YA – Sam and Ilsa’s Last Hurrah; Pride; American Panda; Unearthed; Heretics Anonymous; The Queen’s Rising; The Lies They Tell; What They Don’t Know; Royals

Cohn, Rachel, and David Levithan. Sam & Ilsa’s Last Hurrah. Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. 978-0-399-55384-4. 281 p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Twins Sam and Ilsa are high school seniors on the brink of graduation day. They are throwing one final dinner party at their grandmother’s rent-controlled Manhattan apartment, which has a fabulous view of New York City.  As with all of the dinner parties they’ve thrown throughout adolescence, both Sam and Ilsa invited three people, but neither twin told the other who these three guests would be. Told in alternating viewpoints, Sam and Ilsa each struggle to achieve closure on this chapter of their lives and seek answers about what their next adventures should be, all while entertaining exes, frenemies, potential future lovers, best friends, and others at their final dinner party.

THOUGHTS: This is a very relatable coming-of-age story that will resonate with young adults who are struggling to figure out what they should do with their futures. There are a handful of gay and bisexual characters, including Sam and Ilsa, and Sam is plagued by anxiety; therefore, the book is especially relatable for students grappling with anxiety or their sexuality. Reserve this title for mature students, as there is underage drinking and profanity throughout the book.

Realistic Fiction          Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

Zoboi, Ibi. Pride. New York: Balzer + Bray, 2018. 978-0-062-56404-7. 304 p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Zuri Benitez is a Haitian-Dominican teenager living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. She loves the “poetry” of her neighborhood, and worries when the abandoned house across the street becomes a mini-mansion, sticking out “like a newly polished pair of Jordans thrown in with a bunch of well-worn knockoffs (2).” Gentrification is happening all over Brooklyn, with rich white families are moving in and vowing to “clean up” the neighborhood. The new neighbors are the wealthy African-American family, and the two son, Darius and Ainsley Darcy, are exceptionally charming and handsome. Zuri’s older sister immediately connects with Ainsley, but Zuri remains weary. She doesn’t think her neighborhood needs to change – and she doesn’t want the Darcys to change her family, either. When Ainsley breaks up with her sister, Zuri is even more wary but finds herself connecting more and more with Darius. Giving Darius a chance means accepting that things will change, and Zuri is not ready to give up her neighborhood, independence, and family home just yet.

THOUGHTS: While this book may be a contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice, Zoboi grounds the story with Zuri’s fierce connection to her neighborhood and brings a voice to the real life issues that many teen people of color are currently experiencing in their neighborhoods. By exploring gentrification, racism, and maintaining cultural heritage, Zoboi creates a rich and timely story.

Realistic Fiction          Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Chao, Gloria. American Panda. Simon Pulse, 2018. 978-1-481-49910-1. 310 p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Seventeen-year-old Taiwanese American Mei Lu is a freshman at MIT, where she is studying to become a doctor as per her parents’ wishes. The truth, however, is that she hates germs and finds biology boring. Her real dream is to own a dance studio. To make matters worse, she finds herself falling for a fellow MIT student named Darren, who she knows her parents will never approve of because he is Japanese, and her very traditional parents are already pre-arranging her marriage to another Taiwanese doctor. As Mei struggles to find her own happiness while still maintaining a relationship with her parents, she finds herself building a web of lies that is destined to eventually unravel. Read the book to find out whether these lies drive a wedge between her and her family, or whether she finds a way to reconcile her own hopes and dreams with their expectations.  

THOUGHTS: This book will resonate with any teen who is trying to follow his/her dreams and find him/herself, especially those who feel pressure from their parents to succeed. Pair this book with Samira Ahmed’s Love, Hate, & Other Filters for students who are caught between tradition and reality. This title also has educational value, as abundant references to Taiwanese culture and history make it an excellent complement to any high school social studies curriculum.

Realistic Fiction          Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

Kaufman, Amie, and Meagan Spooner. Unearthed. Disney Hyperion. 2018. 978-1-484-75805-2. $17.99. 336 pages. Grades 8 and up.

Earth’s resources are dwindling, climate disasters have left the planet nearly uninhabitable, and the people are desperate to solve the environmental crises. An extinct, alien race with advanced technology that could save Earth have left behind cryptic messages which scientists have struggled for years to comprehend. Now scholars, corporations, and criminals are all sending missions to the distant planet, Gaia, to recover this potentially Earth-saving knowledge. Mia, an orphan girl who ekes out a living as a scavenger and who is trying to buy back her sister’s freedom, has secured transport to Gaia to try to find her fortune by raiding the temples of the Undying. When she arrives on the planet, her plans start to unravel, but then she meets with Jules Addison, an overprivileged scholar, who has come to Gaia for archaeological research. At odds over her need to scavenge artifacts for money and his desire to prove his father’s theories right, the two end up in an uneasy alliance as they race to a remote and unknown temple site to beat out the other dangerous scavengers.

THOUGHTS: A recommended purchase for libraries where Science Fiction is popular. The two main characters are intelligent and determined, each of them intriguing and likeable. Each chapter is told from their alternating perspectives. The novel is filled with danger, puzzles, twists and turns and the ending is a real cliffhanger, demanding a sequel. Kaufman and Spooner have come up with another action packed adventure romance series, perfect for fans of Illuminae or the Starbound trilogy.

Science Fiction          Nancy Summers, Abington SD

Henry, Katie. Heretics Anonymous. Katherine Tegen Books, 2018. 978-0-062-69887-2. $17.99. 326 p. Gr. 9+.

Michael Ausman is not happy. Due to his father’s most recent job transfer, the 16-year-old atheist is starting at St. Clare’s Catholic High School. Things look up during history class; however, when he encounters Lucy debating Sister Joseph Marie about female saints. Assuming he has found a kindred spirit, Michael introduces himself to Lucy and decides she will be his friend. Lucy introduces him to her eclectic group of friends: Avi, who is gay and Jewish; Max, who uniquely wears cloaks to school; and Eden, who is Pagan. To Michael’s surprise, Lucy is devoutly Catholic, while disagreeing with the church on many issues. Eventually the group invites Michael to its “study group”, nicknamed Heretics Anonymous, where they discuss their frustrations with the school. Michael convinces the group that if they want the school to change, they need to take action and not just talk. At first, their guerilla attacks create a buzz of healthy discussion at the school. But then Michael goes too far, and endangers the friendships he now treasures. Throughout the book, which rockets from hilarious to philosophical to tender, Michael is driven by his rage against his father for being absent so much and requiring the family to move frequently. The polyglot cast of characters is well portrayed without veering into tokenism, and under the humor lies the question of what, exactly, is faith. The ending of the book is stunning, and you will find yourself reading it over and over.

THOUGHTS:  A thoughtful analysis of faith without ever turning preachy. Highly recommended for high school libraries and mature middle schoolers. (Frank discussions of contraception and male arousal).

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Ross, Rebecca. The Queen’s Rising. Harper Teen, 2018. 978-0-062-47134-5. $17.99. 439 p. Gr. 7 +.

Fantasy fans will revel in this unique world crafted by Ross. When she was young, Brienna’s grandfather finagled a position for his orphaned granddaughter at Magnalia House, an aristocratic school for select young ladies to master a passion, even though Brienna has not exhibited a particular talent. After seven years of schooling, and several changes of passion, Brienna is ready to accept a position as a Knowledge passion, and she is devastated when she is left without a patron. However, when Brienna begins experiencing the memories of an individual involved with the downfall of the last queen of the neighboring Queen’s Realm of Maevana, the Dowager of Magnalia House arranges an interview with an acquaintance of hers. Soon after accepting the position with Alderic Jourdain, Brienna realizes no one is who they seem, and she is drawn into an underworld of political intrigue and a plot to overthrow the current king of Maevana and return the throne to the rightful queen. Ross creates an elegant world, based on Renaissance France, with characters who have deep passions, both academic and emotional. Uniquely, the land of Maevana has traditionally had a queen, and daughters are of great value.

THOUGHTS:  A literary costume drama, The Queen’s Rising hits all the right notes – opulent dresses, friendship, mystery, danger, and a dash of romance, all with a feminist twist. The sequel to the planned duology will be released in March, 2019.

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

French, Gillian. The Lies They Tell. HarperTeen, 2018. 978-1-524-71587-8. 352 p. $10.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Ever since the unsolved arson that rocked their small Tenny’s Harbor, ME town, Pearl and her father have struggled. Caretaker for the Garrison estate (and many other homes along “the row”), Pearl’s father has been mostly out of work due to suspicions about his involvement and his reputation at the bar. Determined to clear her father’s name, Pearl uses her job at the club to get in with the summer kids. Breaking through the layers of secrecy is easier said than done, but Pearl fights to become more than a local townie fling. Torn between loyalties to her dad, her friends, and solving the mystery of the Garrison murders, Pearl risks her own life to uncover the truth. Some truths are better left alone, and Pearl will have to decide if the truth is worth all she’s risking. 

THOUGHTS: Hand this one to mystery fans and fans of We Were Liars. Readers will be drawn to the mystery and unable to put it down until they know if Pearl is successful at uncovering the truth or worse. 

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Maggi, Nicole. What They Don’t Know. Sourcebooks Fire, 2018. 978-1-492-67265-4. 368 p. $10.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Mellie, the quiet, daughter of the ultra-conservative Christian mayor, begins her story with: “Dear Ms. Tilson, You probably think you know who I am, but I’m here to tell you that you don’t. I used to be a bright star of a girl, but that girl burned out of existence, like a fire swept through my life and left nothing but ash and smoke….” Told through journal entries that her English teacher will never see, Mellie pours out her soul as she grapples with the life-altering decision she faces. Lise is outspoken, and she stands up for what she believes, which is one of the reasons Mellie’s family decided they couldn’t be friends many years ago. Now living two very different lives, each keeping her own secret, Mellie and Lise alternately share their secret struggles on the pages of their English journals. Lise can’t help but notice Mellie is struggling, but is Mellie ready to let someone, especially Lise, help her. 

THOUGHTS: A fan of multi-narrator books, I loved both of these characters and was deeply invested in their stories. The struggles and pressures they feel will resonate with many readers. This is a must have for high school libraries where intense, emotional books are popular. Trigger warning: This book deals with a sexual assault that has taken place. 

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Hawkins, Rachel. Royals. GP Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-1-524-73823-5. 296 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Ever since her perfect older sister Ellie went off to University and started dating the crown prince of Scotland (no, there isn’t really one), Daisy has been dodging the paparazzi and trying to live a normal life. When now call me Eleanor announces her engagement, Daisy does everything to avoid the tabloids. Her ex-boyfriend’s scandalous lies leave Daisy shipped off to Scotland, missing out on her summer plans, to avoid further embarrassment and spend quality time with Eleanor. Daisy learns she isn’t the only sibling causing rumors. Eleanor’s future brother-in-law and sister-in-law stir up their own trouble, and Daisy quickly realizes Eleanor’s future life may not be as glamorous as she tries to claim. An unsupervised group of teenagers with seemingly limitless funds on the loose in Scotland leaves the royal family liaison Glynnis to clean up the mess. 

THOUGHTS: Hand this book to any hopeless romantic or readers who like learning about royals and their drama. Fans will anxiously await the second installment in this series.  

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Square; Do Not Lick This Book; Write to Me; Moon; Don’t Blink; The Rabbit Listened; Earth Detectives (series NF); Flying Deep; The Titanic; History Maker Biographies (series NF); We Don’t Eat Our Classmates; Hansel and Gretel; The Snowy Nap; Science Concepts (series NF); Dinosaurs (series NF); Stella Diaz has Something to Say

Barnett, Mac. Square. Candlewick, 2018. 978-0-763-69607-8. Unpaged. $15.99. PreK-Gr. 2.

Square spends his days pushing blocks up and out of his secret cave. One day, Circle floats by while Square is doing his work and mistakes Square’s block for a self-portrait. Awed by his talent, Circle demands that Square create a sculpture of Circle. But will Square, who isn’t really a sculptor, be able to achieve perfect round edges that are up to par with Circle’s expectations? Find out in his hilarious, thought-provoking story. Short sentences, simple illustrations, and lots of repetition make this an excellent selection for early readers.

THOUGHTS: Learning possibilities abound with this second title in a planned trilogy. The book is sure to provoke discussions about ingenuity, deceit, perspective, and what makes a true work of art. It would certainly be a comical way for elementary science teachers to introduce the concept of reflection or for elementary art teachers to show that art is all about perspective. For preschool readers, the book is a great way to introduce simple shapes. Highly recommended for collections that serve early elementary students.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

Ben-Barak, Idan, and Julian Frost. Do Not Lick This Book: It’s Full of Germs. Roaring Book Press, 2018. 978-1-760-29305-5. Pages 32. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

Such a fun idea for a book! This book introduces young readers to the ideas of microbes and germs. They go on an adventure (you get to see teeth, clothes, and paper incredibly magnified) ON YOU! The reader follows them around learning about how different microbes live in different places and how they can easily get from one place to another (your finger). The end of the book has what the microbes look like when they are not illustrated, and what their real names are.

THOUGHTS: A fun and funny book that is sure to make kids smile (and possibly gross some kids out), this is a good introduction for numerous things from why it’s so important to wash your hands to introducing the concept of microscopes.

579 Germs           Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

Grady, Cynthia, Illustrated by Amiko Hirao. Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind. Charlesbridge, 2018. 978-1-580-89688-7. Pages 32. $16.99. Gr. 1-3.

This moving true story turned picture book is a personal story about an event in American history that some are unaware of. It is a true story of some Japanese-American children who were sent to an internment camp by the government during World War II. Before they were forced to leave, Miss Breed (a public librarian in San Diego) gives her young friends books to take with them and paid postcards, so they can write to her. Their relationship grows, and Miss Breed continues to send care packages of books and more postcards to the children in the internment camps. Miss Breed also writes magazine articles about the treatment of the Japanese-Americans and advocates for schools in the camps.

THOUGHTS: I think it’s wonderful that the illustrations show excerpts from actual letters that were sent to Miss Breed. This would be a good introduction to primary sources, as well as a read-aloud for middle or high school students who are learning about this topic.

940.53 World War II           Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

Oliver, Alison. Moon. Clarion Books, 2018. 978-1-328-78160-4. Pages 32. $17.99. Gr. PreK – 2.

Moon was a typical over-scheduled girl who wasn’t very happy. She wanted to know what it would feel like to be wild, but she researched it instead of trying to experience it. Finally, a shooting star lures her outside, and she discovers a perfect teacher–a wild animal. Moon learns not only how to play and pounce but how to be still and feel. In the end she takes her wolfy ways back to school with her to show her classmates.

THOUGHTS: This is such an important book for all those over-achieving families! It is essential for children to LEARN to play, use their imagination, and be silent after wearing themselves out. I wish there was a way I could bottle this book up and give it to parents as a parenting book!

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

Rosenthal, Amy Krouse. Don’t Blink. Random House, 2018. 978-0-385-39187-0. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-Gr. 2.

The idea behind this book is simple: every time readers blink, they must turn the page. If they can avoid blinking, they can avoid finishing the book and having to go to bed.  The narrator, a wide-eyed owl, encourages readers to stare, squint, cover one eye, and try other strategies to prevent them from blinking. Eventually, the owl suggests closing both eyes and humming a song, counting to one million, or thinking about the day. This humorous, adorable story will have even the most stubborn of bedtime goers drifting off to sleep.

THOUGHTS: I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story with my daughter, as it reminded me of one of my childhood favorites: The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone. Like this book, Stone’s story encouraged readers to avoid turning pages so they wouldn’t have to see the monster at the end of the book. Because my daughter is a night owl, the idea of avoiding bedtime was certainly alluring to her, drawing her into the story. The owl’s commands kept her engaged throughout the book, and she enjoyed some of the optical illusions that were offered while she was being encouraged to stare. Although the book may not hold much educational value, it is definitely an excellent choice for an interactive bedtime read.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

Doerrfeld. Cori. The Rabbit Listened. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-0-735-22935-8. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-Gr. 2.

Just when Taylor has finished building an enormous castle out of blocks, a flock of birds flies in and knocks it over. Taylor is devastated. Several animals come in and find Taylor upset. They all try to cheer Taylor up in their own way; the chicken offers to talk about it, the bear suggests that they shout about it, the elephant tries to fix the castle, and so forth. Taylor, however, doesn’t feel like doing anything with any of them. That’s when the rabbit enters and simply sits with Taylor, listening as Taylor talks, shouts, and experiences a range of other emotions and reactions. By the book’s end, readers will see that all Taylor needed was just someone to listen.

THOUGHTS: This book delivers some powerful messages for young readers. First, it shows them that when something devastating happens, it’s normal to feel anger, disappointment, sadness, and many other emotions. It also teaches readers that sometimes the best way to comfort someone is simply to listen. The basic message that words aren’t always necessary when consoling someone is one that even many adults could stand to hear. Emotional intelligence is something that should not be overlooked in an elementary curriculum, and this title would supplement such a curriculum beautifully.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

Olson, Elsie. Earth Detectives. ABDO Publishing Group, 2018.  $17.95 each, $107.70, set of 6.  24 p. Grades 2-5.

Exploring Fossils: Paleontologists at Work! 978-1-532-11231-0
Exploring Earthquakes: Seismologists at Work!  978-1-614-79936-8
Exploring Minerals: Mineralogists at Work! 978-1-614-79938-2
Exploring Volcanoes: Volcanologists at Work! 978-1-614-79940-5
Exploring Weather: Meteorologists at Work! 978-1-614-79941-2
Exploring the Rock Cycle: Petrologists at Work!  978-1-614-79939-9

This elementary non-fiction series focuses on careers in the Earth Sciences and is created by education professionals, reading specialists, and content experts. Each book defines the title subject and the scientists who study it. Features include noted experts in the field as well as informative text features such as photos, bolded vocabulary words, comprehension quiz, and glossary.

THOUGHTS: This is a great series for young readers to explore careers and aligns with new federal and state guidelines on career education.

560 Earth Science          Nancy Summers, Abington SD

Cusolito, Michelle. Illustrated by Nicole Wong. Flying Deep: Climb inside Deep Sea Submersible Alvin. Charlesbridge. 2018.  978-1-5808-9811-9. $17.99. Grades 2-5.

This beautifully illustrated children’s book is about Alvin, the human occupied submersible famous for its journey to the bottom of the ocean to explore the remains of the Titanic. The story takes the reader on a detailed look  into life on Alvin, outlining a typical day’s work of exploring the mysteries in the ocean deep. The author includes background information on the development and technical aspects of the vehicle, a glossary, a list of the animals found in the depths of the oceans, a bibliography, recommended websites, and the author’s Pinterest board for curious students to check out.

THOUGHTS: This title is an excellent choice for elementary STEM collections, giving students a glimpse into the work of the scientific study of oceanographers.

627 Oceanography          Nancy Summers, Abington SD

Charman, Katrina.  The Titanic (Survival Tails). Little, Brown and Company, 2018.  978-0-316-47783-3. 190 pages. $7.99. Grades 3-5.

Mutt is a lonely dog, left behind in England after his owner, young Alice, and her father leave their home to travel to America on the newly built steamship, the RMS Titanic. He is determined to find her before the ship departs and with the help of a clever rat named King Leon, the dog finds himself on board. Because of the size of the ship, Mutt has difficulty finding Alice but is aided in this mission by the Captain’s cat named Clara, who often accompanies the captain on his voyages. Joining these unlikely friends are a trio of abandoned kittens. Near midnight on April 14, the ocean liner strikes an iceberg. Will Mutt find Alice before the great ship sinks, and will the animals and their owners survive their voyage on the great Titanic? The back matter contains a timeline of the ship’s crossing, a description of the ship, an explanation of nautical terms, and information on animals that traveled on the Titanic.

THOUGHTS: This story is full of suspense, and readers will enjoy the insights of the animal friends. This appears to be the first book in the Survival Tails series.  Hand this one to fans of the Ranger in Time series.

Historical Fiction           Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD

Hansen, Grace.  Stan Lee: Comic Book Writer & Creator of Spider-Man. (History Maker Biographies Set 3.)  Abdo, 2018. 9781532104305. 24 pages.  Grades K-3. $20.00

Hansen, Grace.  George Lucas: Filmmaker & Creator of Star Wars. 978-1-53210-425-1
—. Michelle Obama: Former First Lady & Role Model. 978-1-53210-427-5
—.  Neil Armstrong:  Astronaut & First Human to Walk on the Moon. 978-1-53210-428-2
—.  Queen Elizabeth ll: The World’s Longest Reigning Monarch. 978-1-53210-429-9
Kinney, Dan.  Hillary Clinton: Remarkable American Politician.  978-1-53210-426-8

This collection of primary biographies discusses the life of a variety of people who have made a contribution to the world in the political, entertainment, or scientific field.  The text is very simple and written in a large font size with a few sentences on each two page spread. Each page of text is accompanied by a full page photograph on the opposite page. In Stan Lee, the reader learns how the artist entered the industry and which comics he is famous for. The back matter contains a timeline and glossary as well as a link to Abdo Kids Online for access to crafts, videos, and games.  The writing is factual and somewhat bland but is accessible to young readers who will enjoy reading about their favorite Marvel superheroes. 

THOUGHTS: These biographies will be useful for biography units in primary grades. Students will also enjoy reading certain titles for personal interest. Purchase if there is a need for serviceable nonfiction for classroom assignments.

Biography          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD
92, 921, or 741.5

Higgins, Ryan T. We Don’t Eat Our Classmates. Disney-Hyperion, 2018. 978-1-368-00355-1. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-Gr. 2.

When Penelope Rex starts school, she has a hard time making friends. Her classmates are children, and she wants to eat them because children are delicious. It turns out, however, that her classmates do not want to be eaten. Soon enough, she gets a taste of her own medicine when the class goldfish bites her finger. Once she realizes what it feels like to be eaten, she stops trying to eat her classmates and has an easier time making friends. This fresh, cheeky title is sure to elicit chuckles from young students–all while making them think about what it means to treat others as they want to be treated.

THOUGHTS: I absolutely love the way this book highlights the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It provides content that is sure to spark discussion about this concept, yet adds an element of humor to lighten the discussion. The illustrations depict a diverse cast of children; one is wearing a yamaka, another is wearing a hijab, and they all display various tones of skin color. This book is a very refreshing story of inclusion in a world where exclusion and bullying is all too common.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

Woollvin, Bethan. Hansel & Gretel. Peachtree Publishers, 2018: 978-1-682-63073-0. 32 p. $16.95. Gr K-3.

Willow, a witch who only does good magic, lives happily in a snug gingerbread cottage in the woods. When she spots Hansel and Gretel dropping a trail of breadcrumbs in the forest one day, she politely asks them to help clean up, so mice and birds will not follow the trail to her tasty house. The children refuse to help, and while Willow cleans up the mess herself, the twins hurry ahead and begin eating her house themselves. Because she is so kind-hearted, Willow assumes the children must be hungry, so she invites them inside for some food. However, their bad manners persist as they eat all of Willow’s food, play with her spell books and wand, and ultimately push Willow into the oven when the decide they want the cottage to themselves. The children finally push good-hearted Willow too far, and she reveals that she isn’t always such a good witch. The gouache illustrations pop thanks to the tight color palette of black, white, gray, and orange. Observant readers will enjoy small details scattered through the illustrations, including birds and mice on almost every spread.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

THOUGHTS: Pair this with Woollvin’s other retellings of Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel for a fun fractured fairy tale unit. Students will enjoy finding similarities and differences in Woollvin’s slightly twisted stories and the original fairy tales.

Brett, Jan. The Snowy Nap. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018: 978-0-399-17073-7. 32 p. $18.99. Gr K-3.

As the leaves fall and the air chills, Hedgie knows winter is approaching, and his time to hibernate is nearing. Hedge takes one final walk around the farm before his long nap, and as he passes by, each farm animal shares a winter delight Hedige will miss out on while he is sleeping. From a sparkling, ice-covered chicken coop to a frozen skating pond, to a tall snowman, it all sounds too good to miss. Hedgie decides to stay awake and see winter, but luckily, the farm girl, Lisa, brings him in from the cold before a snowstorm begins. She places Hedgie in a cozy basket on the windowsill where Hedige gets a first-hand look at all of winter’s wonders. This companion to The Hat features many familiar farm characters, and on the book jacket, Brett describes how this story was inspired by her own pet rabbit who was interested in the wintery view of her backyard. Brett’s detailed watercolor and gouache illustrations brim with life, and her familiar Scandinavian influences are part of the page borders.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

THOUGHTS: This book will be a welcome addition to units about hibernation, and students will enjoy predicting what animals will appear on upcoming pages by studying the intricate page borders.

Science Concepts. ABDO Zoom, 2018. $18.95 ea. $119.70 set of 6. 24 p. Gr. PreK – 2.

Rivera, Andrea. Air. 978-1-532-12050-3.
—. Gravity. 978-1-532-12051-0.
—. Light. 978-1-532-12052-7.
—. Living and Nonliving. 978-1-532-12053-4.
—. Motion. 978-1-532-12054-1.
—. Sound. 978-1-532-12055-8.

Explaining abstruse scientific ideas to preschoolers can be daunting, but this series tackles six such concepts. In Living and Nonliving, readers are introduced to a variety of living and nonliving objects. Short chapters illustrate various classes of living and nonliving things, such as science, technology, engineering. The logic behind the classifications can be challenging to discern: in the chapter entitled Math, we are informed that living things need energy and they reproduce. Book features include table of contents, glossary and index. For additional information, readers are directed to the Abdo site.

THOUGHTS: This attractive book gamely attempts to simplify a complex topic for the youngest scientists.

Air, 533          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD
Gravity, 531
Light, 535
Living and Nonliving, 570
Motion, 531
Sound, 534

Dinosaurs (set 2). ABDO Kids, 2018.  $19.95 ea. $119.70 set of 6. 24 p. Gr. K-3.

Hansen, Grace. Allosaurus. 978-1-532-10035-3.
—. Ankylosaurus.  978-1-532-10036-9.
—. Diplodocus. 978-1-532-10037-0.
—. Iguanodon.  978-1-532-10038-3.
—. Spinosaurus. 978-1-532-10039-0.
—. Styracosaurus. 978-1-532-10040-6.

Budding paleontologists and young dinosaur fans will enjoy these lushly illustrated introductions to six dinosaur species. Each double page spread contains a large illustration, accompanied by clear text in a large, bold easy-to-read font, including the page numbers. While youngsters are sure to enjoy the graphic design of the book, teachers and librarians will appreciate the many text features this series provides. The books contain a table of contents, glossary and index, as well as links to three websites for more information. Readers are also given a code to use online at ABDOkids.com, which provides them with a collection of activities, videos and pictures about dinosaurs.

THOUGHTS: These books are lovely to look at and perfect to introduce parts of a book or early research skills.   

Allosaurus, 567.912          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD
Ankylosaurus, 567.915
Diplodocus, 567.913
Iguanodon, 567.914
Spinosaurus, 567.912
Styracosaurus, 567.915

Dominguez, Angela. Stella Diaz has Something to Say. Roaring Brook, 2018. 978-1-626-72858-5. $16.99. 198 p. Gr. 2-5.

Shy Stella Diaz may have something to say, but all too often, her words stay inside her. The third grader loves spending time with her mom and older brother, but she is less comfortable at school. Because her family emigrated from Mexico when she was young, English is her second language, and sometimes words don’t come out right, to the amusement of her classmates. To make matters worse, her best friend Jenny, is in a different class this year. But Stella is determined to make another friend, and perhaps it will be the new student moving into the class. However, when Stella embarrasses herself in front of Stanley on his first day, she despairs of being friends with him. Stella really panics when her teacher announces that the class will do oral reports on the animal they are researching. Stella is fascinated by fish, but can this shy girl find the courage to talk in front of the class? Perhaps with the help of a new friend, she can. Stella is an easily relatable character for young readers, even if they are not immigrants like Stella. Her shyness and hesitations in dealing with people are emotions most people share. Stella also does an excellent job creating empathy for students who are from another culture or struggle with English as a second language.

THOUGHTS: A solid purchase for middle grade collections. Young readers will cheer Stella on to success.

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

MG – Ebb and Flow; Can I Touch Your Hair; Call of the Wraith; The Booth Brothers; Bonnie and Clyde; The Pros of Cons; The Spirit of Cattail County; Deep Water; World of Robots; Captain Superlative

Smith, Heather. Ebb and Flow. Kids Can Press, 2018. 978-1-771-38838-2. 232 p. $10.99. Gr. 5-8 and up.

Last year Jett and his mom moved to a new town for a fresh start, and he struggled to fit in. Against better judgment, Jett became friends with Junior, a troubled boy with a rough home life. Junior likes trouble, and usually Jett goes along with him to seem like a friend. As Junior and Jett become closer, they share details about their lives that no one else knows. Though feelings of guilt plague him at times, Jett likes seeming cool in Junior’s eyes.

Now Jett is on his way to spend the summer with his grandmother after a “rotten bad year” (7). Being away from home gives Jett the space he needs to think about what he did and learn some lessons on forgiveness. With his grandmother’s regular reassurances, Jett begins to learn the meaning of friendship and forgiveness – of others and of himself. In free verse vignettes, Jett shares his story switching between now and then to give readers a full picture of his life and regrets.

THOUGHTS: Though on the outside it appears to be a traditional book, approachable free verse vignettes fill the pages with Jett’s story. Ebb & Flow is an excellent example of character development and providing readers with sparse details as well as text structure. Give this book to a struggling or reluctant reader, a reader who likes a non-traditional structure where the story isn’t linear, or read it aloud to a whole class. Upper elementary and middle grade readers will enjoy this story about the choices we make and the true meaning of friendship and forgiveness.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Latham, Irene, and Charles Waters. Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship. Carolrhoda Books, 2018. 978-1-512-40442-5. 39 p. $17.99. Gr. 4 – 7.

I’d like to start with a quote from Elizabeth Bird from her review of this book for School Library Journal:

For a long time… there has been an unspoken understanding amongst white parents that when it comes to race, the less said to children the better… This belief persists, flying in the face of studies that have shown that kids aren’t blind… And if you don’t offer guidance of any sort to them as they age, then you’re allowing the world with all its messages and lessons to do the teaching for you. So children’s books… can actually try their hand at confronting race head on in a format for the young. (Feb. 21, 2018)

This book by two authors and two illustrators takes place in a 5th grade classroom. Two students, who the authors based on themselves, are partnered for a poetry project. They make an unlikely pair – one is shy, and the other can’t stop talking. In the beginning they decide to each write a poem about shoes, hair, and church. Each voice shares their different views on mistakes that children make when they assume or don’t understand, on racial inequality, and on how larger social issues affect their interactions with other children. As a reader, it is an often sad or uncomfortable experience, seeing racial tension through the eyes of children so young. There is subject matter here that should be discussed in school and at home, and “Can I Touch Your Hair?” is a good way to get these conversations started.

THOUGHTS: I think individually, some of these poems would be good for much younger grades. For example, the title poem would be very fitting for 1st-2nd grades. However, the book addresses other heavy topics, such as the “n- word” and police brutality toward African-Americans. Unfortunately, some 7th graders may be deterred by the style of the pictures, which make it look like it may be intended for younger grades, but the subject matter is right on target.

Poetry          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

Sands, Kevin. Call of the Wraith. New York: Aladdin, 2018. 978-1-534-42847-8. 494 p. $18.99. Gr. 6+.

Christopher Rowe wakes up in an unfamiliar bed, on an unfamiliar farm – with no memory of who he is or how he got there. The family who found him says he was in a shipwreck, stranded in ice, possessed by a demon — and saved by a witch. As Christopher regains his strength and gets his bearings, he learns that strange happenings are occurring around the farm, and local children have been taken by a mysterious specter known as The White Lady. Curious that Sybil O’Malley – the witch who saved his life – may hold some answers, Christopher sets out to question the witch as well as a former witch hunter, Edmund Darcy. Along the way, Christopher reunites with friends Sally and Tom and his trusty apothecary sash. But the mystery of the White Lady and the missing children is much more dangerous than they can imagine. Determined to find and free the missing children and his missing memories, Christopher, Tom, and Sally are once again thrust into an adventure full of puzzles, pirates, and daring rescues.

THOUGHTS: The fourth installment in Sand’s The Blackthorn Key series does not disappoint – it may even be the best one yet. This series is engaging for reluctant readers, relatable to tweens, and just a well-written, adventurous series that deserves a place on all library shelves.

Historical Fiction          Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Langston-George, Rebecca. The Booth Brothers: Drama, Fame, and the Death of President Lincoln. Capstone, 2018. 978-1-5157-7338-2. 112 p. $23.49. Gr. 3-7.

Capstone expands their Encounter: Narrative Non-Fiction Stories series with a volume that focuses on the story of brothers Edwin and John Wilkes Booth. Though both were actors, their lives took vastly divergent paths. Edwin became a well-regarded interpreter of Shakespearean works, performing mainly in Northern cities. A supporter of the Union, he counted abolitionists among his friends. John Wilkes was a flamboyant Southern actor, known for his athleticism on stage and a well-known ladies man off stage, as well as an outspoken supporter of the Confederacy. As it became clear that the South would be defeated, John Wilkes, together with a ragtag band of conspirators, began to plot the assassination of President Lincoln. The book opens with a chapter featuring John Wilkes on the run following the assassination and then goes back in time, tracing the childhood and diverging paths of the Booth brothers. Readers will not only learn about the brothers, but also the era in which they lived. The text is supplemented by numerous photos and illustrations.

THOUGHTS: This engaging title will have readers hooked from the opening chapter when they meet John Wilkes Booth cold, injured, and on the run from the authorities following the assassination. The text is enhanced by the inclusion of numerous high-quality photos. Recommended for researchers or history fans.

973.7 American History          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Buckley, James, Jr. Bonnie and Clyde. Simon & Schuster, 2018. 978-1-4814-9549-3. 147p. $18.99. Gr. 5-7.

This biography focuses on notorious 1930’s criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Readers will learn about the the childhood and family life of both Bonnie and Clyde and the Depression Era in which they were active criminals. Clyde Barrow first began committing petty crimes in his teens. His motivation was likely money. He grew up in a poor family and was not interested in holding down a traditional job. Bonnie Parker also grew up in a poor family. She dreamed of escaping poverty and becoming famous. When the two met, it was seemingly love at first sight. Though Clyde did spend some time in prison, he did not change his ways. Upon parole he was soon planning crimes with some criminal pals. This group became known as the Barrow gang, and Bonnie soon hit the road with them as they traveled the midwest, burglarizing businesses and holding up banks. They occasionally took hostages and when confronted, turned to murder. As their fame increased, pressure from law enforcement became relentless. Eventually, a gang member flipped on them, resulting in the authorities ambushing and killing Bonnie and Clyde.

THOUGHTS: While the text of this book was quite informative and engaging, the book suffers from lack of any photos. This is odd, given that the author stresses how Bonnie and Clyde shot to fame and notoriety in large part due to photos of the pair being published in newspapers. The book would have also benefited from the inclusion of a map, given that the Barrow gang did a great deal of traveling on their crime sprees. That said, readers with an interest in history will likely enjoy this title.

364.15 Crime           Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Cherry, Alison, et al. The Pros of Cons. Point, 2018. 978-1-338-15172-5. $18.99. 341 p. Gr. 6+.

Three girls walk into a convention hall. It’s not a joke, but it is a rollicking good time. Cassie has come with her father to the taxidermy convention. She has no desire to pursue taxidermy, but quality time with her father is hard to come by, so she attends the convention with the hope of having him notice her. Vanessa is thrilled and excited to be attending the We Treasure Fandom fan-fic convention, not only to improve her writing, but to meet her online girlfriend for the first time. Phoebe is attending the Indoor Percussion Association convention. Throw in a toddler beauty pageant, and you just know chaos will ensue. Nothing goes as planned for any of the girls, but all is not lost.  A mix-up of scalpels and percussion mallets, and crossover interests bring the three girls together when they need it most, forging a supportive friendship that brings about a satisfying conclusion to their convention weekend. This book examines friendship in all its many, confusing forms: when your best friends start dating; when family issues intrude; when two people have differing expectations of a friendship; or when you want to befriend your archenemy. Issues of divorce and sexual identity are also deftly handled, leaving readers with a warm feeling.

THOUGHTS:  A solid purchase for middle school and up, this is a rare book with middle-teen protagonists dealing with appropriate feelings and issues.  

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Piontek, Victoria. The Spirit of Cattail County. Scholastic, 2018. 978-1-338-16705-4. $16.99. 275 p. Gr. 4-6.

Sparrow Dalton has led an unconventional life in Beulah, Florida. She and her mother lived in the family home on the edge of the swamp, a house many in the town claim is haunted. And maybe it is. Sparrow can see spirits, and her best – and only – friend is Boy, a long dead spirit. But when Sparrow’s mama dies, her contented life is disrupted. Now Sparrow lives with cantankerous Aunt Geraldine, who is planning on selling the Dalton family home and moving Sparrow into town. Aunt Geraldine also has high expectations of behavior that Sparrow consistently fails to meet. Sparrow takes solace in Boy, reasoning that if he can be a ghost, so can her mother. Lucky for Sparrow, a chance interaction with some local kids at her mother’s funeral leads to, possibly, friendship. Unfortunately, the Castos are not the kind of people Aunt Gertrude finds appropriate, but Sparrow is grateful for their interest in her, and gamely goes along with their plot to find Sparrow’s father. This is a delightfully atmospheric book, filled with spirits, cemeteries and dark, creepy swamps. Sparrow’s grief is offset by the antics of her new friends, and a delightful teen fortune teller. Sparrow learns how to be a friend, and in the end, learns about Aunt Gertrude’s past, and the two work to put their relationship on solid ground.

THOUGHTS:  A solid purchase for middle grade libraries. Strong characters and a creepy setting are sure to make this book a hit.   

Fantasy (Paranormal)          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Key, Watt. Deep Water. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2018. 978-0-374-30654-0. $16.99. 264 p. Gr. 4-8.

Summers, now that Julie’s parents are divorced, mean time with dad, helping him run his dive shop and scuba diving business. When Julie arrives, she notices that her father seems to have let the business slide. So she agrees to go along with her dad when he books a difficult customer for a large fee. But everything about the dive seems off from the very beginning. The obnoxious father and petulant son, whom Julie knows from school, are arguing as they enter the shop, and are less than pleased when Julie’s dad decides not to dive because he feels ill, and has 12-year-old Julie guide them  instead. Julie is a competent diver, but feels out of her depth trying to keep the fractious pair safe and adhering to standard dive protocol. The dive quickly falls apart, but the struggles under the water are only the beginning of a life and death adventure for Julie and her clients.

THOUGHTS: Another outstanding action/adventure by the author of Terror at Bottle Creek. Key obviously knows his subject, and complements the breathtaking adventure with lyrical descriptions of diving, and battling Mother Nature.  However, the death of a character is handled somewhat nonchalantly.

Action/Adventure          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

World of Robots. Bellwether Media, 2018. $19.95 ea. $119.70 set of 6. 32 p. Gr. 3-6.

Noll, Elizabeth. Factory Robots. 978-1-626-17687-4.
Noll, Elizabeth.
Flying Robots. 978-1-626-17688-1.
Noll, Elizabeth.
Medical Robots. 978-1-626-17689-1.
Noll, Elizabeth.
Military Robots. 978-1-626-17690-4.
Noll, Elizabeth.
Police Robots. 978-1-626-17691-1.
Noll, Elizabeth.
Space Robots. 978-1-626-17692-8.

Middle grade students interested in robots will be drawn to this informative set. Each volume opens with a short scenario illustrating the featured robot in action. The ensuing pages provide information about the development and use of the robot, accompanied by copious photographs. Text features include captions, information boxes, table of contents, glossary, index and a To Learn More page, directing readers to other books. However, for internet resources, readers are directed to Factsurfer, the publisher’s proprietary search engine. Billed as a safe, secure search engine, searches generally provide three results.  

THOUGHTS: While these books may not provide enough material for researchers, they should be satisfying for pleasure reading.   

670.42, Factory          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD
629.113, Flying
610.285, Medical
623, Military
363.2028, Police
629.8, Space

Puller, J.S. Captain Superlative. Disney-Hyperion, 2018. 978-1-369-00427-5. $16.99. 245 p. Gr. 4-7.

“Captain Superlative! Champion of Deerwood Park Middle School, here to defend honor, justice, and the forces of good!” This was Janey’s first sighting of the unknown superhero stalking the halls of her school, dressed in a silver swimsuit, tights and a cape. Captain Superlative prepares study guides, opens doors, and helps lost students. Janey watches with awe, curiosity, and a pulling need to know more about this crazy, yet amazing, student. Janey’s superpower is invisibility; she strives to not be noticed, particularly by Dagmar, middle school queen and reigning bully. Janey soon unmasks Captain Superlative, only to be pulled into her orbit as superhero sidekick. As Janey assists Captain Superlative in her many missions each day, she begins to blossom and soon realizes her life is much fuller and happier. But, as astute readers realize from the opening chapter, all is not well with Captain Superlative. This young girl is very ill. When Janey, whose mother died four years ago from cancer, learns her friend is similarly afflicted, she lashes out, feeling betrayed that she opened her heart to her new friend, only to suffer another loss. But as good always triumphs over evil, Janey forges a new path forward to carry on Captain Superlative’s mission. While it is unlikely a student would be able run around school in a mask and cape, this book will make you wish they could. Middle school in all its angsty agony is well depicted, from mean girls to trend followers, to uneasy boy-girl relations. Family issues are touched upon, not deeply but with enough substance to make you consider what burdens some students carry.

THOUGHTS:  A must purchase for middle grade and middle school collections. You may know how this book is going to end from the first pages, but the ride is so very joyous. Carry On, Citizens! Good wins out!   

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD