YA – When You Get the Chance

Lord, Emma. When You Get the Chance. Wednesday Books, 2021. 978-1-250-78334-9. 308 p. $18.99. Grades 7-12.

Millie Price always has known that she was most comfortable singing and performing on stage. Her dream is to become a major Broadway star, and she has remained dedicated to this dream. The one thing she is not sure of is who her mother is. When she was a baby, her mother dropped her off with her father and disappeared. Millie is now ready to discover just who her mother is and has recruited her best friend Teddy to help with this mission. It is the summer before her senior year, and Millie takes on an internship working for a NYC talent agency. This is the perfect spot for her to launch her Millie Mia mission that will lead her to discovering more than she could imagine.

THOUGHTS: This was such a fun book! Romance, friendship, family, milkshakes, and Broadway musicals! I recommend this book for those readers who are into a less intense realistic read.    

Romance          Victoria Dziewulski, Plum Borough SD

MG – All Four Quarters of the Moon

Marr, Shirley. All Four Quarters of the Moon. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022. 978-1-543-38886-1. $17.99. 247 p. Grades 5-8.

Peijing Guo has a perfectly happy life in China. She is a good student who is popular and well liked at school. She loves living with her extended family. Peijing is care-taker by nature and believes honoring her parents is her duty. She loves to draw. Peijing’s five year old sister, Biju, is a wonderful storyteller. The sisters create a secret “Little World” of handmade paper cutout animals designed from Biju’s imagination and interwoven with bits of Chinese mythology. The sisters spend hours together playing in their imaginary world. When Ba Ba gets a new job, Peijing, Beiju, Ma Ma, and their grandmother Ah Ma immigrate to Australia, where the family quickly begins to fall apart. Newly settled in a gorgeous and large new home, the family begins to change. Ah Ma, who spent her days in China with friends playing games and exercising in the park, now only sits in front of the television. Ma Ma, who was once social and stylish, dresses in sweatpants, and refuses to leave the house or to learn to speak English. The sisters struggle to improve their language skills and do well in a school where everything is completely different from anything they ever experienced in China. Only Ba Ba seems to be happy in Australia. Ba Ba slowly begins to relax and participate in household chores. He seems determined to develop a relationship with his two young daughters. Peijing is confused and miserable until she befriends an outcast classmate named Joanna. Scruffy and tough, Joanna is often hungry, exhausted, and bruised. Peijing, always caring for others before herself, tries to help Joanna. Peijing brings Joanna food, encourages her artistic abilities, and defends her friend from classroom bullies. Joanna helps Peijing understand life in Australia. The two become the best of friends, each bolstering the other’s confidence. When a caring teacher intervenes to help get Joanna out of her abusive home, the two friends fear their friendship will be over. The characters in this middle grade novel are beautifully drawn. The Chinese mythology woven throughout the development of “Little World” provides a gorgeous backdrop to a story about understanding humanity, and the changes we encounter in life. 

THOUGHTS: This is a warm and thoughtful middle grade novel that depicts an immigrant experience with great respect and care. The bond between sisters Peijing and Biju is wonderfully delightful. The inner-conflict Peijing experiences as she becomes a tween trying to assimilate into a culture with different values is both heartbreaking and empowering. Readers will cheer Peijing on as she discovers who she is meant to be and how she can fit into her changing, yet traditional, family. 

Realistic Fiction          Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD

Elem. – My Hands Tell a Story

Lyons, Kelly Starling. My Hands Tell a Story. Reycraft Books, 2022. 978-1-478-87061-6. 36 p. $17.95. Grades K-3. 

When Zoe’s grandmother waves her into the kitchen so they can bake bread together, Zoe is mesmerized by the magic and power in her grandmother’s hands. Grandma’s hands knead, push, and pull the dough until it’s just right. Grandma gently guides Zoe’s hands through the motions as well. While they wait for the dough to rise, the pair sit and talk. Readers learn about Grandma’s past and all the things her hands have done: Raised children, planted gardens, typed and filed. Zoe wonders what she might accomplish with her own hands someday, considering possibilities like drawing, building, writing, making music, and baking. When she and Grandma high-five to celebrate the first bites of their freshly-baked treat, Grandma notes that although Zoe’s hands are similar to her own, they will go places Grandma has never been. This inspiring, intergenerational story is rooted in love and celebrates the strong bond between grandmother and granddaughter. Vibrant, oil-painted illustrations beautifully capture heartfelt moments and the closeness these two share. The endpapers include a recipe for the same cinnamon bread Zoe and her grandma bake together in the book. 

THOUGHTS: Many students will make connections to the idea of cooking or baking a favorite food with a grandparent. This will also be a perfect choice for Grandparents’ Day read-alouds. Additionally, this title can be used as a discussion starter about things students hope to accomplish with their own two hands. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

MG – Maizy Chen’s Last Chance

Yee, Lisa. Maizy Chen’s Last Chance. Random House, 2022.  978-1-984-83025-8. 276 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6.

Maizy and her mother decide to return to Last Chance, Minnesota for a couple of weeks while Maizy’s grandfather gets better. However, things don’t go as planned, and they end up spending more time in Last Chance. At the family restaurant Golden Palace, Maizy learns a lot about her family history and the people that frequent the Golden Palace. As the story progresses, Maizy and her family deal with support from the community as well as racism, added onto the family struggles that Maizy’s mother and grandmother are dealing with. When a family treasure is stolen, the community rallies around Maizy and her family to help them.

THOUGHTS: This is a heartwarming story that deals with many different issues so easily the reader doesn’t feel that those issues are the prominent part of the story. The relationship with Maizy’s mother and grandmother was hard to read at times as they clearly do not have a great relationship, but the overarching theme in their relationship is their love for each other and Maizy’s grandfather.  This is a great addition to any middle school collection.

Realistic Fiction          Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

YA – The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea

Oh, Axie. The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea. Hodder and Stoughton, 2022. 978-1-529-39199-2. 321 p. $16.99. Grades 9-12.

Every year in Mina’s town a maiden is sacrificed to the Sea God hoping to stop all the devastating floods and wars that the townspeople think is due to the Sea God being angry. Mina’s older brother Joon is in love with Shim Cheong, a beautiful girl from their village, and one year it is decided that she will be sacrificed to the Sea God. Joon decides to follow and interfere which Mina knows means that he will die. In a split moment decision, Mina throws herself into the water, saving her brother and hoping that she can be the Sea God’s “true bride” and stop all the devastation that is plaguing her town. But when Mina gets to the Spirit Realm, she finds that the Sea God is trapped in an enchanted sleep. Will Mina be able to wake him up and save her town? Or will she be trapped in the Spirit Realm forever?

THOUGHTS: This was a wonderful fantasy stand alone! There are several twists and turns which just add to the overall feel of the story making the reader need to keep turning the pages to see what happens. This book is a great addition to any high school collection!!

Fantasy            Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

YA – Hotel Magnifique

Taylor, Emily J. Hotel Magnifique. Razorbill, 2022. 978-0-593-56080-8. 391 p. $15.99. Grades 9-12.

Jani is barely able to provide for her and her sister Rosa in the town of Durc. Rosa is an incredible singer, and Jani is supposed to take care of her which she is barely able to do. When the Hotel Magnifique comes to town, Jani thinks that this might be their ticket out of Durc and she jumps at it. However, once they get into Hotel Magnifique something is off and not everything is as perfect as it seems. Jani and Bel, the hotel’s interesting doorman, are off to figure out what is going on inside and how to free everyone from the maitre d’hotel, who isn’t what he seems.  Will they succeed or will Jani and Rosa be stuck in the Hotel Magnifique forever.

THOUGHTS: This is a unique fantasy stand alone that has several twists and turns to keep the reader engaged from the beginning until the very end. This book is a great addition to any high school collection and would be great for any fantasy fan.

Fantasy            Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter School

MG – Jennifer Chan is Not Alone

Keller, Tae. Jennifer Chan is Not Alone. Random House, 2022. 978-0-593-31053-3. 277 p. $17.99. Grades 4-8.

When Jennifer Chan goes missing, the entire community of Norwell, Florida is worried. But no one is more worried than her Korean-American classmate Mallory Moss, who knows of two possible reasons why Jennifer ran away. One of those reasons involves aliens. When Jennifer moved across the street from Mallory before school started, she confided in Mallory about her space research. According to Jennifer, aliens exist and they are trying to make contact with humans on earth. Jennifer knows that she has the code needed to help these aliens make contact, and she wrote all of her research down in her notebooks, which she lets Mallory take home to read. Unfortunately, Mallory knows that her friends Reagan and Tess will think Jennifer is absolutely crazy, so she distances herself from Jennifer as soon as school starts. But Reagan and Tess immediately start teasing Jennifer, and Mallory has no choice but to join in or she will lose her hard-earned popular status at school. This leads to reason number two of why Jennifer is missing: The Incident. Mallory believes that aliens may have taken Jennifer and realizes that Jennifer’s notebooks might hold the clues for how to reach her. However, Mallory knows that if she searches for Jennifer, her part in The Incident might be revealed and make her the most hated girl in school. Mallory must figure out what is more important: what other people think about her or finding Jennifer before it’s too late.

THOUGHTS: This is the first novel for Tae Keller since winning the Newbery Award for When You Trap a Tiger, and it does not disappoint. Keller tackles serious issues tweens and teens face in a compelling and gentle way, the most prominent being the cost of being popular at the expense of others. This book is a must-read and a must-buy for middle grade students.

Realistic Fiction            Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

YA – Daughter of the Moon Goddess

Tan, Sue Lynn. Daughter of the Moon Goddess. Harper Voyager, 2022. 978-0-008-47929-9. 501 p. $27.99. Grades 9-12. 

Xingyin was raised on the moon by her mother, unaware that they were actually hiding from the Celestial Emperor. One day, Xingyin’s magic causes her to have to leave her mother behind, and she ends up training alongside the Celestial Emperor’s son. Xingyin tries not to let anything distract her, especially a romance with the ‘enemy’ and she begins working on trying to save her mother. Will Xingyin be able to have both a relationship with the ones she loves and save her mother, or will she have to choose?

THOUGHTS: This was an amazing debut novel full of Chinese mythology, romance, and fantasy. The size of this novel is intimidating; however, the pages fly as the reader delves into the world that Sue Lynn Tan has created. I highly recommend this book for any fantasy lover or just someone who loves a well-written book.

Fantasy          Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy 

MG – Gallant

Schwab, V.E. Gallant. Greenwillow Books, 2022. 978-0-062-83577-2. 337 p. $18.99. Grades 6-8.

Gallant introduces the reader to Olivia Prior, a girl who lives at Merilance and spends her days reading her mother’s journal, avoiding the other girls who bully her, and catching the attention of the ghosts who are still at Merilance. One day, she is told that someone has written for her and she will be going to a place called Gallant. When she gets there, life is not as wonderful and perfect as she thinks it is. She finds that her cousin, Matthew doesn’t want her there, repeatedly tells her that as well as trying to convince her to leave and tells her that his father wrote her that letter, but he’s now dead. However, now that Olivia has found the house that her mother grew up in, she won’t leave until she figures out what is going on. But Gallant has lots of secrets, and she will have to fight not only her cousin, but the supernatural to figure out what happened to her mother.

THOUGHTS: This is a great spooky, creepy book for the fall season. The main character Olivia is very strong willed and I think she will appeal to a lot of readers. Highly recommend this new V. E. Schwab addition to any middle school collection.

Mystery        Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy
Horror

YA – Killing Time

Ehrlich, Brenna. Killing Time. Inkyard Press, 2022. 978-1-335-41867-8. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

Natalie has lived a pretty sheltered life in Ferry, Connecticut, thanks to her mom’s overprotective rules. Working in their family diner, it’s always just been the two of them. When Natalie, who recently graduated from high school, learns that her favorite teacher died under suspicious circumstances she’s determined to honor Mrs. Halsey’s memory. Though their last conversation didn’t end well, Mrs. Halsey understood Natalie’s interest in true crime and supported her (and Nat’s best friend Katie) as the true crime club advisor. They even started their own podcast – Killing Time – where they evolve in their discussion of legendary killers. All of this “true crime stuff” is done, of course, without her mom’s knowledge or permission. But Nat, who wants to go to college to be a journalist, is determined to tell her teacher’s story and honor her life. When she finds a threatening note telling her to “Stay out of it. I’m warning you.” she’s even more motivated to piece together what happened to Mrs. Halsey. Between the conversations among customers at the diner, her internship at the paper, and some convenient friendships, Nat seems to be getting closer to the truth. But how likely is a teenager operating on her own to solve a crime, especially when someone doesn’t want the truth to come to light? Interspersed throughout the novel are “Then” chapters that flash back to Helen’s college days which shed some light onto the strained relationship between mother and daughter and some of Helen’s overprotective tendencies.

THOUGHTS: Fans of true crime will like this one. I especially enjoyed the Then chapters which seemed to have more suspense and keep the story moving. A supplemental purchase where mysteries are popular.

Mystery          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD