Elem. – An Ordinary Day

Arnold, Elana K. An Ordinary Day. Beach Lane Books, 2020. 978-1-481-47262-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades 1-3.

This is a poignant and beautiful tale of the circle of life.  The author begins by explaining that this street appears like any other, with children playing and a woman watering her flowers. Then, two cars drive up to neighboring houses and two people get out and go into adjacent houses. Both the man and the woman are wearing stethoscopes around their necks. The man enters a house where a dog is on a bed, surrounded by a family who is crying. The woman who enters the other house meets a family whose mother is expecting another child. The veterinarian consoles the family, as the dog is put to sleep, while the midwife or obstetrician helps deliver a new child into the world. All of this is told not so much in words, but through the illustrations. The characters in the story are of various ethnicities and the author writes that both families are “surrounded by family and love.” Magnificent the Crow oversees the “extraordinary” activities on this ordinary street on an ordinary day. The Illustrator uses a variety of media, such as charcoal, watercolor, soft pastels, ink and graphite, to create a soft and muted color palette. These drawings add to the contemplative tone of the story.

THOUGHTS: This is a touching story that will appeal to a sensitive reader who may have experienced the loss of an animal.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

MG – Hunger Winter: A World War II Novel

Currie, Rob. Hunger Winter: A World War II Novel. Tyndale House, 2020. $14.99 253 p. 978-1-496-44034-1  Grades 4-8.

In late 1944, 13-year-old Dirk’s father has gone into hiding as a leader of the Dutch Resistance against the Nazis. The chase begins immediately; in chapter one, Dirk learns via a neighbor that his older sister Els has been captured by the Gestapo, to question and torture for information, and to encourage their father’s cooperation. Dirk knows his next move must be to escape with his younger sister, six-year-old Anna, to their grandparents’ home, but questions and worries bombard his mind. Chapter two reveals Els’s perspective as she is starved; questioned; threatened; and worries for her father, brother, and sister.  Most of the story is Dirk’s, but returns to Els’s point-of-view in the final chapters. This tense novel reveals the strength of the Dutch people during what became known as the “Hongerwinter” when Nazi control of resources led to daily food rations of a mere 320 calories per person. Dirk must call upon memories of his father’s instructions and strength to guide him through difficult decisions on his journey, while shielding Anna from the brutal realities of war as best he can.

THOUGHTS: This is a middle-grade novel a step up in complexity and danger for readers who loved Number the Stars and The Devil’s Arithmetic. It will expand readers’ knowledge of Nazi tactics and brave Dutch resistance. An inspiring read.

Historical Fiction; World War II in Netherlands  Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

MG – Believe

Mathison, Julie. Believe. Star Creek Press, 2020. 978-1-735-00371-9. 230 p. $8.99. Grades 6-8.

The first time they met, Sabrina “came out of nowhere” according to Melanie, an imaginative 5th grader at the experimental school Buckminster Elementary. As they develop a friendship, Sabrina helps Melanie cope with her mother’s disappearance and a father who prefers to spend time creating art than paying attention to his daughter. After being cast as Peter Pan in the upcoming school musical, Melanie learns to stand up against the school bully and make true friends by being her authentic self. As the one year anniversary of her mother’s disappearance approaches, Melanie confronts her anxieties stemming from her family’s tragic past and finds that forming real, honest connections with her loved ones can help heal pain better than any make-believe world ever could.

THOUGHTS: Readers identifying as outsiders will connect with the main character in this story as well as middle grade readers struggling with difficult life experiences including divorce, death, and bullying. Readers should have a basic knowledge of Peter Pan in order to deeply understand Melanie’s emotions and grief. Some older readers may not have the patience to read the story entirely, especially if they pick up on key details early on that lead to revelations at the end of the story.

Realistic Fiction          Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD

YA – Bent Heavens

Kraus, Daniel. Bent Heavens. Henry Holt, 2020. 978-1-250-15167-4. 291 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12. 

Liv Fleming’s father has been missing for four year now, but no one really cares. What does it matter if the town loon is gone? He’s just another crazy man. Beloved teacher Lee Fleming showed up naked in the town square rambling about an alien abduction thus beginning a steady decline into madness, turning his shed into an armory and setting traps to protect his family against the alien invaders who Lee was sure would return for him. After Lee disappears Liv and her childhood friend Doug find something extraordinary in one of her dad’s traps they must figure out what to do next. As it turns out, the truth is even stranger than fiction.

THOUGHTS: This was one of the most horrifying books I’ve ever encountered. The emotions it evokes are intense and will leave you reeling. The story is dark and powerful with a twist you will never see coming. Bent Heavens will stick with me for a long time.

Horror        Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD

MG – Maybe He Just Likes You; Good Enough; Klawde; Viewpoints on the Sinking of the Titanic; The Okay Witch; Over the Moon; Other Words for Home; Last Meeting of the Gorilla Club; Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky; The Story Web; Dragon Pearl

Dee, Barbara. Maybe He Just Likes You. Aladdin, 2019. 978-1-534-43237-6. 283 p. $17.99. Grades 4-8.

When do you decide enough is enough? Seventh grade Mila is excited to celebrate her friend Omi’s birthday after lunch with a thoughtful gift and a group hug with her other friends Max and Zara. This moment between friends is perfect – that is until the basketball boys come over and hug them too, lingering on Mila. This small moment makes Mila uncomfortable, and it doesn’t stop there. The boys find ways to bump into Mila, make comments, and invade her personal space. Afraid to tell her mom, the principal (who is also the boys basketball coach), or her guidance counselor, Mila’s emotions spiral out of control. Mila tries to tell her friends what is going on, but they shrug it off, saying that’s just how boys are. But when a friend comes to Mila with information about a “scorecard” and another friend steps forward and says it happened to her too, Mila finds the strength to speak up for herself and stop the unwanted attention.

THOUGHTS: This middle grade novel does a perfect job of exploring the #metoo movement and how harassment and innocent “jokes” can end up affecting others. The story will bring you all the feels – joy, anger, shock – and leave you feeling like you may know someone this book is perfect for. The book also explores different relationships between characters and the strength a person has to stand up for themselves.

Realistic Fiction          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD


Petro-Roy, Jen. Good Enough. Feiwel and Friends, 2019. 978-1-250-12351-0. 261 p. $16.99. Grades 7-9.

Twelve year old Riley doesn’t think she’s good enough, fast enough, talented enough…the list goes on and on. Tired of being compared to her “golden” younger sister Julia, Riley starts running excessively, skipping meals, and having a bad attitude. And it gets worse! At school she is being picked on for what she looks like and how she eats, which leads Riley down the path to an eating disorder. Riley’s parents decide she needs to be hospitalized in order to find the path to recovery. The story is presented as a journal of Riley’s experiences while hospitalized – her struggle with anxiety, food issues, and her parents’ constant judging and disappointment. The program requires strict meal planning, therapy sessions, group activities, and even counting out loud while you go to the bathroom. Riley meets several girls in the program all while dealing with the loss of her best friend and discovers that she is more than the voice in her head telling her she’s “not enough.” Will Riley’s parents accept her for who she is and not just as someone with a problem? Does Riley have the power to be in control of herself? A must read!

THOUGHTS: Perfection. Petro-Roy does a fantastic job of approaching a delicate subject as she is someone who battled an eating disorder. The journal style of writing allows readers to feel as if they are taking the journey with Riley day by day and makes for a fast read. The story deals with so much more than recovering from an eating disorder and allows readers to see that we all have flaws that make us who we are.

Realistic Fiction         Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD


Marciano, Johnny, & Emily Chenoweth. Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat: The Spacedog Cometh. Book 3. Penguin Workshop, 2019. 978-1-524-78724-0. $14.99. Grades 4-8.

The third epic adventure of Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat! As Klawde continues to plot his return to his home planet and take over from the tiny evil kitten who has taken command, he is unaware that there are others looking for him: the most loyal beasts of all…dogs! Barx has been given the mission to capture and return Klawde to his home plant to pay dues for blowing up one of their most amazing plants! As Barx travels to Earth, he realizes just how wonderful it is, especially Klawde’s master Raj. While the animals fight and attempt their vengeful missions, Raj is suffering with his own problems. His parents are out of town for a few weeks for a conference vacation, so his Ajji, grandmother, is staying with him. All she cooks is weird, un-American food and decides to throw him a birthday party. How will Raj deal with Ajji, as well as dealing with Klade being…Klawde!

THOUGHTS: I was so excited to see the third book to this hilarious series! The addition of the dog characters brought forth more excitement and perspective to the “dog vs. cat” personality stereotypes. A great third book for the Klawde lovers!

Adventure/Action/Fantasy          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Russo, Kristin J. Viewpoints on the Sinking of the Titanic. Orchard Books, 2019. 978-1-228-18736-6. 48 p. $25.95. Grades 5-8.

In a subseries of Part of the Perspectives Library, Viewpoints and Perspectives takes a look at how various people may have different views about some of the most known events in history. In Viewpoints on the Sinking of the Titanic readers get a look inside the Titanic through the eyes of three very different passengers. Using first person stories inset with facts about the ship and a timeline of the events, this title takes readers through what the sinking of the Titanic was like for a first, second, and third class passenger. This book is a nice mixture of pictures and stories, allowing for students not to be overwhelmed by the amount of text to read. With a mixture of historical black and white, recreated color, and pencil drawings readers get a look back in time. The simplicity of the pages and clear nonfiction text structure lends this book to be a great introduction to text structures including table of context, index, timeline, and captions. The book includes ideas for teachers in the sidebars to help lead research or a lesson on the Titanic.  

THOUGHTS: The unique look into different classes on the Titanic would allow students to see how classes were separated and the prejudice against the lower classes even while evacuating the boat. A book like this could, and others in this series, be used in middle schools to see how prejudices have changed throughout history.

910.9 History, general          Arryn Cumpston, Crawford Central SD


Steinkellner, Emma. The Okay Witch. Aladdin, 2019. 978-1-534-43146-1. 271 p. $20.99. Grades 4-8.

Moth believes she is a typical Halloween loving teenager, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. After studying the history surrounding Founder’s Bluff and the persecution of witches, Moth suddenly discovers that she may have special “powers.” After an incident with the school bullies and a talking cat at home, Moth confronts her mother for the truth. Yes, Moth is from a long line of witches, and with her mother’s diary and her new found powers, she is about to discover the truth. The witches of Founder’s Bluff were real…and they are still alive. Moth learns to navigate middle school (including a new boy who keeps bumping into her), harness her powers against her mother’s wishes, and meet her very ancient grandma. Travel with Moth through past and present as she discovers her heritage and becomes an “okay” witch.

THOUGHTS: This debut graphic novel will delight middle schoolers as Moth discovers who she truly is. The illustrations are whimsical and eye-catching, while the story just flows across the frames through a series of chapters. Graphic novel readers will want to pick this novel up, especially if they enjoy the element of magic.

Graphic Novel            Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD


Lloyd, Natalie. Over the Moon. Scholastic Press, 2019. 978-1-338-11849-0. 291 p. $14.95. Gr. 4-8.

The Dust has taken away the light from the stars in Coal Top, made the villagers feel hopeless, and forced children to work for measly wages. Mallie cleans the home of a well to do family in the “Down Below.” The work is hard and does not pay enough to help protect her brother from being taken by the Guardians and sent to the mines to work. When a mysterious flyer appears and offers an opportunity for orphan boys to earn riches, Mallie knows this is her chance to save her family. Mallie quickly discovers that the task is to tame and ride a Starbird into the Dust above in order to retrieve gold dust. Up for the challenge, she doesn’t back down and struggles with her disability as well as the others who wish she wasn’t there. With the help of her friend Adam, and her loyal Starbird Leo, Mallie finds she can be successful. But when she discovers the leader, Mortimer, is up to something dark and sinister, Mallie decides she must expose the truth. Risking her life and her family’s, Mallie races against the Dust and Mortimer to prove that the stars really do exist.

THOUGHTS: You can’t help but cheer for Mallie as she struggles to protect her family, discover the truth, and overcome obstacle after obstacle. The characters are well developed and the whimsy of flying horses and dust puppets make the story come to life. Fans of Lloyd will not be disappointed with this title that pulls at your heart strings and reminds you to shoot for the stars.

Science Fiction            Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD


Warga, Jasmine. Other Words for Home. Balzer and Bray, 2019. 978-0-062-74780-8. $16.99. 352 p. Grades. 4-8.

Jude, young immigrant from Syria adjusts to her new life in Ohio. She had to flee with her pregnant mother, leaving behind her father and older brother. There is so much change living with her uncle, aunt, and cousin who is in the same grade. Although her aunt and uncle are accommodating, her cousin Sarah is a bit jealous of the attention and practically ignores Jude at school. School is a challenge. She thought her English was good in Syria, but in the United States pace of life is so much faster, including the language! Life is definitely not like the American movies she used to watch with her friends. Jude is a resilient girl. She makes friends with others in ESL (English as a Second Language) and meets Layla who is also Muslim. She wants to fit in, and one of her real motivations is the musical. She works really hard to try out, perfecting her English and learning about drama. This annoys Sarah and her friends who Jude thinks of as “SarahMinaHarperStone” (They seem to lack individuality.). Jude is concerned for Amal, her new baby sister. Amal, whose name means Hope, will be an American, not an immigrant. Jude realizes that home is where the people you love and those who love you are. It is where you feel you belong, and Jude works very hard to create a place for herself.

THOUGHTS: Jude voices very real concerns about fitting in, prejudices against Muslims, and the safety of her father and older brother who are still in Syria. The reaction to a bombing in the Middle East and subsequent vandalism of Layla’s family property is both upsetting to the community and an opportunity to bond. Warga’s use of verse to tell the story makes it accessible and poignant as the succinct wording and rhythm evoke emotions and meaning.

Realistic Fiction          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired


Nicherson, Sara. Last Meeting of the Gorilla Club. Dutton Children’s Books, 2019. 978-1-101-99442-9. 240 p. $17.99. Grades 3-7.

Josh is starting fifth grade at a new school, a fresh start, where no one knows of Josh’s multiple invisible friends. Only Josh’s friends are not imaginary; they just can’t be seen by anyone else. But the friends are all gone, buried at his old house. Until Big Brother shows up again on Josh’s first day of school. Big Brother dispenses advice, comfort, and companionship. But Josh is not the only student in his class with an awkward friend. Lucas has an invisible friend, Maxie, and Josh can see her too. While Big Brother gently guides and encourages Josh to be brave and try new experiences, Maxie seems a bit more malevolent. When she engineers a meeting between the two boys, she may be dangerously replaying her sad history. But Lucas and Josh discover real friends are powerful also.

THOUGHTS: A unique look at processing death and maturing. Readers who feel they see the world differently than those around them will definitely relate to Josh and Lucas.

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Mbalia, Kwame. Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky. Rick Riordan Presents, 2019. 978-1-368-03993-2. 482 p. $17.99. Grades 3-7.

Tristan is having a difficult time recovering from the school bus accident that left his best friend Eddie dead. Frustrated, his mother sends him to spend some time with his grandparents down south in Alabama. Grandma warns Tristan to stay away from the bottle tree, a traditional structure to capture haints, or spirits, at the edge of the forest. Tristan would have gladly done so, but that night he is awoken by a small, sticky figure sneaking in his room. Gum Baby has come to steal Eddie’s journal, and Tristan chases her into the forest, attempting to reclaim his cherished memento. When Tristan punches the bottle tree in frustration, he inadvertently creates a hole in the sky and is pulled into another world, where the stories his grandma used to tell him and Eddie come alive. Another mythology/folklore based adventure from Rick Riordan’s imprint, Tristan Strong brings alive the tales of the deep south, featuring Brer Rabbit, John Henry and, of course, Tristan’s reluctant sidekick Gum Baby. Tristan is sent on a quest to find the trickster god, Anansi, who can weave the sky back together. While Tristan is convinced he cannot save anyone (he broods that he failed to save Eddie), he discovers heroes do not necessarily have to be strong, or even brave, and he is more than capable of saving the world of his new friends from destruction.

THOUGHTS: This lightning fast, rollicking tale will win many fans, as well as introduce them to Black American folklore. Tristan and Gum Baby are a new dynamic duo that provide constant laughs as they attempt to save the day.

Fantasy (Mythology)          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Blakemore, Megan Frazer. The Story Web. Bloomsbury, 2019. 978-1-681-19525-4. 321 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7. 

When Alice was little, her magical father would regale her with wondrous stories. But now Alice’s world is broken in so many ways. She no longer socializes with friends, she quit her ice hockey team, and even nature seems out of whack, with forest creatures making their way into town. She believes everything stems back to that something she did that made her father go away. But Alice can no longer maintain her invisible persona. The animals know; Alice’s classmate, frequently bullied Melanie, knows; and her best friend, Lewis, knows. The story web, a fragile creation of spiders, spun to record the stories of man, is broken. If it is not fixed soon, the world will be in peril. Alice’s father had explained the story web to her when she was young, and now Alice must look past her grief and fear to work with Melanie, Lewis, and many caring individuals, to repair it. But when the stories Alice remembers from her father don’t rebuild the web, the children realize they must find their own stories, as painful as they may be. The plot unfolds at a leisurely pace, through various viewpoints, including several animals. Much like spinning a web, individual threads eventually weave together in a breathtaking finale. The storyline of Alice’s father, who is eventually revealed to be suffering from PTSD, also takes time to uncover, and is never explained directly, but rather through oblique comments, reminiscences, and finally a conversation between Alice and her father.

THOUGHTS:  While the climax is riveting, it will take a patient reader to navigate to that point. Hand this lovely, heartwarming story to a reader who enjoys the journey as well as the destination.  

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Lee, Yoon Ha. Dragon Pearl. Rick Riordan Presents, 2019. 978-1-368-01335-2. 320 p. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

Yoon Ha Lee’s Dragon Pearl, one of the first titles published under the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, will delight young readers who like their fantasy informed by the trappings and tropes of science fiction. Lee imagines a world—a thousand worlds, actually—inspired by Korean mythology, and then sends it – them – spinning off into outer space. The young protagonist, Min, is a shape-shifting fox disguised as a human to avoid the persecution her species has long suffered. When her brother disappears, she sets off in search of him, planet-hopping through the universe on a grand and dangerous adventure. The plot moves at a breathless, breakneck pace as Min pilots a rocket ship and has run-ins with ghosts, dragons, and pirates.  

THOUGHTS: A top-notch #own voices entry in the sci-fi/fantasy genre that subtly addresses issues of identity and acceptance.  Highly recommended for middle schools.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Elem. – The Journey of York; Tyrannosaurus Rex; You Make Me Happy; The Friendship War

Davis, Hasan. The Journey of York:  The Unsung Hero of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Capstone Editions, 2019.  40 p. 978-1-543-51282-3. $17.95. Grades 3-5.

Written in first person, this account of the Lewis and Clark Expedition is told from the viewpoint of York, the African American enslaved man who accompanied the men on the journey. The text is written in a diary format and begins with an explanation of the formation and mission of the Corps of Discovery in the front matter and how William Clark ordered his slave York to join the expedition. There is one diary entry per two page spread with the text on one side and full bleed illustrations on both pages. The author discusses the friendship that York had with one of the men, Charles Floyd, who was the only one who died on the journey. Hasan shows how York was not treated as an equal, but how the Native Americans at times thought York was the leader of the group and called him “Big Medicine.” The text highlights all the main segments of the journey, like the stay at Fort Mandan and Fort Clatsop, but does not go into much detail. Hasan points out that York was permitted to vote with the rest of the party on the location of the final camp in Washington State. However, he points out that Clark did not include York’s name on the report to President Jefferson, thus depriving him of a reward of money and land. In the author’s note, Hasan discusses some theories about York’s fate after the expedition. Also included are a list of resources and a statement that Davis did extensive research on this topic and consulted with a historian. The author points out that he has taken creative license with York’s thoughts and feelings, for which there is no documentation. Harris’s colorful illustrations make the story come alive. The details of the clothing look authentic and depict the leaders of this military operation in uniform.  

THOUGHTS: This narrative of the Lewis and Clark Expedition is a good introduction to this chapter of American History and provides a unique viewpoint. It would be interesting to compare and contrast other texts in which York was not the principal narrator or to Pringle’s American slave, American Hero: York of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. This attractive text is part of a Capstone collection of narrative nonfiction picture books.

910  Geography and Travels          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
917.3 United States
92, 921 Biography
973.4 Washington through Jefferson Administration


Cole, Bradley. Tyrannosaurus Rex. (Dinosaurs 4-D) Pop!, 2019.  24 p. 978-1-532-16183-4. $19.00  Grades K-2.

Brachiosaurus. 978-1-532-16178-0
Stegosaurus. 13: 978-1-532-16181-0
Triceratops. 13: 978-1-532-16182-7
Ringstad, Arnold.  Allosaurus.  978-1-532-16177-3
Coelophysis. 978-1-532-16179-7
Diplodocus. 978-1-532-16180-3
Velociraptor. 978-1-532-16184-1

This text on dinosaurs is designed for young paleontologists. The author uses simple text consisting of two to three sentences per page. On each page, there is an engaging drawing or photograph. The short chapters discuss the behavior and diet of this ferocious predator as well as some information about the T. Rex’s fossilized remains. The term 4D in the series title refers to the fact that the reader can scan the QR code, which leads to a site containing activities and lesson plans.

THOUGHTS: This book will appeal to the dinosaur lover who will enjoy looking at a photograph of a foot long T. Rex tooth. Purchase where dinosaur books are in demand or need updating.

567.912 Dinosaurs          Denise Medwick, retired, West Allegheny SD


Prasadam-Halls, Smriti. You Make Me Happy. Bloomsbury, 2019. 978-1-681-19849-1. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-2. 

Two unlikely friends, Fox and Porcupine, demonstrate the joys of a true friendship. Lighthearted rhyming prose “You make me happy/you make me sing./ There’s a bounce in my footstep like bunnies in spring.” (Prasadam-Halls, 1) and brightly colored full-page illustrations combine to make a joyful, endearing read about enjoying the company of a loved one. Refreshingly happy, this is an all around feel-good book to share with young children.

THOUGHTS: Light and carefree, this book is sure to be a favorite read aloud.

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, PSLA Member


Clements, Andrew. The Friendship War. Random House, 2019. 173 p. 978-0-399-55759-0. Grades 3-5. $19.99.

This is Clements’ latest story of school and friendship. Grace is a sixth grader who unintentionally starts a fad in school after bringing in some buttons from her grandfather’s business. Soon the whole school begins trading buttons, which creates friction between Grace and her best friend Ellie. Things become competitive and disruptive, leading Grace to take drastic steps in an attempt to end the button craze. Clements provides some interesting information about buttons and their materials through the character of Grace’s new friend Ben. The story also touches on the issue of grief after the loss of a grandparent. 

THOUGHTS: Fans of Clements’ other works will enjoy his latest offering. The target audience will be able to relate to the topics of friendship, bullying, and following the latest trend, and this title will surely hold the reader’s interest. Purchase where Andrew Clements books are popular.

Realistic Fiction          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD

YA – The Similars; I Love You So Mochi; The Rest of the Story; Girl Gone Viral; The First True Thing; Heroine; Internment; Salt in My Soul; You Asked for Perfect

Hanover, Rebecca. The Similars. Sourcebooks Fire, 2019. 978-1-4926-6510-6. $17.99. 381 p. Gr. 8 and up.

The Similars takes place in a dystopic future, but most of the story setting is familiar enough. There’s a private boarding school in Vermont, teen romance and drama, and testing into a select group of students that ensures acceptance into any Ivy League school. However, Darkwood Academy just enrolled six clones (called The Similars), and the people they were illegally cloned from 16-years ago are all upperclassmen at the school. Students and their wealthy parents’ reactions to these newcomers is mostly opposite Darkwood’s legacy of acceptance and diversity, but soon a club is formed, and demonstrations are held to boycott the Similars’ presence at the school. Emmaline Chance, the protagonist, is in her junior year and, although she welcomes The Similars and believes they have a right to be at Darkwood, she is having a difficult year after the suicide of her best friend, and fellow student, Oliver. It doesn’t help that one of the Similars, Levi, was cloned from Oliver. Not only does she see him all around campus, but they are both inducted into the elite group of students called The Ten where she’s forced to interact with him. When someone tries to kill Emma’s friend, Pru, and Levi becomes a suspect, Emma tries to figure out who was behind the attack. The story includes a lot of sneaking out of dorms past curfew to uncover illegal experiments and breaking into a top-secret island laboratory owned by a madman. The story ends with the set-up for a sequel which will aggravate some readers.

THOUGHTS: This debut novel is a fun read, despite some formulaic characters and over-the-top espionage work done by teens. The interesting twist and the use of teens clones should make it a book that 8th grade and up will enjoy reading. The acceptance/rejection of the Similars mirrors some of what’s currently being said about immigrants.

Dystopian/Mystery          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Kuhn, Sarah. I Love You So Mochi. Scholastic Press, 2019. 978-1-338-30288-2. $17.99. 308 p. Gr. 8 and up.

Kimi’s future seems bright and sure. While many high school seniors experience anxiety over future plans, Kimi has been accepted into a prestigious art academy, and her path appears clear. In reality, she hasn’t been able to paint in months and has dropped her Fine Arts class, all unbeknownst to her mother, also an artist; she has instead been “goofing off” designing and making her own clothing. In fact, she’s not even sure she wants to attend the Liu Academy anymore. When Kimi’s secrets are revealed and she feels the wrath of her mother’s silent disappointment – the worst equation in “Asian Mom Math” according to Kimi’s friends – she decides to forgo spring break plans at home in southern California and instead spend two weeks in Japan visiting the grandparents she’s never met (and who have not spoken to Kimi’s mother in 20 years) on a journey of self discovery. Though most readers will know the answer to Kimi’s problem within the first few pages (even though she doesn’t), the journey she takes to get there makes this book worth reading. In a story slightly reminiscent of Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club, Kimi’s self discovery relies heavily upon learning her family history, particularly the complicated relationships between the women. Of course, a budding romantic relationship with Akira, a cute boy Kimi first meets as he is dancing in a giant mochi costume in front of his uncle’s mochi shop, also drives this plot. “What. Is this extremely handsome piece of mochi trying to flirt with me?” Kimi asks herself in Kuhn’s authentic teenage voice. Young women readers will empathize with Kimi, as she discovers the answer to this and many other questions.

THOUGHTS: Though the plot is predictable, Kuhn’s imagery and integration of Japanese culture give this story more substance than the typical YA contemporary. Readers may find themselves wanting to use “the Google” – as Kimi’s grandfather calls it – to look up Japanese words, food, landmarks, and clothing.

Realistic Fiction          Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD


Dessen, Sarah. The Rest of the Story. Balzer + Bray, 2019. 987-0-062-93362-1. $19.99. 440 p. Gr. 9 and up. 

Emma Saylor lost her mother when she was just 10 years old. Due to addiction Waverly was in and out of Emma’s life long before she died. Though she doesn’t remember a lot about her mom, Emma recalls the bedtime stores about life in North Lake, Waverly’s hometown. Since her mother’s death, Emma has lived a privileged life, growing up in Nana Payne’s fancy apartment with her dad who works as a dentist. Just remarried, her dad and new wife Tracy (also a dentist) are planning to honeymoon sailing around Greece. Nana is scheduled for a cruise while her apartment is renovated. Emma is an organized planner – to a fault. Due to a sudden illness in her best friend’s family, Emma’s carefully arranged summer has to change. Emma goes to stay with Mimi Calvander and her mother’s family in North Lake – family she doesn’t remember, family who calls her Saylor, and family who she hasn’t seen since she was four. Emma quickly notices the two different lakeside communities – North Lake where her mother grew up and Lake North where her father vacationed in the summer. Though only 3 miles apart, these two communities couldn’t be more different. Always known as Saylor to her mother’s family, Emma begins to see the world through a new lens. Once she breaks through the icy welcome of some of her cousins (who think she’s just there for a vacation, not to work like them), Saylor learns what it means to be a Calvander. As her time too quickly passes, Saylor tries to learn as much about her mother as she can. When her dad returns from his honeymoon, Emma Saylor has changed, and she has to decide who she wants to be. One thing is certain: She’s not the same Emma Saylor she was when she arrived in North Lake.

THOUGHTS: No one does teen romances like Dessen. This sweet story will captivate readers, transporting them to summers on North Lake as Emma learns more about her family and herself. This one will fly off the shelves. Underage drinking (to excess) and Emma’s mother’s drug use are included. Highly recommended for high school collections, especially those where romance is popular.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Ahmadi, Arvin. Girl Gone Viral. Viking Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-0-425-28990-7. 384 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up. 

17 year old Opal Tal – now known as Opal Hopper – is a coding genius who is determined to learn what happened to her father, a tech guru who disappeared seven years ago. Howie Mendelsohn, her father’s business partner at the time, may know more than he admits, but he hasn’t ever responded to Opal’s emails. Now a senior at a prestigious boarding school for tech whizzes, Opal and her friends Moyo and Shane are coding their way into a WAVE competition. WAVE is a virtual reality world with incredible detail and lifelike features. Stumbling upon information that causes their channel to go viral brings its fair share of challenges, including Opal’s initial desire to be out of the limelight. As she quickly learns, though, the self you put out there on WAVE isn’t always the self you really are. Opal has to decide what she believes in and if finding out what happened to her father is worth the risk – for herself and for her friends.

THOUGHTS: There is a lot of technical jargon, so this might be a tough read for some. The mystery keeps the pace moving, but there’s a lot more than fun and games going on here, including government/police corruption and social media’s influence on politics. Hand this STEM title to students who are into VR, AR, or video gaming, as the worlds Ahmadi depicts sound incredible. A great addition to high school libraries looking to diversify their STEM offerings with a strong female lead.

Science Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Needell, Claire. The First True Thing. HarperTeen, 2019. 978-0-062-36054-0. $17.99. 256 p. Gr 10 and up. 

After riding on a dangerous path through the woods while drunk, Marcelle crashed her bike under a neighbor’s parked car. Her alcohol use finally catching up with her, Marcelle is forced to attend rehab sessions at the Center after being discharged from the hospital. Being labeled an alcoholic isn’t the easiest, especially considering her friends are into much worse things. With her parents on high alert for missteps, it seems like Marcelle can do no right. Even her peers at the Center don’t fully believe she’s giving her best effort. When Marcelle receives a text from her best friend Hannah asking her to cover, she is desperate to feel connected. Hannah disappears, though, and Marcelle is the last one to hear from her. Torn between loyalty to her friend (and her friend’s dangerous secrets) and guilt over not doing more to intervene before it came to this, Marcelle keeps her story to Hannah’s mom and the police vague. As time goes on, though, everyone’s panic levels increase, and Marcelle has to decide if it’s better to keep a friend’s secret or be honest with everyone including herself.

THOUGHTS: Drug and alcohol abuse are openly discussed, making this most suitable for mature readers. The lack of support for Marcelle both as she recovers and faces the disappearance of her friend is surprising. Readers who want to know what happened to Hannah will stick with the story. Recommended as an additional purchase where realistic mysteries are popular.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


McGinnis, Mindy. Heroine. Katherine Tegen Books, 2019. 978-0-062-84719-5. $17.99. 432 p. Gr. 10 and up. 

Trigger Warning: Please proceed with caution, as this book discusses (in great detail) addiction, drug use, overdose, and withdrawal, among other difficult topics.

The Prologue begins with the end: “When I wake up, all of my friends are dead.” Readers are placed front and center and feel the sheer terror of this realization before being told what happened. Mickey Catalan has never felt comfortable in her own skin, unless she’s behind home plate catching for her best friend and star pitcher Carolina. Though Mickey doesn’t quite know who she is, playing catcher defines her. When Mickey is in a terrible car accident with Carolina as her passenger, their chances of playing senior season are threatened, as is Carolina’s Division I pitching scholarship. Mickey is determined to get back on the field; she too wants to earn a scholarship. What starts as pain management for a major injury quickly spirals into an addiction, as Mickey tries to make it back into shape for spring training. When her physician refuses to refill her Oxycontin prescription, saying she’s doing so well she doesn’t need it, Mickey turns to alternative methods. It’s just to get her back on the field, though, and she can stop at any time. She’s not an addict, and Mickey has some great new friends who understand her and will keep her (and her secret) safe. Mickey’s tolerance level quickly increases, and she begins to lose control of all she was fighting for.

THOUGHTS: Heroine is definitely for mature readers and should be presented with a trigger warning. That said, it serves as a great cautionary tale about how easily one can become addicted to opioids, regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. Check your ego and what you think you know about addiction at the door. McGinnis’s novel will take you on a terrifying roller coaster ride with some unforeseen consequences. I listened to the audiobook version and was hooked from the first minute.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Ahmed, Samira. Internment. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-0-316-52269-4. $17.99. 387 p. Gr. 9 and up. 

In a future United States where the Presidential election has shaken up American beliefs and freedoms, 17 year old Muslim American Layla Amin is frustrated. Her parents always had been respected in their community, but with the President’s new Exclusion Act they feel compliance will keep them safe. Layla, however, breaks government mandated curfew to see her Jewish boyfriend. Though unfriendly neighbor stares bring fears to the forefront of her mind, the risk is worth the reward. Despite her parents attempts to remain safe, Layla’s family is rounded up and taken off to an interment camp, one like those used for Japanese and German Americans during World War II. They only have a few moments to gather comforts of home, not knowing if they will ever return or if their possessions will still be there. Once in the camp, Layla finds herself increasingly frustrated by her parents’ (and many of the adults’) complaisance but is fortunate to find friends who she can laugh with and share her frustrations. Together, Layla and her friends find subtle ways (at first) to rebel against the Director. Building their rebellion also increases the risks they face, and Layla has to decide if standing up for what she believes in – what is right – is worth risking her life and the lives of those she loves.

THOUGHTS: This timely diverse title will appeal to fans of historical fiction. Internment will pair well with World War II novels or memoirs, especially those relating to internment or concentration camps. I personally enjoyed reading it then reading The War Outside by Monica Hesse. Highly recommended.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Layla and her family are American, but they also happen to be non-practicing Muslims. After the 2020 census, all Muslims are taken to internment camps for the safety of all citizens. In this all too real and near future novel, Layla and her friends inside the walls of the camp, her boyfriend outside, and one brave guard on the inside plan a revolt to end the camp once and for all. Much of this book skims the surface of many of the political, racial, and religious issues that many Americans are facing with today’s political climate. Some of Layla’s decisions seem rash, even for an angry teen, which makes parts of the story a bit difficult to rationalize. 

THOUGHTS: Although this book moved me and scared me, I wanted more. I think this book belongs on the shelves of high school libraries, if the budget allows because it will open conversations of possibilities of the future state of our country. It will only start the conversation and pique the interest of students who wonder what could happen with the next census and elected officials. 

Realistic Fiction          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD


Smith, Mallory. Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life. Spiegel & Grau, 2019. 978-1-984-85542-8. $26.00. 288 p. Gr 9 and up. 

Immensely positive and determined to live her best life, even in the face of cystic fibrosis and rare bacteria B. cenocepacia, Mallory Smith is a girl everyone loved. From the beginning readers know Mallory tragically dies young; however, it is how she lived her life that will inspire readers. Her “live happy” mantra carries her through frustrating hospital stays and discharges and helps her remain focused on really living. In reading Mallory’s most personal thoughts, readers are given a glimpse into the life of someone who struggles with a chronic illness, though not always visible on the outside.

THOUGHTS: Pair this nonfiction text with the fiction Five Feet Apart which will be even more popular with the 2019 movie. Excellent addition for high school nonfiction collections where memoirs and medical stories are popular.

616.372 Diseases          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Silverman, Laura. You Asked for Perfect. Sourcebooks Fire, 2019. 978-1-492-65827-6. $10.99. 288 p. Gr. 9 and up. 

Seemingly perfect senior Ariel Stone has everything going for him. He’s a great student, musician, and his college application couldn’t be more well-rounded, especially since he’s expected to be valedictorian. When Ariel earns a 5/10 on his first Calculus quiz and there’s no opportunity for redemption, Ariel’s careful facade begins to crumble. Accepting help means he’s not as perfect as everyone, especially himself, thinks. With a Harvard interview to prepare for, and his top spot on the line, though, Ariel doesn’t have much choice. He finds he was wrong about Amir, who is actually nice to be around, and Amir is really great at Calculus. Among a long list of obligations, one more might just be enough to break Ariel.

THOUGHTS: This should be required reading for every high school student. The internal and external pressures on students to be perfect, to achieve the top rank, to go to the best school is unfortunate. I see many students so stressed that they don’t allow themselves room to breathe and relax. Highly recommended for high school collections.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Mystery          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

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

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

Realistic Fiction/Mystery          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


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

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

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

Realistic Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD


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

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

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

Biography          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


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

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

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

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


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

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

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

599 Mammals          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


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

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

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

940.53 WWII Holocaust          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


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

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

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

920 Collective Biography          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


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

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

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

Biography         Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

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

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

Biography          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


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

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

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

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD