Elem – Hey-Ho to Mars We’ll Go!, Old Hat, Dear Substitute, Sometimes You Fly, The Funniest Man in Baseball, Bolivar, The Boo-boos that Changed the World, The Two Mutch Sisters, Every Month Is a New Year, Pinocchio, Rodent Rascals

Lendroth, Susan. Hey-Ho to Mars We’ll Go!: A Space Age Version of Farmer in the Dell. Charlesbridge, 2018. 978-1-580-89744-0. Unpaged. $16.99. K-3.

Lendroth has written space age lyrics to the well-known children’s song “Farmer in the Dell” in this engaging text. The book tells the story of four children who are on an exploratory trip to the planet Mars. The text consists of four lines mimicking the cadence of the original song, and it chronicles their trip from Earth until they land and explore the red planet. On each page, the song lyrics are written in a large font size, and there is accompanying smaller font which gives factual information about the topic discussed. For instance, when the spacecraft lands, the author writes, “Lock helmets into place…” and then explains about the air quality on Mars and the necessity for special equipment.  The illustrations are done on a large scale and were created using a computer. The book design adds to the understanding of the text. The text is placed sideways when traveling in space and even upside down when talking about the lack of gravity in the spacecraft. In the back matter, the author has included information about what is needed for a mission to Mars, and it is contained in a drawing of a red planet.  

THOUGHTS: While not a first purchase, this book will make a great read aloud, and children will enjoy joining in the refrain “Hey-Ho to Mars, we’ll go…” Music teachers will enjoy using this variant in their units on vocal music.

629.45  Space Flight          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD

Gravett, Emily. Old Hat. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018: ISBN 978-1-534-40917-0. 24 p. $17.99. Gr K-3.

Harbet is a dog whose favorite hat is the one his Nana knitted when he was just a pup. It’s warm and keeps his ears toasty. He proudly wears it all around until his peers mock him, taunting “Old Hat!” Harbet tries to keep up with fashion trends, purchasing the latest hat styles. But, no sooner has he donned his new headwear than something more up-to-date hits the stores. From construction cones to sailing ships to cookware, Harbet always seems to be one beat behind. Finally, Harbet gives up and does something daring – something no one has done before: Harbet takes off his hat. When his peers see what Harbet has been hiding beneath his many caps, the tables are turned, and they are the ones racing to keep pace with him. In this whimsical story about finding the courage to march to your own drum, brightly colored pencil, watercolor, and acrylic illustrations pop against solid white pages, making the variety of hats Harbet tries even more visually stunning.

THOUGHTS: Young readers will enjoy examining Harbet’s many new hats, making this a perfect choice for a read-aloud. Teachers and librarians can extend the story, discussing the themes of peer pressure and also the idea of being yourself and doing what makes you happy.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Scanlon, Liz Garton, and Audrey Vernick. Dear Substitute. Disney Hyperion, 2018. 978-1-484-75022-3. 35 p. $17.99. Gr K-3.

Life in Room 102 is turned upside down when Mrs. Giordano calls in sick, and Miss Pelly shows up to substitute for the day. Miss Pelly mixes everything up: she mispronounces names during attendance, doesn’t collect the homework, skips library time, and doesn’t clean the turtle tank, even though it’s Tank Tuesday. Instead of reading from the chapter book they’ve started, Miss Pelly reads funny poems about crocodiles and underwear, and she laughs all the time. The day’s events are narrated by a brown-haired girl with two ponytails. Each double-page spread features an epistolary poem describing the day’s events from her perspective. By the end of the story, she’s changed her mind about Miss Pelly after realizing poetry isn’t so bad, and she comes to the conclusion that sometimes you’ve got to mix things up a little. Caldecott-winner Chris Raschka’s vibrant watercolor illustrations capture the range of emotions the narrator experiences throughout the day, and his loose, whimsical style perfectly communicates her changing feelings.

THOUGHTS: This book will be perfect to share with students before an anticipated absence, and its reassuring message that things will be alright even though the daily routine is different will resonate with young readers. This title could also be used in conjunction with poetry units as it celebrates epistolary poems as well as poetry in general.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Applegate, Katherine. Sometimes You Fly. Clarion Books, 2018: ISBN 978-0-547-63390-9. 40 p. $17.99. Gr K-3.

This text, composed of rhyming couplets, celebrates perseverance and resilience by reminding readers that oftentimes, the thrill of success is preceded by flops and mistakes. Each couplet begins by showing someone struggling with a new or difficult task such as baking a cake, learning to swim, trying to read, learning to drive, or studying for an exam. Page turns are used effectively to show the same person experiencing success with the task on the back side of the page. The idea that mistakes and challenges ultimately make our accomplishments even more memorable is underscored by lively ink and watercolor illustrations depicting a diverse array of children both succeeding and failing at their pursuits.

THOUGHTS: This title naturally lends itself to character trait lessons since it underscores the ideas that making mistakes is okay as long as you learn from them and use the experience to grow and persevere. It highlights the idea that nobody is perfect and celebrates that sometimes life’s greatest challenges can also lead to its sweetest moments.

Picture Book Biography          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County

Vernick, Audrey. The Funniest Man in Baseball: The True Story of Max Patkin. Clarion Books, 2018: ISBN 978-0-544-81377-9. 40 p. $17.99. Gr 2-4.

As a boy growing up in Philadelphia, Max Patkin dreamed of a career in professional baseball. His goal was to become a pitcher, but while playing in the Minor Leagues, an arm injury sidelined him. Although his pitching career was over, Max found another way to make his mark on the game: as a baseball clown. For five decades, and more than 4,000 games, Max entertained crowds of fans by goofing around on the field with players, dancing around the baselines, playing hopscotch in the dirt, and doing anything he could to coax a laugh from the crowd. This picture book biography introduces readers to baseball’s most memorable clown, and the lighthearted text and whimsical illustrations spotlight some of his best-loved comic routines.

THOUGHTS: This title could accompany lessons and discussions about perseverance, since Max Patkin didn’t let his arm injury end his baseball career: instead, he embraced the different direction his career took. This will also be popular with sports fans, particularly those interested in historical tidbits.

Picture Book Biography          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County

Rubin, Sean. Bolivar. Archaia, 2018. 978-1-68415-069-6. unpaged. $29.99. Grades 2-5.

Bolivar is the last dinosaur left alive anywhere! He doesn’t like attention, so he lives in New York City, where no one takes the time to notice much of anything. Only young Sybil knows that her next-door neighbor is a dinosaur (even if she can’t prove it … yet). Bolivar is perfectly happy to hide in plain sight, until a case of mistaken identity leads him to City Hall and then to the Natural History Museum to deliver a speech about the new dinosaur exhibit. Even busy New Yorkers notice the dinosaur at the podium, and the chase is on! Can Bolivar elude capture and return to his quiet life? Framed as Sybil’s assigned essay on a “person” in her neighborhood, Bolivar is a delightfully illustrated urban adventure. Sean Rubin’s crosshatched artwork rewards repeated readings as details emerge in action-packed cityscapes and expressive faces. Adult readers will especially appreciate the winks to Indiana Jones and Where’s Waldo.

THOUGHTS: This beautiful, heartfelt homage to childhood imagination (and the importance of slowing down to take in the world around us) will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Picture Book/Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Wittenstein, Barry. Illustrated by Chris Hsu. The Boo-Boos that Changed the World: A True Story about an Accidental Invention.  Charlesbridge, 2018. 978-1-580-89745-7. $16.99. Grades K-3.

Wittenstein recounts the true story  of how Earle Dickson developed the now ubiquitous BandAid to help his accident prone wife, who seemed to have injured herself at home on a daily basis. Earle, as a buyer for the Johnson and Johnson company, was in a unique position to develop this product that has become an absolute necessity of life. This humorous picture book with charming illustrations cleverly points out that necessity is truly the mother of invention, but also shows the stops and starts on the way to Earle’s and the BandAid’s success. Includes  a timeline of the inventor’s life, a timeline of important medical discoveries and links to sites with more information on the product recognized and used the whole world over.

THOUGHTS: A humorous, nonfiction choice to add to your collection on inventions.

617.1 Medical Innovations          Nancy Summers, Abington SD

Brendler, Carol. Illustrated by Lisa Brown. The Two Mutch Sisters. Clarion Books. 2018. 978-0-544-43074-7. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Twin siblings, Violet and Ruby Mutch,  must absolutely have a copy of every collected item for each of them. Living together for their entire lives, the silly siblings have collected all sorts of strange objects including glockenspiels, gargoyles, snorkels, and spittoons. As the years pass, the sisters run out of room in their crowded house, and Violet decides to move out.

THOUGHTS: A lighthearted and humorous tale of how loved ones can stick together, even if everyone needs their own space.  

Picture Book          Nancy Summers, Abington SD

Singer, Marilyn, and Susan Roth. Every Month Is a New Year. New York: Lee & Low Books. 2018. 978-1-630-14162-5. $20.95. Unpaged. Grades 2-5.

New years start all the time, not just on January 1st. Whether school years or sports seasons, we have traditions that go with our calendars. The informative poetry book Every Month Is a New Year takes readers around the world as the months turn to show how people celebrate their new year traditions. Singer’s short poems capture the essence of the holiday through a child’s first person viewpoint. The traditions range from water battles to fire cleansing, from food celebrations to dancing, and several ways to cleanse their souls and start anew. The detailed fabric collage that Roth weaves adds color and imagination to the mix, and the format of a full calendar that reads like it should be hung on your wall helps set the book apart. Informative text about the calendar systems through history and further descriptions, pronunciation, and sources for each new year are included toward the end. And since every end is a new beginning, readers may just want to turn the calendar and start anew!

THOUGHTS: This book would be an excellent addition to a poetry collection, and the diversity of people and places helps open the eyes of readers to unfamiliar traditions. They may be left with more questions after reading the poem and the description, so further inquiry should be expected.

811 Poetry          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Morpurgo, Michael. Pinocchio: In His Own Words. Illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark. Harper Collins Children’s Books, 2018 (this edition). 266 p.  978-000835769-9 $17.99 Grades 3-6.

Pinocchio–that misunderstood puppet-boy who is somehow always compelled to choose fun over obedience–tells his story here, his way.  He’ll tell you about how poor Signor Gepetto crafted him for his sad wife, and how he should have gone to school but was repeatedly tempted away by other, more fun activities.  This is a long, winding tale of mishaps and misfortune, at times humorous and at times groan-worthy, as when Pinocchio says of himself, “I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, don’t do it, Pinocchio!…Well, I’m sorry to say I believed what I wanted to believe; I fell for it hook, line and sinker.  When I look back on it now, I can’t believe how stupid I was!” (82) or “I hate work. It’s hard. It’s difficult” (172). Pinocchio encounters a variety of creatures in his travels, including a Talking Cricket, a Lame Fox and Blind Cat (swindlers who much later prove repentant), his ‘dear sister,’ the Good Fairy with sea-blue hair (who acts as his conscience) and Lampwick, a boy who entices him to go to the Land of Toys (whereupon both boys become donkeys destined to work until death).   Pinocchio always intends to return home and make his poor mother and father happy again, but something always distracts him.  Only in one story does his nose grow as he lies–and the Good Fairy is there to help–with woodpeckers.  A moralistic story where nothing truly bad happens to a boy who behaves badly but is excruciatingly slowly learning kindness.  Finally, the story comes full circle and by the end, “I’m not quite such a ‘wooden-head’ as I was–or I hope I’m not. My Good Fairy still whispers to me from time to time, drops gentle hints to remind me that everyone matters, reminds me always to be kind” (266).   

THOUGHTS: For upper elementary, this could be a humorous read-aloud. It is certainly a more interesting telling of the original Pinocchio tale, accompanied by appealing illustrations.

Fantasy, Fairy Tale          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Munro, Roxie. Rodent Rascals. Holiday House, 2018. 978-0-823-43860-0. 32 p. $17.95. Grades 2-5.

This book provides the reader with a fascinating look into the world of the rodent.  In the introduction, Munro explains that these animals are the “largest order of mammals” and discusses how they are useful to humans. Drawings are done to actual size, so the entire rodent is not shown in all cases, like the capybara. Even so, Munro plays with the book design by showing the capybara’s back leg on one page followed by a drawing of its face on the next page.  One rodent is featured per one or two page spread, except for the smaller ones like the pygmy jerboa. The animals appear in order from smallest to largest in the book. The pictures are accompanied by text that gives interesting facts unique to that creature, like how a muskrat eats on a table-like pile of mud and how one rat has been trained to find minefields. The illustrations are done in India ink and colored acrylic ink and make even the notorious Norway rat seem appealing. The endpapers contain simple line drawings of every rodent discussed in the book. In the back matter, the reader can learn more about the physical description and habitat of the animal. The author lists her sources and presents a number of websites for more information. After reading Munro’s work, even those readers who cringe at the thought of rodents might find themselves looking at these mammals in a different light.

THOUGHTS: Children will enjoy reading this text for personal interest, especially since some of the animals are well-known pets, like the guinea pig and gerbil. It is unusual to see a book entirely about rodents, so elementary libraries will want to add this unique work to their collections.

599.35  Rodents          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD

YA – Tess of the Road, Not the Girls You’re Looking For, My Plain Jane, Illegal, The Picture of Dorian Gray: A Graphic Novel, The Poet X, Hooper, After the Shot Drops

Hartman, Rachel.  Tess of the Road. New York: Random House, 2018. 978-1-101-93128-8. 536 p. $18.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Rachel Hartman’s latest epic tome (it’s a whopping 536 pages), Tess of the Road, follows Tess Dombegh on her road to self-discovery and self-reflection.  Tess feels trapped: trapped by her past and her future; trapped by her upbringing; trapped by family obligations.  After nearly ruining her twin sister Jeanne’s wedding by drunkenly confessing a family secret to her new brother-in-law, Tess, without much forethought, runs away.  The novel takes place in the same world as Seraphina; indeed, Tess is Seraphina’s half-sister, but only grudgingly.  Unlike Seraphina, however, which focuses mainly on court and Dragon politics, Tess of the Road is a much more introspective novel, and puts the focus squarely on Tess herself. Quickly, Tess realizes that a woman traveling alone is a dangerous prospect, so she disguises herself as a boy, adopting the persona of her loathsome brother-in-law, Jacomo, a burgeoning monk.  She serendipitously finds her long lost childhood friend, Pathka, a Quigutl (not quite a dragon, not quite a human, not quite a lizard), and the two set off together on something like a pilgrimage to find a World Serpent named Anathuthia, a legendary snake like creature who helped shaped the world. As she travels, the reader gets glimpses into Tess’s heartbreaking past, which involve a rake named Will, and her reasons for wanting to be on the road become ever clearer. The people she meets along the way reframe her idea of herself – she was raised to hate her own body, to believe that a woman is the embodiment of sin, and that her only duty is to her husband and family; Tess’s realization that she can be more than her mother has always suggested she is (which isn’t much) is one of the joys of this book. Tess is not always a sympathetic character, and she makes plenty of missteps, but her intentions are almost always honorable, and she does her best to make up for those she wrongs.  This is not a fast-paced, action-packed novel – it is a slow, cathartic, reflective journey, but those who reach the end will be well-rewarded.

THOUGHTS: Rachel Hartman’s secondary characters are supremely well-rounded, and Tess’s interactions with each of them, especially her sister, Jeanne, with whom she has a not so healthy relationship, Tess’s brief, enlightening encounter with Frai Moldi, an angry, depressed, and brilliant young monk, gives this novel such depth. Just when you think you know exactly who each character is, and how they’ll react in certain situations, they throw you for a loop, and defy expectations.

Fantasy          Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

Safi, Aminah Mae. Not the Girls You’re Looking For. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2018. 978-1-250-15181-0. 331 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Aminah Mae Safi’s Not the Girls You’re Looking For reads like an angrier, edgier cross between Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and E. Lockhart’s The Boyfriend List. While this isn’t the most sophisticated novel, it is an important one, as it celebrates female sexuality; each of the female characters actively and unabashedly experience sexual desires and are intimately involved with others. That being said, it also doesn’t beat around the bush about how others perceive female sexuality, and the word “slut” is bandied about quite a bit here. Our protagonist, Lulu, is in the midst of something of an existential crisis: she is half White and half Persian, and feels like she doesn’t truly belong anywhere – her mother’s family has rejected her father and his family, and her father’s family will not fully embrace her mother, or Lulu.  She has experienced racism and Islamophobia at the hands of her classmates, and it drives her decision to stay under the radar socially (which hasn’t actually seemed to work too well). Despite this, Lulu has a loyal and fierce group of friends – Lo, beautiful, intimidating, and smart as a whip; Audrey, posh, wealthy, and polished; and Emma, the reserved peacekeeper of the group. They are not always a likeable or sympathetic bunch, but they truly love each other, even when they’re horrible to each other. When Lulu’s friendships begin to splinter for various reasons, she has to come up with a plan to bring them all back together again. In the meantime, she also has to navigate a somewhat tempestuous new romance, an obnoxious male classmate who won’t stop making unwanted advances towards her, birth control, and Ramadan. While the writing here can be disjointed and awkward at times, readers will instantly find themselves enraptured with Lulu and her world.

THOUGHTS: This is definitely a book for more mature readers. However, this novel realistically portrays burgeoning teenage sexuality; the discussion Lulu has with her mom about sex is particularly affecting, and will be helpful for teens looking for a way to open up a dialogue with their own parent, or with a trusted adult, about the topic.

Realistic Fiction          Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

Hand, Cynthia, et al. My Plain Jane. New York: Harper Teen, 2018. 978-0-062-65277-5. 450 p. $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

My Plain Jane is a charming, effervescent, and witty retelling(ish) of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. In this reimagining, Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, Bronte and Jane Eyre are close friends at Lowood School, where Jane Eyre is a teacher.  In this version of the story, Jane Eyre is a “seer,” which means she can see, and communicate, with ghosts. Indeed, Helen Burns, her best friend who passed away from “graveyard disease” at the age of fourteen, is her constant ghostly companion. Jane keeps this a closely guarded secret, however, as it has only caused her grief when she’s tried to tell people about it. Enter Alexander Blackwell, a member of the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits (SRWS), an organization run by the Duke of Wellington that has fallen out of favor with the king, who does not believe in ghosts.  When he comes to a pub close to Lowood to “relocate” a troublesome ghost, Jane witnesses this event, which entails Alexander “bopping” the ghost on the head with a pocket watch. When Alexander discovers that Jane is a seer, he sets out to recruit her for the SRWS. She wants nothing to do with it, as she has decided that it’s an evil organization who imprisons ghosts for nefarious purposes; instead, she takes a position as governess at Thornfield Hall. Not one to give up so easily, Alexander, with the help of Charlotte, who would give her left foot to join the SRWS, and Branwell, Charlotte’s brother, and the newest, albeit bumbling, member of the SRWS, pursue Jane to Thornfield to attempt to persuade her to join up.  Jane, however, has fallen hard for the mysterious, erratic, and shifty Mr. Rochester, whom nobody trusts, least of all Helen, who is convinced there is something terribly wrong at Thornfield, and with Rochester. We all know what happens next, right? Actually, no – the story deviates quite a bit here, with a truly supernatural twist. It turns out there’s more to everyone’s story here, Rochester most of all, and Hand, Ashton, and Meadows do a wonderful job creating a clever alternate ending. While it helps to have some knowledge of Jane Eyre, and Charlotte Bronte, just to understand some of the references, it’s not necessary to enjoy and appreciate this rolicking ghost story.

THOUGHTS: This is the second “Jane” novel that these three authors – they have dubbed themeselves The Lady Janies –  have co-penned; the first, My Lady Jane, was an alternate take on Lady Jane Grey’s story.  Sadly, readers will have to wait at least two years for the next Jane story – My Calamity Jane. Be sure to have copies of Jane Eyre, and other Bronte novels, on hand for readers of this book!

Historical Fantasy          Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

Colfer, Eoin, and Andrew Donkin. Illustrated by Giovanni Rigano. Illegal. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2018. 978-1-492-66214-3. 128 pp. $19.99. Grades 6-12.

Illegal follows the perilous journey of Ebo, a twelve-year old boy from a small village in Ghana, to a potentially brighter future in Europe. Realizing that his older brother Kwame has already fled their village, Ebo follows him to Agadez, Niger. Reunited, the brothers travel across the Saharan Desert to the city of Tripoli, Libya, where they work tirelessly to save enough money for an ocean crossing to Italy. The boys are continuously confronted with harsh elements, unsympathetic authorities, and unscrupulous traffickers, but Ebo’s ingenuity and drive may see them safely through. Authors Eoin Colfer (of Artemis Fowl fame) and Andrew Donkin employ a dual timeline, depicting the hazardous boat voyage across the Mediterranean (“Now”) in alternating chapters with the nineteen months Ebo spent getting there (“Then”). This effective structure illustrates how Ebo’s path involves not just one dangerous crossing, but many months of risk, fear, and luck – sometimes good and sometimes bad.

THOUGHTS: Ebo’s story is fictional, but each element of his journey is based in fact. Brilliantly colored artwork and an emotionally gripping storyline bring the humanity of an “illegal” to life for readers of all ages. Escape from Syria by Samya Kullab is another excellent graphic novel about the refugee experience for readers seeking a comparable title.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Morhain, Jorge, Martin Tunica, and Pablo Tunica. The Picture of Dorian Gray: A Graphic Novel. Stone Arch Books, 2018. 80 p. 978-1-496-56409-2. $27.32. Grades 7-12.

The strength of this book is Oscar Wilde’s thought-inspiring story wherein the virtuous, wealthy, and handsome Dorian Gray is painted by Basil Hallward, and so showered with praise that Dorian impetuously wishes to sell his soul if he can always appear as he does in the painting.  Soon, under the tutelage of the amoral Henry Wotten, Dorian is making one cruel choice after another and realizing that while he does not age, his (now hidden) portrait shows the true ugliness of his soul. In an era where beauty is believed by some to show the purity of the soul within, everyone loves Dorian.  But his reputation is slowly being sullied by rumors. Worse yet, Dorian struggles inside himself to make sense of his own desires. Who is he? Why is he loved? Can he truly do anything he wishes? By believing something, can he make it so, or change the truth?

THOUGHTS: This slim graphic novel is scripted by writer Jorge Morhain, with illustrations by Martin Tunica and coloring by Pablo Tunica.  Glossary, discussion questions, and writing prompts enrich the reading. It is true that the twists and beauty of the original language are missing, but Wilde’s story stands the test of time and change.

Graphic Novel          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Acevedo, Elizabeth. The Poet X. Harper Teen, 2018.  361 p. 978-006-266280-4  $17.99 Grades 9-12.

Xiomara is a fiery Dominican, full of questions that do not fit with her Catholic mother’s strict parenting style, nor her devout and quieter best friend Caridad or even her own twin Xavier.  She finds the treatment of females demeaning (especially one so developed as she is), and her entire community’s expectations (or lack thereof) for her to be restricting and bland. Xiomara has a voice, but using it is proving problematic.  Xiomara also has a temper and fists which she uses to fight back, for herself or her smaller, cautious brother. But Xavier sees through his sister, and his gift of a leather-bound notebook to Xiomara on their birthday starts Xiomara to writing.  Xiomara writes poetry, expressing the frustration, anger, and confusion she feels about her family, her community and her future. Her English teacher encourages her to attend her new performance poetry club, but it conflicts with scheduled confirmation classes with Father Sean.  Refreshingly, Father Sean tells her that questions are allowed and necessary. At school, she begins a relationship with Aman, which fills her poetry with more questions, especially since Mami would undoubtedly rejoice if Xiomara chose the life of a nun that Mami herself was denied at Xiomara’s age. Xiomara disobeys her mother to be with Aman, and to attend the poetry club. Both cause her to grow, but only poetry does not disappoint. “I can’t remember/the last time people were silent/while I spoke, actually listening” (259). Xiomara is hiding her explosive self, and it’s about to unravel. Can she find peace with her family and be true to herself?  “If my body was a Country Club soda bottle/it’s one that has been shaken and dropped/and at any moment it’s gonna pop open/and surprise the whole damn world” (105).

THOUGHTS: This is a strongly written first novel, completely in verse, and reveals a complicated young woman seemingly at odds with the world. To witness her transformation–and her family’s–aided by Father Sean, is rewarding.

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Herbach, Geoff. Hooper. Katherine Tegen Books, 2018. 323 p. 978-0-062-45311-2 $17.99 Grades 9-12.

“Basketball is my passport.”  So believes Adam (Sobieski) Reed, since he moved from orphaned poverty in Poland to Minnesota with his adoptive mom (angel) Renata.  Soon enough he discovered basketball and a talent for it. “Oh, I love being on the court even if I’m not playing….Everything makes sense to me with basketball….Man, I just want to play” (86-7).   He also found his only friend, outsider Barry Roland, and self-centered nemesis Kase Kinshaw, who calls Adam “Duh” or “the Refugee.” Adam’s still-growing understanding of the English language and (especially) American culture places him in some awkward and hilarious situations, which Kase is glad to showcase.  Basketball brings Adam hope and, importantly, a friendship with Carli Anderson, who has drive and talent beyond Adam’s, despite tackling a severe knee injury. When Adam joins a select AAU team, he takes Carli’s advice to “talk more” to people, and finds himself a family in which he’s the only white kid. But every family has pressures, and off-court problems threaten this new family, as well as Barry.  How Adam seeks to respond to the problems will determine the trajectory of his life and friendships, even his career, for some time to come. Herbach has crafted a likeable, multi-faceted narrator in Adam, and readers will root for him as he learns to navigate America, the “inky black nightmares” from his past, and relationships in a new place.

THOUGHTS: A well-built cast of characters with unique interactions gives truth to the credo, “every person you meet has a story to tell.”  

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Ribay, Randy. After the Shot Drops. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. 325 p. 978-1-328-70227-2  $17.99. Grades 9-12.

Bunny Thompson and Nasir have been best friends for years, but now in their sophomore year of high school, Bunny transfers to St. Sebastian’s, an elite prep school.  He has the basketball talent, and they have the opportunities. But Nasir is left behind at Whitman High, and since Bunny never discussed the change with him, he is feeling more than a little resentful of Bunny’s abandonment.  “You’re looking out for yourself so hard you forget that everyone else exists. So it’s nothing to you to leave us behind” (125). Nasir is also concerned about his cousin Wallace, who is about to be evicted and whose bad choices have led him into bad places before.  Nasir is disappointed that “[Bunny]’s got the world looking out for him. I’m the only one in Wallace’s corner” (139). So Nasir tries to help, but Wallace’s attempts to make some fast cash by betting on Bunny’s games leads him to severe desperation, so much that Nasir asks Bunny to throw a championship game.  Nasir realizes, “I don’t know how to help one without hurting the other” (169) and “Maybe it’s time for me to do right by both my friends, not just one” (243). But how to do that is the challenge.  Told alternately from Nasir’s and Bunny’s point of view, Ribay allows us to see the challenges each of the three young men face and swallow the frustration each one feels about the limits of their lives.  Bunny opens the novel by considering the impact of words in a memorial, and Nasir ends the book wishing he’d have been able to find the words to make more of a difference. This power of words, and the question of personal vs. collective responsibility, drive the book.  

THOUGHTS: This is a compelling look at limits, perspective, loyalty and compassion, strengthened by the use of dual points of view. A must-have for high school collections.

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

MG – The Parker Inheritance; Amal Unbound; Becoming Madeleine; Ghost Boys; Sunny; Good Dog; The Hyena Scientist; Three Stars in the Night Sky; Thrilling Thieves; March Forward, Girl; The Truth as Told By Mason Buttle

Johnson, Varian. The Parker Inheritance.  Arthur A. Levine Books, 2018. 978-0-545-94617-9.  352 p.  $16.99  Gr. 5-8.

When Candice’s parents divorce, she has to leave Atlanta to spend what she assumes will be a boring and lonely summer in her mother’s tiny hometown of Lambert, South Carolina. Instead, Candice meets Brandon, a bookish boy who lives across the street, and the two are soon caught up in a Westing Game-inspired puzzle that’s launched by a letter Candice finds in her grandmother’s attic. The mystery leads the preteens, who are both African-American, deep into the history of Lambert’s racially segregated past.  As they uncover clues, the point of view shifts back and forth from the present to the past, following the story of another African-American Lambert family, the Washingtons. In addition to trying to solve the puzzle, Candice struggles with her family’s changing dynamics, and Brandon deals with bullying issues stemming from his unwillingness to conform to traditional models of male behavior.  

THOUGHTS:  The Parker Inheritance is a well-written and entertaining mystery that includes a lot of historical background. Johnson shines a light on racism, enabling readers to see for themselves that while great strides have been made, the battle for social justice is far from over. LGBTQ issues are also woven naturally into the story in a completely age-appropriate way.     

Mystery          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Candice isn’t happy about spending the summer away from Atlanta and her father. The family home is a victim of her parents’ divorce, and Candice and her mom are temporarily living in the home of her deceased grandmother. When she meets Brandon, a fellow bookworm living across the street, things start looking up. Going through a box of books her grandmother left her, Candace finds a letter outlining a mysterious fortune left to the town, in memory of an African American family forced to leave, if anyone can find it. Candace knows her grandmother ruined her reputation in the town trying to find the money, so she and Brandon set out to right the wrong, and find the money. A mystery worthy of The Westing Game, a book integral to the plot, The Parker Inheritance covers a variety of issues along the way, from discrimination to bullying to homosexuality, with age-appropriate sensitivity and without ever becoming so didactic as to spoil the story. This book will leave readers ready to research the history as well as pick up the many books mentioned. (Any readers who love The Dark is Rising and The Westing Game are friends of mine!).

THOUGHTS: This book is a must purchase.It excels as a mystery, let alone as an eye-opener to shameful discrimination past and present.  

Realistic Fiction/Mystery          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Saeed, Aisha. Amal Unbound. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018. 978-0-399-54468-2. 226 p. $17.99. Gr. 5-8.

Amal, a young Pakistani girl, is one of the top students in her village school and dreams of going to college and becoming a teacher.  Her confidence and dreams begin to shatter when her mother falls into a deep depression after giving birth to the family’s fifth daughter.  Amal learns for the first time how deeply entrenched gender roles are etched into the fabric of her local culture when she finds out she must leave school and take over as her family’s primary caretaker.  Then, an even more devastating turn of events leads to Amal being forced to leave home and become an indentured servant of the village’s feudal landlord. Amal, stuck in a system that could potentially keep her–and others like her– trapped for life, is willing to risk everything for freedom and justice. The ending is upbeat and highly satisfying.  

THOUGHTS:  This story shines a light on the gender discrimination, antiquated feudal systems, and horrific indentured servitude practices that still exist around the globe (including in dark corners of the United States). The novel is well written, and the pacing is perfect. Amal is a likeable and relatable protagonist who young readers will root for all the way to the end as she fights to return to her family, attend school, and follow her dreams. A highly recommended title for middle schools.

Realistic Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Voiklis, Charlotte Jones, and Lena Roy. Becoming Madeleine: A Biography of the Author of A Wrinkle in Time by Her Grandaughters. Farrar, 2018. 978-0-374-30764-6. 176 p. $19.99. Gr. 5-9.

This biography of the author of one of the most celebrated works of children’s literature of the 20th century begins with the story of L’Engle’s parents and ends just after the publication of A Wrinkle in Time. The portrait the authors paint of their famous grandmother is intimate and detailed, and includes extensive selections from the journals L’Engle kept as an adolescent and young adult. As the title suggests, L’Engle is portrayed as always striving, always changing, and always eager to learn and grow. However, the authors do not glorify or glamorize.  For instance, the authors explain that some family members–including their own mother–were hurt by the way L’Engle fictionalized their real-life experiences without giving any thought to how this might make them feel. Photographs are also included.

THOUGHTS:  L’Engle’s own words are what really make this biography special, and the authors do an excellent job weaving them smoothly into the text.  Highly recommended for middle school biography collections, and a possible purchase for elementary and high schools as well.

Biography          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley

Rhodes, Jewell Parker. Ghost Boys. Little, Brown, 2018. 978-0-316-26228-6. 214 p. $16.99. Gr. 4-8.

In this stunning novel by Rhodes (Towers Falling), 12-year-old Jerome Rogers is killed by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for the real thing. The story takes readers through two timelines:  Jerome’s life before his death, and after. The “before” story reads like a well-written school story, in which Jerome, a quiet, studious, boy, is bullied, yet dares to reach out and make a friend who is even more of an outsider than he is.  The tension mounts, however, as the reader already knows that the story has an ending that is beyond dreadful. In the “after” story, Jerome is a ghost. At first he is alone, trapped in his family’s apartment but unable to comfort them as they grieve.  However, at the trial of the white policeman who shot him, he discovers that his murderer’s daughter, Sarah, can see and hear him. Sarah gets to know Jerome and starts to gain a new perspective about race and privilege, and begins questioning her father’s side of the story.  Meanwhile, Jerome meets the ghost of Emmett Till and learns his horrific story. Emmett introduces Jerome to an entire army of ghosts of black boys who have met violent ends, all seeking justice and peace.

THOUGHTS: This book is perfect for kids who aren’t quite ready for The Hate U Give or Dear Martin. It pulls no punches, but its main characters as well as its intended audience are slightly younger, and the issues, questions, and fears it addresses are just right for late elementary and middle school students.  Very highly recommended.

Realistic Fiction (“Before” section)          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD
Fantasy Fiction (“After” section)                       

Reynolds, Jason. Sunny. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2018. 159 p. 978-1-481-45021-8.  $16.99. Grades 5-8.

Sunny is a winner on the track.  But he feels like a murderer–of his mother, who died after giving birth to Sunny. His father (not Dad, but Darryl) makes Sunny run because his mother ran–and won. And Sunny runs so fast, he always wins his races. But it’s becoming a heavy burden. He loves being part of the Defenders track team, which includes newbies Ghost (Ghost, 2016), Patty (Patina, 2017) and Lu (Lu, forthcoming 2018). So what’s the problem? Sunny dislikes running. Even when he wins, he’d rather be dancing (something else his mother loved). His dad does not understand, but his homeschool teacher, Aurelia, does; they dance together for local hospital patients. When the pressure builds, Sunny quits mid-race. His coach brilliantly finds a new fit: Sunny can utilize his dance skill as the team’s first discus thrower. But what will be the fallout at home? Sunny writes his thoughts to “Dear Diary,” not a journal, not a notebook, and his vocabulary blooms in onomatopoeic words and phrases that help readers to feel the pulsing rhythms in his mind. Tickboom, whoosh, “happy to me feels like tweep, tweep, beedy bip bop booyow. That’s happy” (57). Sunny is going (new) places, and readers will enjoy getting to know him.

THOUGHTS: The novel is third in the very successful Track series; each of the novels can be read alone.   

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Gemeinhart, Dan. Good Dog. Scholastic, 2018. 290 p. 978-1-338-05388-3. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

Brodie was a good dog. And now he’s in dog heaven. Memories of earthly life take a while to re-form, and while Brodie loves this new place of dogs, energy, running, and peace, something is bothering him. He quickly comes to realize that his boy, Aiden, is in trouble, and Brodie has to help him. The Monster (Aiden’s dad)–the shouter, the hitter, the drinker, the kicker (144)–is still determined to hurt Aiden. The other dogs say returning to earth can’t be done (“you’re done with the world, and it’s done with you”)–but they take him to Tuck, the oldest dog there, who says that while it can be done, it never ends well for boy or dog. But Brodie is a good dog. And Brodie is determined. And when he goes, Tuck accompanies him, for Tuck, also, has something left undone. When they arrive, Brodie and Tuck are quickly tracked by hellhounds (bad dogs desperate for any bit of soul of a dog, and Brodie and Tuck are literally shining examples, glowing with new soul). They also attract a street-smart, sarcastic cat named Patsy, who teaches them only some things they need to learn. Brodie knows his time is limited, and the suspense rings true as he tries to find Aiden and determine how to help, while still outrunning the hellhounds and continuing to be a good dog.

THOUGHTS: A fantastic fantasy tale with a strong focus on heroism, devotion, sacrifice, and forgiveness. Can a good dog make a difference? The answer is a resounding yes. Are angels real? You decide. Gemeinhart does a fine job exposing the good and the bad in many of the animal psyches (Brodie, Tuck, Patsy, Darkly), but misses a chance at showing the same in the human characters, who are all good or all bad. Brodie is the kind of friend every kid wants by his or her side. Share with readers who love fantasy, or dogs, or a good cry. The violence and threat of violence is strong, so recommend to older readers who are ready to handle it.

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Montgomery, Sy. The Hyena Scientist. Photography by Nic Bishop. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. 72 p.  978-0-544-63511-1. $18.99. Grades 5-8.

Hyenas have a bad reputation.  Throughout history, they’ve been regarded as the dirty, ugly and mean (1).  But Zoologist Kay Halekamp has worked for over three decades in Kenya’s Masai Mara wildlife reserve, and she sees so much more to these mammals.  They’re not hateful scavengers, but rather skilled hunters. They are extremely smart, social, clean and, unlike most of the mammal world, the females rule over all.  Females are more aggressive, and Kay and her team have tracked and named different behaviors which show detailed attention to hierarchy in the hyena clans. So many questions arise from observing these creatures, but they also inspire awe.  In fact, Kay sees even their skulls as an amazing “swiss army knife,” useful for breaking open bones and eating really fast–to avoid the ever-present lions, who steal more of the hyenas’ kills than vice versa.

THOUGHTS: Montgomery specializes in making scientists’ work and living creatures’ habits truly inspirational, and she does not disappoint here.  She shares not just Kay’s background, but also the brief stories of current members of her team: assistant and data manager Dee White; UC Davis grad Ciara; Michigan-born and Australia-bound Jared; and young Californian Amy, who tried for years to earn a position in Kay’s hyena program. The inclusion of their stories shows the variety of involvement a person can have as a scientist.  Many well-captioned photographs by Nic Bishop fill the pages, and each page gives a new reason for interest in these animals. This is a fantastic addition to middle school library shelves and to the Scientists in the Field series.

599 Mammals          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Chapman, Fern Schumer. Three Stars in the Night Sky: A Refugee Family’s Separation and Reunion. Gussie Rose Press, 2018. 48 p. 978-0-996-47254-8. $18.95. Grades 5-8.

Chapman’s earlier titles have focused on the Holocaust and her own mother’s story in surviving it. This book turns to Gerda Katz, a Jewish girl that her mother met and became friends with as they fled persecution alone, apart from their families. Helen and Gerda lost touch, but after reading Chapman’s novel of her mother, Is It Night or Day?, an eighth-grade class made it their mission to reunite these friends. Chapman details that reunion in Like Finding My Twin, and now tells Gerda’s story in her latest book. Gerda’s family (parents, two brothers, a sister) saw the dangers of the Nazi regime and, after her brothers spent time in a concentration camp (one was killed), her brother Fritz made it his mission to save his family. His efforts secured twelve-year-old Gerda emigration to the United States, specifically, Seattle, where she would remain for the duration of the war, horribly homesick and worried for the fate of her family. They wrote weekly letters, then the letters stopped. For five long weeks, Gerda waited. Then a letter came from Fritz explaining that he, their sister and parents were part of the 100,000 Jews granted asylum in the Dominican Republic. Their lives were saved, but their way of life was gone, lost in a hot, agrarian culture whose dictator desired the Jews solely for lightening the skin color of his countrymen. Gerda’s story is well-explained with maps and plenty of primary source materials.

THOUGHTS: At 48 pages, this unintimidating title will attract readers. It is worth reading to marvel at Gerda’s brother Fritz, of whom Gerda says, “I don’t know any other man like him. We’d be dead if it weren’t for Fritz (33). This is a good look at the strength of immigrants.

940.53 WWII Holocaust          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

DuMont, Brianna. Thrilling Thieves: Liars, Cheats, and Cons Who Changed History. (The Changed History Series) Sky Pony Press, 2018. 177 p. 978-1-510-70169-4. $16.99. Grades 5-12.

DuMont chronologically focuses on big-time thieves in her third book in the Changed History series.  She begins with the Venetians, who famously stole Constantinople’s bronze horses (they were later stolen from Venice, then re-stolen by the Venetians, who kept a better hold on them the second time) and many further treasures to make themselves a world-class city.  Moving through time, she focuses on Elizabeth I, whose thievery through Sir Francis Drake on the high seas helped to build foundering England into a mighty naval power–and also doomed many into slavery. Robert Smalls appears as a thief of a ship used to earn himself and other slaves their freedom.  Madame Cheng proved women could handle a pirate ship–and some 70,000 men under her rule on the high seas–and inspire fear in all nations (all in about three years). Each entry is written in engaging tones easy for a middle schooler to read (and often humorous). In fact, the writing hurts itself by not sounding more research-oriented; but DuMont includes her sources and additional reading.

THOUGHTS: A strong nonfiction choice that should attract attention to the other titles in the series, including Famous Phonies: Legends, Fakes and Frauds Who Changed History (2014) and Fantastic Fugitives: Criminals, Cutthroats, and Rebels Who Changed History (While on the Run!) (2016).   

920 Collective Biography          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Beals, Melba Pattillo. March Forward, Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. 214 p. 978-1-328-88212-7. $16.99. Grades 5-12.

In Warriors Don’t Cry (1995), Melba Pattillo Beals has written movingly about her difficult and life-changing experience as a 15-year-old teenager, one of the nine African-American teenagers chosen to integrate the all-white Little Rock High School in 1957.  In this book, she details her growing up years until the year she attended Little Rock High School, and shows readers a picture of a precocious girl understanding far more than she was given credit for, and constantly questioning why treatment of African-Americans was so unfair, where did the rules come from (were they in a rule book issued from heaven?) and why didn’t God put an end to it now?  If we’re all supposed to share, why don’t the white people share anything?  Melba was also prone to anxiety, especially as she overheard stories of the Ku Klux Klan in her neighborhood, or worse yet, witnessed them herself (as she did at age five, when four Klansmen entered their church and hanged a man from the rafters); she felt safe only in her home and church, and after the hanging, only at home.  Her own abduction and escape, at age 11, by Klansmen, is appropriately frightening without detailing the sexual threat which she herself did not understand at the time. She knew that “unless things changed a lot–unless we had a big, big Little Rock miracle, I had to get out of that city if I ever wanted to be somebody and be free” (147).   Her grandmother (whom she calls her best friend, and who homeschooled Melba through asthma episodes) exhibited a strong Christian faith when she counseled Melba with her questions, and Melba relied on that faith to make it through her questions and her amazing experience in fighting segregation. From her grandmother she learned strength and faith: “There is no crying, no whining, no complaining.  There is just march forward, girl. You have to make sure that you are contributing to our journey forward, not sitting on the side of the road whimpering” (155).

THOUGHTS: This is a powerful depiction of Southern life under Jim Crow, from an insightful young girl who lived it. Melba has simultaneously published an adult version of this title, entitled I Will Not Fear (2018).  Any of her works is worth putting into the hands of students; this title is well-suited for middle schoolers.

Biography         Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Readers are taken back to the 1940s and 1950s when the author grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. There are primary photographs and detailed artwork to support the text throughout the twenty chapters. Joys include family moments, gardening, listening to music, and attending Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Unfortunately, when Beals was five the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) ruined their safe location and placed Mr. Harvey, a church member and their friend, around a rope to die a painful death. Events like grocery shopping were difficult because Beals and her family were not treated with kindness simply due to the color of their skin. Beals did not understand all of the “whites only” signs and yearned to be treated equally. Another terrifying time was when Beals was walking home from Gilliam Park at eleven years old and was picked up by Klansmen, forced to ride in the back of their truck, then go to a party with at least 50 Klansmen, where one wanted her for his “dessert.” While Beals wants the best schooling, the results of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 helped to put this in motion. The epilogue provides an insight to when Beals was one of the nine students who were part of the integration at Central High School in 1957. The book concludes with a note to the readers and acknowledgments.

THOUGHTS: Chances are that your faculty and staff will remember the powerful memoir Warriors Don’t Cry. March Forward, Girl introduces younger students to the experiences and time period when Melba Pattillo Beals was a child. This book is a necessity for our students and library collections.

Biography          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Connor, Leslie. The Truth as Told By Mason Buttle. Katherine Tegen Books, 2018. 328 p. 978-0-062-49143-5. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

Twelve-year-old seventh grader Mason Buttle stands out in his school–for his severe dyslexia, his overactive sweat glands, and his large size and height. These trouble him, but his internal struggles trouble him more. Since his mother died in a car accident, Mason lives in “the crumbledown” house with his grandmother and uncle Drum on their family’s disused apple grove, parts of which his uncle has sold to developers. Both grandma and Uncle Drum have loads of experience and common sense which have been flattened by depression in the face of loss. School provides endless bullying, especially from neighbor Matt Drinker and friends, who daily pelt Mason with lacrosse balls and/or mushy apples. And, fifteen months ago, his best friend Benny Kilmartin died when he fell from the treehouse he and Mason enjoyed so much. Lieutenant Baird “of the Pee Dee,” continues to question Mason about the accident, certain that Mason (who is as honest and loyal as the day is long) isn’t telling the complete story. With the help of school social worker Mrs. Blinny and her speech-to-write software, Mason is slowly writing more for the Lieutenant. Mason makes a new friend in a completely opposite kind of boy, the tiny, curious, indoor-loving Calvin Chumsky (another bully target). The two create a new, secret hideout from the Buttle’s abandoned root cellar, decorating it to resemble the caves of Lascaux complete with wall paintings. Then Calvin goes missing, and Mason is again suspected. More than anything, he wants to know what happened to Benny and to Calvin. How the positive parts of his life overcome the darkness is the subject of this insightful book, where friends and family do make all the difference.

THOUGHTS: Connor expertly crafts a unique menagerie of characters who impact Mason’s life and finally pull together in the aftermath of tragedy. Despite the heaviness of Mason’s reality, this is ultimately an uplifting tale of how truth and loyalty win the day.

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Upper Elem./MG – Lions & Liars, A Whale in Paris, Sheets

Beasley, Kate. Lions & Liars. Farrar Straus Giroux. 2018. 978-0-374-30263-4. $16.99. 288 p. Gr. 4-6.

The theory of life, according to Frederick’s friends is that some people are the lions, other gazelles, followed by meerkats. But the lowest of the lows are the fleas that live on the butts of the meerkats. Frederick is tired of being the flea of life; all he wants to be is a lion, or at least be a gazelle. This thought takes him away on an accidental journey to a camp – a disciplinary camp. Between the exercises, activities, and escape plots, Frederick begins to fit in with the other boys in Group Thirteen – Nosebleed, the Professor, Ant Bite, and Specs. As a Category 5 hurricane makes its way toward the camp, Frederick will have to learn to become a lion – or at least part of the oddball group of fleas – in order to survive.

THOUGHTS: A great adventure story that makes you think about who you are in life and how you fit in within the world. Boys and girls will feel connected to the struggles of Frederick and realize that sometimes in life, you are both the lion and the flea, but what matters is friendship and the adventure you take in life.

Realistic Fiction          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Presley, Daniel, and Claire Polders. A Whale in Paris. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2018.  978-1-5344-1915-5. $17.99. 246 p. Gr. 4-6

It’s Paris, 1944, and the war is still ongoing. Despite the fact that there are whispers in the streets of the the Allies coming, the “guests” are still very much present. Chantal Duprey often wonders how the Allies will come, so it is no surprise that while fishing one night with her father, a fishmonger, a strange sound comes from the Seine. But… this sound is different than what a submarine should sound like. In fact, this sound is big and has a fin. A whale in in the Seine! As Chantal grows close to her whale friend, she realizes that they are both prisoners in Paris. It takes all of Chantal’s courage to realize that in order for her to survive and save her family, she must also save her friend from a frightful fate as well.

THOUGHTS: A delightful tale of a heroine saving her family and friend in the time of war, A Whale in Paris is a great choice for upper elementary students who wish to have a historical tale with an adventurous twist.

Historical Fiction (WWII, 1944)          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Thummler, Brenna. Sheets. Lion Forge. 2018. 978-1-941302-67-5. $12.99. 241 p. Gr. 4-8.

Marjorie Glatts feels isolated and alone, as if she were a ghost. With her mother gone and her father practically gone, she is left alone to take care of the family laundromat. As if life couldn’t become any more isolated, customers are leaving, and Mr. Saubertuck is continuously bothering her about taking over the laundromat for his five-star resort.

Wendell is a ghost who feels isolated and alone in his ghost town. He decides to leave his town and takes up residence in a laundromat, which quickly becomes his midnight playground. Little does he know that his world is about to collide with Marjorie’s. As he delights in his newfound life, he accidentally destroys everything that Marjorie knows.

Together, this isolated pair will have to come together to help repair what has been destroyed, one stain at a time.

THOUGHTS: This book contains some serious subjects – death, alcoholism, and depression – but is presented in a way that flows smoothly within the story. The illustrations are unique and light, which helps the reader tread some serious subjects, while investing themselves in the characters and the story.

Graphic Novel          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Marjorie’s family is overcome with grief when her mother passes away. While her father is overwhelmed with the loss, thirteen year old Marjorie steps into the supportive role, providing for her younger brother and father, and managing her Mom’s laundromat. But Marjorie is sad, too, and slogs through hectic days caring for her family, dealing with testy customers and avoiding the questioning stares of her middle school peers. To complicate things, accidents start happening at the laundromat, and Marjorie finds it’s haunted by a young ghost named Wendell. In an alternating storyline, readers learn about Wendell’s past and his time in the land of ghosts. When a shady local businessman attempts to buy the laundromat, Marjorie is even more heartbroken and finds that Wendell is her only hope at saving the space and the memories of her mother.

THOUGHTS: Sheets is a thoughtful look at how grief can affect teens and tweens. This has not been on the shelves since I book talked it a few weeks ago, so I recommend it for a library where graphic novels are popular and teens are constantly looking for new reads.

Graphic Novel          Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

YA FIC – The Summer of Jordi Perez, Listen to Your Heart, Between the Lines, Truly Devious, Everless

Spalding, Amy.  The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles). New York: Sky Pony Press, 2018. 978-1-510-72766-3. 284 p. $16.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Amy Spalding’s frothy confection of a novel is an utterly charming example of a quintessential (21st century) YA book, and the perfect summer read. Abby has just landed her dream internship at quirky boutique clothing store, Lemonberry, along with the chance of a paid job at the end of it; her dream did not include sharing the internship with her undeniably cool and professional classmate Jordi Perez, however. Abby is a masterful and savvy social media guru, a talent that she both embraces, and feels vaguely embarrassed about in the face of Jordi’s more “sophisticated” talent of photography; the more praise Jordi receives, the less confident Abby becomes. Nevertheless, Abby finds herself becoming increasingly attracted to Jordi, a sentiment she is positive Jordi does not share, but the more time the girls spend together, the more obvious their chemistry becomes.  Abby and Jordi are diametric opposites – Abby is bubbly, colorful, curious about everything, and lives her life like an open book; Jordi is more reserved, dresses solely in black, and has a less optimistic view of the world. Their romance is sweet, as it is the first relationship that either of the girls have been in, and their interplay is endearing. Abby also forms an unlikely connection with Jax, a definitive “bro,” who clicks immediately with Abby – their two best friends are dating each other, and both Abby & Jax often feel overlooked. Together, the two of them embark on a quest to find the best burgers in LA for Jax’s father’s new Yelp-like app. Jax keeps Abby grounded, and forces her to confront the fact that she is worthy of being loved, and is, indeed quite the catch. While Abby experiences moments of emotional distress, the overall tone of the book is lighthearted, and it’s refreshing to see a protagonist like Abby – openly gay, openly full-figured, and openly obsessed with fashion – get to shine.  

THOUGHTS: This should be in every contemporary YA collection. The fact that this is not a “coming out” story, and that Abby just happens to be gay – that her sexuality is not the center of the narrative – is a great shift in LBGTQ+ literature, and will hopefully continue to be a trend in future YA offerings.

Realistic Fiction          Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

West, Kasie. Listen to Your Heart. Scholastic, 2018. 978-1-338-21005-7. 336p. $17.99. Gr. 7-12.

Kate Bailey lives in the town of Lakesprings, where her family runs the local marina. As summer winds to a close, she leaves her summer lake job behind to begin her junior year at school. Still getting over an amicable break-up (her boyfriend moved away), Kate’s not really looking forward to the new school year–she’s not much of a people person and would rather be out on the lake. And one of her electives is a podcasting course–she’s never even listened to a podcast! Why did she let her best friend Alana talk her to taking the class? When her suggested topic of an advice show is chosen as the theme of the class-produced podcast, Kate finds herself in front of the microphone as the co-host of the podcast. While initially reluctant, Kate soon grows into the role of co-host and the podcast picks up fans at school. When one caller asks for romance advice, Kate is sure it is Alana’s crush Diego. Kate does her best to steer him in Alana’s direction, but slowly comes to the realization that she has feelings for Diego herself. How can this tangled situation be resolved?  

THOUGHTS: A perfect choice for contemporary romance fans, this title also incorporates themes of friendship, family, and challenging yourself and experiencing growth. Kasie West fans will want to add this to their bookshelves. Recommended for middle school and high school collections.

Realistic Fiction          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Grimes, Nikki. Between The Lines.  Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018. 978-0-399-24688-3.  224 p.  $17.99  Gr. 7-12.

Fans of Grimes’ popular, groundbreaking novel Bronx Masquerade will love this follow-up, but Between The Lines also stands perfectly well on its own. The format is unusual:  it is not a novel in verse, but rather a novel interspersed with poems. Grimes’ book follows nine teens who live  in the Bronx as they learn to share their personal stories through poetry in Mr. Ward’s English class. The primary narrator, Darrian, hopes to become a journalist someday, and the book is framed through his perspective, using headlines as chapter subheadings to break up the text.  This technique is extremely effective, as it helps with the novel’s pacing, and also adds some occasional humor to the emotionally intense and serious subject matter. Each student has a unique and often heart-wrenching backstory, from a girl who is burdened with the responsibility of caring for a sibling because of her mother’s addiction, to a boy whose father was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, to a girl terrified about what will happen to her when she ages out of the foster care system.  (Grimes shares information at the end of the book about organizations that assist former foster care children.) The ultimate message is one of perseverance and hope, even in the most difficult circumstances, and the importance of community.

THOUGHTS:  This book offers multiple perspectives about the lives of teens living in the same place but from diverse backgrounds, each experiencing and working through very different kinds of problems. It is an easy, yet thought-provoking read, that will have high appeal to teens and also many possibilities for curricular use.  Appropriate and very highly recommended for both middle and high school libraries.

Realistic Fiction, Poetry          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Johnson, Maureen. Truly, Devious. Katherine Tegen Books, 2018. 978-0-062-33805-1. 320 p. $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Private school Ellingham Academy is tucked into a remote Vermont mountainside. The school is known for encouraging some of the greatest minds – both academic and creative. Founded in the mid-1930s by wealthy philanthropist Albert Ellingham, a man fond of riddles and games, the school is free for those who attend, and the resources available to them are endless. Ellingham, his wife, and their young daughter live in the main house at the center of the school’s campus. When Mrs. Ellingham and Alice go out on a drive and disappear, the only clue is a gruesome letter signed Truly Devious. Ransom calls come in, and Ellingham desperately does everything he can to rescue them to.

Nearly a century later, true-crime fan Stevie Bell is moving into Ellingham Academy, determined to succeed where all others have failed. Stevie feels like she has something to prove, though. While everyone else at school seems to have some incredible talent or skill, Stevie’s fascination with crime-solving, specifically her obsession over the unsolved Ellingham case, is what she was admitted on. When past and present collide, it seems Truly Devious may be closer than Stevie thinks.

THOUGHTS: Mystery fiction fans will love the blending of two stories, and be desperate to puzzle the clues together. While Stevie deals with being away from home; the pressures of a new, competitive school; and her anxiety, readers will watch her grow and come into her own. Underage drinking takes place, but consequences are also discussed. Initially, I was disappointed not to have all of the answers in book one, but I will anxiously await them in books two and three!

Mystery          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Stevie Bell is a true crime aficionado. She will be attending the prestigious Ellington Academy in Vermont, which only admits a few unique students each year. Stevie is determined to solve the cold case abduction and murder that happened on the campus many years ago. In the 1930s, soon after the school was opened by Albert Ellington, his wife and daughter were kidnapped, and a student was killed. The only evidence was a cryptic letter, signed “Truly, Devious.” For her cumulative school project, Stevie sets out to solve the murder, but soon discovers mysterious happenings all over campus. And after a fellow student is murdered, Stevie sees the Truly, Devious letter reflected on her wall, and knows the mystery is far from over. With the possibility of her school closing, Stevie is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery while navigating perilous friendships and heartbreak.

THOUGHTS: This captivating mystery will keep readers on their toes. But be warned – the cliffhanger ending will have you begging for the next book in the series!

Mystery          Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Stevie Bell is a first year at Ellingham Academy, an eclectic school founded by millionaire Albert Ellingham. Her obsession with crime and criminology made her an expert on the 1936 Ellingham murders and disappearance of Alice Ellingham, Albert’s daughter, after the morbid reception of a riddle by Truly Devious. Stevie is determined to figure out what happened to Alice and who Truly Devious actually is, but first she must figure out life at boarding school. As her life intertwines with those of her housemates, Ellie, David, Nate, Hayes, and Janelle, along with students at Ellingham, Stevie realizes there is more to everyone and everything than meets the eye. When Stevie receives a message from Truly Devious (or at least thinks she does), her world takes a turn that includes murder. With mystery surrounding many of her classmates, it is up to Stevie to figure out the truth and solve the newest Ellingham murder before the school shuts down, or worse, her parents make her come home.

THOUGHTS: Truly Devious truly is an enjoyable mystery. Stylistically closer to Agatha Christie than James Patterson (for reference), the novel takes time to build and is not action-packed. Characters develop, which allows the reader to piece together the story as it happens. The interspersed pieces from the original Ellingham murders with the current students and murder leave holes for the reader that Truly Devious doesn’t answer. Some of the holes are frustrating (the compact), while others, David, will work themselves out in time. January 22, 2019, needs to get here.

Mystery Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Holland, Sara. Everless. New York: HarperTeen, 2018. 978-0-062-65365-9. 368 p.  $17.99. Gr 7-12.

Jules Ember and her father live in poverty in Sempera. Years ago, they fled from danger in the grand Everless palace, and growing up, Jules has come to resent the rich aristocrats who live there, the Gerlings. In their kingdom, time is currency, and people can trade or sell the iron in their blood, taking years off their lives in order to pay off their debt. While the Gerlings drink an iron coin with each lavish meal, peasants like Jules and her father take years off their lives struggling to pay their ridiculous taxes and bills.  When Jules learns her father is sick, she realizes the only way to stop him from dying is by working at Everless. While there, she begins to remember the childhood she had there before her family left, and finds herself drawn to the enigmatic Roan. As she works among the Gerlings, Jules discovers she has the magical ability to freeze time, and also finds a mysterious connection to the Queen, who her father warned her never to trust.

THOUGHTS: Another fine fantasy book to add to a teen collection. This one might have trouble catching on, as the time/blood currency is confusing at first. But readers who stick with it will find themselves sucked into Holland’s excellent writing and world-building.

Fantasy          Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Upper Elem./MG – Escape from Aleppo, Origami Fun, You Go First

Senzai, N.H. Escape from Aleppo.  Paula Wiseman, 2018.  978-1-481-47217-3.  326 p.  $16.99  Gr. 5-8

As the civil war intensifies in Syria, Nadia’s family decides they must flee their beloved city of Aleppo as it literally crumbles around them. However, Nadia, who has been traumatized by the bombing, freezes at the wrong moment and ends up separated from her family.  Determined to find them, Nadia joins a mysterious, frail old man who she knows only as Ammo Mazan, who promises to help her. But Ammo Mazan clearly has a secret agenda of his own, and Nadia is not sure if she can trust him. The two of them join up with two orphan boys as the story progresses, and the little group makes their way toward the Turkish border.  On the way, they meet people trying to preserve the city’s history. They also make a few narrow escapes as they navigate their way toward freedom. The story moves back and forth between two time periods, before and after the escape, so the reader also learns about Nadia’s life in Aleppo with her family before the escape.

THOUGHTS:  This book includes more exposition than storytelling or character development, but it contains a lot of interesting and useful information about the Syrian conflict and the Arab Spring as well as Syrian history, and the writing is clear and age-appropriate. Recommended for students who are interested in the topic (as opposed to those looking for a thriller), and for libraries looking to increase the diversity of their collections.

Realistic Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Hardyman, Robyn, and Jessica Moon. Origami Fun. Bellwether, 2018. 24 p. $19.95 ea. $159.60 set of 8. Gr. 3-7.

Aircraft. 978-1-62617-707-9.
Birds. 978-1-62617-708-6.
Dinosaurs. 978-1-62617-709-3.
Farm Animals. 978-1-62617-710-9.
Holidays. 978-1-62617-711-6.
Jungle Animals. 978-1-62617-712-3.
Ocean Animals. 978-1-62617-713-0.
Pets. 978-1-62617-714-7.

Origami has been a popular hobby with many students for years, and now is appearing in schools as part of the Makerspace movement. The Origami Fun series aims to teach upper elementary and middle school students the art of paper folding. Each volume offers basic folding tips/instructions, and then provides details on how to create eight unique origami items. Each volume also offers factual information about the real-life animal, planes, holidays, etc. For example, in the Farm Animals volume readers not only learn how to create origami sheep, cows and goats, they also will learn basic information about sheep, cows and goats (what they eat, what their role is on the farm, etc).

THOUGHTS: This series is a great option for schools with origami fans or looking to enhance their Makerspace collection. The instructions for creating the origami items are clearly numbered and illustrated and can easily been understood by origami novices. Recommended.

736.9 Origami          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Kelly, Erin Entrada. You Go First.  Greenwillow, 2018. 978-0-062-41418-2.  304 p.  $16.99  Gr. 4-7.

This novel from 2018 Newbery award-winner Erin Entrada Kelly (Hello Universe) switches between the points of view of 11-year-old Ben Boxer, who lives in small-town Louisiana, and 12-year-old Charlotte Lockard, who lives just outside of Philadelphia. Both Ben and Charlotte are having a rough week:  Ben’s parents have announced they are getting divorced, and Charlotte’s father has just had a heart attack. Worst of all, neither of them has a close friend with whom to share their misery. Ben and Charlotte have been online scrabble friends for a while, but, desperate for someone to connect with, Ben decides to start texting, and then talking, with Charlotte, and they offer each other advice and support. Yet, rather than baring their souls to each other, they talk around rather than through their problems, keeping things light and pretending everything is rosier than it really is. Too, it is clear that both kids ultimately will need friends in real life as well as online.  The ending is hopeful, but not triumphant, as Charlotte and Ben discover that tackling life’s problems takes time and patience as well as determination, and things don’t always turn out the way you plan.

THOUGHTS: Expectations are high for an author coming off a Newbery win. This book is excellent, but it is a quiet, subtle novel that could easily fly under the radar and may need some booktalking to find the right readers.  Entrada, who is Filipino-American, addresses many of the same issues and themes she has in her previous novels here: friendship, bullying, kindness, diversity, and self-discovery. Her writing is top-notch. Highly recommended for older elementary and middle schools.

Realistic Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD