Elem. – Crunch: The Shy Dinosaur; A Dog Called Bear; Puppy Styled; Sisters and Champions; A Gift From Abuela; A Pup Called Trouble; Fly Guy and the Alienzz; Kristy’s Big Day; Llama Llama Loves to Read; A Round of Robins; Otis and Will Discover the Deep

Dunlap, Cirocco. Crunch: The Shy Dinosaur. Random House, 2018. 978-0-399-55056-2. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-Gr. 1.

Crunch is a friendly dinosaur, but he is very shy. In order to get him to come out of his shell, the reader must carry out actions like using an appropriate tone of voice, singing “Happy Birthday,” and sitting very quietly. After all of the excitement of interacting with his new friend (the reader), Crunch is ready for bed, and the audience is called on once again to help out, this time with coaxing Crunch to sleep. In addition to the interactive nature of the book, cartoon-like illustrations by Geisel Award winner Greg Pizzoli add to the book’s appeal for young readers. An engaging and playful title, this makes a great bedtime story for young children.  

THOUGHTS: Not only will children love getting involved in the story, but they may also learn a thing or two about engaging with individuals who are not outgoing. This book could certainly spark discussions about appropriate interaction between two people. Alternately, the book could be paired with other dinosaur stories like Ryan T. Higgins’s We Don’t Eat Our Classmates or Jane Yolen’s How Do Dinosaurs…? series.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

Fox, Diane, and Christyan Fox.  A Dog Called Bear. Henry Holt, 2018. Unpaged.  978-1-627-79867-9. $16.99. Grades K-2.

This British import is the story of a young girl named Lucy who is searching for a pet dog.  She prepared to become a dog owner by reading about dogs and saving money to buy “doggy things.”  On her quest, she first meets two other animals who do not meet her conditions. The frog requires daily baths, and she only has a shower at home, while the fox is not sure he can stay indoors every day. Next she meets a bear who claims to be a dog. Although Lucy is skeptical about this “new breed of dog,” she takes Bear into her home, where he proceeds to hibernate for several months. Soon both the pet and owner have issues with each other. Lucy is fed up with the porridge mess, while Bear is tired of playing fetch. Bear runs away, only to realize that he misses Lucy and his comfortable life. Lucy also has a change of heart and has posted signs everywhere for her “lost dog.” The illustrations are done in a whimsical style, and there is a lot of white space on each page. The dialogue is depicted in callouts.

THOUGHTS: While not an essential purchase, this book makes a good read aloud. Children will have a good laugh at this story of mistaken identity.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD                              

Chon, Grace. Puppy Styled: Japanese Dog Grooming – Before and After. The Countryman Press, 2018. 978-1-682-68176-3. 95 p. $12.95. Grades 3+.

Traditional dog grooming is designed to showcase each breed’s ideal characteristics. Japanese dog grooming, on the other hand, takes a completely different approach. Instead of highlighting breed attributes and disguising individual flaws, the goal of Japanese dog grooming is simply to make every dog as cute as possible while allowing its unique personality to shine through! Puppy Styled by acclaimed animal photographer Grace Chon compiles forty-two before and after photographs of small-breed dogs such as Maltese, Bichon Frise, and Miniature Schnauzer. Side parts, swoops, spikes, general fluffiness complement expressive eyes, wet noses, and plenty of canine smiles. “Through these images,” Chon writes in her Introduction, “we can recognize the power of transformation and the possibilities that can come from change. Sometimes, all it takes is a great haircut.”

THOUGHTS: Several Life Skills classes visit the library regularly, and these students love checking out magazines, cookbooks, travel guides, and other books with plenty of vibrant photographs and illustrations to support the text. Puppy Styled is a great choice for students of all ages who are still learning to read but love books all the same. It’s also a perfect option for anyone who is looking for something fun to page through in between longer reads.

636 Animals          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Bryant, Howard. Sisters & Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams. New York, Philomel Books. 2018. 978-0-399-16906-9. $17.99. Unpaged. Grades 2-4.

The Williams family was always tight, and the father was confident. Richard would brag and boast about his two girls, and the girls proved him right. Others would laugh and throw doubt, but Venus and Serena worked hard and stuck together when times got tough. This thin biographical picture book by ESPN writer Howard Bryant drives home several key values that make the Williams’ story special: their grit, determination, ability, and family. Floyd Cooper brings usual wonderful detail and facial familiarity to his stylish illustrations. Much of the gossip and distractions from their family saga are missing here, but their on the court action makes the story an winner.

THOUGHTS: Any collection of racial and societal barriers should include the story of Venus and Serena. They each had personal setbacks and fought to return to the court that helped them make history. Both are still proving skeptics wrong, and many young girls will be able to transfer the story to their own dreams and goals.

Biography          Dustin Brackbill State College Area SD

Ruiz, Cecelia. A Gift From Abuela. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press. 2018. 978-0-763-69267-4. $15.99. Unpaged. Grades K-2.

Abuela and Niña have had a special relationship since Niña was born. They spent quality time playing and exploring in Mexico City as Nina grew up, often capped off by sitting in the park and eating a pan dulce. Abuela wanted to give Niña a special gift, so she began saving for it, but circumstances in the country and in their lives interfered. Will time and changes prevent a happy ending? Cecilia Ruiz provides a sweet intergenerational story with gentle, screened prints to explore Mexico City. There are Spanish words interspersed through the narrative, but the story is for anyone wanting to connect back to their grandparents.

THOUGHTS: The surprising ending will leave young readers debating what is truly valuable. Older readers will also be curious about the social, political, and economic evolution of Mexico during this time. The traditions included (papel picados) will be comforting and familiar to some while hopefully leading other readers to explore more.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill State College Area SD

Pyron, Bobbie. A Pup Called Trouble. Catherine Tegen, 2018. 978-0-062-68522-3. 200 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6.

A coyote pup named Trouble lives with his family in a comfortable den. True to his name, he manages to find himself in troublesome situations because of his curiosity. One day he climbs into a produce truck parked at a nearby farm and soon finds himself in New York City. Trouble meets some animal friends during his adventures in the big city, and these include a mischievous crow, an empathetic poodle, a friendly opossum, and a wise owl. On his trail is an animal control officer who is relentless in his pursuit of the coyote. After escaping from an office building and a subway, Trouble finds some solace in Central Park. This peace does not last long, and the fate of Trouble rests in the hands of a young girl and in the paws or claws of his animal friends. Will Trouble ever find his way back to his family? There is plenty of action and suspense in this novel, and animal lovers will find themselves rooting for Trouble as they enjoy reading about his escapades.

THOUGHTS:  This book belongs in every elementary collection. Hand this one to those who enjoy animal stories, like Lasky’s Wolves of the Beyond series or Avi’s Old Wolf or The Good Dog.

Fantasy          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD

Arnold, Tedd. Fly Guy and the Alienzz. Cartwheel Books, 2018. 978-0-545-66318-2. 30 p. $6.99. Gr. K-3.

Buzz Boy and Fly Guy are back, and in this adventure they’re movie stars! Buzz makes a movie (using his cell phone, some puppets on sticks, and a flashlight “spaceship”) in which Buzz Boy and Fly Guy are attacked by aliens. The aliens suck the superheroes into their spaceship and tie up Buzz Boy. Fly Guy manages to escape and get help from pal Dragon Dude and Fly Girl. All is well in the end except Fly Guy realizes that Buzz’s character was never rescued – oh no! Buzz suggests a sequel and gets to work. With short, easy-to-read chapters (called scenes in this book), lovable characters, and fun illustrations, Arnold created another winning Fly Guy adventure.

THOUGHTS: Fans of the series will love the new addition.

Picture Book           Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Galligan, Gale. Kristy’s Big Day (The Baby-Sitters Club). Graphix, 2018. 978-1-338-06768-2. 153 p. $24.99. Gr. 3-6.

I am loving the BSC reboot! As a hardcore childhood BSC fan, these books alternately make me reminisce for the good old Ann M. Martin chapter books while wishing the Telgemeier/Galligan versions were available when I was a kid. Book 6 finds Kristy’s mom marrying Watson Brewer, and the two families moving to Watson’s mansion across town. The catch? It must be planned and completed in two weeks! With fourteen children underfoot while relatives and friends help with wedding prep, Kristy enlists help from the BSC, and the sitters take on their biggest challenge yet – a week-long day camp for all fourteen kids. All the classic highlights are there – the raucous barbershop trip, the Mary Poppins viewing, the disastrous playground visit. Everyone survives the week, and Kristy warms up to the idea of her new blended family. Overall, I think the graphic novel version was done really well. A few notes: Nanny’s classic “Pink Clinker” is gone, replaced by a sporty red Beetle-like convertible, and Galligan’s style of drawing eyes is sometimes a bit strange, but it’s a really enjoyable story.

THOUGHTS: Fans of the BSC and new readers alike will find a BSC character to relate to and will surely enjoy this story.

Graphic Novel            Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Dewdney, Anna, and Reed Duncan. Llama Llama Loves to Read. Viking, 2018. 978-0-670-01397-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-2.

Llama Llama Loves to Read was created in a writing partnership between Dewdney and long-time life partner Reed Duncan. Fans of Llama Llama will happily read about Llama’s adventures in learning to read. Even when he gets frustrated, Llama perseveres and finds small victories, like when he recognizes the word “Go” on a sign held at walking time. He goes on to have lots of happy moments of reading accomplishment. JT Morrow’s illustrations are delightfully like those of Dewdney, and I truthfully didn’t realize the difference in illustrator until after I read the book twice. While Dewdney co-wrote the story, some of the rhymes feel a little too long for her usual style, and the story lacks a little bit of her normal warmth. Regardless, it’s a nice addition to the series.

THOUGHTS: Fans of Llama Llama will enjoy another title about the endearing little llama even if it lacks all it’s usual pizzazz.

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Hesterman, Katie. A Round of Robins. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018. 978-0-399-54778-2. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

A lovely springtime read aloud, Hesterman created 16 poems detailing the life of a robin, from “Turf Tune” and “Home Sweet Home” in which Mom and Dad are claiming space and creating a nest to “Welcome to the World” in which the four robin eggs break open. Each poem is charming and packed with facts about robins (such as the fact that they usually lay four eggs). My favorite poem is “Earning Their Wings” when the fledglings finally learn to fly. Sergio Ruzzier’s pen and ink and watercolor illustrations are warm and lively and alternate between full page scenes and spare pictures (a single nest full of babies) with lots of surrounding white space. Fun note: the front endpapers show different bird eggs and the back endpapers show the same eggs, but the robin eggs are hatching.

THOUHGTS: A Round of Robins is a beautifully done look at a springtime wonder. Enjoy with a small group or whole class when the weather warms up.

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Rosenstock, Barb. Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere. Little, Brown and Company, 2018. 978-0-316-39382-9. Unpaged. $18.99. Gr. K-3.

This is a great true-life scientific adventure! Otis Barton and Will Beebe were the first men to dive “…down, down into the deep” and discover the amazing deep sea world. Barton and Beebe, both adventurers and nature lovers, partnered to design and build the Bathyspere, a hollow round diving tank that was carefully planned and constructed. Rosenstock’s text conveys the excitement and tension surrounding the first dive because so many things could have gone wrong – leaks, problems with oxygen levels, and so many more. The pages detailing their first dive are done SO well. You can see the Bathyspere sinking deeper and deeper into darker water and just feel the tension in that tiny metal tank. At 800 feet, after a few minor problems, Barton and Beebe stopped descending and had their first look at the amazing world around them, which opens into a four page spread of dark inky water and shadowy life forms, highlighted by the brightly lit Bathyspere in the middle. It’s just gorgeous. Katherine Roy was the perfect illustrator for this book, and her amazingly detailed ink drawings give so much emotion to the story. The book ends with a lengthy Author’s Note, an Illustrator’s Note that details Roy’s process for researching and creating the illustrations, a note from Beebe’s former assistant, and a source list.

THOUGHTS: Make sure to buy this book and share the amazing story with your students. They’ll be captivated by the story and pictures alike.

551.46          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Elem. – Julián is a Mermaid; Bob; The Island at the End of Everything; Awesome Dogs (series)

Love, Jessica. Julián is a Mermaid. Candlewick Press, 2018. 978-0-763-69045-8. 32 p. $16.99. Gr. PreK – 2.

A young boy, Julián, goes swimming with his abuela (grandmother) at the pool. On the ride home they see women dressed like mermaids boarding their bus. Julián is smitten and as soon as his grandmother leaves him alone to take a shower, Julián decides that he too will become a mermaid. Creatively using supplies at hand (ferns from the plant, lacy curtains, lipstick) Julián transforms himself. When discovered by abuela there is a tense moment, the reader and Julián wondering how she will react… though the fear is unfounded. Abuela embraces who Julián has become and takes him to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, so he can revel with other mermaids.

THOUGHTS: First of all the message of this book is beautiful, simple, and heartwarming. It discusses the gender spectrum without any preaching adults or taunting children. The message of acceptance and support is an important one for all kids. The illustrations in this book are so true to life it’s almost like they are breathing. Julián, abuela, the people on the street and in the bus are so real you almost want to talk to them. The details, from the grass growing through the cement, to the knot in abuela’s headscarf, add realistic depth to this beautiful tale (and tail) of acceptance.

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

Mass, Wendy, and Rebecca Stead. Bob. Feiwel & Friends, 2018. 978-1-250-16662-3. 208 p. $16.99. Gr. 3-6

Livy is in Australia to visit her grandmother who she hasn’t seen for the last 5 years. Now 10 years old, Livy has difficulty remembering what it was like last time, but since she is much older, she doubts she will do such childish things this time around… Yet when a green “not-zombie fake chicken” walks out of her closet and expects to be welcomed with open arms, Livy is a bit thrown off. Is it an imaginary friend come to life? What was she thinking when she was five?? Bob, the green creature, remembers what 5-year-old Livy thought and is happy to tell this more mature version. Together, can they piece together what Bob is and how to get him home?

THOUGHTS: I saw the authors speak, and one of the ideas they wanted to get across is how much children change between the ages of five and ten — how much less they use their imagination, how they are less confident, and what the loss of innocence is even though at ten you are still a child. As an adult I enjoyed reading it through that lens. Students adore it because it is funny and unexpected, with plenty of adventure and loveable characters. And of course a happy ending.

Fantasy          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

Hargrave, Kiran Millwood. The Island at the End of Everything. Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. 978-0-553-53532-7. 243 p. $16.99. Gr. 4-6.

Set in a leper colony in the Philippines, this story is about a girl, Amihan (Ami), who was born and grew up on the island of Culion in the early 1900s. Her mother and most of her neighbors were “Touched” with the leprosy disease, though Ami was not infected. She lives a quiet and happy life until, when she is twelve, Mr. Zamora from the government decides to force all the lepers into one colony. Thus Culion’s population is taken over and since Ami is sano (the government word for “Untouched”) she is forced to move to a neighboring island and live in an orphanage. At the orphanage the children are confronted with prejudice and scorn for coming from Culion. Ami continually writes letters to her mother, and yearns to go back. A girl who was already at the orphanage, Mariposa, connects strongly with Ami, and together they plan a way to get back to Culion when Ami receives heart-wrenching news.

THOUGHTS: In the beginning, the narration is leisurely and beautiful, building characters and setting so you can feel what it is like to be there. Therefore, this book might not be for those who only like fast-paced adventures. I really enjoyed the writing, symbols, and experiences of this book. I think adults should read this book to their children, that way there is added incentive to stick with it, and they can discuss central topics and themes.

Historical Fiction          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

Awesome Dogs (series). Bellwether Media, 2018. $25.95 ea. Set of 36 $934.20. 24p. Gr. K – 2.

Polinsky, Paige V. Basset Hounds. 9781626177383.
Schuetz, Kari. Shih Tzus. 9781626175600.
Schuh, Mari. Collies. 9781626176126.
Schuh, Mari. Dalmatians. 9781626176133.
Sommer, Nathan. Saint Bernards. 9781626176157.

Dog books are an ever-popular staple of the non-fiction collection. If you have a lot of dog lovers, or just need a few titles to refresh your collection, this series is great for the younger grades. It has specific breed information (features that are easily recognizable) as well as comparative information (such as how easy a specific breed is to train compared to other dogs). Each entry also provides a history of the breed, including a world map, as well as a glossary, index and table of contents.

THOUGHTS: Definitely for the younger students, this series has a larger font size and minimal writing on each page. But still it’s chock-full of facts and good quality images!

636.7          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

YA – Dread Nation; The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig; I Have the Right To; That’s Not What Happened; Wildcard; 500 Words or Less; Tyler Johnson Was Here; Borrowed

Ireland, Justina. Dread Nation. New York: Balzer + Bray, 2018. 978-0-062-57060-4. 451 p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

In the late 1800s, people have lived in constant fear since the dead came to life after the Battle of Gettysburg. The dead roam the countryside, while major cities like Baltimore and Philadelphia struggle to protect their citizens from attacks. As a black woman in the late 1800s, Jane McKee doesn’t have many options, and is studying to be an attendant – a highly skilled personal guard for an upper class white woman. But Jane dreams of heading home to Kentucky, and to her mother – the only person who has ever loved her. As families in Baltimore begin to go missing, Jane and her fellow attendant (and nemesis/frenemy) Katherine are thrown into a life changing mystery that exposes corrupt politicians and dark conspiracies.

THOUGHTS: This is more than just an alternative history or gory zombie tale – Ireland expertly explores the political landscape of the time and scrutinizes slavery, racism, and sexism, which echoes strongly across today’s political climate. A must-read for teens.

Historical Fantasy          Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

In an alternative past, the United States Civil War morphs into the War on the Dead when the corpses on the battlefield at Gettysburg rise from the dead to feed on the fresh meat of the surviving soldiers.  When bitten by these “shamblers” the victims themselves turn in to flesh eating zombies unless they are quickly shot or decapitated . This horrific development swiftly spreads through cities and the countryside and American society is threatened. In response the United States implements the Negro and Native American Re-education Act, which requires African American and Native American youth to undergo training to combat the zombie scourge.  Jane McKeene, a biracial teen,  is one of the students at the prestigious Miss Preston’s School for Combat near Baltimore, Maryland. Jane and her fellow students have been training to serve as Attendants to protect wealthy, white citizens from shambler attacks.  But the politicians in Baltimore are involved in some shady practices and when Jane, her former boyfriend Jackson, and her lightskinned school rival, Katherine, investigate the disappearance of Jackson’s sister, the teens attract the unwanted attention of the corrupt mayor and are shipped off to a desolate and dangerous Western town to fight the zombies on the frontier.

THOUGHTS:  This page turning adventure features an empowered, resourceful and inspiring protagonist.  It is a fantastic combination of horror tale, alternate historical fiction and civil rights satire that sheds a glaring light on institutionalized racism. Pair with Steve Sheinkin’s Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team  to learn about the real life boarding schools for Native American Children.

Fantasy Fiction        Nancy Summers Abington SD

Zolidis, Don. The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig (A Love Story). Disney Hyperion,  2018. 9781368009614. $17.99. 410 p. Grades 9-12.

Seven Torments chronicles the on-again, off-again romance of Amy and Craig over the course of their senior year. Craig, the geeky Dungeons and Dragons aficionado, is amazed to find that Amy, the beautiful and determined class president is interested in him and they start an unlikely romance. The two main characters are each struggling with trying to reconcile their pasts and figuring out what the future may hold for them.   Craig, somewhat of a social outcast living in the shadow of his athletic and popular twin sister, has been laying low in high school, biding his time until he can escape the small town of Janesville WI. Amy is determined to prove that her dyslexia cannot hold her back, and has been over achieving her way to the top of the class and the presidency of nearly every club on campus. Craig’s voice is sarcastic, humorous and thoroughly enlightened despite his myopic focus on his relationship with his dream girl, Amy.  And though Amy breaks up with him every other week, Craig steadfastly holds on to the hope that he and Amy will prevail in the end. But Amy is not as committed or optimistic and her mother’s illness and her own self doubts keep her from being there for Craig as she breaks his heart again and again. Though things do not wrap up perfectly, their alternately touching and tortured relationship rings true.

THOUGHTS: It is refreshing to read a realistic YA romance story with the focus solidly on the male character. A quirky and appealing read and a great choice for fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell.

Realistic Fiction      Nancy Summers Abington SD

Prout, Chessy. I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor’s Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2018. 978-1-534-41443-3. 416 p. $10.99. Gr. 9 and up.

A ripped from the headlines story of surviving sexual assault, Prout begins her story by taking readers through what initially brought her to Saint Paul’s boarding school in New Hampshire as a high school freshman. Chessy shares details about life prior to boarding school and during her first year where she sheds light on unique “traditions” at Saint Paul’s. One tradition, the senior salute, has forever changed Chessy’s life. In explicit detail, Chessy describes her assault, the immediate aftermath, the trial that eventually followed, and the years of pain and recovery she faces as she tries to put voice to this crime. While sharing her story, Chessy also discusses how national events like the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump and the women’s marches that followed impacted her on a very personal level and how they empowered her to speak up for women. Though she cautions that each survivor’s story is unique to him or her, Chessy’s narrative is all too real for many survivors. Young women and teen girls especially need to read this story of suffering, resilience, and ultimately hope. 

THOUGHTS: With national attention of the #MeToo movement, and individuals in power being held accountable for their actions, teens will appreciate the honesty of Chessy’s story. Regardless of background, many teens will relate to some experiences Chessy has as a high school student. Readers looking for a raw, emotional, and authentic read will appreciate Chessy’s voice and ability to stand up for what is right. Graphic details of sexual assault make this suitable for mature readers.

362.88          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Keplinger, Kody. That’s Not What Happened. Scholastic Press, 2018. 978-1-338-18652-9. 329 p. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

What happens in the aftermath of tragedy, after the cameras leave, and the whole world knows what really happened? What happens if the truth wasn’t told? Living with grief and regrets and trying to move on, the Virgil County High School massacre survivors – the ones who were there – are still only able to talk to each other about that day. It’s the last year any survivors will be in high school, and Lee feels like it’s finally time to tell Sarah’s story. Except Lee’s version of Sarah’s story isn’t the one that was sensationalized in the media and is being turned into a book by Sarah’s parents. Lee can be persuasive, and she needs to do this – needs to set the record straight – but not all of the survivors want to share their stories of that day, and a lot of people don’t want Lee tarnishing their memory or Sarah’s memory with her lies.  

THOUGHTS: Timely and relevant, Keplinger’s book takes a unique approach to the topic of gun violence in school shootings. Instead of focusing on the shooting itself, though details are included, Keplinger fasts forward, evaluating the aftermath from a survivor’s standpoint and leaves readers thinking about the impact of news sensationalizing. After all, every story is a matter of perspective. Readers will devour this book, desperate to discover the whole truth, as told by someone who actually witnessed it. 

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Lu, Marie. Wildcard. GP Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-0-399-54799-7. 341 p. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Exposed, celebrated, then outcast in book one, Emika continues her journey to uncover the truth behind the NeuroLink and Hideo’s and Zero’s true intent for its use. Unable to trust anyone but her gut, Emika’s life is more on the line this time. With a bounty on her own head, Emika barely escapes without the help of others, but who are the Blackcoats, and do they share mutual interests? Having no clear path, Emika trusts herself and her team of Phoenix Riders to uncover the truth.  

THOUGHTS: Readers who were invested in Emika and Hideo’s relationship or the secret that tore them apart will be thrilled to jump right back into this story and learn what the outcome will be. Typical of Lu’s writing, readers are taken on an adventure with plenty of twists and turns, and the end will not be what they expect. 

Science Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

del Rosario, Juleah. 500 Words or Less. Simon Pulse, 2018. 978-1-534-41044-2. 384 p. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Losing a lot that defined her for the past two years, Nic has been outcast from her Ivy League hopeful peers for breaking her perfect boyfriend’s heart. Not what she had in mind for senior year, Nic uses her writing skills to start a business of writing college application essays for her peers. She doesn’t need the money, and her peers have plenty for a good essay, so why not? The essays Nic writes are raw, revealing, and ultimately successful in their goal of college admission. 

THOUGHTS: I found the premise of this book intriguing, and students writing college application essays may glimpse some helpful tips about what makes a good essay. Purchase 500 words or Less where novels in verse are popular. 

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Coles, Jay. Tyler Johnson Was Here. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-0-316-44077-6. 304 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Twin brothers Marvin and Tyler have overcome adversity together. With their father in prison, they have managed to keep each other out of trouble under the watchful eye of their mother. When Tyler starts to fall in with the wrong crowd gaining an invitation to a questionable party, Marvin tags along to keep his eye on Tyler. Broken up by the cops, the party goers quickly disperse, and Tyler and Marvin are separated from each other. Always having his brother’s back Marvin covers for Tyler. But when he still hasn’t returned home the next day, Marvin must come clean to their mother and face the possibility that Tyler might not be coming home. Just as the trail seems to go cold, a video is leaked, and the truth about Tyler’s disappearance comes to light. Overcome with guilt and anger, Marvin must decide what his life looks like without his other half. 

THOUGHTS: Focusing on those impacted by police violence, Coles’ book will be a high demand read for fans of All American Boys, Dear Martin, and The Hate U Give. 

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

DiStefano, Lucia. Borrowed. Elephant Rock Books, 2018. 978-1-732-41410-5. 264 p. $14.00. Gr. 10 and up.
Meet Linnea, almost 18 and not quite at the momentous one year post transplant mark. A budding pastry chef in Austin, Texas, Linnea fears she’s on borrowed time. An increasing number of dreams and unusual cravings for things she’s never liked make her question if this heart is really hers to keep. Across town Maxine is living in a fog of grief. Devastated by the sudden death of her sister Harper, yet unable to focus on her own grief, Maxine is the only thread keeping her family afloat. While her mother is drowning in grief, Max tries to focus on caring for her younger brothers Will and Race. Max has her own feelings to deal with too; even with help from her best friend Shelby and Harper’s boyfriend Ezra, Max is barely getting by. Harper’s death gave Linnea a chance to live, but as the line between dream and reality blurs, Linnea is drawn towards what would have been Harper’s life. Is becoming Harper even possible? One desperate to save herself, and one struggling to understand what happened to her sister, Linnea’s and Maxine’s worlds will collide, taking readers on an unforgettable journey into the unknown. 

THOUGHTS: Honored to be selected for the blog tour, I was excited to read Borrowed because my students are always asking for mysteries. What begins as a seemingly innocent story about grief and life abruptly transitions into so much more. DiStefano’s multiple, well-developed narrators vie for attention in this fast-paced, genre-blending thriller. Buckle up because this book will take readers on a wild and unpredictable ride. 

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


MG – Strange Star; Redworld; Bears of Ice; Zap; Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur; All Summer Long; Les Miserables: a Graphic Novel

Carroll, Emma. Strange Star. Delacorte Press. 2018. 978-0-399-55606-7. $16.99. 240 p. Gr. 5 and up.

Strange Star showcases the art of storytelling producing a scary ghost story. The setting is June of 1816. Friends are enjoying company and sharing ghost stories when a stranger appears at their door with a haunting tale to share.

THOUGHTS: The writing and research is solid. Readers will learn about Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont, Dr. John Polidori, and Lord Byron. They will ponder between the blending of fact and fiction in the tale.

Mystery/Horror          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Collins, A.L. Redworld. Illustrated by Tomislav Tikulin. Stone Arch Books,  2018. 978-1-496-55892-3. 40 p. Set of 6 titles. $116.94. 128 p. Gr. 3-8.

Books the review is based upon:

Homestead: A New Life on Mars
Legacy: Relics of Mars

Bella Song is not thrilled when her family moves to Mars to find employment. She is shocked to learn that life is more difficult that she could have imagined. This exciting science fiction series includes a map, crisp illustrations, a glossary, Mars terms, an about the author and illustrator section, and a “What Do You Think” topic perfect for discussion or classroom activities.

THOUGHTS: The books can be used with a planet display including fiction and nonfiction books.

Science Fiction          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Lasky, Kathryn. Bears of the Ice: The Quest of the Cubs. Scholastic, 2018. 978-0-545-68304-3. $16.99. 240 p. Gr 3-8.

On the dreadful day of Tuesday, Svenna, mother polar bear that can read and write, will turn in herself in to spare her bear cubs. She makes a plan for her young cubs First and Second to stay with her sister. Not wanting her cubs to worry about her, Svenna says that she is leaving for a while to be with The Den of Forever Frost. When the cubs see the cruelty in the mother’s cousin, Taaka, they decide to escape. The question is, can the cubs survive?

THOUGHTS: This type of adventure is ideal for fans of Kathryn Lasky in addition to readers of the Spirit Animals and Warrior series.

Adventure          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Freeman, Martha. Zap. Simon and Schuster. 2018. 978-1-534-40557-8. $16.99. 293 p. Gr 4-8.

What would you like to do if school was cancelled due to power outages? At first it seems neat to Luis and his friends when school is cancelled. Then they realize with all of the power out, they can’t play their games or use phones, the novelty wears off. With the help of his friends Carlos and Maura, Luis works to solve the mystery of the power outage. Topics including coding, corruption in politics, retirement benefits, socioeconomic status, and changing dynamics in friendship are addressed.

THOUGHTS: Areas related to science are further discussed in the back matter which also includes a glossary of Spanish words and phrases used throughout the book. The book could work well as a book club selection.

Mystery          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Eleven year old Luis Cardenal isn’t too upset when the power goes off one morning in Hampton, New Jersey; he gets the day off from school and figures the power will be back on soon enough. But as the hours tick by, Luis and his friend Maura learn that the outage is growing, and the electric company and local authorities have no idea what caused it – and have no way to restore it. As paranoia deepens, dangerous rumors begin to spread. Luis and Maura are not sure if the outage was an accident or something deliberately done – perhaps a political tactic for the upcoming mayoral election. And is it possible that Maura’s own grandfather is connected to the outage? The two teens get wrapped up on the mystery as their town falls into chaos, and the readers will be left guessing until the very last page.

THOUGHTS: A fun mystery that will hook reluctant readers, this story also explores science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts.

Mystery          Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Reeder, Amy, and Brandon Montclare. Illustrated by Natscha Bustos and Tamra Bonvillain. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur: BFF #1: Repeat After Me. ABDO. 2018. 978-1-5321-4008-2. $17.95. 24 p. Gr 2-8.

Lunella would rather stay focused on her inventions. She must get ready for school held in the lower east side of Manhattan. When her teacher takes away her Kree-o-neter during dodgeball, a dinosaur takes Lunella away by its mouth. The story will be continued. At this time there are a total of six books in the series.

THOUGHTS: This series provides a diverse cast of character for readers to develop connections. Ideal addition to graphic novel collections.

Graphic Novel          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Larson, Hope. All Summer Long. Farrar Straus Giroux. 2018. 978-0-374-31071-4. $12.99. 172 p. Gr 5-8.

Summer was a time where Bina and Austin used to spend together. Now Bina and Austin are separated in the summer. Bina wonders if she will ever have fun and tries to make new friends in the summer. The artwork is accented by an orange ink color.

THOUGHTS: Add this to the graphic novel collection for your students. This is a super graphic novel to partner with Be Prepared, since summer activities are key to both novels. It could also be part of a summer reading book display.

Graphic Novel          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Graphic novel staple Hope Larson pens another successful coming of age story for middle schoolers. Thirteen year old Brina is excited for her summer. Like previous years, she expects to spend her days with her best Austin. But this summer, Austin is going to soccer camp, and as the summer progresses, he texts Brina less and less. Bored and lonely, Brina ends up spending a lot of time with Austin’s older sister, learning guitar and about herself, too. With subdued colors, this one will have readers nostalgic for warm summer as they sit in their classrooms.

THOUGHTS: As always, Larson’s illustrations and dialogue are relatable and interesting. She has a knack for engaging readers and showcasing realistic moments in tween and teen life. If graphic novels are popular in your library, this is a worthy addition.

Graphic novel          Victoria Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Saracino, Luciano, et al. Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables: a Graphic Novel. Stone Arch Books, a Capstone Imprint, 2018. 978-1-496-56111-4. $20.49. 80 p. Gr. 5-9.

Books in this graphic novel series help introduce readers to classics. The artwork is detailed in full color while dialogue and narration advance the story. The book also contains information about the author, retelling author and illustrator, and a detailed glossary. The back matter includes additional information about revolutions and history during the time frame of the book.

THOUGHTS: While the discussion questions and writing prompts are included, this is more likely information that will help teachers and librarians lead lessons about the book. There is a lot of value not only to have these books serve as an introduction to students, but also as a reference when students read the classic writings.

Graphic Novel          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

MG – Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World; Assassins’ America; Crush; Knights Club: The Bands of Bravery; The Mad Wolf’s Daughter; Team Players; The 11:11 Wish; The Alcatraz Escape; Waste of Space; Without Refuge; Aru Shah and the End of Time; Love, Penelope; Lost in the Amazon

Blake, Ashley Herring. Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World. Little, Brown and Company, 2018. 978-0-316-51546-7. 307 p. $16.99. Gr. 4-7.

Ivy Aberdeen lost everything weeks before her thirteenth birthday.  She lost her house to a tornado; she lost her mom to her twin baby brothers; she lost her family (they sent her to live at her best friend’s house); and she lost her notebook – her precious notebook full of her own drawings, drawings that share her family, friends, and inner-most thoughts. Ivy is confused by her feelings, feelings she’s had but hadn’t thought about until she met June Somerset. Now Ivy doesn’t know how to share her feelings; she doesn’t know how to verbalize the emotions within her. All Ivy can do is draw, but she’s afraid that her drawings will end up in the wrong hands and be confused or judged. With help from a friend, Ivy works through her confusion and finds her voice.

THOUGHTS: Ivy Aberdeen is what middle grades fiction needs. She is a strong protagonist who is confused by her emotions and feelings for others. She always knew something was different, but it wasn’t until she met June that she got “that feeling,” the feeling of a crush. Ivy is beautiful, innocent, smart, confused, and talented. She is exactly what readers need and should be on all middle grade shelves.

Realistic Fiction          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Assassins’ America. Capstone, 2018. $29.99 ea. $91.96 set of 4. 64 p. Gr. 4-8.

Gunderson, Jessica. President Lincoln’s Killer and the America He Left Behind: The Assassin, the Crime, and Its Lasting Blow to Freedom and Equality. 978-0-756-55716-4.
Gunderson, Jessica. President McKinley’s Killer and the America He Left Behind: The Assassin, the Crime, and Teddy Roosevelt’s Rise, and the Dawn of the American Century. 978-0-756-55714-0.
Tougas, Joe. President Garfield’s Killer and the America He Left Behind: The Assassin, the Crime, the Hapless Doctors, and a President’s Slow, Grim Death. 978-0-756-55715-7.
Tougas, Joe. President Kennedy’s Killer and the America He Left Behind: The Assassin, the Crime, and the End of a Hopeful Vision in Chaotic Times. 978-0-75655-713-3.

The Assassins’ America series explores the lives of the four men who assassinated U.S. presidents. The men’s lives and motivations for the actions are examined and put in the context of social and economic times in which they lived. Each volume also examines the life and political actions of the president they assassinated. The aftermath of the assassination, including the consequences faced by the assassin as well as the political consequences, are also presented. The text is complemented by inclusion of numerous photos and images.

THOUGHTS: This series would be a worthwhile addition to elementary and middle school collections. Though slim (48 pages), each volume offers a complete overview of the lives of the key characters and the times in which they lived. Hand these titles to fans of American history and to researchers.

973 American History          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Chmakova, Svetlana. Crush. Yen Press. 2018. 978-0-316-36319-8. $11.00. 235 p. Gr. 6-9.

Let’s face it, middle school can be full of drama. In fact, it seems that everyone is interested in either drama or relationships, something that Jorge is just not here for. Big and strong, Jorge is able to make sure that everyone is getting along. After all, people assume that he is mean just because he is a large middle schooler. But really, Jorge is just here in middle school trying to survive like everyone else but out of the drama. With his two best friends, Olivia and Garrett, Jorge can make it through anything. Although it seems like Garrett is working way too hard to impress James, the “all-star” football player. Jorge doesn’t want any part of dealing with him. He would rather continue on his way… until he meets Jazmine, who he admittedly has a crush on. Things are about to get very interesting in middle school.

THOUGHTS: This is another great piece by Chmakova, following her previous graphic novels Awkward and Brave. The illustrations and flow of this graphic novel follow in her previous books’ footsteps. The plot line of this story is one that many middle school students will relate to: survival of school, drama, and crushes. A great read for middle school students.

Graphic Novel                                                                Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Shuky. Knights Club: The Bands of Bravery. Quirk Books. 2018. 978-1-68369-055-9. $9.99. Gr. 4-8

What is better than digging in compost, watering plants, and harvesting? Almost anything, especially becoming a knight! Three brothers, each with different abilities have had enough of working in the fields and are ready to go to knight school! Travel on this journey with them, as they begin their quest of bravery to becomes knights!

This is a choose your own quest novel, comic book style! Take part in the adventure by choosing one of the brothers’ rank. Using a tally sheet provided in the book, readers can mark their points and ranks as they make decisions for their characters. Using the panels and numbers, have your character travel throughout the land, making choices to help them on their way toward knighthood!

THOUGHTS: I love the idea of a comic book style choose your own adventure. This story allows readers, both male and female, really to become involved in the story. Readers not only have to make decisions for their character, but they can actually mark points and ranking, allowing them to “level up” within the book. A new idea for an original book type!

Graphic Novel          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Magras, Diane. The Mad Wolf’s Daughter. Kathy Dawson Books, 2018. 978-0-735-22926-6. $16.99. 265 p. Gr. 4-7.

Drest’s medieval Scottish world is turned upside down in an instant. A band of knights attacks the camp of the small war-band formed by her father and older brothers. As Drest watches, her family is taken captive and loaded into a boat, sailing for who-knows-where. But Drest is the Mad Wolf’s daughter, and she knows it is up to her to rescue her clan. An injured knight left behind knows where the captives are headed, and offers to guide Drest there, if she helps him make the journey. The ill-matched pair are soon joined by a young boy looking for a quest. As they journey along, Drest learns of her father’s reputation in the area, both good and bad. Some folk view the Mad Wolf as a protector against the cruelty of the overlord, while others tell tales of horrible acts committed by the war-band. But Drest continues on her mission to save her family, with unexpected results. Drest is a delightful character; she follows the war-band code but with a panache all her own. She takes on all battles, because that’s what a warrior does, but learns that words can be as mighty a weapon as the sword. By the end of her journey, she is a legend is her own right.

THOUGHTS: Dripping with Scottish atmosphere and packed with adventure, this book won’t stay on the shelf long. Readers will be captivated by plucky Drest from the first page.

Action/Adventure          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Lupica, Mike. Team Players. Simon and Schuster, 2018. 978-1-481-41007-6. $16.99. 291 p. Gr. 5-7.

Cassie and her friends Gus, Teddy, and Jack are thrilled summer is here – that means baseball and softball season. Cassie, an outstanding softball player, knows her team has a chance to be very good this summer, but is dismayed to witness her team fall apart and friendships strain when Sarah, a talented player with autism, joins the team. Sarah’s awkward interactions with teammates bring a friction to the team that Cassie just cannot figure out how to fix. Meanwhile, Gus, Teddy, and Jack are dealing with a new coach, one who is verbally abusive. Can the four friends find a way to make sports fun before the summer is over? This addition to Lupica’s Home Team series presents likeable characters, if a bit mature for their years, and lots of baseball action. Cassie is a great female athlete character and leader, and the portrayal of Sarah gives readers an insight into the world of autism. However, Lupica’s efforts to Make People Understand Autism rarely get out of the way of the plot, and may wear thin for some readers.

THOUGHTS: While this does not seem to be a comfortable age level for Lupica, and the writing at times feels awkward, it is a good sports book with male and female athletes, and the careful explanations of autism are extremely illuminating, if a bit didactic.

Action/Adventure          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Tomsic, Kim. The 11:11 Wish. Katherine Tegan Books, 2018. 978-0-062-65494-6. $16.99. 361 p. Gr. 4-7.

Megan is determined to make a new start at her new school. She will have friends! And be popular! But when she is dared to make something exciting happen on her first day of middle school, she panics. Reaching back to a story her grandmother taught her, she whimisically makes an 11:11 wish on a cat-shaped clock in her classroom. Only after she receives a delivery from a magical supply shop, and a hurried phone call to her grandmother, does Megan begin to understand that she has unwittingly unleashed a force she may be unable to contain. This warm-hearted book deftly deals with middle school drama enhanced by the recent death of a parent. Who wouldn’t have loved a bit of magic to get through middle school? But Megan finds that being herself is the best answer to life’s little ups and downs.

THOUGHTS:  The message might be trite, but the approach is fun. Megan is a likeable character readers will root for as she stumbles along finding her way.

Realistic/ Fantasy (magic)          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Bertman, Jennifer Chambliss. The Alcatraz Escape. Henry Holt, 2018. 978-1-627-79963-8. $16.99. 262 p. Gr. 4-7.

Friends Emily and James return in the third entry in the Book Scavenger series. Everyone they know is eagerly anticipating literary gamester Garrison Griswold’s newest challenge, “Unlock the Rock,” taking place on Alcatraz island, but Emily is feeling the stress of her past success. Ever since she and James solved the Unbreakable Code, she has become a legend in Book Scavenger circles, admired by some, envied by others.The pressure and expectations are taking the fun out of the game for Emily, especially when she and James receive threatening notes. Once the players are on Alcatraz, Emily realizes the game is deadly serious for one of the contestants, and her brother, James, is being framed. Bertman has added another delightful book to her series, with no let down in the fun. Filled with literary references and historical information about Alcatraz, this book should delight fans of the series.

THOUGHTS: Although it concentrates more on the mystery than on the puzzles this time, this may be the best book in the series.

Mystery          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Gibbs, Stuart. Waste of Space. Simon and Schuster, 2018. 978-1-534-43166-9. $16.99. 321 p. Gr. 4-7.

Dash Gibson, teenage resident of Moon Base Alpha, is shocked when the base commander assigns him to determine who recently attempted to kill one of the moon base residents. Unfortunately, everyone on Moon Base Alpha detested billionaire space tourist Lars Sjoberg, including, possibly, his own family, so suspects abound. But Dash, having already solved several other crimes in space, starts poking around asking questions. The urgency increases when it is revealed the moon base habitat is losing pressure, and plans are made to evacuate everyone back to Earth. But will Dash live to see home again? This final book in the series is a fun mystery mixed with some deep philosophical questions courtesy of Zan, the alien being who befriended Dash in the first book of the series. Charged with determining the fate of Earth, Zan frequently communicates with Dash, trying to understand humankind. Can Dash manage to convince Zan that despite trying to kill each other, humanity is worth saving? An afterward provides a gratifying conclusion to the series.

THOUGHTS: While I am sad to see the series end, Gibbs wraps it up with a bang. The mystery is satisfying, and the gentle moralizing is appropriately on level to get young readers thinking.

Mystery          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Mitchell, Jane. Without Refuge. Carolrhoda Books, 2018. 978-1-541-50050-1. $16.99. 269 p. Gr. 5-8.

Ghalib and his cousin Hamza have as normal a childhood as possible in war ravaged Syria. While much of the city of Kobani is in rubble, Ghalib still lives with his parents, brother, sister, and grandmother in an intact apartment. Ghalib’s father works as a  pharmacist, assisting those injured during bomb attacks. But normal for Ghalib and Hamza is being recruited by the Protection Units and dodging bombs to scavenge merchandise to sell to black marketeers. When the two youths are injured during a nighttime bombing, the family makes the painful decision to leave Syria. Through Ghalib and his family, the book details the experience of refugees fleeing Syria, the fear of being caught by ISIS before crossing into Turkey, the anger against refugees they encounter, life in a refugee camp, and being scammed by individuals promising to convey the refugees to Greece. While the plot is sometimes lost to the overwhelming amount of information the author is trying to convey, it is a worthy sacrifice. When you are 13 years old and leaving home, what do you pack? An extremely relevant, thought-provoking book.

THOUGHTS: A must-have for middle grade/middle school collections. A clear look at the situation in Syria, as well as migrants from many countries. A glossary and further information add to the impact of the book.  

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Chokshi, Roshani. Aru Shah and the End of Time. Rick Riorden Presents, 2018. 978-1-368-01235-5. $16.99. 343 p. Gr. 4-7.

What middle schooler, when desperate to impress classmates, hasn’t resorted to setting an evil demon loose in the world? Aru Shah may not have exactly planned this sequence of events, but she did light the Lamp of Destruction in her mother’s Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture when taunted by three students from her school. To her horror, there really is a demon in the lamp, and time freezes as he is unleashed. Lucky for Aru, the lamp also sends forth Boo, a sarcastic, yet helpful,  pigeon, to guide and educate her. She learns she is the incarnation of one of Pandava brothers of Indian mythology, and soon meets Mini, another Pandava, who will help her on her quest to stop the Sleeper before he frees the Lord of Destruction and the time freeze becomes permanent. While somewhat reminiscent of Percy Jackson (the girls must be claimed by their godly fathers), this book stands solidly on its own. Aru and Mini are endearing, spunky girls, both of whom feel like outcasts at school. While their relationship gets off to a rocky start and hits a major bump when Mini eventually realized Aru is responsible for lighting the lamp, they end up fast friends. Boo the pigeon suffers mightily while trying to guide his young charges, and there are some laugh-out-loud scenes, such as the godly Costco shopping trip. Aru and Mini save the day and unfreeze time, but are answering the call for another adventure as the book ends.

THOUGHTS:  A delightful introduction to Indian mythology and culture with two dynamic, yet realistic, heroines. A can’t-put-down book that holds your interest from the first page, with plenty of adventure and humor.    

Fantasy (mythology)          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Aru Shah spends more than a visit in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture as he mother works as a curator there. She does not expect the Lamp of Bharata to react to her, but it starts the adventure of a lifetime ensuring that the universe continue. From The Palace of Illusions and The Bridge of Forgetting, it is not easy to save the world. Shukra has killed his wife because she loved him and made his ugly appearance fade. He curses the daughter of Indra and says that she will forget at the worst time. Aru is shocked to learn that the Sleeper had loved his mother. Can Aru stop time from ending?

THOUGHTS: Readers will not want the adventures to end. They are in luck because there is already a second book planned called Aru Shah and The Song of Death.

Adventure          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Rocklin, Joanne. Love, Penelope. Amulet, 2018. 978-1-419-72861-7. $16.99. 255 p. Gr. 4-6.

Penny (NOT Penelope) has a lot on her plate for a 5th grader, all of which she shares in this diary addressed to her unborn sibling. Penny lives with two moms, and issues of legalized gay marriage in the state of California and the same-sex marriage case addressed by the Supreme Court are covered, as well as prejudice against her family from various acquaintances. She and her friends are rabid Golden State Warriors fans, and Penny lives and dies with the team as they march to the NBA championship. Penny experiences jealousy as a new girl at school enters her cozy friendship with her best friend Gabby, as well as guilt as she lies to her favorite teacher in order to impress him, then cannot extricate herself from the lie. In addition, issues such as Black Lives Matter and a student with an incarcerated parent are casually dropped into the narrative alongside lessons on fetal development, as well as a discussion between the 10-year-old girls on how babies are conceived. There are so many lessons trying to be taught in this book that it barely has time to develop a plot. It could have worked well as a depiction of an alternate family, but gets lost in too many side issues.  

THOUGHTS:  A well-meaning book bogged down by trying to be too much.  

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Olson, Tod. Lost in the Amazon: A Battle for Survival in the Heart of the Rainforest. Scholastic, 2018. 978-0-545-92827-4. 162 p. $7.99. Gr. 4-8.

On Christmas Eve, 1970, a flight took off from Lima, Peru. Among the 86 passengers of Flight 508 were seventeen year old Julia Koepcke and her mother. They were looking forward to spending the holiday at their research station home in the remote jungle where Julia’s zoologist parents conducted their research. Shortly after clearing the mountains, however, Flight 508 encountered intense storms and was struck by lightning causing it to break up in mid-air. Julia found herself strapped into a row of seats, tumbling two miles to the jungle floor below. She awoke the next morning, injured and alone in the remote rainforest. She quickly determined that in order to survive, she would need to begin moving. Drawing upon lessons imparted by her father and her years of experience living the the remote jungle, she began to follow a waterway, keeping aware of dangers in the rainforest and battling her deteriorating physical condition. Finally, on the tenth day of her journey, she came across a remote cabin and was rescued by three forest workers. Taken to safety, she learned that she was the sole survivor of the plane crash.

THOUGHTS: This book is more than an amazing story of survival. Olson weaves information on Amazon history, jungle plant and animal life and the search effort to find survivors of Flight 508 around the story of Julia’s experiences. The result is a complete picture of the events surrounding the crash and the insurmountable odds Julia faced. Readers will found themselves hard-pressed to put this title down! Highly recommended.

363 Survival          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – The Little Red Fort; Jack B. Ninja; Pink Is For Boys; If You’re Going to a March; Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World; Little White Fish; Ocean Meets Sky; The Lighthouse Family; Elle of the Ball

Maier, Brenda. The Little Red Fort. Scholastic Press, 2018: ISBN 978-0-545-85919-6. 40pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

Inspired by the folktale of The Little Red Hen, this is the story of Ruby, a spunky girl with a mind full of big ideas. After discovering a pile of old boards, Ruby sets out to build something. She asks her three brothers for help, but they are too busy with their own activities. They also point out that she has no experience building anything. Ruby is undeterred by her brothers’ lack of faith in her. Although they proclaim that she doesn’t know how to build, sketch plans, gather supplies, saw, or hammer, Ruby proves them wrong every step of the way. When she finishes building her fort and asks who wants to play, all three boys change their tunes and are eager to join in the fun. But, Ruby turns them away, deciding to play by herself instead. While she’s inside the fort, her brothers finally chip in by building a mailbox, planting some flowers, and painting the fort bright red. That night, Ruby invites them all to a fort-warming party, and they all chow down on a plate of freshly-baked cookies. This fresh retelling shines thanks to a cast of diverse characters and bright, splashy illustrations.

THOUGHTS: This retelling will be a good fit for STEM-inspired story times, and it effectively underscores the idea that children, and in particular, girls, can do anything they set their minds to. It would also work well for a compare and contrast folktale unit.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

McCanna, Tim. Jack B. Ninja. Orchard Books, 2018: ISBN 978-0-545-91728-5. 32 p. $16.99. Gr K-3.

This fractured nursery rhyme, set in Japan, features Ninja Jack who is on a secret mission. He leaps over bamboo sticks, scales high walls, dives into garden pools, and breaks into a bandit cave. In the cave, he recovers the stolen treasure chest but must fight off the bandits with his grappling hook and rope. After escaping, it’s revealed that the bandits are actually his family in disguise, and the stolen chest contains a birthday cake! The entire family frolics on the rooftops in their ninja gear until the sun rises and they disappear to begin their next mission. The story’s rhymed couplets are fast-paced, and their bold, white text stands out against the large-scale, full-bleed illustrations.

THOUGHTS: Hand this to ninja fans, or to anyone looking for an action-packed read-aloud. This will also be a good fit for units featuring stories that have been retold or for nursery rhyme story times.

Picture Book. Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Pearlman, Robb, and Eda Kaban. Pink Is For Boys. New York, NY: Running Press Kids. 2018. 978-0-762-46247-6. $17.99. Unpaged. Grades K-2.

Even though this title would seem to draw in debate, Pink Is For Boys is all about gender and color equality for everyone. With a basic pattern of alternating boys and girls first, we go through the crayon box from pink to blue and down to black and white. There is a brief action statement attached to each color which is also accessible to boys and girls. For example, “BLUE is for girls. And boys. And uniforms on a team.” There is imagination and variety to Eda Kaban’s colorful illustrations which can lead to further discussions, or maybe just end the controversy over color designations for genders once and for all! As the ending suggests, “And all the colors are for EVERYONE. Girls and boys.”

THOUGHTS: While this binary format does not include gender neutral options, I do think that all children could feel represented from this book. It helps to break down stereotypes and creatively shows gender harmony in the roles that children can play. I would pair it with other primary books like They She He Me by Maya & Matthew to give a balanced picture of identity.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Freeman, Martha, and Violet Kim. If You’re Going to a March. New York, NY: Sterling Children’s Books. 2018. 978-1-4549-2993-2. $16.95. Unpaged. Grades K-3.

As social activism becomes a meaningful part of children’s lives, Martha Freeman’s newest book provides some valuable advice. Going to a march or protest can be in turns invigorating, exhausting, joyful, and fearful. Hearing simple advice addressed directly to young readers can help alleviate worries and prepare the participants. Freeman goes through basics- from signage to outfits to emotions- and keeps the advice specific enough to be useful but general enough to apply to various marches. Likewise, the artwork from Violet Kim keeps the diverse students at the forefront while showing many of the realistic operations happening in the background. Advice for recognizing officers, reporters, and even counter-protestors is succinct and relevant for children heading into these situations. Most importantly, Freeman wants readers to know that their voice matters, their ideas can help make a difference, and a little protest can march our country in the right direction!

THOUGHTS: Even students who may not be heading into a march will find value in the concept of this book and the insight that it provides. There are plenty of subjects that students feel passionate about, and this gives them one outlet for sharing their opinions respectfully and sincerely. Knowing what to look for in advance can go a long way toward creating a positive experience.

300, Social Sciences          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Hood, Susan. Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World. New York, NY: HarperCollins. 2018. 978-0-06-269945-9. $18.99. 40 pages. Grades 3-6.

“If you want to do it, you can do it!” Nellie Bly’s straight-forward message is at the heart of this poetry collection about 14 brave and interesting females who pursue their passions. Across careers from artist to astronaut to activist, Susan Hood chose girls and women who were willing to step into the light and make history. Her poems are one page for each entry, including a quote and bios mixed with a variety of poetic forms. The illustrations are from 13 different female artist, so that further highlights a mosaic of styles and interests. Perhaps future female firefighters (Molly Williams), librarians (Pura Belpre) and scientists (Angela Zhang) will find inspiration to shake things up themselves!

THOUGHTS: The variety of this book appeals to me, from the art to the poetry to the choices of women both famous and less well known. Certainly, further research about any of these subjects would be beneficial. Likewise, discussing the traits such as grit, persistence, and process along with the quotes provided would make for lessons that go way beyond Women’s History Month.

811, Poetry          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Van Genechten, Guido. Little White Fish. Clavis Publishing. 2018. 978-1-605-37430-7. $12.95. 11 p. Birth-K.

Little White Fish is lost and looking for his mother! As he searches the sea, he finds a lot of sea animals of many colors, but none that match him. Follow Little White Fish as he tries to find his mother, who looks just like him!

THOUGHTS: Little White Fish is a birth-Kindergarten book that is great for developing readers, especially those may need assistance with some basic skills. This book provides young readers with the chance to practice their color and matching skills. While designed for colors and matching, this book does provide insight to some of the sea creatures of the world, opening additional doors and exploratory areas for young readers. A beginner book for young children. Note: This book is now being republished as a board book.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Fan, Terry, and Eric Fan. Ocean Meets Sky. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 978-1-481-47037-7. Unpaged.  K-3. $17.99

This is a beautiful and imaginative book that tells the story of a young boy who is searching for the place where “the ocean meets the sky,” as described in the tales told to him by his late grandfather. Readers see an illustration of the boy listening to his grandfather in his workshop, which contains many artifacts and curiosities. The boy decides to seek out this special place and builds a boat. After a short nap, the boy awakens to find himself on a sea voyage, where he encounters a giant golden fish with a moustache who resembles his grandfather. During the voyage, he sees clouds in the shape of an elephant, a pipe, a whale, and bird, and as night falls, he sees moon jellyfish floating in the sky. Later the boy meets a large whale and finds himself floating in the sky where he sees a moon with his grandfather’s face on it. His mother awakens him, and the boy stands there looking at the moon, thinking about how it indeed was a “good day for sailing.” The illustrations are done in graphite and enhanced digitally with color, which adds a dreamy quality to the book. Young readers will enjoy poring over the details in the drawings and will be delighted to find objects in the workshop reappearing in the sky and ocean during the boy’s voyage. This story deals with the theme of the loss of a loved one, but this message may be missed by young readers.  

THOUGHTS: This is a contemplative book best shared one on one and would be a good choice when a book on grief and loss is needed.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD

Rylant, Cynthia. The Lighthouse Family: The Bear. Beach Lane Books, 2018. 978-1-481-46028-6. 48 p. $15.99. Grades K-3. (The Lighthouse Family series)

          The Sea Lion.  978-1-48146-025-5
The Storm. 978-0-689-84880-3
          The Otter. 978-1-48146-045-3
The Whale.  978-0-689-84881-0
          The Eagle. 978-0-689-86243-4
The Turtle.  978-0-689-86244-1
The Octopus.  978-0-689-86246-5

In her latest offering in “The Lighthouse Family” series, Rylant tells the story of a bear called Thomas who comes out early from hibernation. While visiting his neighbors, the Lighthouse family, he eats a large number of pancakes and then goes to sleep on the family’s hammock for another 43 days. In the beginning of the book, the author explains how the Lighthouse family came together. They represent a diverse group with a female cat acting as mother, a fluffy dog acting as father, and three young mice who appeared on the island after being found drifting on the sea in a teacup. The family occupation is to “keep the lights burning” in the lighthouse so that boats will avoid the rocks near the island. The illustrations by McDaniels are done in graphite and appear full bleed on the chapter heading pages. While this book looks like an easy reader at first glance, the word length is a little longer than found in the Henry and Mudge series and is at a higher reading level. 

THOUGHTS: Purchase where this Rylant series is popular.

Fiction          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD

Donne, Elena Delle. Elle of the Ball.  Simon and Schuster, 2018. 978-1-534-41231-6. 16.99. 148 p. Gr. 3-5.

Seventh grader Elle feels like a freak. At 6 feet tall, she towers over her classmates, as well as many of her teachers. Luckily for Elle, she actually does like basketball, but her sudden growth spurt has left her feeling awkward on the court as well as at school. Her misery is compounded by the upcoming school cotillion, where Elle and her two large left feet will have to dance, with a boy, in front of the school and assembled parents. Can life get any more humiliating? Written by WNBA and Olympic gold medalist Donne, this apparently autobiographical book is entertaining, sure to be enjoyed by any student who ever felt out of place. However, Donne has difficulty  differentiating between her childhood and that of her fictional character, resulting in several annoying anachronisms. But it is likely students will either not catch these or not be bothered by them.

THOUGHTS:  A nice addition to middle grade collections, particularly where sports books with female leads will be welcomed.  

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. Series NF – The Wild World of Sports; Nocturnal Animals; Slithering Snakes


The Wild World of Sports. Abdo, 2018. $22.95ea. $183.60 set of 8. 48p. Gr. 3-6.
          Carothers, Thomas. Sports’ One-Hit Wonders. 978-1-5321-1369-7.
          Gitlin, Mary. Sports’ Most Memorable Characters. 978-1-5321-1368-0.
          Graves, Will. Greatest Teams That Didn’t Win It All. 978-1-5321-1364-2.
          Hall, Bryan. Careers Cut Short. 978-1-5321-1363-5.
          Mason, Tyler. Biggest Scandals in Sports. 978-1-5321-1362-8.
          Marthaler, Jon. Offbeat Sports. 978-1-5321-1366-6.
          Rule, Heather. Sports’ Greatest Turnarounds. 978-1-5321-1367-3.
          Wilner, Barry. Hard-to-Beat Sports Records. 978-1-5321-1365-9.

This series focuses on unusual and unique feats and personalities in athletics. A wide variety of sports are featured, from the traditional–football, baseball, swimming, to the unique–octopush and Quidditch. This reviewer had the opportunity to examine the volume on Offbeat Sports. This title consisted of 12 short chapters, each focusing on a unique sport played somewhere in the world today. A brief history of each sport is presented, along with a brief description of the rules of the sport. Full color photos accompany the text. Some of the offbeat sports presented included caber tossing, footgolf, hurling and bike polo, among others.

THOUGHTS: This series is best suited to the casual reader and sports fan rather than the student researcher. While the short chapters don’t allow for in-depth discussion of the sport or sports personality, readers will nonetheless find themselves engaged in the text and turning the page to learn more interesting facts. A worthwhile additional purchase.

796 Sports          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Murray, Julie. Nocturnal Animals. Abdo, 2018. $18.95 ea. $113.70 set of 6. 24 p. PreK-Gr. 1.
          Aye-Ayes. 978-1-5321-0404-6.
Badgers. 978-5321-0405-3.
Hedgehogs. 978-5321-0406-0.
Sugar Gliders. 978-5321-0407-7.
Tarsiers. 978-5321-0408-4.
Wombats. 978-5321-0409-1.

Abdo’s Nocturnal Animals series aims to inform young readers about a few of the fun creatures that come out at night. Each volume features basic information about the animal’s physical characteristics, habitat, and nocturnal habits. With large, high-quality photos, each book also contains a code to access supplemental material online–including games, video, crafts, and additional photos.

THOUGHTS: This series is a worthy addition to the shelves of animal books in libraries serving young readers. The animals featured are unique and the numerous photos present in each book  are engaging and of high-quality. The supplemental materials available online are a cut above what publishers typically place online. For the Sugar Gliders book, supplemental materials online included a puzzle, a maze and a craft as well as photos and a video.

599 Animals          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Murray, Julie. Slithering Snakes. Abdo, 2018. $18.95 ea. $113.70 set of 6. 24 p. Gr. K-2.
          Black Mambas. 978-1-5321-2071-8.
          Boomslangs. 978-1-5321-2072-5.
          Gabon Vipers. 978-1-5321-2073-2.
          King Cobras. 978-1-5321-2074-9.
          Rattlesnakes. 978-1-5321-2075-6.
          Tiger Snakes. 978-1-5321-2076-3.

Aimed specifically at beginning readers, the Slithering Snakes series is designed to inform readers about various species of snakes. Each volume features basic information about the type of snake under discussion. Readers will learn about where the snake lives, what it eats, and other unique features. The text is supplemented by high-quality full page photos. A glossary and link to online resources are also included.

THOUGHTS: This series is sure to appeal to the young reader intrigued and fascinated by snakes. The text is enhanced by the presence of high quality photographs–readers will feel like the snake is going to slither off the page! Recommended for libraries serving younger readers.

597 Snakes           Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

YA – The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy; Love, Hate and Other Filters; Sadie; What I Leave Behind; Save the Date

Lee, Mackenzi. The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2018. 978-0-062-79532-8. 464 p. $18.99. Gr 9-12.

After an exciting (if unplanned) tour of Europe with her brother Monty, Felicity Montague is living in Edinburgh, making ends meet working in a pastry shop. Her free time is spent appealing to local medical schools, determined to enroll and study – even if, at the time, women are not allowed to be doctors. After repeated rejections and an unwelcome and unwanted marriage proposal, Felicity finds herself in Germany on the heels of her idol, the radical physician Alexander Platt. But winning over Platt means winning over his fiance Johanna, who also happens to be Felicity’s former childhood best friend. Felicity is reluctant to see Johanna again, but when she hears Platt is in need of research assistants, she knows reconnecting with Johanna is her only hope to pursue medicine. And complicating things is Sim, Felicity’s mysterious companion who agreed to pay for her travel expenses to Germany in exchange for entrance to Johanna’s house. Like last year’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, Lee breathes life into this spunky Montague sibling, and readers will love Felicity’s determination, spirit, and adventures across the globe.

THOUGHTS: A lovely and refreshing look at gender roles in historical Europe, featuring an ace – or asexual – protagonist. Give this to any teen or adult looking for witty, spirited and LGBTQ+ friendly historical fiction.

Historical Fiction          Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Ahmed, Samira. Love, Hate & Other Filters. Soho Teen, 2018. 978-1-616-95847-3. 281 p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Illinois high school senior Maya Aziz is caught between two very different worlds. Her Indian American parents are very traditional and expect her to go to college close to home, study law or medicine, then marry a nice Muslim boy.  She, however, is more interested in attending NYU to study film and dating Phil, her white classmate and longtime crush. Just when she has worked up the courage to tell her parents her plan, a heinous crime is committed, presumably by a terrorist with the same last name as Maya.  This act is foreshadowed by the thoughts of a disturbed young man that precede each chapter of the book. The backlash experienced by her family after this act of terror causes her parents to tighten their rules even more. Readers will empathize with Maya as she struggles to chase her own dreams while simultaneously trying not to disappoint her parents.  

THOUGHTS: There are so many lessons about prejudice and tolerance to be learned from this title. Not only is Maya targeted and bullied at school because of her Muslim Indian background, but her parents’ livelihood is even threatened in an act of hatred. In addition to terrorism and bigotry, this book could spark discussions about interracial couples and/or Muslim Indian culture and tradition. Pair it with Gloria Chao’s American Panda for readers who want more stories about defying tradition or with Tanaz Bhathena’s A Girl Like That for those who want to learn more about race, religion, and the Muslim culture. However it is used, this timely and thought-provoking novel definitely deserves a place in all high school library collections.

Realistic Fiction          Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

Summers, Courtney. Sadie. Wednesday Books, 2018. 978-1-250-10571-4. 311 p. $17.99. Grades 8-12.

About a year before the opening of Courtney Summers’ latest novel, Sadie’s younger sister, 13-year old Mattie, disappeared and was later found murdered. Now, Sadie has also disappeared, her car and few belongings found abandoned hundreds of miles away from her hometown of Cold Creek, Colorado. Chapters alternate between Sadie’s first-person quest to deliver justice to the man she believes killed Mattie, and transcripts of The Girls, a podcast that chronicles the mysteries surrounding Sadie and her sister. The podcast, set just a few months later, follows in Sadie’s footsteps. Both the show and Sadie’s narrative reveal layer upon layer of abuse, neglect, and fierce sisterly love. Sadie, who speaks with a stutter, is a gritty anti-heroine. She both endures violence and threatens violence against others in her single-minded mission.

THOUGHTS: The novel’s unique format and tough-as-nails main character make this an appealing choice for a variety of readers. The ending leaves a few plot threads and at least one central question unresolved, which may prompt discussion with some readers but frustrate others. The full-cast audiobook (and accompanying 6-episode podcast) enhance the novel’s accessibility.

Fiction (Mystery)          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

After her sister Mattie is murdered, Sadie Hunters disappears into the cold Colorado night, hellbent on vengeance. After both Mattie’s murder and Sadie’s disappearance go cold, May Beth – the girls surrogate grandmother – contacts popular New York podcast host West McCray, begging for help in finding Sadie. McCray becomes absorbed in the case, and begins a serial podcast called The Girls, detailing Mattie’s murder and Sadie’s disappearance. As McCray chases leads, Sadie hunts for revenge, and finds that the truth about her sister’s murder and its link to her past is both unnerving and disturbing. Alternating between episode transcripts of the podcast and Sadie’s brutal, violent hunt for justice, readers are thrust into the bleak poverty of small town America and the haunting aftermath of the murder, all building to a crescendo as McCray and Sadie unmask and confront the killer.

THOUGHTS: Teens familiar with true-crime shows like Serial and The Staircase will keep this book in constant circulation. The unique format helps this stand out from other YA books out there, but strong violence, sexual abuse, and language make this one for older teens.

Mystery          Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

McGhee, Alison. What I Leave Behind. Atheneum, 2018. 978-1-481-47656-0. $17.99. 199 p. Gr 7+.

Will walks – to and from school, to his job at the dollar store, and many more miles as needed to put his grief and fears behind. Will started walking three years ago, after his father committed suicide. While he walks, he thinks, remembers, and observes. He observes the people in his neighborhood: Little Butterfly Dude, the young boy who waits every afternoon for the butterflies to come; Superman, an apparently homeless individual. He remembers his father and his father’s cornbread which Will tries to replicate. And he thinks about his old friend Playa, who was gang-raped at a party. Can walking be enough for Will to recover from all his grief? This is a quiet, but stunning book. Will is a strong, thoughtful character who deals with life as best he can, with an assist from David Bowie.

THOUGHTS: Just like feet hitting the pavement, Will drives this book with the warmth of his personality. The gritty plot and light text (one hundred words of text on every other page, complemented by a Chinese character on the verso) make it a great offering for reluctant readers as well.

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Matson, Morgan. Save the Date. Simon & Schuster, 2018. 978-1-4814-0457-0. 417 p. Gr. 9-12.

Charlie Grant’s life is full of upheaval – her parents are selling the family home, her mother’s long-running comic strip is coming to an end, one of her older brothers is currently estranged from the family, she needs to make a decision about college and her future, and her crush may finally be showing an interest in her. And this weekend is her sister’s wedding! Charlie is determined that the wedding weekend be perfect. After all, it will be last time the whole family is together in the family home. It doesn’t take long for the best laid plans to turn to chaos. Unexpected guests, a malfunctioning house alarm, a disappearing wedding planner, and a wedding band that only plays Journey covers are just a few of the disasters the Grant family encounters over the course of the weekend. Along the way, Charlie must confront the fact that she has developed a romanticized and nostalgic view of her family when the truth is they are complex individuals with both positive and negative attributes.

THOUGHTS: This enjoyable and laugh out loud (some of the wedding-related disasters are pretty humorous) title will appeal to fans of realistic fiction. While there are some romantic elements to the story, the focus of the story is the Grant family–their strong bonds, family dynamic, etc. Fans of Matson’s earlier works will not be disappointed.

Realistic Fiction          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD