YA – Turtle Under Ice

Del Rosario, Juleah. Turtle Under Ice. Simon Pulse, 2020. 259 p. $18.99 978-15344-4295-5 Grades 9-12.

Teenage sisters Rowena and Ariana have drifted apart since the unexpected death of their mother several years ago. Rowena has thrown herself into soccer, becoming a respected top athlete on her team. Fearing change, Ariana has retreated into…nothing, and risks failing school. The sisters’ closeness has become a barrier as they both fear moving on, and as they both communicate less, and less honestly. Their father has remarried a woman they also love, and the family is incredibly hopeful about the arrival of their new half-sister. However, Maribel suffers a miscarriage, and the loss is too cruel for the sisters. “Our sister’s heart stopped beating/like our mother’s, unexpectedly/on a day that was otherwise/normal” (53).  Ariana vanishes, which leaves Rowena feeling angry and abandoned. This novel in verse is narrated by both sisters as they try to come to terms with this new grief, in addition to the unending grief of losing their mother. Slowly, both sisters discover that their grief has led them to close themselves off to others. Rowena tracks down Ariana at an art exhibit, where Ariana shows a painting “Turtle Under Ice” in memory of their mother. The relief comes very slowly as both girls see hope in Ariana’s art.

THOUGHTS: Del Rosario has a way with creating beautiful images with her words: “Our family…/is a frayed string of lights/that someone needs to fix/with electrical tape./It’s the electricity/that can’t get to us/because Mom’s bulb/has burned out,/so now the whole string is dark./But without the lights turned on/does anyone even notice/that we are broken?” (43-44). Ultimately, the insightful thoughts aren’t enough to save this novel from the monotonous weight of the crushing grief and depression, and the cover does little to draw in all but the most curious of readers. Recommended where novels in verse or multiple narrators are in heavy demand.

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD
Novel in Verse

YA – Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir

Feder, Tyler. Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir. Dial Books. 2020. 978-0-525-55302-1. 201 p. $18.99. Grades 7+.

During the summer after her freshman year at college, Tyler Feder’s mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. By spring break of her sophomore year, Rhonda had died. Tyler understandably felt rudderless, “like I was on an iceberg out to sea.” Her mom was gone … now what? Chapters tenderly portray the diagnosis, the death, “making arrangements,” sitting shiva, and navigating a new normal. Dancing at the Pity Party is every bit as heartbreaking as it sounds, but it is also a little bit celebratory (as the title suggests). Readers will come to know and care for Tyler’s mom, because her loving personality is so vividly present on every page, even in her absence.

THOUGHTS: This is a must-read for teens who have experienced a loss, who want to support a grieving friend, or who are struggling and just want to know that someone out there gets it. Readers of Lucy Knisley’s introspective graphic memoirs will love this one, too.

Graphic Memoir          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

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