Elem. – Buzzing Bees; Papa Put a Man on the Moon; Curse of the Werepenguin; Sea Bear; Lawrence in the Fall; If I Was the Sunshine; This is MY Fort; Little Smokey; Because of the Rabbit; Filigree’s Midnight Ride; I Am Love; Dear Ballerina; Out of this World

Higgins, Melissa. Buzzing Bees. Pebble, 2019.  978-1-977-10341-3. 32 p. $21.74. Grades K-3.  (Smithsonian Little Explorer- Little Entomologist 4D).

 —. Beautiful Butterflies. 978-1-9-771-0343-7.
 —. Brilliant Beetles.  978-1-977-10342-0.
Peterson, Megan Cooley. Amazing Ants.  978-1-977-10340-6.
 —. Dashing Dragonflies. 978-1-977-10344-4.
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ —. Grand Grasshoppers. 978-1-977-10345-1.

The Little Entomologist series with their catchy alliterative titles explores the insect world in text that is accessible to young readers. In Buzzing Bees, the author discusses 11 species of bees from around the world. Each two page spread focuses on a different species and talks about their habitat, behavior, and physical description. There are colorful photographs with a close-up of the insect on the page on the right.  Text boxes contain additional information. There is an index, glossary, and suggested readings and websites in the back matter. The term “4D” refers to the Capstone app, where the reader can scan the starred pages with a phone camera and see them come alive on video.

THOUGHTS: This series would be a great addition to any elementary library. The books will attract browsers, and primary students will find them useful for reports.

595.7 Insects -Bees          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
638.1 Animal Husbandry- Bees

Dempsey, Kristy. Papa Put a Man on the Moon. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-0-735-23074-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-3.

Marthanne and her Papa like to look at the stars and dream. A dream is about to come true. On July 20, 1969, American astronauts landed on the Moon. Marthanne is especially proud because her Papa helped to weave the fabric that was part of the astronauts’ space suit. The fabric is so special. It keeps the astronauts safe, and her Papa did that! Dempsey and illustrator Sarah Green help capture Marthanne’s pride and excitement of this miraculous event. Dempsey brings in her personal experience, having grown up in such a town as Marthanne. This personalization makes the story so much more real to the young readers. There is excitement and anticipation as the manned space age comes to being. The author’s addition of Walter Cronkite’s “Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy,” reflects the joy and pride of our country.

THOUGHTS: Even though children today may not take space travel for granted, there is not the novelty that Marthanne experienced (as did many of us older readers) in 1969. Young readers will notice that this book captures the underlying feelings of pride and accomplishment that the mill workers express. That should encourage discussion as to contributions large and small that make our country work.

Picture Book          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired

Woodrow, Allen. Curse of the Werepenguin. Viking Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-0-451-48044-6. 352 p. $17.99. Grades 3-6.

Curse of the Werepenguin follows Bolt Wattle who lives a not so interesting life after being left at an orphanage by his parents. He has dreams that his parents will come back for him; so when a Baron from Brugaria decides to adopt him, he feels that his life is finally looking up! However, the Baron is an odd character who Bolt isn’t sure is all that he seems (either in age or in personality). He is a strange bird (maybe literally) who wears tuxedos every day, and forbids Bolt from asking any questions. Pretty soon Bolt has bigger problems to deal with when he is bitten and turned into a half-human, half penguin who has this desire to eat fish and cause mischief and mayhem. Can Bolt make a new life for himself with the Baron, or is he destined to be an orphan for the rest of his life? 

THOUGHTS: This book is a delightfully, laugh out loud funny homage to Young Frankenstein. While some references might go over a young reader’s head, I think they will enjoy the book anyway! I loved the found family element to this book and found myself rooting for all the characters, even the Baron! Definitely a must have for any school library!

Fantasy          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Academy

Moore, Lindsay. Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival. Greenwillow Books, 2019. 978-0-06-279128-3. Unpaged. $17.99 . Grade K-5.

Sea Bear follows a solitary polar bear’s journey over the course of the year as she struggles in the search for food in her Arctic habitat. This text is beautifully illustrated with gorgeous watercolors and is written in a charming, poetical style using alliteration, repetition, and imagery to capture the plight of marine life in the face of global warming. The book also includes information on the animals and the growing environmental crisis in our arctic regions.

THOUGHTS: Sea Bear provides a touching and informative look at the increasing threat of the effects of climate change. Highly recommended for primary grades K-5.

Picture Book          Nancy Summers Abington SD

Farina, Matthew. Lawrence in the Fall. Disney/Hyperion, 2019. 978-1-484-78058-9. Unpaged. $16.99. PreK-Gr. 2.

When a young fox named Lawrence is directed to bring in something he collects to show his classmates, he begins to fret. He doesn’t collect anything! What will he bring in? He goes home in tears, where his father assures him they’ll find something. Early the next morning, the two venture out into the woods to look for the perfect object for show and tell. At first, they are unsuccessful, and when a storm blows through and Lawrence loses sight of his father, it seems like their trek into the forest was a terrible idea. Before long, however, Lawrence discovers beauty in the falling leaves, which he can’t wait to share with his classmates. A lovely story about the beauty of nature and the power of persistence, this title is perfect for young readers who love to explore the great outdoors.

THOUGHTS: I envision this title being used in an elementary classroom to introduce some sort of leaf project. The rear end pages actually picture fourteen different types of leaves from common trees. These images, in conjunction with the story, could inspire students to go out and look for these types of leaves themselves. If a leaf project is not in the curriculum, perhaps extra credit points could be rewarded for each type of leaf students find. Such educational connections abound with this title, and I love the connection to nature that will lead students outdoors. Definitely a must-have for early science collections.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Fogliano, Julie. If I Was the Sunshine. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. Unpaged. 978-1-481-47243-2. $17.99. PreK-Gr. 2.

This clever, poetic story uses an abundance of metaphors to describe a mother’s love for her daughter. On the opening spread, readers will see a mother and daughter, both in overalls, walking across a field. This same pair is shown reading a bedtime story on the final spread. Throughout the work, the mother expresses her love in stanzas like the following: “if i was the sunshine/and you were the day/i’d call you hello!/and you’d call me stay”. Gorgeous illustrations complement the poetic stanzas, making this an enthralling read for any young child.

THOUGHTS: Although some of the metaphors may not be entirely comprehensible to young readers, the pleasing language and stunning imagery in this book will surely capture their attention. Fans of Margaret Wise Brown’s classic, The Runaway Bunny, will absolutely adore this similarly structured story. Use this as a satisfying bedtime story, or use it to inspire students to create their own delightful metaphors.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Daywalt, Drew. This Is MY Fort (Monkey & Cake, Book 2). Orchard Books, 2019. Unpaged. 978-1-338-14390-4. $9.99. PreK-Gr. 2.

Monkey and Cake are best friends who have lots of silly adventures together. In this book, the second in the Monkey & Cake series, Cake decides to build a fort in which no monkeys are allowed. Naturally, Monkey feels very left out. Before long, however, Cake gets a taste of his own medicine and realizes that everything is better with friends. A humorous story with an important underlying message about friendship and sharing, this easy-to-read title is perfect for beginning readers.

THOUGHTS: Readers may recognize Drew Daywalt as the bestselling author of The Day the Crayons Quit, which should make this title appealing to his already established fan base. All young readers will love the hilarious way in which Daywalt deals with serious subjects like exclusion and feeling left out. Pair this with other well-loved titles about animal pairs and friendship – such as Frog and Toad – or use it to initiate a discussion with young children about including others. It is the perfect addition to any emerging reader collection, as most of the pages contain only a few short sentences.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Neubecker, Robert. Little Smokey. Alfred A. Knopf, 2019. 978-1-984-85104-8. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-Gr. 2.

Little Smokey is the smallest plane at the National Interagency Fire Center. Whenever there is a forest fire, the bigger planes race out to fight it, but Little Smokey must stay back because she’s too small. Then, one day, a fire breaks out that proves to be too much for the bigger planes. They cannot get close enough or fly low enough to effectively fight the flames. Finally, Little Smokey has an opportunity to prove her worth. An encouraging tale about a courageous and unlikely hero, this story champions the principles of bravery and teamwork.

