MG – The Supernatural Society

Ogle, Rex. The Supernatural Society. Inkyard Press, 2022. 978-1-335-42487-7. 281 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7.

Will moves with his mom and his dog, Fitz, from New York City to a new school in East Emerson because his parents have recently divorced, and he is not pleased. Will deals with quite a bit of culture shock as he acclimates to small-town life and realizes that East Emerson isn’t just a sleepy, boring town; his new home is also overrun with monsters! Eventually, though, he befriends Linus and Ivy, two siblings from his neighborhood who help him deal with the monsters and make him feel as though he has found a “tribe” among all the upheaval and heartbreak in his life.

THOUGHTS: Good for students who want more scary stories, those who are fans of Stranger Things and groups of smart, multicultural kids finding monsters and solving mysteries. Linus is unapologetically smart, Ivy is strong, and Will is the glue that holds the band together. Students will be waiting with excitement for future books as well! This story will also serve as an unusual but interesting way to lead students to Free Lunch, Rex Ogle’s gritty and fascinating memoir.

Mystery Fiction          Erin Faulkner, Cumberland Valley SD
Supernatural Fiction

YA – M Is for Monster

Dutton, Talia. M Is for Monster. Abrams ComicArts, 2022. 978-1-4197-5197-4. 224 p. $17.99. Grades 7-10.

Frankenstein’s monster gets a gender-flipped, graphic novel update in Talia Dutton’s M Is for Monster! Innovative scientist Frances Ai lost her younger sister in a laboratory accident six months ago. Frankie cobbled Maura back together and, with the help of a well-timed lightning strike, brought her back to life. However, she isn’t quite … Maura. “M” has no memories from before her resurrection, and she fears that Frankie may take apart and reassemble her over and over again until she gets it right. She finds an unlikely ally in the ghost of Maura, who appears in mirrors and coaches M through interactions with her older sister. This way, M avoids a dismantling and Maura gets to keep living, in a fashion. But the cracks in this arrangement begin to show as M and Maura assert their individuality. Can they both find a path forward, or will Frankie intercept their Cyrano de Bergerac-style ruse? Author and illustrator Talia Dutton uses a green, black, and white color scheme (and plenty of period details) to portray M’s limited but intriguing world. It’s one she desperately wants to continue living in, and readers will feel the same!

THOUGHTS: What first appears to be a straightforward horror novel is also a thought-provoking take on grief and identity.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

YA – Vial of Tears

Bishara, Cristin. Vial of Tears. Holiday House, 2021. 978-0-823-44641-4. $18.99. 320 p. Grades 9-12.

Sixteen year old Samira is just trying to get by. Her father is missing in action, and her mother has a habit of disappearing for days at a time. When she receives a vase containing antique coins from her great grandfather in Lebanon, Samira and her sister Rima are unwillingly transported to the Phoenician underworld by the owner of one of the coins: a half god named Eshmun. Samira is desperate to get home, but when she is separated from Rima, she must rely on Eshmun and his companion Teth to find her. However, the underworld is a dark realm with dangerous creatures lurking around every corner, and Sam doesn’t know if she can count on anyone to help her and her sister get home. In a world where everyone seems to be after power or wealth, who can you trust?

THOUGHTS: Vial of Tears is another great title to recommend to readers who enjoy reading about mythology, and Phoenician mythology is definitely unique subject matter for young adult fantasy literature. Readers also will enjoy the sibling relationship between Samira and Rima and Sam’s memories of her time with her father.

Fantasy          Emily Hoffman, Conestoga Valley SD

YA – Red Wolf

Vincent, Rachel. Red Wolf. Harper Teen, 2021. 978-0-062-41162-4. $17.99. Grades 8-12.

Adele always has been surrounded by the dark forest around her village Oakvale. It seems that the dark forest continues to creep closer and closer to her small village, despite the watchmen and guardians trying to protect the town. Adele always has felt a small calling to the woods, even though it is filled with terrifying monsters and many don’t make it out alive. Little does she know, there are other protectors of the forest, and she is one of them. Adele will need to make hard decisions between doing what is right for her or for her entire village in order to keep everyone safe.

THOUGHTS: This novel is a fun spin on the idea of Little Red Riding Hood. A charming story that will make you want more!

Fantasy         Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

YA – These Violent Delights

Gong, Chloe. These Violent Delights. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2020. 978-1-534-45769-0. $19.99. 464 p. Grades 9-12.

“These violent delights have violent ends.” It’s 1926, and the city of Shanghai is ruled by two gangs: The White Flowers and The Scarlet Gang. Juliette Cai has just returned to the city after spending four years in America, and she’s ready to forget her past and take on the role of heir to the Scarlets. When she is approached by Roma Montagov, the White Flower heir, he insists they work together to stop a madness plaguing their city and taking the lives of members of both gangs. She reluctantly agrees, although she was betrayed by Roma in the past. Together, as they prepare to hunt down a monster, they can’t ignore the passion that still exists between them, but if their alliance is discovered by either gang, the madness will be the least of their worries, and the blood feud between the two could turn deadly.

THOUGHTS: This novel brings some exciting new aspects to William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet: 1920s flappers, the setting of Shanghai, monsters, and madness! The Scarlet Gang members are Chinese, The White Flowers are Russian, but the French and English are powerful presences in Shanghai as well, and this brings some diversity to the characters. You’ll be rooting for Roma and Juliette as they discover the secret behind the madness, and against all odds, find their way back to each other. This is perfect for readers who like action and historical fiction, as well as a bit of romance, and the ending will have them impatiently waiting for book two!

Fantasy          Emily Hoffman, Conestoga Valley SD

Juliette Cai seems to have it all as the eighteen-year-old heir to Shanghai’s revered Scarlet Gang. Juliette’s only problem seems to be her love/hate relationship with Roma Montagov, the heir of the rival gang the White Flowers. The Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers’ criminal networks operate above the law and are continually fighting, often killing each other on the spot when they accidentally cross into the other’s territory. However, a mysterious plague descends upon Shanghai, causing people from both sides to become mad and claw out their own throats. People begin whispering of a monster with glittering eyes, often seen in the water and controlling lice-like insects that burrow into people’s brains. In this retelling of Romeo and Juliet, both Juliette and Roma must put their feelings aside and work together to find the origin of this madness and stop it before Shanghai is destroyed.

THOUGHTS: With her beautiful descriptive language, author Chole Gong puts a riveting twist on a classic story in her debut novel, which promises to delight fans of the fantasy genre. Fans of fantasy sequels and trilogies will also appreciate that this story will continue in a yet-to-be-published sequel.

Fantasy          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

Elem. – Bo the Brave

Woollvin, Bethan. Bo the Brave. Peachtree Publishing, . 978-1-682-63182-9. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

When Bo’s older brothers set off on a monster hunt, she wants to accompany them, but they refuse, telling her she’s too little. Instead of accepting their words, Bo begins her own quest. Each monster she encounters makes her pause, and she takes time to look past first impressions and gets to know each creature’s true nature. This insightfulness ultimately leads her back to her castle where she pulls off her final, most heroic act. A tight palette of orange, pink, teal, and gray provide the inspiration for this alpine world, dotted with mountains, lakes, forests, and seas. Sharp-eyed readers will notice the foreshadowing of each monster from one spread to the next. 

THOUGHTS: Instead of accepting peoples’ opinions, Bo sets out to prove she’s smart and brave and strong. Her self-confidence is refreshing and will inspire readers, particularly girls, to follow their own dreams and set off on their own adventures instead of remaining on the sidelines. Themes of acceptance and not judging based solely on appearance also shine through in this medieval remix. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

YA – All These Monsters

Tintera, Amy. All These Monsters. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 978-0-358-01240-5. 450 p. $17.99. Grades 9 and up. 

The world has been overtaken by vicious man-eating monsters that randomly pop up from underground. No one knows where or when they’ll attack next, all must be on guard, and deaths are staggering. Clara Pratt’s home life is still worse. Her abusive father is violent, angry, and manipulative, and anything can set him off in an instant. When Clara discovers her brother is about to leave, she knows she needs to too. After learning about Grayston St. John’s plan to send teams to fight the monsters (the scrabs as they’re called) overseas in Europe where America has refused to send help, Clara knows that’s her way out. Only if she can make the team and leave the country. But all is not as it seems in the world of the scrabs, and to face it she will have to fight her inner demons.

THOUGHTS: An action-packed novel, All These Monsters has earned a spot on my shelf right between The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner.

Dystopian            Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD
Science Fiction

Elem. – Monster Histories

Monster Histories. Capstone Press, 2020. $21.49 ea. $171.92 set of 8. 32 p. Grades 3-6. 

Cole, Bradley. Zombies. 978-1-543-57128-8.
—.
Bigfoot. 978-1-543-57121-9.
Gaertner, Meg. Shapeshifters. 978-1-543-57125-7.
Gale, Ryan. Vampires. 978-1-543-57126-4.
Pearson, Marie. Frankenstein’s Monster. 978-1-543-57122-6.
—.
Loch Ness Monster. 978-1-543-57122-6.
—.
Mummies. 978-1-543-57124-0.
—.
Werewolves. 978-1-543-57127-1.

Monster Histories is a non-fiction series chronicling the evolution of famous monsters. This reviewer read Frankenstein’s Monster, a hi-lo illustrated text sure to engage young readers. Beginning with a brief biography of Frankenstein’s Monster writer Mary Shelly along with a brief description of the monster’s origin. Subsequent chapters elaborate on the story of Frankenstein’s Creature as it was written by Shelly (also known as the Queen of Horror) over two hundred years ago. Scattered throughout the text are various images of the monster as depicted in various films and comics over the years.  Finally, readers are treated to a brief but interesting look at the impact of the monster on modern popular culture from cartoons to Halloween and even as the first tale of the horror genre. Young fans of horror, monsters, and the paranormal instantly will be hooked. Back matter includes a glossary, index, trivia challenge, and a thought provoking writing/research prompt.

THOUGHTS: Engaging and modern while full of popular culture and literary history, I would add Frankenstein’s Monster and the rest of the Monster Histories to any elementary or middle grade library in need of  an update in this nonfiction department. (Title Reviewed: Frankenstein’s Monster)

001.944 Monsters and Phenomena          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

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

 

Picture Books – Groovy Joe; How to Catch a Monster; Monster’s New Undies; Nothing Rhymes with Orange

Litwin, Eric. Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown. Scholastic, 2017. 9780545883795. $16.99. 40p. Gr. Pre-K-1.

Eric Litwin teams up with illustrator Tom Lichtenheld in this picture book that has some simple math and a lesson to learn (there’s always room for one more friend). Litwin’s fame as the author of Pete the Cat will make this book popular. Groovy Joe is a dog that loves to play music and dance. Joe’s motto is “the more the merrier.” As friends knock at his door, readers can follow along with simple math problems as Joe invites everyone into the party. The end of the story includes an invitation to the reader to come join in the party, too.  THOUGHTS: The illustrations make this book. Lichtenfeld’s colorful, bold illustrations will be a hit with this book’s 3 to 5 year old audience. The theme of not excluding anyone in an important lesson to learn at an early age since that can be a problem at the K-6 school level. This book also includes a website to download the song that Joe sings throughout the book.

Picture book        Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

 

Wallace, Adam and Andy Elkerton. How to Catch a Monster. Sourcebooks, 2017. 978-1-4926-4894-9. Unpaged. $10.99. Gr. K-2.

What do you do when you get the role of a ninja in the school play?  Become one of course!  And not just any ninja; a monster catching ninja!  With the courage to trap the monster hiding in his closet, the ninja-monster-catcher meets his match.  After breaking the first few traps, ninja finally catches his monster and learns that his monster isn’t trying to scare him; he just wants to play.  As ninja and monster play, and learn about one another, a friendship between them blooms.  Wallace uses rhyme throughout (although not all pages rhyme), and Elkerton’s illustrations make the monster-in-the-closet come alive as a cuddly friend.  THOUGHTS:  This is a wonderful book to teach about friendship and how differences can be overcome.  

Picture Book     Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 

Berger, Samantha. Monster’s New Undies. Ill. Tad Carpenter, Orchard Books, 2017. 978-0-545-87973-6. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. PreK-2.

Monster loves his undies, but they have fallen apart.  He doesn’t want new undies, but it’s too cold without them, so it is time for Monster to get new ones.  At the store Monster doesn’t like any undies until he finds ones just like his old ones.  These new undies allow Monster to be comfortable again.  THOUGHTS:  Although about underwear (which is just funny to students), Monster’s New Undies can compare to any beloved item a student has and the feelings that occur when that item can no longer be used.  This book is a great read-aloud to writing about something students love that they have lost or had to get rid of because they are growing up.

Picture Book      Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 

Rex, Adam. Nothing Rhymes with Orange. Chronicle Books, 2017. 978-1-4521-5443-5. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. 1-3.

Unlike most fruits, nothing does rhyme with orange, and Orange knows this.  Although Orange tries to find a place in this rhyming poem, it just doesn’t work because nothing rhymes with orange.  Fruits that Orange doesn’t even know have rhyming words, but not orange that is until the other fruits create a word to rhyme with orange in order to make Orange feel apart of the fruit group.  Photographs of fruit with hand drawings to bring the fruit alive add to the fun of this rhyming poem and creative take on friendship and fitting in.  THOUGHTS: This is a very creative way to work with students on rhymes, nonsense words, and the importance of inclusion of everyone no matter their differences (or similarities…even if nothing rhymes with orange).

Picture Book     Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD