MG – The View from the Very Best House in Town

Trehan, Meera. The View from the Very Best House in Town. Walker Books, 2022. 978-1-536-21924-1. $17.99. 261 p. Grades 4-7.

Asha and Sam have been friends forever. Sam is obsessed with astronomy, Asha with architecture, and both love playing the video game Househaunt on their phones. Each friend suspects the other is on the Autism Spectrum, but the pair have never discussed their diagnoses. When Sam is accepted into elite prep school Castleton Academy, Asha has to face public middle school without her best and only friend. In the center of town, high on a hill, sits the ostentatious mansion named Donnybrooke, home to pretty and popular Prestyn Donaldson. Years ago Asha was invited inside but has since been banned by Prestyn’s overbearing, social-climbing mother. Asha marvels over the home’s unique architectural style and years to return to study the building. Adjusting to life at Castleton is not easy for Sam, who struggles socially until Prestyn appears to befriend him. But is Prestyn truly Sam’s friend? How do friends treat each other? Is an alliance with a friend who is manipulative and mean worth it? Told from the alternating perspectives of Sam, Asha, and the mansion Donnybrooke, this book examines the true meaning of friendship and acceptance. The characters (including that of the mansion itself) are beautifully depicted with extreme sensitivity and care taken to portray the inner thoughts and feelings of the students identified on the Autism Spectrum.

THOUGHTS: Debut author Meera Trehan is a lawyer who has represented many families whose children have unique and diverse educational needs. She is also mother to a daughter with Autism. The story itself is fabulously entertaining. The Donnybrooke chapters are a highly amusing investigation of human behavior. It is the complexity of the characters and their families that won me over in this novel. This book would make a fabulous classroom read aloud, and offers many opportunities for discussions about families, friendships, Autism, kindness, acceptance, and the value and worth of success.

Realistic Fiction    Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD

YA – Super Fake Love Song

Yoon, David. Super Fake Love Song. G.P. Putnam & Sons, 2020. 978-1-984-81223-0. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

Asian-American Sunny Dae is a nerd, into Dungeons and Dragons with his best buddies, Jamal and Milo and anticipating multiple followers when they broadcast an interview with the much admired Lady Lashblade. Then he meets Cirrus Soh, the daughter of a Japanese couple who do business with his own workaholic parents. To impress Cirrus, he takes on the persona of his rocker-brother, Gray. His older brother has returned from his Hollywood pursuit for fame with his tail between his legs. Depressed and disillusioned, Gray succumbs himself to his basement room only to be drawn out to mentor the fledgling band Sunny and his pals have formed as they rehearse for the annual high school talent show. As Sunny’s feelings for Cirrus deepen, he becomes more conflicted about his duplicity: he is pretending to be a rocker and gaining Cirrus’s admiration and the longer he pretends, the more he likes the confidence and attention he is getting from others, including Gunner, his former bully.  When the day for the show comes, the Immortals pull it off, until a drunk Gray interferes. Author David Yoon has a knack for clever dialogue. His narrator, Sunny, weaves DnD references with contemporary situations that are fun for teens. Sunny is wealthy and lives in a posh area of Rancho Ruby in California. Though he is intelligent and good-looking, he still deals with insecurities and feelings of being a loser. However, the charmed life he leads refutes that claim. For those looking for a light romance enhanced by good writing, Super Fake Love Song may be just the thing.

THOUGHTS: Dungeons and Dragons fans will appreciate Sunny’s obsession. Romance fans will like the different male perspective. Though the genre is realistic fiction, the circumstances and events that occur in this book are fantasy to many of the teens who may pick up this book. In one section Sunny gives his take on the extravagant party Cirrus throws when her parents leave her home alone: “Such phenomena occurred solely on insipid television shows written by middle-aged hacks eager to cash in on the young adult demographic” (224). This comment may be a prediction for Super Fake Love Song.

Realistic Fiction/Romance          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

MG – Wide World of Esports (Series NF)

Mauleón, Daniel. Edge Books: Wide World of Esports. Capstone Press, 2020. $21.54 ea. $86.16 set of 4. 32 p. Grades 3-6.

Athletic Esports: The Competitive Gaming World of Basketball, Football, Soccer, and More!
Fighting Game Esports: The Competitive Gaming World of Super Smash Bros., Street Fighter, and More! 978-1-543-57355-8.
First-Person Action Esports: The Competitive Gaming World of Overwatch, Counter-Strike, and More! 978-1-543-57353-4.
Online Battle Arena Esports: The Competitive Gaming World of League of Legends, Dota 2, and More! 978-1-543-57354-1.

Part of the Edge Books: Wide World of Esports series, Athletic Esports not only makes the introduction those unfamiliar to the world of competitive esports, for the readers who are already interested in competitive esports, it takes a closer look at the competitive leagues within the most popular athletic esports, such as basketball and football, including facts about player drafts, tournaments, and cash prizes. Also included are a history of athletic esports and a chapter on equality in esports.

THOUGHTS: Even students who think they know everything about competitive esports will learn something from reading this book. It is a good addition to elementary and middle school libraries where informational nonfiction circulates well.

794.8 Video Games          Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD

YA NF – Girl Code; The 57 Bus

Gonzales, Andrea, and Sophie Houser. Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting it Done. Harper, 2017. 978-0-06-247250-2. 264 p. $17.99. Gr. 7-12.

Teenagers Andrea “Andy” Gonzales and Sophie Houser met at a summer camp called Girls Who Code, where they teamed up to create a video game called Tampon Run.  Much to their surprise, the video game became wildly popular, solidifying their celebrity status in the tech world.  This book, told in alternating perspectives between Andy and Sophie, gives readers an inside look into their lives, beginning before the invention of Tampon Run and continuing with the impact the game had on their lives after it went viral.  By the end of the book, the girls are heading off to college and sharing their hopes and aspirations for the future.  Also included in the back of the book is a coding appendix that provides readers with coding basics.  A solid addition for any school looking to add to their STEM collection.  THOUGHTS: I felt this title was geared more towards girls than boys.  Not only were there many details included about the menstrual taboo, but there were many references to the lack of female coders in the tech field.  These messages are empowering for young girls who wish to make the topic of menstruation less taboo or who wish to work in the STEM field, but may not speak as strongly to boys.  Pair this title with Reshma Saujani’s New York Times bestseller, Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World.

005.1; Computer Programming       Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD


Slater, Dashka. The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Lives. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017. 978-0-374-30323-5. 305 pp. $17.00. Gr. 8 and up.

In November of 2013, teenagers Sasha and Richard didn’t have much in common. Sasha attended a small private high school, had a small circle of supportive friends, and identified as genderqueer (preferring they/them pronouns). Richard attended large, public Oakland High School and had already spent a year in juvenile detention. Their lives overlapped for a few short minutes each day on Oakland’s 57 bus. One afternoon, while Sasha was napping in the back of the bus, Richard flicked a lighter near Sasha’s skirt. It erupted in flames and left the teenager with second and third degree burns requiring surgery and months of rehabilitation. Sixteen-year old Richard, who admitted to being homophobic in a police interview, faced a potential life sentence if he was tried as an adult with a hate crime enhancement. Author Dashka Slater takes a remarkably even-handed look at the two young people, the crime, their respective support systems, and role of the justice system in what happened next. In particular, she examines whether a teenager can ever truly act as an adult, and whether adult prisons are an appropriate place for juvenile offenders to serve their sentences.  THOUGHTS: While not a typical true crime story, The 57 Bus is an extremely compelling portrayal of a hate crime and its aftermath. The author deftly illustrates how gender is not always binary, and neither is right/wrong, guilty/not-guilty, just/unjust.

364.15; True Crime     Amy Pickett, Ridley School District


Sasha, an asexual white teen from a middle-class background who attended a small private school in Oakland, California, was napping on the 57 bus one afternoon when Richard, an African American teen from a poorer neighborhood who attended a large public school, made the rash decision to light Sasha’s skirt on fire. The skirt went up in flames, and Sasha was hospitalized with severe burns while Richard was arrested and charged as an adult for committing a hate crime. Using interviews, documents, letters, videos, diaries, social media posts, and public records, the author pieces together the entire story in a very impartial manner.  Beginning with the incident itself and then backtracking to provide information on Sasha’s and Richard’s backgrounds, the second half of the book is dedicated to the outcomes and aftermath of the incident. This excellent title raises many timely questions about gender, race, class, hate crimes, and the justice system, and it, therefore, deserves a place in every junior and senior high school. THOUGHTS: Potential uses for this book in an educational setting are boundless.  It could be paired with other outstanding titles like Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give or Nic Stone’s Dear Martin to explore the issues of race and justice.  Social studies teachers may choose to have students read this book and then write a response declaring whether or not they felt justice was ultimately served and why.  Alternately, a mock trial could be set up requiring students to use evidence from the book to defend either Sasha or Richard. The insightful discussions this book could spark about hate, impulsiveness, and forgiveness are sure to stick with students long after they have finished reading it.

364.15; Hate Crimes      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area School District

MS & YA – Patron St. for Jr. Bridesmaids; Tetris

Tougas, Shelley. A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. Print.  978-1626724037. 272 p. $16.99. Gr. 7-12.

Author Shelley Tougas has written a sweet, engaging, and fun novel about one girl’s experience with religion and her family’s influence in her life. Mary Margaret Miller has always been a good Catholic girl, attending church and praying to her favorite patron saints – until Brent Helzinski gets on her last nerve, and she impulsively punches him. Worried about the reaction of her mother, she is soon distracted by the fact that her shy, quiet, and socially awkward cousin Eden is engaged. Mary is designated as junior bridesmaid (but really the only bridesmaid since Eden does not have any friends, besides their grandmother). Mary’s family is also in the process of moving to a new state for her father’s job working at oil company, since their family hardware store was put out of business by the new local big box store. Mary and her brother stay with their grandmother over the summer and assist with planning a “spectacular” wedding that Eden may or may not really want. The characters are well-drawn and true to life, with the adults exhibiting as many flaws as the children. Mary’s relationship with a non denominational boy next-door adds a level of intellectual engagement not usually seen in books written for middle schoolers. THOUGHTS: This is a great novel to give to young girls, and should be in all middle school collections.

Realistic Fiction    Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

I am so used to reading angsty teen novels that this novel for younger readers was a breath of fresh air. I loved Mary’s character and feel that my middle school self could truly relate to her and her engagement with religion. My father is a minister, and growing up in an intensely religious family can be taxing, as Mary experiences in the story. I hope to read more by this author soon!

Box, Brown. Tetris: The Games People Play. New York: First Second, 2016. Print. 978-1626723153. 256 p. $19.99. Gr. 9 and up.

This graphic novel presents an immersive history of one of the most famous video games of all time. The story begins with Russian scientist and computer programer Alexey Patjitnov discussing with his friend the importance of gaming. Then, the story moves to tell the origins of the Nintendo company and the evolution of the gaming world. Alexey creates Tetris to share with his friends, but others soon realize the immense monetary potential of selling such a game all over the world. The story moves quickly, as we hear how the major companies of the day- Nintendo, Atari, and Sega- fought over various rights and with the Russian government to have access to Tetris. It is interesting for the reader to see Alexey’s experience in all of this back and forth. Box Brown’s graphics quickly engage the reader and merge seamlessly with the text. The tale is not simple, but Brown does his best to share all that happened throughout the history of the game. THOUGHTS: This is an excellent title to give to gamers and lovers of classic games. Highly recommended for high school libraries.

Graphic Novel (Nonfiction, 794.8)    Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

As an owner of the original Game Boy, I was eager to read this novel and learn more about the history of a game I loved as a child. I ended up reading the book in one sitting- it was so interesting and engaging!  But, as a history buff, I also appreciated the fact that Box Brown spent time giving the reader context by providing a history of the gaming industry in general. I cannot wait to share this title with my brothers, who recently became excited when my mother unearthed their original Nintendo system. Tetris lives on!

In Real Life


Doctorow, Cory and Jen Wang. In Real Life. New York: First Second, 2014. 978-1-59643-658-9. $17.99. Gr 6-12.

Shy, teen Anda and her family have recently relocated to Flagstaff, Arizona. One day in programming class, a guest speaker invites students to participate in Coarsegold, a massive-multiplayer online role playing game. In Coarsegold, Anda makes friends and soon joins a league of guild members who work for real-life cash by destroying gold farmers that are seemingly corrupting the game. Anda isn’t quite sure this is fair gaming and becomes concerned when she talks to one of the farmers and learns that gold farming is actually his job. It’s through this friendship with the farmer, Raymond, that Anda discovers that behind these avatars are real people and actions in the gaming world sometimes have real-life consequences. Doctorow presents readers with the economics of so many popular online role playing games, while gently reminding us of the humanity that’s hidden in the virtual world. Wang’s illustrations are beautiful frames of jewel toned watercolors that help to bring the comic to life. Recommend this to gamers, Cory Doctorow fans, or anyone who loves graphic novels.

Graphic Novel     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

I am a big Cory Doctorow fan, and while this graphic novel was good, it wasn’t my favorite. The artwork was truly beautiful, and very unlike other artwork I see in graphic novels, which was refreshing. The story was fine, and I liked the idea of exploring the virtual economy of massive multiplayer online RPGs. The climax didn’t have a big impact on me, so I admit I was a little disappointed. However, my students have been enjoying it, and I’m always happy to promote a graphic novel that features a female gamer, so I don’t think I’ll share my disappointment with the student body!