THOUGHTS: In addition to inspiring cooperation and courage, this book also does an excellent job of introducing the subject of wildfires. The last two pages in the book give a brief overview of wildfires, firefighting, and fire prevention. This would be a wonderful introduction to a unit on fire safety that could perhaps end with a field trip to the fire station. Whether or not this title is incorporated into the curriculum, it will still be a hit with fans of Little Blue Truck or The Little Engine that Could.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Lord, Cynthia. Because of the Rabbit. Scholastic Press, 2019. 183 p. 978-0-545-91424-6. $17.99.  Grades 3-6. 

Emma is excited to begin fifth grade in public school.  Although she enjoyed being homeschooled in rural Maine, she is eager to go to school to make friends. The night before school starts, she accompanies her game warden father on a mission to save a rabbit caught in a fence. They soon learn that this is a domestic rabbit, and Emma is allowed to take it home until they can find the owner. Meanwhile, Emma learns that finding a best friend is not as simple as she thought. A boy named Jack wants to be her friend, but she is concerned that being with Jack, who has an aide to keep him focused and from blurting out, might keep her from finding other friends. Jack, Emma, and two girls work on a group project called Two Truths and a Lie. During a work session, Emma learns from one of the girls that there is a poster for a lost pet rabbit. Emma has become very attached to Lapi and is forced to make a decision about whether to keep the rabbit or call the owner. The rabbit means a lot to her, because it reminds her of her grandfather, who told her fables about Monsieur Lapin and Monsieur Renard, the fox. She also must decide what true friendship is all about. Lord has included some interesting facts about rabbits in the chapter headings and writes an author’s note explaining how she got the idea for this book.

THOUGHTS: This is a charming story, and the designated audience will easily be able to relate to Emma as she navigates her way through issues of friendship and pet ownership. Animal lovers will enjoy this one, and the cover itself will attract readers. A great choice for elementary libraries.

Realistic Fiction          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD

Berkman, Pam, and Dorothy Hearst. Filigree’s Midnight Ride. Margaret K. McElderry, 2019. 978-1-534-4333-5. 186 p. $17.99. Grades 1-4.

Filigree, a Pomeranian pup, and his young mistress, Frances Revere, retell the famous ride of Frances’ father, Paul on that fateful day in April 1775.  No one – not even the other dogs – takes the little fluffy dog or the girl seriously, but both Filigree and Frances prove them wrong! They are resourceful and determined. Earlier Filigree was known as Pudding, much to his chagrin, when he was owned by the wife of a Tory who left him behind when she had to return to England. Filigree uses this to his advantage when he spies on General Gage, the British Commander. There are some tense moments when Filigree is nearly captured, but the doggy ingenuity prevails.

THOUGHTS: This series introduces younger children to events in American history through fiction. History after all is best told in stories. I am pleased that the authors’ note at the end of the book takes great care to separate fact from folklore (In this case Longfellow’s poem which romanticizes the event and the actual deposition that Revere wrote) and to explain the realities of the day. They also mention what they added to make the story more readable. The section on slavery in Massachusetts is very enlightening. Be sure to check out the forthcoming At the Heels of History 2020 titles: Minsha’s Night on Ellis Island and Bobo’s Cave of Gold (California Gold Rush).

Historical Fiction          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired

Verde, Susan. I Am Love: A Book of Compassion. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-4197-3726-8. Unpaged. $14.99. PreS- Gr. 2.

This book is a gem. Susan Verde and Peter Reynolds create a beautiful book that will guide younger children and their adults through simple examples of caring and love. Important concepts brought out are learning to listen, being present, being thankful, and working together to make a better world. There is a strong sense of self awareness and self-love. No one is perfect, so strive to do your best. The language is often metaphoric and poetic.

THOUGHTS: This book speaks to our spiritual nature without being overtly religious or preachy.  It should be shared and discussed gently. The yoga poses presented at the end may be helpful in establishing a quiet mood so the book can be shared. Reading this book would be a perfect activity for a school which have a paired grade level program.

Other books in the I Am series written by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter Reynolds include I Am Yoga, I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness, and I Am Human: A Book of Empathy.

Picture Book         Jeannie Bellavance, Retired

Wellington, Monica. Dear Ballerina. Holiday House, 2019. 978-0-823-43932-4. Unpaged. $17.99 . Grades K-3.

A young ballet student writes to her idol, a professional dancer, sharing her excitement about her recent recital and her dreams for the future. The book has charming color illustrations and includes some factual information about a dancer’s costume and equipment.

THOUGHTS: An additional purchase. Would be a nice independent reading selection for a primary grade student taking ballet lessons or for fans of the Angelina Ballerina books.

Picture Book          Nancy Summers, Abington SD


Markel, Michelle. Out of this World: The Surreal Art of Leonora Carrington. Illustrated by Amanda Hall. Harper Collins, 2019. 978-0-062-44109-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-5.

The book follows the childhood and adult life of Leonora Carrington, a painter in the Surrealist school. Leonora was the daughter of staid English upper class parents, whose wish was for their daughter to be educated as a proper English girl in preparation for a suitable marriage. Leonora’s artistic temperament did not allow for this dream to be realized. Leonora marched to her own drummer, leaving England for France to study with notable artists such as Max Ernst. Forced to flee Europe as the Nazis took over, Leonora found a permanent home in Mexico and spent her days there, raising a family and creating the art that would be exhibited in New York City in her one woman show. Hall’s beautiful and vibrantly colored illustrations capture the spirit of Leonora’s surrealist paintings, featuring the fanciful subjects she often drew.

THOUGHTS: Highly recommended picture book which brings to life the story of a talented though not well known artist. A great choice to share with artistic students, to feature during Women’s History Month, or to use in collaboration with an art class.

759.2 Paintings of Europe          Nancy Summers, Abington SD

MG – Mission: Space Science; This Promise of Change; A Slip of a Girl; My Fate According to the Butterfly; Birdie

Mission: Space Science. Crabtree, 2019.  $23.54 ea. $141.24 set of 5. 48 p. Grades 4-8.

Bow, James. Building a Home in Space. 978-0-778-75384-1
—. Understanding Our Sun. 978-0-778-75395-7
Dickmann, Nancy. Chasing Comets, Asteroids, and Mysterious Space Objects. 978-0-778-75392-6.
Kopp, Megan. Journeys to Outer Space. 978-0-778-75393-3
O’Brien, Cynthia. Searching for Extraterrestrials. 978-0-778-75394-0

A colorful and engaging 5 volume reference set which explores various issues regarding explorations into outer space. Each title provides background and historical information on technological developments and discoveries over the past years, information on current technologies and missions, and outlines future plans for further explorations. All titles feature numerous full-color photos and illustrations, a student activity, a glossary, a reference list, and an index.

THOUGHTS: A solid choice for quick reference on space topics for elementary students.

629.44, 523 Space          Nancy Summers Abington SD

Boyce, Jo Ann Allen, and Debbie Levy. This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019.  978-1-681-19852-1. 320 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy team up to tell Jo Ann’s daunting experience as a young black woman who was asked to help integrate the Clinton Tennessee High School in Tennessee in 1956. Told in free verse, the words are so carefully chosen that their impact is deep. Jo Ann’s thoughts and emotions give the reader a picture of all residents, both black and white, in this trying time. Headlines and quotations for newspapers enhance the authors’ words. The back matter is most helpful, including an annotated Timeline of School Desegregation and Civil Rights Landmarks, quotation sources, a selected bibliography of books and other media, a list for further reading, and other source credits.

THOUGHTS: Eye witness accounts and memoirs are very powerful. Jo Ann’s personal account along with the photographs in the scrapbook makes this book very personal. Her words make racism, tanks, protests, and soldiers very real for the reader. I feel readers will realize the struggle African Americans had and still have for equal rights.

379.2 School Integration, Biography         Jeannie Bellavance, Retired

Giff, Patricia Reilly. A Slip of a Girl. Holiday House, 2019. 978-0-823-43955-3. 233 p. $16.99. Grades 5-9.

Patricia Reilly Giff tells of the Irish tenant farmers’ struggle to gain security for their land and families in the late 1800’s through the eyes of Anna Mallon. Her family’s farm is everything. The family has farmed the land for years and now the absentee British landlords are clearing out the people for sheep! Anna promises her dying mother to watch over the farm and her sister, Nuala, who has special needs. Already her other siblings have emigrated to America and her father must work elsewhere. Anna is alone to manage it all. The English earl and his aides are determined to have the land by any means. When her dad is sent to jail, she must seek help from her estranged aunt, Ethna, a very talented weaver. This turns out to be another struggle but well worth it as Aunt cares for Nuala and teaches Anna to weave – a marketable skill. Leaving her sister with Aunt, Anna returns to her land to stand up for it. There is a movement for reforms to the unfair laws, the cruel evictions. The local priest organizes the locals to face off the bailiff as he comes to evict families. People come from other villages to show their support. Soldiers come to clear them away, but the crowd and Anna persist. The slip of a girl and the people win for now. Realities must be faced. The leaders may be jailed, the rent must be paid. Eventually laws are passed in England which allow the farmers to buy back their homes.

THOUGHTS: Although this is a fictional account, Giff’s ancestors went through the land war in Durmlish, County Longacre, Ireland. I find the story fascinating. I think upper grade and middle school readers will be astounded bravery and resourcefulness of a girl their age. It is hard to believe in the cruelty of others, but it exists, even in the twenty-first century. Giff writes in blank verse carefully choosing her words to evoke compassion. Her glossary explains the Irish/Celtic words that add authenticity to the story. The archival photographs help the reader visualize the people and their struggles. In her note she explains her family connection to the story and her research to bring it to us. The only thing I might have added is a map.

Historical Fiction, Ireland –History, 1837-1901          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired

Villanueva, Gail D. My Fate According to the Butterfly. Scholastic, 2019. 978-1-338-31050-4. 233 p. $17.99. Grades 4-7.

Sab (short for Sabrina) lives in the Philippines with her sister (Nadine), her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. When she sees a black butterfly one week before her eleventh birthday, she is certain that she is going to die. After all, her father always told her that the black butterfly signals the death of yourself or a loved one. With this in mind, Sab decides to make it her final mission to reunite her family. Her sister hasn’t spoken to their father in over a year, and Sab is going to figure out why. With the help of her best friend, Pepper, Sab begins to uncover family secrets and painful lies that just may change the way she views the world. A beautiful portrait of friendship, family ties, Filipino culture, and the impact of drug abuse on loved ones, this timely and relatable story is a solid addition to any junior high collection.

THOUGHTS: This title is chock full of learning and discussion opportunities. There are an abundance of references to Filipino food, traditions, and language, making this an excellent supplemental resource for units on world cultures. The realities of drug abuse, addiction, and rehabilitation that are ever present in our world today are dealt with delicately in the story, which encourages compassion and forgiveness for users. Sab’s unconventional family – which includes a mother, two fathers, a stepfather, and a sister –  is also something that many people can relate to today. Overall, this is a well-written title that definitely deserves consideration for purchase.

Realistic Fiction        Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Spinelli, Eileen. Birdie. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-0-802-85513-8. 197 p.  $16.00. Grades 5-9. 

Twelve-year-old Birdie (actually Roberta, but she will change it officially when she is 18) finds beauty and solace in birds.  Her mother and she live in Hadley Falls, a small rural town, but they used to live in Philadelphia until her father, a firefighter, died in a fire. She is fairly comfortable there, but she’s 12, and life is changing all around. Her best friend Martin starts dating Nina; her grandmother, Maymee, becomes infatuated with Mr. Gray. Worst of all, her mother is becoming more friendly with a local police officer. Still loyal to her father, Birdie is naturally upset but she quietly observes these “romances” and the changes that are happening. She is angry and avoids events such as a parade that bring back memories of her dad. She worries that the annual trip to visit her father’s grave and the special customs that go with it will be lost. Eventually, she learns that “life goes on” as she starts to talk over her feelings with her friend Loretta, but also with her mother and grandmother.

THOUGHTS: This is a gentle compassionate book. Life in Hadley Falls has a nice rhythm. The pace of life there allows time for healing and understanding. I like that this story approaches romance across the generations. Spinelli does a great job portraying young love and a mature approach to love.

Realistic Fiction          Jeannie Bellavance Retired

YA – The Virtue of Sin; The Prom; There’s Something About Sweetie; The Starlight Claim; Rules for Vanishing; The Toll; The Speed of Falling Objects

Schuren, Shannon. The Virtue of Sin. Philomel Books, 2019. 978-0-525-51654-5. 420 p. $17.99. Grades 8 and up. 

Girls and boys don’t get to speak to one another – not in this community, not until they’re married. But, as usual, youth finds a way. When it is time for a Matrimony for all those of age, Miriam is sure that she knows who will choose her. The night, however, doesn’t go as planned, leaving Miriam to question everything she’s ever known. Married to an outsider who she doesn’t love (and who apparently doesn’t believe) Miriam is faced with a choice: comply and become the docile wife of someone she doesn’t want or face the reality that Daniel, their voice of God, may not be all that he claims to be. As the world begins to shift around her, Miriam begins to find her own path in a life that has always been dictated for her.

THOUGHTS: Miriam’s story is a powerful depiction of the control that people can hold over others and the determination it takes to let yourself be free. 

Realistic Fiction          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD


Mitchell, Saundra. The Prom. Viking, 2019. 978-1-984-83752-3. 212 p. $17.99. Grades 7 and up.

All Emma can dream of is dancing with her girlfriend at prom. One special, magical night where the two of them can not only be seen in public but be normal. However, that’s entirely too much for Edgewater, Indiana to handle. When the PTA finds out that someone different wants to disrupt their perfect prom, crisis mode ensues. Emma, a cover artist on YouTube, makes headlines nationwide after taking the PTA (and their new exclusive rules) to task in her latest video. Before she knows it, big names are stepping to her side while her town turns its back, and Emma is left in one big, complicated situation when all she wanted was something so simple.

THOUGHTS: Based on the hit Broadway musical, this heart-wrenching description of the challenges LGBTQIA+ youth face is all too real. From the bullies and the isolation to the unexpected support and acceptance, readers will feel every step of the way as they follow Emma along her journey. 

Realistic Fiction          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD

Menon, Sandhya. There’s Something About Sweetie. Simon Pulse, 2019. 978-1-534-41678-9. 376 p. $18.99. Grades 7 and up. 

Sweetie Nair is phenomenal. She’s sweet and kind, a star athlete, a model daughter with a perfect life and, oh yeah, she’s fat. Growing up fat in an Indian-American household hasn’t been simple for Sweetie; her mom is constantly trying to get her to lose weight so she can have an easy life, and society always has something to say about the way she looks. When Sweetie is offered the opportunity to date the ultra-attractive Ashish Patel, a star basketball player and ladies’ man, she learns the truth about just how far her mother’s prejudices go. Not to be deterred, Sweetie decides to take matters into her own hands: it’s time to show the world just who she really is.

THOUGHTS: Set in the same world, this companion novel will fill the When Dimple Met Rishi sized hole in your heart. 

Realistic Fiction          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD


Wynne-Jones, Tim. The Starlight Claim. Candlewick Press, 2019. 978-1-536-20264-9. 240 p. $17.99. Grades 8 and up. 

Nate Crow has grown up spending summers at his family’s isolated cabin on the lake learning how to respect nature and the elements. Joined by his friends Dodge and Paul, the boys lived idyllic childhoods enjoying their surroundings in the fair weather. But come fall, it’s time to secure the cabin and head for sturdier lodging. It’s possible to winter in the cabin, sure, but life is as hard as the snow is deep and with only one train in or out of the area the isolation could be deadly. When Dodge goes missing and is presumed dead after a winter excursion to his cabin, Nate is haunted by dreams of his former best friend. He knows he needs to do everything he can to ensure that Dodge is not still out there, alive but hurt. Nate makes the arduous hike to the cabin, only to find that the isolated cabin isn’t deserted after all. Miles away from anyone who could help, with limited supplies and a blizzard moving in, Nate must figure out how to survive.

