YA Fiction – Wolf Hour; Unearthly Things; Book of Dust (Bk. 1); Hell & High Water

Holmes, Sarah Lewis. The Wolf Hour. New York: Scholastic, 2017. 978-0-545-10797-6. 320 p. $16.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Sarah Lewis Holmes has written an interesting, if overly long, take on classic fairy tales.  Using the familiar tropes of the wicked witch, the haunted wood, and the wayward child, Holmes spins the stories of the Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood on their heads.  The story is told from three perspectives: Magia, the daughter of a woodcutter; the Pigs – Biggest, Little, and Littlest; and Martin, a wolf. Magia’s dream is to follow in her father’s footsteps and chop the special wood from the trees in the Puszka, the dark forest that borders her home.  Magia’s mother has other plans for her though; she wants Magia to use her prodigious singing talents to make a name for herself in the city.  While Magia is happy that her singing soothes her mother’s pregnancy pains, she does not want to make a career out of it.  The Pigs’ dream is to get their mother back; they have been told by the witch that the only way to do so is to play out their story, over and over again: get chased by the wolf, take shelter in the house made of bricks, trick the wolf into climbing into the chimney where he falls to his death into a pot of boiling water. Martin’s dream is to stay safe in his tower of books and find the safety and love that he experienced before his mother was killed by a human.  Martin’s mother always warned him to stay away from stories, because they can suck you in, and you can lose yourself, and so Martin was raised on books of facts.  And then there’s the witch, the puppetmaster holding all of the strings.  Eventually, the characters all find themselves in the same story, and, for better or worse, need to figure out how to extract themselves in order to set things right.  THOUGHTS:  While the book definitely lags in the middle, and Holmes takes her time getting to the real meat of the story, her premise is clever, and the characters are well-drawn.  The love that each of these characters (other than the witch, perhaps) feels for their families is palpable and heartbreaking. Hand this book to lovers of fairy tales, and those who enjoy a slow-burning plot.

Fantasy        Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

 

Gagnon, Michelle. Unearthly Things. Soho Teen, 2017. 978-1-61695-696-7 278p. $21.99.  Gr. 8 and up.

After Janie’s parents are killed in an accident, she is shipped off to a family in San Francisco, her dad’s best friend, supposedly. She is thrown into a world where buying an $800 dress seems to be the norm, while back home in Hawaii, that money could have paid a lot of bills. Janie is sent to a private school where everything seems foreign; she can’t even wear comfortable shoes to school. Things get pretty sinister and creepy as there seems to be a ghost in the house that is bothering Janie more than the other residents in the house. The motivations of her benefactors come into question.  Between that and the haunting, Janie does not feel safe anymore, but what can she do?   THOUGHTS: This is a fast-paced book that is more than a little sinister with plot twists galore. It is a retelling of Jane Eyre, that moves quickly. Students who have not read Jane Eyre would still enjoy this suspenseful tale.

Horror; Suspense      Toni Vahlsing, Abington Friends School

 

Pullman, Philip. The Book of Dust. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-0-37581-530-0. 464 p. $22.99. Gr. 7-12.

Fans of Pullman’s classic His Dark Materials series will be delighted to re-enter the world of Lyra Belacqua. Set several years before The Golden Compass, Dust focuses on Malcolm, a twelve year old boy working at his parents’ inn on the River Thames. In his spare time, Malcolm helps the nuns with odd jobs around the local priory and takes care of his precious boat, La Belle Sauvage. The quiet of his little town is disrupted when the nuns take in orphaned baby Lyra, and Malcolm and his daemon Asta begin to pay special attention when curious visitors begin to frequent the inn. One of those visitors is Hannah, who befriends and exchanges information with Malcolm, and works to decipher the mysterious alethiometer device. Another guest is one less kindly; a strange man and his disfigured hyena daemon, who Malcolm believes is trying to kidnap Lyra. When a terrible storm begins to flood the town, Malcolm must set out on La Belle Sauvage to protect Lyra at any cost. THOUGHTS: A rich, absorbing fantasy set in the familiar, parallel world crafted by Pullman so many years ago. This exhilarating read is the beginning of another trilogy.

Fantasy     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

 

Pullman, Philip. La Belle Sauvage. Alfred A. Knopf, 2017. 9780375815300. 449 pp. $22.99. Gr. 8 and up.  

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series has always been a favorite of mine and countless other fantasy fans. The long wait since the publication of The Amber Spyglass is rewarded with the first novel in Pullman’s new companion trilogy, The Book of Dust.  La Belle Sauvage is a welcome return to the fantastical, alternate world of England in the early 20th century.

This story follows 11-year old Malcolm Polstead, a charming and observant boy who works in his family’s inn near Oxford. By chance he finds a clue meant for a Resistance spy, who is working against the totalitarian Magisterium. The clue leads him to a friendship with Dr. Hannah Relf, a master of the alethiometer and the spy’s local contact in Oxford.  Intrigue builds as many characters come to town in search of information about a mysterious baby who has been left under the care and protection of nuns in the village. Malcolm and a local servant girl, Alice, become the protectors of baby Lyra as she comes under threat from agents of the Magesterium and a flood of biblical proportions. The three children and their daemons take refuge in Malcolm’s trusty boat, La Belle Sauvage, in search of Lyra’s father Lord Asriel.  THOUGHTS: Readers will be more than satisfied with this captivating adventure tale with terrific and complex new characters, an intriguing plot and the promise of more adventures to come. One of my favorite books of 2017.

Fantasy      Nancy Summers, Abington School District

 

Landman, Tanya. Hell and High Water. Candlewick Press, 2017. 978-07636-88752.  $17.99 312 pp. Gr. 7-12.

Caleb Chappell and his father make a living as traveling performers of Punch and Judy shows in 1752 England.  Caleb admires his father Joseph, who has creative, technical and moral understanding, so it is a blow when his father is wrongly imprisoned.  Rather than death, Joseph is sentenced to be sent to the colonies.  For Caleb, it feels like death.  But his father tells him to find his aunt (unknown to him) who will care for him, and he will find him again, “come hell or high water.”  His aunt and cousin Letty accept him, unlike the rest of the town who suspects him of everything due to his skin color.  Survival in their small town of Tawpuddle is dependent upon dangerous sailing trips and the wishes of nobleman Sir Robert Fairbrother.  Then Caleb is shocked to find his dead father’s body washed ashore, identifiable only by his ring.  But while Caleb summons help, the ring is stolen and the man buried, meant to be forgotten.  But much, much more is amiss, and Caleb’s determination to prove the man was his father leads him to unearth a landslide of secrets and power in this small seaside town.  THOUGHTS: A well-crafted and twisty tale with the right amount of suspense, atmosphere and characterization (even the puppets) to intrigue readers. With a focus on unmasking racism, sexism and the power of class structure to determine one’s fate, this is not to be overlooked.  

Historical, Mystery      Melissa Scott, Shenango Area School District

Picture Books – Magic for Sale; Bruce’s Big Move; Silent Days, Silent Dreams; After the Fall

Clickard, Carrie. Magic for Sale. Holiday House, 2017. 9780823435593. Unpaged. $16.95.  Gr. K-3.

Georgie McQuist is on a mission to find the ghost that is rumored to be hidden in Miss Pustula Night’s magic shop on a dare from his classmates. This shop is full of magical supplies, like “mirrors that talk back to you.”  After entering the shop, Georgie falls into the basement through a hidden trap door. There he finds the unhappy ghost, who has been banished to the basement until he completes an inventory of its contents. The boy and the ghost accomplish the task, much to the dismay of Miss Night, who demands that Georgie leave immediately.  That he does, with a friendly monster in tow. The boy takes the monster to school for Show and Tell, which scares his classmates who initiated the dare.  Clickard is very clever in her use of rhyming text, which follows an AABBA pattern throughout the text.  The placement of the text adds a creative touch on some pages. Shelley’s illustrations are done in pen, ink, and watercolor.  The full bleed images are very detailed and children will enjoy poring over them to examine the magical artifacts. The characters and objects are depicted in a whimsical style and are appropriate for young children. THOUGHTS: This book is perfect for children who like their scary monster stories on the mild side.  A good addition to elementary collections.

Picture Book, Fantasy        Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District

 

Higgins, Ryan T. Bruce’s Big Move. Disney Hyperion, 2017. 978-136800354-4. 40pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

Bruce, the grumpy bear who unexpectedly became a mother to four geese and three mice who won’t move out, is back in this third edition in the series. With so many animals sharing his den, Bruce finds it’s too crowded, messy, chaotic, and loud. He tries to get rid of the mice, but they just won’t leave. So, Bruce leaves instead. He packs up his geese and heads off on his scooter in search of quieter lodgings. After finally settling on a secluded lake cabin, Bruce is happy, but the geese are mopey and missing the mice. It isn’t until the moving van pulls up and the mice begin making themselves at home that Bruce realizes some things will never change. Readers who’ve enjoyed this unconventional family’s story will find plenty to chuckle about as Bruce tries his hardest to reclaim his peaceful lifestyle before ultimately embracing his new reality of home.  THOUGHTS: Pair this title with Vera Brosgol’s Leave Me Alone! for a storytime centered around caregivers searching for sanity amongst the chaos of their crowded homes.

Picture Book       Anne Bozievich, Southern York County

 

Say, Allen. Silent Days, Silent Dreams. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2017.  978-0-545-92761-1. 63pp. $21.99. Gr 3-6.

James Castle was deaf, mute, dyslexic, and autistic, but nothing got in the way of his creative genius. Born in 1899, he spent his entire life living and creating art in attics and chicken houses on Idaho farms. Castle was a self-taught, untrained artist, and more than 15,000 pieces of his artwork survive today. This fictional story, narrated by Castle’s nephew, is based on real-life information, letters, and interviews about the artist. After studying Castle’s style and researching the mediums he used, including burned matchsticks, saliva, sharpened sticks, soot, and shoe polish, Caldecott-winning illustrator Say created this book’s images using some of the same mediums and drawing on Castle’s original artwork as inspiration. The result is a unique tribute to a largely unknown American artist, one who overcame any obstacle he encountered to fulfill his innate desire to create. A lengthy author’s note describes how Say first learned about Castle, and it also discusses his own process of creating this book’s unique illustrations.  THOUGHTS:  Although lengthier than many traditional picture books, this title could be used in conjunction with other books about people overcoming disabilities or as part of a biography unit. Art teachers may be interested in highlighting the unusual mediums Castle used to create his artwork.

Picture Book       Anne Bozievich, Southern York County

 

Santat, Dan. After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again. Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 978-1-62672-682-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-5.

After his classic and well-known accident, Humpty Dumpty has a tough time getting back into his usual routine. He loves watching birds (which is, of course, why he was hanging out on a high wall in the first place) and his fear of heights now prevents him from being close to them. Even the top grocery store shelf with the most delicious cereals and his bunk bed are no longer options. One day, Humpty gets an idea to make a paper airplane bird. He knows it’s hard, but he keeps trying and trying through several failed attempts until his paper bird can fly high in the sky, close to the birds in his place. When his bird lands on top of the wall, Humpty almost gives up again, but then he thinks of all the hard work he’s put in and all the things he’s missed. He’s very scared, but he manages to climb the wall, one step at a time, “…until I was no longer afraid.” A final surprise makes this story of simple, real emotions even better. THOUGHTS: Santat’s beautiful, carefully designed illustrations help convey the range of Humpty’s emotions and struggle. Share this story with any group who could use help broadening their growth mindset.

Picture book             Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin School District

 

YA FIC – There’s Someone Inside Your House; Forest of a Thousand Lanterns; All the Crooked Saints; Who Killed Christopher Goodman?

Perkins, Stephanie. There’s Someone Inside Your House. Dutton Books, 2017. 978-0-5254-2601-1. 287 p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Makani Young has recently moved from Hawaii to Indiana to live with her grandmother, after being involved in a bullying incident at her last school. Makani has sworn never to tell anyone her shameful past and doesn’t really love living in rural Indiana. In her new town, she has only a few close friends, Darby and Alex, and mainly looks after her grandmother, who has trouble with her memory. Makani also pines for her classmate Ollie, who has a troubled past of his own. When a talented classmate is brutally murdered, the town mourns and tries to move on. But as more and more students begin to die at the hands of an alleged serial killer, Makani and her friends try to discover who is killing, and why, before they become the next victims.  THOUGHTS: Perkins weaves an intriguing story, and at one point every character is a viable suspect. A perfect treat for horror fans that keeps you guessing until the very end.

Horror      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

 

Dao, Julie C. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. Philomel Books, 2017. 978-1-5247-3829-7. 363 p. $18.99. Gr. 9-12.

Eighteen year old Xifeng has lived with her cruel aunt, Guma, for her entire life and is often beaten for stepping out of line. Xifeng is resentful and often dreams of running away with her secret lover, Wei. While she and Guma embroider for a living, Guma assures Xifeng that her destiny is much greater; she has seen in the cards that Xifeng’s beauty and cunning will one day get her a powerful position in the kingdom, but only if she embraces the dark magic deep inside her. One day after a particularly horrific beating that disfigures her face, Xifeng and Wei set off for the Imperial City hoping that Xifeng can enter the Empress’s services as a lady-in-waiting and eventually fulfil her destiny. As time passes, Xifeng struggles to maintain friendships, navigate the treacherous eunuchs and concubines at the palace, and also with the darkness lurking under her skin. Xifeng is a complex anti-heroine whose character will linger with readers long after the last page. Dao’s debut is a polished and masterful Asian-inspired retelling of Snow White’s Evil Queen. THOUGHTS:  A beautiful, lush story with complex and diverse characters will delight readers. Julie C. Dao has written an engrossing and refreshing fairytale retelling that belongs in all libraries.

Fantasy      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends Central School

 

Stiefvater, Maggie. All the Crooked Saints. Scholastic, 2017. 978-0-545-93080-2. $18.99. 311 p. Gr. 7 and up.

In the small town of Bicho Raro, the primary industry is miracles. The Mexican-American Soria family carries the burden of sainthood, blessed or cursed, with the ability to grant a miracle to each of the pilgrims who wander into the town. However, the miracle the Sorias grant only manifests a pilgrim’s darkness into an external entity. It is then up to the pilgrim to commit the second miracle, and banish the darkness. Lately, however, the pilgrims have not been able to accomplish the second miracle, and the Soria enclave is overflowing with a motley assortment of pilgrims struggling with their manifestations. Young Daniel Soria, the 19-year-old current saint, and his cousin Beatriz, know this situation has to change, but they will have to break the Soria code to do so, which may destroy the family.  Glorious wordsmith Stiefvater has crafted another magnificent story, more tall-tale than fantasy. Populated with a memorable cast of characters, from the Soria clan to pilgrims to the accidental visitors to the town, the book shows us the darkness in all of us, and the miracles needed to banish it.  THOUGHTS:  Stiefaver successfully departs from her myth-based fantasy genre with this beautiful read. The large cast of characters can be challenging to keep straight, but the reward is great.   

Magical Realism      Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

 

Wolf, Allan.  Who Killed Christopher Goodman? Candlewick, 2017.  978-0-7636-5613-3. 269 p.  $16.99.  Gr. 9-12.

Set in the fictional town of Goldsburg, VA, in 1979, this well-written novel follows the intersecting paths of six teenagers leading up to the murder of one of their classmates following the town’s big summer festival.  The perspective alternates among the six teens, each of whom has different relationships with the eventual murder victim and each of whom ultimately reacts to the murder differently, wondering if their actions were at all to blame for the death of Christopher Goodman.  Based on the actual 1979 murder of Edward Charles Disney following Deadwood Days in Blacksburg, VA, this thought-provoking novel will encourage teenagers to think about the reasons behind their actions and how these actions can have rippling effects that may never be entirely known.  THOUGHTS: Reluctant readers, fans of mystery/suspense, and fans of Wolf’s previous release, The Watch that Ends the Night, will enjoy this title.  It might also be interesting to introduce this book in a social studies class.  It could prompt an interesting character study discussion in a psychology course, or U.S. history students could research the actual murder of Edward Charles Disney and compare the real-life events to those in the book.  A solid addition to any high school collection.

Historical Fiction; Mystery      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

 

YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy – Meant to Be; Girls Made of Snow & Glass; Jane Unlimited

Halpern, Julie. Meant to Be. Feiwel & Friends, 2017. 978-1-250-09498-8. 320 p. $17.99. Gr. 10 and up.

When it comes to love, Agatha Abrams is disenchanted. Her parents’ relationship didn’t survive the MTBs (meant to be), and she firmly believes in free will and choices. Instead of jumping for joy and spending a lot of money to locate her meant to be (or even conducting an online search for him), Aggy rebels against the system. She is determined to fall in love on her own terms – when, where, and with whom she wants. Who more appropriate than Luke, they boy she’s been crushing on for the past few years at her summer amusement park job.  Meanwhile, Aggy’s best friend Lish has found her meant to be and fallen head over heels in love, and she’s moving way too fast for Aggy! Aggy is begins to question the future she planned and wonders if anyone else feels the way she does.  THOUGHTS: Aggy isn’t sure college is for her, and she fights against the norms of society, much like teenagers often do. I really wanted to like this book. I loved the idea of MTBs and a teen girl rebelling against society’s new norm of finding one’s soul mate; however, I wanted more. How could the “meant to be” phenomenon exist for years without more of an uprising? Many pre-existing relationships in the society crumble…did no one fight for the love they had? I wanted more answers. That said, I sometimes loved Aggie and her best friend complemented each other. Without giving too much away, I could have read a whole novel that started with the last few weeks in the book and skipped the whole summer fling. This book is definitely for a more mature audience, as the summer fling had casual, unsatisfying sex, fairly graphically described.

Romance/Science Fiction       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

 

Bashardoust. Melissa. Girls Made of Snow and Glass. Flatiron Books, 2017.  978-1-250-07773-8. 375p. $18.99.  Gr. 7 and up.

Linet and Mina are both unusual girls who grew up without their biological mothers.  Their lives are intertwined in what could be a fight for a kingdom.  Told in alternating perspectives between Mina and Linet, the chapters are not chronological at first.  It took me some time to affirm my suspicion that this is a retold fairytale. Full of intrigue, secrets, lies, and magic, this story will keep the reader’s interest.  It also explores the larger issues of family and the ability to love.  THOUGHTS:  This is Bashardoust’s first novel.  I look forward to reading more of her work.  There is a same-sex romance where the only concern is that the love interest is a commoner.  For my liberal school, this is a great step forward.  

Fantasy (Fractured Fairytale)     Toni Vahlsing, Abington Friends School

 

Cashore, Kristin. Jane Unlimited. Kathy Dawson Books, 2017. 978-0803741492. 464 p.  Grades 9 and up.

Devoted fans of Cashore’s Graceling trilogy have eagerly awaited this new book.  Jane Unlimited is a marked departure from Cashore’s successful series and is an ambitious and bizarre tale that presents the possibility of multi-verses and alternate realities.  Jane is a quiet, orphaned girl who recently lost her beloved Aunt Magnolia and is overcome with grief and indecision. When her former tutor, Kiran, invites Jane to travel with her to her family’s fabulous island estate, Jane follows her aunt’s advice: visit the Thrash estate, Tu Reviens, if she is ever given the chance. So off Jane goes, and there she meets a quirky cast of characters, among them Kiran’s art collecting twin brother Ravi, family servants Patrick and Ivy, Lucy, the art theft investigator, a bloodhound named Jasper and several others. The story is retold in six possible realities which are presented in separate long chapters which begin as Jane makes a simple decision to follow one or another of the other people at the estate. Jane confronts alternate versions of the intrigues on the island which include art thievery, kidnapping, international espionage, and romance. Each chapter has a distinct style that ranges from mystery to thriller to sci-fi to fantasy and each chapter is more bizarre than the last.  THOUGHTS:  Jane, Unlimited is a challenging read with a creative and promising premise.  A few of the chapters are wonderfully realized, but some fall short with confusing details that make it difficult to suspend disbelief.  Recommended for more dedicated and intrepid readers, but it could be too confusing and circular for many students.

Fantasy       Nancy Summers, Abington School District

YA Fiction – Beast; All We Have Left

Spangler, Brie. Beast. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. 978-1-10193-716-7. $17.99.  330 p. Gr. 10 -12.

A loose retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story with an LGBT twist.  The Beast in this tale is Dylan, a 15-year-old freak of nature who stands at 6’6”, with pure muscle and an overabundance of hair. Looking as he does, he has a hard time fitting in and zero luck so far with girls his age. Fortunately he is able to have some degree of social acceptance because of his friendship with one of the most popular kids in school J.P., a wealthy, manipulative golden boy who keeps Dylan close to be an enforcer for his loansharking business at school.  After a particularly bad day at school, Dylan steps out on the roof of his house and falls which lands him in a cast and in therapy for self-harming teens.  There he meets the artistic and beautiful Jamie, and they immediately click. Jamie seems to accept him just as he is. Their relationship starts off so sweetly, but before long we discover a crucial piece of information that Dylan missed when he zoned out during his therapy session; Jamie is transgendered. Though the news comes as a shock, Dylan and Jamie have a real connection, and Dylan tries to make sense of his strong feelings for her and reconcile that with the reality of her gender.  A straight forward romantic tale with the characters struggling with self-acceptance and the value of true connection. Both main characters are captivating. Dylan is smart, observant, thoughtful, funny and a bit crude at times. Jamie is strong, original, perceptive and wise. The bond between Dylan and his mother is genuine, caring, and close. THOUGHTS:  A good choice for libraries to add a title with a positive and multi-faceted trans character.  Recommended for older readers because of language a sexual themes.

Realistic Fiction            Nancy Summers, Abington Senior High School

 

 

Mills, Wendy. All We Have Left. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016.  978-1-61963-343-8. 362 pp.  $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Two stories of two teenage girls whose lives are changed by the tragic events of 9/11 are presented in this alternating narrative.  Alia is a Muslim American teenager attending a creative arts high school in New York City in 2001.  When she gets in trouble at school, her parents refuse to sign her permission slip for a selective summer program for aspiring artists at NYU.  In a last-minute, desperate attempt at convincing them to let her attend the program, Alia skips school to go talk to her father at his workplace in the World Trade Center.  Fast forward 15 years. Jesse is a white American teenager whose brother, Travis, was killed in in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  After getting involved with the wrong crowd at school, she gets caught vandalizing and is ordered to complete community service hours at the Islam Peace Center, where she gains a new understanding and appreciation for the Islamic religion and Muslim culture. Convinced that she can put her life back together and bring healing to her family if she finds some answers, she begins searching for the truth about her dead brother.  Why was he at the World Trade Center on that fateful day in 2001, and what was he doing during his final moments?  Her quest for answers leads her to Alia, and she discovers that there is much more to the story than she could have imagined.  An uplifting story of healing, courage, compassion, and forgiveness, this outstanding title deserves a place in every young adult collection if only to combat the forces of hatred and fear in today’s world.  THOUGHTS: An enlightening and heartfelt read, this novel has many applications to our world today and could easily be incorporated into any social studies curriculum.  The lessons about tolerance and acceptance that run throughout the book would spark excellent discussions in classes studying various world cultures.  Information presented in the book about the Islamic religion and Muslim culture could also be useful as an introduction to the Muslim way of life.  It would be interesting to have students compare common misconceptions of Muslim culture and Islamic religion with their realities.  In addition, references to ISIS, the building of the World Trade Center, 9/11 itself, and changes in the U.S. since 9/11 are relevant to any U.S. or contemporary history course. To really make history come alive, pair this title with Jim Dwyer’s 102 Minutes, or hand it to students prior to a field trip to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.  A must-have for high school libraries!

Historical/Realistic Fiction                  Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

Elementary/MS Graphic Novels – Margo Maloo; Ogres Awake; Snow White

Weing, Drew. The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo. New York: First Second, 2016. 978-1-62672-339-9. $15.99. Gr. 3-7.

Charles and his family just moved to Echo City. While his dad is busy fixing up their apartment building and his mom is writing grant applications, Charles begins to explore their run-down, drafty building. When he encounters a monster in his closet, he’s not sure what to do until his neighbor Kevin gives him a card for Margo Maloo, monster mediator.  Margo and Charles track down the troll in Charles’ closet, and it seems that Margo is very knowledgeable about all of the monsters in Echo City, trolls, ghosts, goblins, and ogres. As an aspiring blogger, Charles jumps at the opportunity to blog about these underground monsters, but Margo begs him to keep quiet; no one can know that monsters are real. As Charles and Margo work together, it turns out that they’re a really good team, and now they must work to rescue a boy from a ghost and find a missing ogre baby. Weing’s illustrations are excellent and readers of any age will fall in love with Charles and Margo. THOUGHTS: A wonderful addition to any library where comics and graphic novels fly off the shelves.

Graphic Novel; Fiction      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

 

Sturm, James. Ogres Awake! New York: First Second, 2016. 978-1-59643-653-4. Unpaged. $14.99. Gr. K-2.

When Edward the horse and his knight spot some napping ogres outside the kingdom walls, they know they must alert the king. Luckily, the king isn’t worried; there’s a plan in place for ogres. The little knight is ready for battle, but the king’s plan doesn’t involve swords and armies; it involves using the king’s garden harvest to create a delicious sweet potato stew. The hungry ogres storm the castle after their naps and find a wonderful smell awaiting them. With satisfied bellies, the ogres leave the castle to head home and the little knight wishes to use super powers in his next adventure. Ogres Awake! is the newest creation from the authors of Adventures in Cartooning!, and it doesn’t disappoint.  The graphic novel styling is a great introduction to the genre and infuses subtle humor into the story through the plucky knight and hungry ogres. The endpapers include how-to guides on drawing the main characters. THOUGHTS: A delicious, fun graphic novel for young readers who want a good adventure and don’t mind a unique ending.

741.5 Graphic Novel      Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

 

Phelan, Matt. Snow White. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2016. 978-0-7636-7233-1. 235 pp. $19.99. Gr. 3-6.

Snow White has been transplanted to the Great Depression in Matt Phelan’s mesmerizing new graphic novel retelling of the classic fairy tale. Life is hard for Snow once her mother dies, and her wealthy father finds a ruthless diva of the stage who banishes the beautiful daughter. Once alone in the dark city, a group of street urchins come to Snow’s rescue, and they quickly bond. Tragedy, drama, action, and romance all play out around the cruel Queen of the Follies and her jealous rage. Phelan’s strength comes in the sparse text mixed with emotional illustrations that capture both the story elements (huntsman, apple) with the 20’s city life (ticker tape, Macy’s and Follies). While not everything runs parallel to the fairy tale origin, this unique new take will draw in a wide range of ages to appreciate the skill of Phelan’s graphic design and artistic interpretation.  THOUGHTS: The many references to Great Depression terms like Hooverville will be lost on younger readers, but the opportunity to connect any of Phelan’s graphic novels to history make them an educational incentive. As a collection, they would make for a great course on graphic storytelling and historical fiction alike.   

Graphic Novel; Fractured Fairytale      Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District

Picture Books – Lost Gift; Hensel & Gretel; Wonderfall

lostgift

George, Kallie. The Lost Gift. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016. 978-0-553-52481-p. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr PreK-2.

It’s Christmas Eve and four forest friends are happy to catch a glimpse of Santa and his sleigh. A gust of wind drops a package nearby and Deer, Bird, Rabbit, and Squirrel realize that it’s meant for the New Baby at a nearby farm. The friends decide to deliver the package for Santa and spend a long, cold, hungry night delivering the gift. While they have second thoughts (especially grumpy Squirrel), they realize that it was worth the effort when they see New Baby’s delight at her new rattle. The animals trudge home and find a gift from Santa waiting in the snow—a delicious treat to fill their empty bellies. When Squirrel wonders “But how did he know?” Rabbit replies “Santa always knows.” Stephanie Graegin’s simple and colorful illustrations create a real feeling of the season. THOUGHTS: This sweet, simple holiday story will be enjoyed by little kids and big kids alike.

Picture Book     Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

 

ninjachicks

Schwartz, Corey Rosen, and Rebecca J. Gomez. Hensel and Gretel: Ninja Chicks. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2016. 978-0399176265. 40pp. $17.99.  Gr. K – 3.

A companion book to The Three Ninja Pigs and Ninja Red Riding Hood, this book is just as action packed and fun! Their mother is missing, so these smart sisters decide to get some proactive ninja training at the 3 Pigs Dojo, where the motto is “Get Empowered, Not Devoured.” When their father goes missing, they follow, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs behind. Bad idea, but they persevere. When suddenly a tempting cornbread house is found, will Hensel and Gretel be able to escape temptation? Fortunately one of these fowls keeps their head and is able to sneak in, distracting the fox to rescue Ma. The other, after a momentary lapse of judgement picks the lock and joins the fray!  THOUGHTS: The fast pace and perfect rhymes in this book match the success of the other two books by these fabulous collaborators. Girls and boys alike will get a kick out of these powerful poultry.

Picture Book      Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

wonderfall

Hall, Michael. Wonderfall. New York: Greenwillow, 2016. 978-0-06-238298-6. Uppaged. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

“In this book you will discover 1 colorful tree, 2 scurrying squirrels, and 15 blended words created to celebrate the wonder of fall!” This is the description in the inside jacket, and it sets the stage for the contents that follows. With short, simple, and touching poems that are accessible to younger readers, Hall has created a very attractive autumn book. The colorful collage illustrations will call Ehlert and Carle to mind, and closer exploration shows several continuing mini-stories with the squirrels. The titles of each poem replace the suffix -ful/full with the seasonal -fall, and it makes the words more meaningful… I mean, meaningfall! Enjoy this seasonal sensation – you’ll be thankfall that you did.  THOUGHTS: This would be a fun lesson on playing with words, studying suffixes, or creating short poems. The end of the book also connects back to animals who appear in the book and describes how they survive the coming winter. Plus, there’s a page about those pesky squirrels and their protective oak tree.

Picture Book      Dustin Brackbill, State College Area