroine, Sally Jones, is an anthropomorphic gorilla who can read, write, and understand language but cannot speak.  She is single-mindedly determined to prove that her best friend, Chief Koskela, a ship’s captain, is innocent of the murder he has been convicted of.  Her quest to free him takes her on a wild adventure from Portugal through India, where she struggles not only to follow a convoluted trail of evidence but for her own safety.  THOUGHTS:  Sally Jones is an unforgettable animal heroine extraordinaire who has more humanity than most humans, and yet remains a gorilla to her core.  This fun romp blends mystery, animal fantasy, and adventure, and is highly recommended for middle school libraries.

Mystery       Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD


Bethell, Zillah. A Whisper of Horses.  Feiwel and Friends, 2017.  978-1250093943. 339 p.  $16.99. Gr. 5-8.

Serendipity lives in the walled city of Lahn Dahn, which clever readers will recognize as a futuristic, dystopian version of London.  She is a member of the lowest of three castes, and her most treasured possession is a map which shows a route outside the city to a place where horses–which are believed to be extinct–still thrive.  Serendipity dreams of finding the horses but despairs of finding a way outside the city until she meets Tab, an orphan who knows all about eluding the law. Together, Serendipity and Tab forge a tenuous alliance when they discover that each has resources the other can use to achieve their separate goals. THOUGHTS:  Excellent writing, an unusual storyline, and themes of friendship and loyalty that are developed in nuanced and thought-provoking ways make this book more than a run-of-the-mill dystopian novel.  One thing to note is that Bethell plays with language, imagining how words might evolve in a dystopian future (“amazering” instead of “amazing,” etc.); some readers will enjoy this, while others may find it frustrating or distracting.  Recommended for middle school libraries.

Dystopian    Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Guest Review – The Cloud Artist

Marit, Sherri. The Cloud Artist. Roadrunner Press, 2017. 978-1937054748. 36 pp. $17.95. Gr. K-2.

Calling upon the ancient tradition of storytellers, the advance reading copy of The Cloud Artist begins with the words, “A long time ago…” as it sets the stage for a tale that incorporates a love of nature, Native American lore, and the wonder of a small girl who discovers she can paint pictures in the sky by waving her fingers at the clouds. Author Sherri Maret and illustrator Merisha Sequoia Clark brilliantly incorporate their Choctaw heritage into this multicultural, bilingual picture book that delivers a tale of magic in the style of the elders repeating the stories of their culture. From the historical timeline subtly portrayed in the illustrations, through the child’s encounter with difficulties and emotions that she must work out for herself, to the joy of seeing a lifetime of love in a multi-generational family, this story will enthrall and delight parents, grandparents, and children of all ages. The text is presented in both English and Choctaw, with a small graphic border dividing the two.

Elementary teachers and librarians will want to check the author’s website for ready-made follow-up activities to use with students, including free downloadable worksheets with illustrations from the book. The book and worksheets together would also make great emergency plans for a substitute teacher to utilize.  Highly Recommended for grades K-5″ —Joanne K. Hammond, Librarian, Chambersburg [PA] Area School District ©2017.

YA NF Series – Career Discovery

Career Discovery (series).  Reference Point Press, 2018.  80 p.  $29.95 ea.  Gr. 7-12.

Allman, Toney.  Careers If You Like Animals. 978-1-68282-134-3

Kallen, Stuart A.  Careers If You Like Sports. 978-1-68282-142-8

Kallen, Stuart A.  Careers If You Like the Outdoors. 978-1-68282-140-4

Mooney, Carla.  Careers If You Like Video Games.  978-1-68282-144-2

Roberts, Laura. Careers If You Like Music. 978-1-68282-138-1

Snyder, Gail.  Careers If You Like Helping People. 978-1-68282-136-7

Careers if You Like Video Games is an appealing title that offers a variety of career options for kids who love playing video games to ponder, from video game programmer to mobile app developer. For each potential career, the author explains what the educational requirements are and what skills are needed, and offers detailed (and realistic) explanations of what the jobs typically entail. Informational sidebars, photographs, quotes from people working in the field, and sources for additional information add to the usefulness of the resource.  Source notes are included. THOUGHTS:  Recommended for middle school and high school collections where vocational guidance resources are in demand.

Vocational Guidance, Careers 331.702         Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD



Early Elem – Old MacDonald

Grimly, Gris. Old MacDonald Had a Farm. Orchard Books, 2017.  Unpaged. 9781338112436. $17.99.  PreK – 2.

Grimly takes us on a delightful romp through the barnyard in his version of the familiar song. We first meet the farmer, wearing a flower in his hat, as he ambles into the barn to gather some eggs from the chickens. As he does his chores around the farm, MacDonald meets a variety of farm animals, including a donkey.  After finishing his work, the farmer returns to the barn on his tractor with all the animals parading behind him, only to find that a ferocious bear is in the barn. The farmer and the animals run for their lives to the refrain of a Grr-Grr here and Grr-Grr there. The illustrations are the winning element of this book and tell a story on their own, separate from the lyrics.  For instance, there is a rationale for the order in which the animals are mentioned. The farmer rides the donkey so he can carry corn to feed the pigs and then helps the runt of the litter find food elsewhere. Grimly uses watercolors and a whimsical style that is sure to make the reader laugh out loud. The drawings of the energetic farmer show him in constant motion as he performs his chores or plays the fiddle.  Readers will find it hard not to tap their feet or hum along with the story. The illustrations are detailed and children will enjoy examining them closely to catch some nuance, such as what the cat did with the mouse or to see a chick peeking out of an egg. In the back matter, the author discusses the origin of the song and then describes his own childhood growing up on a farm in Nebraska. There are some nostalgic family photographs and a copy of the lyrics and music. THOUGHTS:  This is a gem of a book that is perfect for farm-themed storytimes. Music teachers will want to include this in their units on American songs. A great and timeless addition to all elementary library collections.

782.42, Vocal Music       Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District

Upper Elem/MS NF – Malala; SportsZone; 1st in Fashion

Frier, Raphaële.  Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education.  Charlesbridge, 2017.  9781632895912. 45pp. $17.99.  Gr. 3-6.

This French import is the biography of Malala Yousafzai and recounts the story of the young education advocate beginning with her life as a child through young adulthood.  Frier tells the story in a factual way and includes the history of the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan in the text. The author’s voice is clear as she discusses how the Taliban used violence to silence the critics of its policies in Pakistan.   Frier focuses on the Taliban’s impact on women’s civil rights, such as access to education, early marriage, and clothing. Aurélia Fronty’s full-bleed illustrations are done in a colorful folk art style, but appear to be flat and static. The illustration of the assassination attempt shows two shadowy figures with guns, while Malala is the focal point circled with yellow rays of light.  The next drawing shows Malala rising above another gun carrying shadow as she is transported via plane to England for medical care. The final page of the story shows Malala holding a bouquet of flowers and books, as the author discusses her honors and accomplishments, including the Nobel Peace Prize. The back matter is quite extensive and includes photographs and a timeline of Malala’s life.  There is also information on the country, a map, and languages as well as more on the accomplishments of Malala, including actual inspiring quotes. As an activist for the education of girls, Malala is an inspiration to middle-grade readers and shows that one person can make a difference. Frier’s text is designed for older readers, unlike Malala’s Magic Pencil, a more literary narrative for younger readers. THOUGHTS:  This biography nicely details the life of this remarkable young women and is a useful resource to begin research for a report. This book is a long read aloud but is a great choice to highlight during Women’s History Month.  Elementary and middle school libraries will want to add this inspiring story to their collections.

92, Biography            Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD


NFL’s Top 10. ABDO SportsZone, 2018. 978-1-5321-1137-2. 32 pp. $151.60 set of 8. Gr. 4-8.

NFL’s Top 10 Coaches begins with an introduction and countdowns from the 10th best coach to the first rated coach. Coaches ranked 10-2 have a one-page spread containing paragraphs of facts and at least one photograph. The top-ranked coach, Bill Belichick, has a two-page spread taking a closer look at his development and successes in the NFL. Next is a section for 6 honorable mention coaches. Additional information includes a glossary and further resources. Abdo manages a website that updates web pages to visit related to football. The book concludes with a concise index and an about the author paragraph. THOUGHTS: The book has the potential to spark a lot of conversation with readers. The fact that Chuck Noll, a beloved coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is listed as the fifth best coach will generate a lot of discussion in western PA and readers that identify with the Steeler fan base. The book is sure to find lots of readers!

Football      Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District


1st in Fashion (series).  ABDO, 2018.  32 p.  $18.95 ea.  Gr. 3-6.

Felix, Rebecca.  Eddie Bauer:  Down Jacket Developer.  9781532110733

Felix, Rebecca.  Louis Reard:  Bikini Designer.  9781532110764

Felix, Rebecca.  Mary Quant:  Miniskirt Maker. 9781532110757

Felix, Rebecca. Sam Foster:  Sunglasses Success.  9781532110740

Felix, Rebecca.  Chuck Taylor:  Sneaker Sensation.  9781532110788

Olson, Elsie.  Levi Strauss:  Blue Jean Genius. 9781532110771

Eddie Bauer: Down Jacket Developer provides straightforward information about outdoor enthusiast and entrepreneur Bauer. The highlight is the story of the near-fatal experience Bauer had with hypothermia that led him to invent a warmer winter jacket. While the text is merely serviceable, the book’s design is engaging, with appealing graphics and abundant photographs throughout.  A timeline, glossary, and index add to the book’s usefulness. THOUGHTS:  Recommended for elementary and middle school libraries where biographies are in demand.  

Biography          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Upper Elem/MS FIC – Who Killed Darius Drake; Dream Jumper; Witch Boy

Philbrick, Rodman. Who Killed Darius Drake. Scholastic, 2017. 978-0-545-78978-3. $17.99.  192 p. Gr 4-8.

The book features two unlikely friends, Arthur and Darius, teaming together to solve a mystery. There are clear supporting characters from adventurous Deidre,  intimating “Scar man,” cheerful Mr. Robertson, and assured community leader Jasper Jones. The local history focus and mysteries research in the book is strong. Many students could be inspired to learn about their community.  In the afterward Philbrick reflects that his writing has come full circle. THOUGHTS: Rodman Philbrick is a popular author among my middle school students, so I was eager to read this book. The strong elements of mystery will lure students into the book.

Mystery     Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District


Grunberg, Greg, and Lucas Turnbloom. Dream Jumper Book Two: Curse of The Harvester. Scholastic, 2017. 978-0-545-82608-2. $12.99. 220pp. Gr 4-7.

Vibrant colors in the artwork add to the storytelling in the second book of the Dream Jumper series. Ben and Jake work together to make money assisting others to conquer their bad dreams. Odd things happen in the process of helping and they wonder if items travel from Dream World to real world. There is also a new visitor in Dream World and dangers to escape escalate. Readers will be waiting for the next book as a result of this exciting graphic novel. THOUGHTS: This book is the second in a series. Students should read book 1 first to fully enjoy this graphic novel.

Graphic Novel, Adventure      Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District


Ostertag, Molly. The Witch Boy.  Scholastic, 2017. 978-1-338-08952-3. $24.99. 224 p. Gr 3-7.

Roles are very clear in this society. Boys become shapeshifts and girls become witches.  Ofen Aster hides to observe the lessons girls receive, and he gets in trouble for doing so. While practicing witchery, Astor is overseen by Charlotte, known as Charlie, and they become fast friends. Astor is unable to get his animal spirit to arrive while other boys go missing. Aster is visited by a dark creature that offers how to teach him to shapeshift. Should he take the offer from the creature, should he try to heal Charlie’s broken leg with magic, should Aster pursue his passion or the path society wishes him to follow? Thoughts: The graphic novel delivers action and an inspiring tale. Add this title to your collection.

Graphic Novel, Fantasy     Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District

YA FIC – Wrong Train; Very, Very Bad Thing; Furyborn

De Quidt, Jeremy. The Wrong Train.  David Fickling Books, 2017. 9781338121254. 206 p.  $18.99.  Gr. 7-10.

This collection of eight truly creepy short stories has an equally creepy framing device:  a boy gets on a train going the wrong way and decides to get off as soon as he can. Unfortunately, the stop turns out to be dimly lit and nearly deserted. Train after train passes by without picking him up. The boy meets a strange old man who persists in telling him tales of terror to pass the time. Each story has a unique setting and characters, and each story has an ending more spine-tingling than the last. As the evening wears on, the boy does everything except beg the old man to stop telling the stories, but he persists, and there is an especially chilling twist at the end. THOUGHTS: This book is perfect for fans of R.L. Stine and for kids who are eager to read, but not quite ready for, Stephen King. Note that The Wrong Train isn’t for the faint of heart: there are no happy endings to any of these stories, including the frame story. Recommended for all middle school and high school libraries, as it’s almost impossible to have too much good horror fiction on hand.

Story Collection, Horror                   Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD


Self, Jeffrey. A Very, Very Bad Thing. New York: PUSH, 2017. 978-1-338-11840-7. 240 p. $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Jeffrey Self’s A Very, Very Bad Thing reads like a modern take on John Knowles’ classic A Separate Peace. Marley is an average teen, who struggles with finding something he’s passionate about and mostly wants to be left alone. When he meets new boy Christopher, his worldview completely changes, and he falls hard and fast. Unfortunately, Christopher’s father is an evangelical preacher who believes homosexuality is a sin, and who has sent his son to numerous conversion therapy camps in the hopes of stamping out all of Christopher’s unnatural urges. Despite this, Christopher and Marley find support from Marley’s parents – former hippies with a penchant for meditative circles and extreme creative expression – his theater loving best friend, Audrey, who often acts as his conscience, and Christopher’s aunt, who does not support her brother-in-law’s views in the least. When Christopher’s father sends him to yet another conversion therapy camp, disaster strikes. The book toggles back in forth between the present and several months in the past; the present day chapters slowly reveal details about Marley’s rise to fame, and his shame about the circumstances that lead him there.  THOUGHTS:  This is not a subtle story; the message is loud, and clear, and gets in the way of could be a compelling tale. While the characters are charming at times, for the majority of the book they are all stereotypical archetypes, which hinders the reader’s ability to fully connect with any of them.

Realistic Fiction     Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School


Legrand, Claire. Furyborn. New York: Sourcebooks, 2018. 978-1492656623. 512 p. $18.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Legrand has stepped out of her middle-grade shoes and leapt right into the heart of YA literature with a blockbuster of a novel. Furyborn, the first book in the Emperium trilogy, is an epic (in both scope and length – it’s a whopping 512 pages) fantasy adventure written from two different points of view: Rielle’s and Eliana’s, two strong-minded, fierce, and conflicted women whose loyalties are tested over and over again. There is a prophecy that two queens will rise: the Sun Queen and the Blood Queen, both of whom will have the ability to control all seven elemental magics – wind, fire, water, shadow, light, metal, and earth. After Rielle inadvertently displays her astounding magical abilities, it is discovered that she, in fact, can manipulate all of the elements. She is put through a series of trials to test not just her abilities, but also her control – when she was five years old, she lost her temper, and set her house on fire, resulting in the death of her mother. But Rielle has another secret: she has been communicating with an angel inside her head, an angel who’s help comes at a steep cost. One thousand years later, almost all of the lands have been conquered by the Emperor, and Rielle, her magic, and angels are nothing but myths and legends that few believe ever existed in the first place.  Eliana, known as the Dread of Orline, is one of those people; she is a hired assassin, working for the Emperor, hunting down rebels. She, too, has a secret: she cannot be injured; wounds close up, bones reknit, burns heal. She is forced to confront who or what she is when she learns some shocking secrets about her past. Legrand is a natural storyteller, and has imbued her novel with a cast of complex and diverse characters; she cleverly ends every chapter with a cliffhanger, and since each chapter flips between Rielle and Eliana, it’s almost impossible to put down. This is a very mature read, however, and not appropriate for younger readers – there is an extremely graphic sex scene, and the text is peppered with casual swearing. Thoughts: This is a perfect novel for fans of Kate Elliott’s Court of Five series, Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes series, and Kiersten White’s And I Darken series.

Fantasy      Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School


YA – Ready to Fall; Thunderhead

Pixley, Marcella. Ready to Fall.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2017. 9780374303587. $17.99. 360 p. Gr. 8 and up.

After the death of his beloved mother, 16-year-old Max Friedman struggles with his spiraling depression and an unhealthy obsession with an imaginary brain tumor.  Withdrawing from his grieving father and completely unable to cope at his public school, he is given the opportunity to switch to a progressive private high school.  The school matches new students with a student fellow and a faculty mentor, and so Max meets Felicia, the pink-haired free spirit who goes by the name Fish and the demanding professor Gates. The change is a lifeline for Max.  With the help of his new circle of creative friends, some inspiring teachers and his supportive father and grandmother, Max hopes to lift the heavy veil of his depression and make a fresh start. Many of the characters in the book are intriguing;  well-developed and flawed or struggling in some way and Max’s relationships with all of them ring true. The writing is emotionally charged and Max’s grief is palpable. Pixley peppers the pages with scenes from Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Shakespeare’s Hamlet, writings that mirror Max’s pain and depression, but also help him come to terms with his own struggles. THOUGHTS: Could be used as a contemporary companion piece for classes studying either of these classic works.

Realistic Fiction       Nancy Summers, Abington School District


Shusterman, Neal. Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe Book 2).  Simon and Schuster, 2017. $18.99. 504 p. 9781442472457. Gr. 7 and up.

Thunderhead, the second novel in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, is a compelling sequel to the boldly original Scythe. The series is set in a dystopian future in which the Thunderhead, an omniscient, advanced AI system, has solved most of humanity’s problems including war and mortality.  The Scythdom was created to maintain a sustainable population and scythes are the individuals selected and trained to be the benevolent guardians of death, gleaning people as necessary to prevent overpopulation.  But now within the Scythdom, the Old Guard and the New Order factions are at war with each other. Cintra, as Scythe Anastasia, is revered as an inspiring Junior Scythe, respected for her adherence to the Old Guard principles.  Rowan, who has been denied his initiation, has assumed the mantle of Scythe Lucifer, a vigilante out to bring justice to the New Order scythes who relish their power and the perks of their positions. The Thunderhead itself features as a narrator and provides us with glimpses into its consciousness, objectives, and motivations as the defacto government head and deity. As the two sides of the Scythedom fight for control,  the Thunderhead is forbidden from intervening in their struggle and is unable to resolve the battle between the noblest and basest instincts of individual human beings. THOUGHTS: Yet another winning series from Shusterman, the master storyteller; readers will be eagerly awaiting the final book in this trilogy. A recommended purchase for all YA collections.

Science Fiction, Dystopian     Nancy Summers, Abington School District

YA Story Collection – Meet Cute

Meet Cute: some people are destined to meet. Alloy Entertainment, 2018. 978-1328759870. 320. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

This sweet collection of stories from a variety of popular young adult authors is a welcome respite from our current contentious reality. Each story revolves around the first meeting of two individuals in a variety of settings and situations, some realistic and some based in the future or an alternate reality. There is a diverse cast of characters throughout, and many different genders and sexual orientation preferences are represented. I found myself engrossed in each story, wondering how the characters will ultimately be brought together. Two of my particular favorites were “Hourglass” by Ibi Zoboi, which highlighted one girl’s struggle with body image, and “Department of Dead Love” by Nicola Yoon, a futuristic take on dealing with broken relationships. I found myself wishing that both stories would continue! THOUGHTS: This is a great collection of stories to serve diverse audiences in a high school setting. Highly recommended!

Short Stories     Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School