THOUGHTS: The Starlight Claim is a thrilling survival story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. This book has a bit of everything and will appeal to anyone interested in the outdoors, life or death survival, and jail breaks. 

Action/Adventure        Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD

Marshall, Kate Alice. Rules for Vanishing. Viking, 2019. 978-1-984-83701-1. 402 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12. 

The tale of Lucy Gallows has lived on in Briar Glen for generations. Legend has it that once a year a road will appear in the woods, and the ghost of Lucy Gallows will appear. Those who follow the road are supposedly granted a wish. Sara’s sister Becca disappeared one year ago right around the time the road should have appeared. When Sara finds a journal of Becca’s with clues to the road, she knows where Becca went and is determined to go after her. Despite having resolved to go alone, former friends rally to join Sara on her journey, none of them knowing the challenges, dangers, and sacrifices that lay ahead- after all, the road doesn’t want them to leave.

THOUGHTS: While the story was more gory than I usually like to see, I appreciated that the plot line was original. The road was lined with challenges both fantastic and psychological with horror elements that truly made it a gripping and haunting tale. 

Horror Fiction         Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD


Shusterman, Neal. The Toll. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-481-49706-0. 625 p. $19.99. Grades 7+.

Good and evil forces are aligned to fight for the fate of human and scythekind in this gripping and satisfying conclusion to the highly popular Arc of a Scythe series. Even in a perfect word designed by an advanced AI to solve all of humanity’s problems, the foibles and weakness of humans derail the best laid plans. The power within the worldwide Scythedom is being consolidated under the self-serving control of Scythe Goddard and the ugly realities of bigotry, fear mongering, and political intrigues are on display. Our favorite characters seem helpless, the honorable Scythe Faraday has retreated in despair to an atoll in the Pacific Ocean. Citra and Rowan are found in the wreckage after the Endura disaster and are now hunted by Goddard’s minions. Also on Goddard’s hitlist is Greyson Tolliver, the sole person to whom the Thunderhead speaks and the spiritual leader to the Tonists. The Thunderhead, by its own law, cannot intervene in the affairs of the Scythedom. But can a small group of thoughtful, committed, major characters change the fate of the world? Overall, an engaging and thought-provoking read.

THOUGHTS: Highly recommended for Grades 7+. This book already has a long waiting list for fans of this top notch dystopian sci-fi series; our library purchased two additional copies to meet demand. Interest in the series should continue as a motion picture is in the works.

Science Fiction          Nancy Summers Abington SD

Fischer Richardson, Nancy. The Speed of Falling Objects. Harlequin/Inkyard Press, 2019. 978-1-335-92824-5. 336 p. $18.00. Grades 9 and up.

Danny is not like her absentee father in any way. He’s the in-your-face TV personality “Cougar,” a world-famous survivalist that is always flying off to exotic locations with celebrities to show the television audience how to survive in whatever dangerous situation unfolds. Danny’s given name is actually Danger Danielle Warren, but because that’s the opposite of her careful, quiet personality and because her father, who left her and her mom when he struck it rich with his television show, is the one who christened her with that name, she goes by Danny instead. She’s certain that her father is disappointed in her because she isn’t daring and athletic like him, and she suspects she is also the cause of her mom’s bitterness toward her dad. Danny’s caution stems from her struggles with her balance and perception due to a childhood accident that caused her to lose an eye. When Danny is just about to turn seventeen, and after years of neglect, Cougar reaches out to her for the chance of a lifetime to go to the Amazon Rainforest with him and one of the most popular heartthrobs in the world for an adventure. She jumps at the chance to prove her worth even though her mother is against it. The book takes a dark turn when there is a plane crash, and Danny is confronted with the truth of her father and a family secret and her need to summon her own survival skills to try and make it out of the jungle alive.

THOUGHTS: Although the characters and events were a bit contrived, it made the story possible, so I can forgive them. This book will appeal to some of my students who will enjoy the survival aspect. Fair warning that many people die while trying to survive the plane crash and rainforest, and there is romance.

Action/Adventure          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD