Picture Books – The Chinese Emperor’s New Clothes; Snowflake in my Pocket; Miguel & the Grand Harmony

Compestine, Ying Chang, The Chinese Emperor’s New Clothes. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-1-4197-2542-5. 32pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

This variation on the traditional Hans Christian Anderson tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes features nine-year-old boy emperor Ming Da. Ming Da’s corrupt advisors think he is too young to rule, so they take advantage of him, stealing silks, rice, jewels, and gold. When he looks outside the palace windows, Ming Da sees poor, hungry children begging in the streets. He longs to help them, but it isn’t until his tailors come with his new robes for the Chinese New Year parade that Ming Da hatches his plan. Instead of wearing the ornate robes they initially present, Ming Da enlists the tailors’ help in sewing together old rice sacks decorated with vegetable juices. When he appears in front of his advisors wearing these sacks, he explains that they are magical and that only honest people will be able to see their true splendor. Wanting to mask their corruption, the advisors gush about the rice sacks and agree to have the tailors design magical robes for them as well. One by one, the advisors try on their new robes, and they each want to look more splendid than the others. They bring back the silks, rice, jewels, and gold to finance the creation of the supposedly elaborate robes. Ming Da uses the rice, silks, and gold to feed and dress the poor, and on the morning of the New Year’s Day parade, the advisors march behind the young emperor wearing their own rice sack robes. Amongst themselves, they keep up the charade of complementing each other on the clothing’s splendor, but a young boy in the crowd points and laughs at their rice sacks, and the embarrassed advisors flee the country. Ming Da replaces them with honest ministers and rules wisely and fairly for many years. David Roberts’s vibrant pen and ink and watercolor illustrations feature intricate details such as Chinese scrolls and latticework, and the ornate details pop against plain white backgrounds. Careful readers will also enjoy searching for the emperor’s pet cricket and mouse who appear in almost every spread. A note on the final pages describes the author’s personal history with this fairytale and her childhood in China that inspired this retelling.  THOUGHTS:  This retelling will fit nicely with fairytale units and activities where students compare an original fairytale and a variation. Also use it for Chinese New Year celebrations and storytimes.

Picture Book    Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

 

Bright, Rachel. Snowflake in My Pocket. Kane Miller, A Division of EDC Publishing: 2017. 978-1-61067-551-2. 32pp. $12.99. Gr K-2.

This is the gentle story of a wise old bear who has seen many seasons and a young squirrel who has seen only three. Together, the pair explore every corner of their forest home, and one night, Bear declares that the snow is on its way. Squirrel has never seen snow before, and he is overjoyed when he sees a wintery wonderland outside his tree the next morning. He can’t wait to play outside with Bear, but Bear has come down with a cold and must rest in bed. Squirrel promises to have fun for both of them and heads outside for a day of rolling, making snow angels, and building snow bears. Even though Squirrel has fun, he still misses his friend and decides to catch a snowflake to take home to Bear. He finds the perfect one, puts it in his pocket, and heads home. But, when he tries to show Bear the snowflake, there is nothing in his pocket. Bear tenderly explains that snow comes and goes, but other things, like their love for one another, last forever. Snowy scenes pop in Yu Rong’s papercut art, and her detailed illustrations ensure children will notice subtle details with each repeated reading. THOUGHTS: This title is perfect for snowy storytimes, and it could also be used to jumpstart discussions of students’ favorite snowy day activities. Pair this with Ezra Jack Keats’s The Snowy Day.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Southern York County

 

De la Pena, Matt.  Miguel and the Grand Harmony.  Disney Press, 2017. 978148478149. Unpaged. $17.99.  Gr. K-4.

This beautifully crafted book tells the story of a boy called Miguel who lives in a Mexican village and yearns to play music.  Inspired by the Disney Pixar film Coco, it is told in first person by the muse of music called La Música, who is depicted as a fairy by illustrator Ana Ramírez, an artist at the Pixar studios. De la Pena begins this story by telling the reader how music shapes and is a part of people’s lives in a wedding, quinceañera or a funeral and keeps “gray at bay.”  Músicos play in the village, where we meet the boy watching the musicians, but who are shooed away by his abuelita who states that their music will upset “Madame Coco,” an old woman in a wheelchair.  Unknown to his family, the boy has an attic room where he “plays” a broomstick guitar to recorded music.  Músicos again perform in the village and the boy is enraptured with the sound. Once again his abuelita chases them away.  The boy finds a guitar and begins to teach himself how to play.  The music he creates appears to bring happiness to Madame Coco as she smiles with delight at the boy’s music.  Ramirez’s drawings depict a Mexican village and are done in bright colors with lots of details.  On several pages, she has placed vibrantly colored flowers and music notes, which are small in the beginning of the story, but are huge by the end when the boy plays the guitar.  This lavishly illustrated book is a delight to the eyes. De la Pena has created a book that shows us the importance of music in our world and how it colors and brings harmony to our lives.  This book stands alone for the most part, but there are some questions left unanswered that might be answered in the film. Why is the boy’s abuelita concerned about the music upsetting Madame Coco?  Who is Madame Coco?  Who is the man that played music to “his little girl”? THOUGHTS: This book will be popular with readers who have seen the film.  It will also be useful for music teachers as a read aloud and will inspire young musicians.  The art in this book may make it a Caldecott contender.  De la Pena’s book is a worthwhile purchase and will add diversity to elementary collections.

Picture Book     Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District

Elementary – Hello, Spring; Sheep Won’t Sleep; Soldier Song; The Quest for Z

Rotner, Shelley. Hello Spring. Holiday House, 2017. 9780823437528. $16.95. 32p. Gr. K-2.

This book welcomes the arrival of spring with plenty of photographs on every page spread. The story progresses through early spring’s melting snow, to late spring’s arrival of dogwood blossoms, and all the way to the first day of summer and garden vegetables sprouting. Certain words are in a larger type size throughout the book (mostly verbs, but not always) and there is a small glossary on the last page. THOUGHTS: This picture book would be a nice addition to your library. It is similar to other season picture books you probably already have, but the children in the photographs in this book are diverse.

Picture Book                   Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

 

 

Cox, Judy. Sheep Won’t Sleep: Counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s. Holiday House, 2017. 978-0-8234-3701-6. Unpaged. $16.95. Gr. K-3.

No matter what she tries, Clarissa can’t sleep. Why not try the old standby, counting sheep? She counts 10 sheep and before she knows it they are hanging out in her bedroom! “Try pairs of alpacas,” advise the sheep, so Clarissa counts colorful pairs of alpacas in twos. When this still doesn’t work, she tries patterned llamas in fives and groups of yaks in tens who wear “…woolly coats of many colors…like a wardrobe of winter sweaters.” With a cast of characters crowding her room, Clarissa uses basic addition and subtraction skills to “unwind” for a night of sleep (she unravels the animals into a giant ball of colorful, patterned yard). What to do with a giant ball of colorful yarn? Why get out knitting needles of course! The last pages show Clarissa peacefully sleeping under a new brightly patterned quilt. Cox’s story and illustrator Nina Cuneo’s pen and digital ink illustrations create a fun, brightly colored math-themed bedtime read. THOUGHTS: Highly versatile–use in math class, at bedtime, or with any group of animal lovers.

Picture Book       Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin School District

 

Levy, Debbie. Soldier Song. Disney Press, 2017. 9781484725986. $18.99. 80p. Gr. 2-5.

The Battle of Fredericksburg involved the largest number of soldiers of any battle during the Civil War. It was also a low point for the Union Army since more than 12,000 young men were wounded or killed with another 5,300 being wounded or killed on the Confederate side. After the battle, the soldiers camped on either side of the Rappahannock River to wait out the winter months neither side wanting to give up land. Due to the geography of the area, sounds carried very well from one side of the river to the other, especially the music that both sides used as both a time telling device (like, Reveille and dinnertime) and for entertainment. The divided armies could hear each other songs and would taunt each other by volleying back and forth between different patriotic songs. One day someone started playing the song, “Home, Sweet Home” and both sides joined in. That song and its message of home so touched the young men that they cheered for over half-an-hour. One soldier said in a letter sent home that if the river didn’t separate the two armies they would have come together after that song and settled the war right then. This story includes primary source Civil War letter snippets and song lyrics, in addition to the further information in the back of the book about The Battle of Fredericksburg and the history of the song, “Home, Sweet Home.” THOUGHTS: I loved this book. Not only did I learn facts about the Battle at Fredericksburg, but I walked away feeling hopeful about people. This book is great not just as a positive message about coming together even though we have differing opinions, but also the power of music to bridge the gaps between us. This is a great addition to any library or music teacher’s classroom library. The book includes web links to listen to the songs mentioned in the book.

Historical Fiction          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

 

Pizzoli, Greg. The Quest for Z: The True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon. Viking, 2017. 978-0-670-01653-2.  

Another nonfiction winner from the author/illustrator who brought us Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower. Greg Pizzoli amazes readers with the life of Percy Fawcett, daring Amazonian explorer and man of mystery. Fawcett was born into a British family of adventurers and took on his own explorations after a military career and training with the Royal Geographical Society in London. He explored in Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru, charting then-unmapped territories and defining borders of r these nations. His South American travels met with many dangers, from aggressive anacondas to equally aggressive native groups, but Fawcett’s quick thinking and bravery usually won out and he completed several missions while making native allies along the way. It was from these people that he first heard of a legendary ancient city in the Amazon; Fawcett referred to the city as “Z” and imagined “…a paradise of grand temples and palaces carved from stone, hidden from modern man deep within the jungle.” In April 1925, Fawcett set off to find Z with only his son Jack, aged 21, Jack’s best friend Raleigh Rimell, basic provisions, a few local guides, and the financial support of several newspapers to whom he sold his story which was carried in snippets by local runners. Fawcett and his party were never seen again. Since Fawcett’s fateful trip in 1925, over 100 people have set off on quests to find Fawcett, or perhaps even Z. None have discovered his fate and some have even disappeared themselves. Pizzoli used a variety of sources including newspaper articles from 1925 and several books that have been written about Fawcett. It’s worth noting that one of Pizzoli’s sources, David Grann’s 2005 “New Yorker” article, is fascinating and would make excellent continued reading for mature readers. Pizzoli’s unusual and enjoyable illustrations provide some comic relief throughout the text. Back matter includes an Author’s Note, information on other Fawcett hunters, a glossary, and selected sources. THOUGHTS: So much more than just a biography, this book will be enjoyed by any reader who likes a little adventure.

910.92                  Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin School District

YA FIC – I Never; The Way It Hurts

Hopper, Laura. I Never. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-1-328-66378-8. 304 p. Gr. 10 and up.

When Janey’s parents announce their divorce while on a fabulous vacation, her world is rocked. She used to know who she was, but now she’s not so sure. Add in golden boy Luke Hallstrom, and Janey realizes she has a lot to learn. Self-confidence becomes an issue Janey never realized she had as she experiences many firsts. Navigating uncharted territories (for her), Janey learns how to be who she wants with her family, her friends, and her boyfriend.   THOUGHTS: As an adult who works in a high school, I was uncomfortable at times while reading this book. I’m not saying I’m totally naive about what goes on, but I don’t necessarily want to read the details. Saying this book doesn’t shy away from the details is an understatement. Though I’ve never read it, Judy Blume’s Forever has stood the test of time as a challenged modern classic. I recommend you read I Never and gauge your audience before adding it to your school library. Descriptions of casual sex make this more suited for mature readers.  

Realistic Fiction      Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

 

Blount, Patty. The Way It Hurts. Sourcebooks Fire, 2017. 978-1-492-63278-8. 352 p. $10.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Dual narrators Eli and Kristen could not be more opposite. Eli is trying to jumpstart his rock career in a band while Kristen stars in her high school musical. Together they take center stage in the back and forth banter of social media misunderstanding.  Off the stage, both teens are dealing with issues in their own lives.  Eli is a protective brother to his autistic sister, while Kristen is navigating some issues with her family. When Kristen tries to diversify her musical resume by joining Eli’s band, sparks fly but not always in a good way.  THOUGHTS: I have enjoyed several of Blount’s character-driven books. Readers looking for a little music, a few family issues, and some social media drama will enjoy this one. As Eli and Kristen navigate their new fame and friendship, they each have some growing up to do and some big decisions to make about the future.   

Realistic Fiction      Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

MS Fiction – Guitarist Wanted; Snow & Rose; Well That Was Awkward; Rosemarked

Brezenoff, Steve. Guitarist Wanted (Boy Seeking Band Series) Capstone Press, 2017.  978-1-4965-4448-3. 96 p. $19.54. Gr 5-8.

Finding just the correct members for a band is challenging for Terence Kato. Moving is difficult enough, but now he needs to add members to the band that have different skills or backgrounds. The book concludes with trivia regarding music terms to see if you would make the band.  THOUGHTS: Students will appreciate the fast pace story and look forward to  reading the Boy Seeking Band series.

Realistic     Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District

 

Martin, Emily Winfield. Snow and Red. Random House, 2017. 978-0-533-53818-2. $17.99. 224 p. Gr. 4-7

Life drastically changes when their father never returns from the woods. Their mother is distraught, and their lavish lifestyle is exchanged for a little dwelling in the woods. While in the woods the sisters come across a goblin. Snow’s birthday wish is for everything to go back to the way it was before. Shortly after, Snow and Rose save a bear stuck in a hunting trap. Also in the woods, they meet The Librarian of unique objects and Ivo, an underground dwelling boy. What objects will they find and what happens to their new friends?  THOUGHTS: The illustrations and enchanting chapter artwork are sure to draw in the most reluctant reader and add additional excitement to the readers that are naturally drawn to fairy tales.

Fantasy, Fairy Tale    Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District

 

Vail, Rachel. Well That Was Awkward. Viking, 2017. 9780670013081. $16.99. 314p. Gr. 5-8.

Gracie and Sienna are best friends. Gracie realizes she has feelings for a classmate, AJ, and is upset to find out through their good friend, Emmett, that AJ likes Sienna. Emmett and Gracie have known each other since they were young, and Gracie doesn’t realize that Emmett has a crush on her. All she knows is that her friend, Sienna, needs her help crafting the perfect witty texts to AJ. It breaks Gracie’s heart to help her friend build a relationship with the boy she has a crush on, but she does it because she is a good friend. It makes her feel even worse when AJ’s return texts are romantically funny. Unbeknownst to them, Emmett is the one writing AJ’s return texts because AJ doesn’t know what to say. To complicate matters, Gracie is living in the shadow of a sister, Bret, that passed away before Gracie was born. She feels tremendous pressure to be the perfect daughter and keep her parents happy.  THOUGHTS: This is a great middle-grade retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac. I’m always looking for good books for my 7th graders, and I was happy to have found this one that has realistic banter and situations.

Realistic Fiction            Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

 

Blackburne, Livia. Rosemarked. Hyperion, 2017. 978-148478855-4 390p. $17.99.  Gr. 6 and up.

Zivah is the youngest healer her village has ever seen.  When an outbreak of the Rose Plague breaks out among the soldiers stationed in her village, of course, she has to help.  When she becomes infected, she survives but is “Rose Marked,” meaning she will live for only a short time longer and is contagious.  Dineas is a soldier who was captured by the Amparans and tortured.  He also gets the plague, but survives as “Umber Marked.” He is immune to the Rose Plague.  Zivah and Dineas meet under stressful circumstances and do not like each other, yet they take on a mission to go to the capital city to try to help overthrow the Amparans.  There is much intrigue and deception involved.  THOUGHTS: This is a very smart book that made me marvel at its cleverness at how quickly I was involved in this world.  Fans of The Ember in the Ashes will enjoy this one.

Fantasy      Toni Vahlsing, Abington Friends School

 

Blackburne, Livia. Rosemarked.  Hyperion. 2017. 978-1-48478-855-4. 390 p.  $17.99. Gr. 6 and up.

A tale of political intrigue and espionage told in the alternating voices of two teens living under an oppressive regime.  Zivah is a gifted healer who has trained her entire life to reach the level of a master.   As she celebrates her achievement, a battalion of the occupying Amparan Army falls ill with rose plague, the contagious disease that kills most who contract it within a few days.  A lucky few survive for a few more years, but they are “rosemarked“ with red blotches,  contagious and forced to live apart from the general population.  The luckiest few survive the disease and become “umbertouched”, covered with dark spots that indicate the person is completely cured and immune to further infection.  Zivah herself falls to the disease, rosemarked and destined for a lonely and uncertain future. But she is remembered by the Amparan general whose life she saved; he rewards her with an offer to live in the capital and train with the medical experts there.  As she ponders that offer, she meets Dineas, a young warrior from the rebel Shihadi tribe, who has escaped from the Amparan prisons.  Umbertouched after his bout with rose plague, he is now on a quest for vengeance against the Amparan leaders. The two teens, so different in temperament and outlook are brought together by their tribal leaders to fight against the empire. Together, they travel to the capital to spy on and sabotage the rulers. They come to rely heavily on each other and a strong attraction begins to form as they work on their dangerous mission. Rosemarked is the first book in a new political fantasy/adventure series.  The novel is slow to start but builds in intensity as the teens go deep undercover to strike against the oppressive regime. The novel explores such themes as social and racial prejudices, medical ethics and the fight of a conquered people against oppression.  There is solid character development with heroes and villains who are nuanced and fully fleshed out individuals, each with positive and negative traits that humanize them and make them believable.  THOUGHTS: Recommended for fans of tales such as The False Prince or Ember in the Ashes. The cliffhanger ending will leave readers waiting eagerly for the next volume.  

Fantasy; Adventure           Nancy Summers, Abington  School District

Picture Books – Masterpiece Mix; Bizzy Mizz Lizzie; Bob, Not Bob!; La La La

Munro, Roxie.  Masterpiece Mix.  Holiday House, 2017. 978-0-8234-3699-6. $16.95. Unpaged. Gr. K-3.

The first person narrator gets ready to make a new painting but is at a loss as to what kind of painting to make:  still-life, portrait, landscape? The gorgeously illustrated pages show examples of each type of painting, introducing youngsters to well-known paintings by famous artists. Our artist’s resultant painting, a double-page spread at the end of the story, is a Where’s Waldo type cityscape, cleverly incorporating all the paintings in the story. The afterward pages provide a key to the 37 paintings used in the book, as well as a brief introduction to the artists responsible.  THOUGHTS: The simple, sparse text of the book is geared to a young reader, but the key at the back of the book is written for a much older reader. This is a lovely book and fine introduction to art, best used as a shared journey between adult and child.   

Picture Book        Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

 

Shannon, David.  Bizzy Mizz Lizzie. Blue Sky Press, 2017.  978-0-545-61943-1. $16.99. Unpaged. PreK – 2.

Little Lizzie is one busy bee. She studies hard, plays hard, and crams her life full of activities, at which she strives to excel. Her best friend, Lazy Mizz Daizy, encourages Lizzy to slow down and smell the flowers, but Lizzie just can’t relax. However, Lizzie finally takes on one task too many. Striving to win the spelling bee and meet the Queen Bee, she studies and studies without break, until she falls asleep during the bee. Waking up three days later, Lizzie finally goes to the garden with Daizy, where the two little bees meet the queen, who teaches Lizzie that taking time to do nothing makes one a better bee. THOUGHTS:  A gentle tale with a message that is always good to hear, but without the rollicking humor, one expects from Shannon’s books.   

Picture Book     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District

 

Vernick, Audrey, Elizabeth Scanlon, and Matthew Cordell. Bob, not Bob! Disney-Hyperion, 2017. 978-148472302-9. $17.99. Unpaged. Gr. K-2.

When the subtitle states, “To be read as though you have the worst cold ever,” the readers should know they are in for a humorous sick day. Indeed, Little Louie is feeling lousy, and all he wants is his mother. Alas, yelling for mom sounds a lot like a call to the faithful pet, a dog named Bob! The confusion continues until Louie is able to find the cure he needs and include Bob and Bob (Mom!). While the text is clever and quick, the illustrations by Matthew Cordell prove to be the perfect ink and watercolor compliment. The frustration of Louie mixed with the confusion of Bob and the exhaustion of Mom leads to plenty of real entertainment. The endpapers and the font choice (with a heart in the Bob for Mom) show details that encourage repeated reading and enjoyment for the ill and healthy alike.  THOUGHTS: Would work to compare well with Martha Speaks books, and the illustrations of William Steig or Quentin Blake. Also allows readers to practice reading with meaning, with expression, and with humor!

Picture Book     Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

 

DiCamillo, Kate. La La La. Candlewick Press, 2017: ISBN 978-0-7636-5833-5. 72pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

This nearly wordless picture book begins with a small girl standing in a spotlight. She sings a single note: La. She continues singing for a bit, until she realizes she’s singing all alone. Some falling autumn leaves catch her attention and draw her outside where she continues her song. She sings to the leaves, but there is no response. She also tries singing to the pond, the plants, and the trees but still receives no answer. Feeling discouraged and alone, she goes inside, but when the moon rises, she tries singing to it too. Even though she waves her arms and climbs a ladder to be closer to the moon, it doesn’t respond. The lonely girl falls asleep but is awakened by a resounding La: the moon’s triumphant answer. Under a sky full of stars, the girl and the moon call back and forth, each savoring the sense of connection with another. This simple story is brought to life through Jaime Kim’s gorgeous digitally rendered watercolor and ink illustrations. The full bleed spreads – especially the nighttime ones – are saturated with color and fully capture the joy that a sense of belonging brings.  THOUGHTS: Even the youngest readers will pick up on the idea of needing to be heard, so this book will be good for sparking discussions about self-expression. It may also work well with guidance units about loneliness and forming connections with others. Classroom teachers could also ask students to think about ways they express themselves. This could lead to discussions about singing, dancing, drawing, writing, or many other outlets.  

Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

 

YA FIC – A Long Way Down; When Its Real; Turtles All the Way Down

Reynolds, Jason. A Long Way Down. Atheneum, 2017. 978-1-4814-3825-1. 306 pp. $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

The day before yesterday, Will’s older brother Shawn was shot and killed. Will experiences intense grief: “the new empty space, / where you know / a tooth supposed to be / but ain’t no more.” But, Will lives by the neighborhood code: don’t cry, don’t snitch, get revenge. So he retrieves his brother’s gun from its hiding place and heads for the elevator, prepared to seek justice for Shawn’s death. Most of the novel takes place over the roughly one-minute, eight-story elevator ride that follows. At each floor, the elevator stops and someone from Will’s past steps on. First is Buck, wearing his own RIP Buck t-shirt. Next is a girl, Will’s friend Dani who was shot and killed when she was just eight. As the elevator descends, and the Will’s deceased friends and family members join him, he begins to question the necessity and wisdom of vengeance. The book closes on a chilling note, leaving readers to ponder some big, unanswered questions.  THOUGHTS: In this poetic, thought-provoking, and intriguingly structured novel-in-verse, Jason Reynolds depicts the ripple effects of violent crime on the young man left behind.

Realistic Fiction       Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

 

Reynolds, Jason. Long Way Down. Antheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2017. 978-1-481-43825-4. 320 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

The rules in Will’s neighborhood are simple: 1. Crying, don’t. 2. Snitching, don’t. and 3. Revenge, do. But Will’s decision to avenge his brother’s murder is anything but simple. As Will travels down the elevator with Shawn’s gun (Shawn had a gun?!) tucked into his waistband, he is prepared to murder his brother’s killer. New passengers slow his ride at each floor. Readers will quickly understand each of these passengers is dead, he or she is connected to Will, and they each have something to tell him before he steps off on the ground floor.  THOUGHTS: Having recently listened to All American Boys and a Jason Reynolds interview about his writing, I knew I had to read Long Way Down. Readers of all types will be drawn into Will’s story and devour this fast-paced novel in verse. Though tough topics and violence are depicted, this is a book for many readers, especially those who are reluctant.

Realistic Fiction     Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

 

Watt, Erin. When It’s Real. New York: Harlequin, 2017. Print. 978-0373212521. 416 p. $18.99. Gr. 9-12.

This novel starts out like a Disney channel movie, which is not necessarily a bad thing, depending on your view of Disney made-for-TV movies, and, like most Disney movies, the novel ends up being a sweet romance that will capture the attention of any teen girl or boy who enjoys teen dramas. Oakley Ford has been breaking teenage hearts since he landed on the music scene as a young adolescent. But, in his older teen years, he has hit a rut and needs something in his life to get him motivated to write and perform. His publicists decide that he needs a “wholesome” girlfriend to change his image in the media. Enter Vaughn Bennett, whose sister works at the media firm and who catches the eye of Vaughn’s team. They tell her they will pay her to be Oakley’s girlfriend, and since she and her sister are raising their younger brothers after the death of their parents, she decides it’s something she must do for her family. The usual ensues- Oakley annoys and intrigues Vaughn, Vaughn annoys yet arouses something in Oakley that makes him want to write music again. The characters are interesting if a bit predictable, and the plot suffers from the same misfortune, but teens will eat up the romance between Oakley and Vaughn. There is drinking, drug use, and sexual references, which does cause the novel to venture out of the realm of the chaste Disney film. THOUGHTS: This is another romance to add to your collection for those who love Sarah Dessen but are looking for a more exciting location and a variety of characters not generally found in Dessen’s novels. Recommended for high school libraries.

Romance     Lindsey Meyers, Shadyside Academy

 

Green, John. Turtles All The Way Down. New York; Dutton Books, 2017. Print. 978-0525555360. 304 p. $19.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Anything with John Green’s name on it will cause excitement among young adults everywhere, whether they read his books or watch his humorous, yet instructional, videos. Turtles All The Way Down does not veer far from his standard fare of engrossing teen dramas, but it does offer a unique and honest glimpse into the life of one dealing with severe anxiety and OCD, and how her struggle affects those around her. Aza Holmes is our tragic hero, trying to manage her OCD and anxiety while living a “normal” life. She spends time with her mom (her dad passed away when she was younger), hangs out with her friend Daisy, and does well in school. She also, however, constantly changes a bandage on her hand, fears catching bacteria, especial C.Diff, and tumbles constantly into “thought spirals.” When billionaire Russell Picket goes missing, Daisy convinces Aza to help her investigate the disappearance, mostly to acquire the $100,000 reward. Aza knows his son from a summer camp when they were younger, and a chance meeting rekindles their friendship and begins to lead to something more. But, can Aza maintain a relationship while managing her OCD?  John Green does an excellent job of portraying Aza. Her inner dialogues perfectly exemplify one with OCD, and the constant state of helplessness one finds oneself in when dealing with intrusive thoughts and irrational actions. THOUGHTS: John Green has once again given us an intriguing story of a unique (or is it?) teen experience. Highly recommended for young adults and adults who deal with teens struggling with mental health issues.

Realistic Fiction       Lindsey Meyers, Shadyside Academy

 

Green John. Turtles All the Way Down. Dutton Books, 2017. 978-0-525-55536-0. 286 p. $19.99. Gr 9-12.

John Green’s long-awaited new novel is here, and it’s his best one yet. Sixteen-year-old Aza and her best friend Daisy take notice when local billionaire Russell Pickett disappears. The reward for information in his case is a hundred thousand dollars, and Daisy is sure their sleuthing will lead to clues and ultimately to the reward. After all, Aza spent summers at “sad camp” with Russell’s son, Davis, after his mom and her dad died, so reconnecting with the Pickett family isn’t hard. As Aza and Davis reconnect and begin to fall for each other, Aza’s always present anxieties and compulsions begin to spiral, and readers are shown what it’s like to live every day consumed by claustrophobic, obsessive thoughts. Aza’s voice is raw and heartfelt, and Green also throws in a hefty dose of nerdery and humor that will win over teen and adult readers alike. THOUGHTS: Green’s latest is an unflinching, honest look at mental illness that is at times challenging to read, but will linger with readers long after finishing.  If you buy one book this year, it should be this.

Realistic Fiction      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

MS Fiction – Dance Fever; The Shadow Cipher; The First Rule of Punk; Auma’s Long Run

Bowe, Julie. Dance Fever. Stone Arch, 2017. 978-1-4965-3819-2. 148p. $19.99. Gr. 4-8.

Victoria Torres is back in another installment of Capstone’s Victoria Torres, Unfortunately Average series. In Dance Fever, Victoria is finding her role on her middle school’s fundraising committee to be stressful. Annalise (one of the bossiest girls in the school) proposes holding a formal dance to raise funds, but other students want a more relaxed activity. Victoria thinks she’s hit upon the perfect compromise: a barn dance with a Wild West theme. When Annalise agrees, it looks like a crisis has been averted. But Annalise has one condition, she wants the event to be a Sadie Hawkins dance. Now Victoria not only has to deal with helping to organize and run the event, she also must try to work up the nerve to ask her crush Drew to the dance! THOUGHTS: This series is fun and humorous, yet incorporates issues/topics relevant to upper elementary and middle school students. The characters in Dance Fever must work together to meet a common goal, compromise in order to reach their goal, deal with obstacles/complications, and even ask someone out for the first time. Overall, a great (and quick) read.

Realistic Fiction       Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg School District

 

Ruby, Laura. The Shadow Cipher: York (Book 1). New York: Walden Pond Press, 2017. 978-0-0623-0693-7. 496 p. $17.99. Gr. 5-8.

In 1798, the Morningstar twins arrived in New York City and began building impressive buildings with state-of-the-art machines and technology. They then mysteriously disappeared with their assistant, but their legacy left a lasting impact on the city. It was also rumored that the twins hid a vast fortune in the city that could only be discovered by solving the Old Cipher, a cryptic, seemingly unsolvable puzzle.  Over 300 years later, Tess and Theo Bidermann and Jamie Cruz live in an apartment building designed by the Morningstar twins. A real estate developer is determined to demolish the building along with the other Morningstar buildings in the city. Tess, Theo, and Jamie are determined to save their beloved building and are convinced it’s their time to solve the Cipher and show the world it’s real. THOUGHTS Ruby’s middle grade follow-up to the excellent Bone Gap is a fun, adventurous novel with a lot of heart. Give this one to The Mysterious Benedict Society fans.

Mystery     Vicki Schoewbel, Friends’ Central School

 

Pérez. Celia C. The First Rule of Punk. Viking, 2017.  978-0-425-29040-8. 310p. $16.99.  Gr. 4-8.

Malu has to move to a new place, but only for two years for her mom’s job.   She calls her mom, “Super Mexican” as she tries to get Malu to become more of a senorita.  Malu’s parents are divorced and her dad, who is a white record store owner and lover of punk music, won’t be coming with them.  Once she gets to Chicago, for the first time in her life, there are other Mexican-Americans around her besides her mom.  In order to deal with all of the changes in her life, Malu makes zines, many of which are sprinkled throughout this book.  Malu does manage to make friends in Chicago and make some music as well.  Malu is a strong character, who still makes mistakes.  At times, this story hits the reader over the head with too much Mexican history and culture at once, but at other times it feels appropriate and flows naturally.  It works best when it is incorporated into one of Malu’s zines.  THOUGHTS: If you are looking to add diversity to your collection for this age group, this is a solid purchase.  Any student who feels out of place can relate to Malu.  

Realistic Fiction      Toni Vahlsing, Abington Friends School

 

Odhiambo, Eucabeth. Auma’s Long Run.  Carolrhoda Books, 2017. 978-1-5124-2784-4  298 p.  $17.99  Gr. 5-8.

Auma has been running her whole life.  She lives in Kenya and has pinned her hopes on attending secondary school knowing that her only chance of making it there is via a track scholarship. Auma’s dreams don’t stop there; instead of marrying young, like so many girls, Auma wants to become a doctor. Compared to many of the families in her small village, Auma lives a comfortable existence with enough to eat, occasional treats, and the tuition money that will allow her to complete primary school and score well on her admittance exams. However, a dark cloud looms over the village as more and more adults start succumbing to a strange new disease that no one wants to talk about. When Auma’s beloved Baba (father) comes home from his job in the city not feeling well, Auma’s world is turned upside down. Although Auma desperately wants to hold on to her dreams, she is suddenly burdened with the responsibility of supporting and caring for her younger siblings.  Auma starts to learn the truth about the dreaded disease invading her village, AIDS, but there is no cure and little comfort.  Auma’s struggle to keep her dream of getting an education and eventually becoming a doctor alive while keeping her family from starving is nothing short of inspirational.  THOUGHTS: While the writing is very straightforward, at times almost pedestrian, the story is vitally important both in terms of its specific setting (1990s in Kenya) and its larger, universal themes.  A valuable addition for middle school libraries.

Realistic Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

YA Realistic Fiction – Aftercare Instructions; History of All You Left Me; Solo; When Dimple Met Rishi

Pipkin, Bonnie. Aftercare Instructions. Flatiron Books, 2017. 978-1-125-011484-6. 368 p. $17.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Genesis, named for the band, is hurting. Her life has been full of pain and letdowns. Gen tells her story of being abandoned at an abortion clinic in New York City. As promised, she told no one about the pregnancy, not even her best friend, but Peter ditched her, and now she needs help. She’s from New Jersey and has to make her way back home on her own. Dark and disturbing, Aftercare Instructions focuses on Genesis’s post-abortion fallout, as she tries to understand her failed relationship and figure out when she and Peter grew apart. As Gen spirals out of control to forget Peter and the pain of losing him, she needs to figure out who she is on her own.  This unique storyline is interspersed with procedural and post-procedural instructions, flashbacks to her relationship with Peter, while revealing Gen’s current struggle to forgive or forget Peter. As if this wasn’t unique enough, Pipkin incorporates a four act throughout the novel play that gives voice to those in Gen’s life.  THOUGHTS: Aftercare Instructions gives teens an intimate view of one girl’s choices and the repercussions of them. Descriptions of sex, abortion, and teen binge drinking may not be suitable for younger readers.

Realistic Fiction      Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

 

Silvera, Adam. History is All You Left Me. Soho Teen. 2017. 978.1616956929 294 pp.  $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Griffin and Theo are each other’s first loves and part of a tight knit, three piece “squad” with their friend Wade. Theo, smart, creative and confidant, is a life line for Griffin who suffers from an array of obsessive compulsive tics and anxieties. Griffin feels grounded and safe in the company of Theo and Wade. But in a surprise development, Theo decides to graduate high school early and head off to college in California, leaving the squad behind. Griffin is forlorn and reluctantly breaks up with Theo to give him his freedom in his new life.  Within months, Theo has found a new love at school and Griffin, increasingly isolated and anxious, begins to unravel at home.  Griffin and Theo’s new boyfriend are at odds;  Griffin continues to obsess over Theo, and the relationship between the three friends changes dramatically. When Theo dies in an accident, Griffin, Wade and Theo’s new love, Jackson, look to each other to mend their broken hearts. The story is told in chapters that flash back and forth from the beginnings of the friendship between the squad, the development of Theo and Griffin’s romance, the long winter when Theo left and fell in love with another,  and the aftermath of Theo’s death.   This emotional and heart-wrenching tale examines the paths people take to come to terms with heartbreak, grief, guilt and self-doubt and come out stronger in the end.  THOUGHTS: A strong and positive portrayal of LGBT relationships with well-drawn , complex characters and a nuanced plot that explores sexuality, mental health, friendship, and loss. A rewarding read.  

Realistic Fiction     Nancy Summers, Abington SD

 

Alexander, Kwame and Mary Rand Hess. Solo. Blink, 2017. 978-0-310-76183-9. 464 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Blade is a seventeen year old who has grown up living the life of a rock star legend’s son,  the good and the bad sides. He’s had everything he could ever want, but he grew up in the public eye with paparazzi watching out for every misstep. His life hasn’t been without tragedy either. At nine he lost his mother, and his father lost himself to addictions. Blade and his sister grew up with broken promises of sobriety.   When his father literally crashes one of the biggest moments of his life, Blade has had enough. He’s witnessed enough broken promises to fill a lifetime and cannot forgive his father this time. Blade begins to question everything he has known when a deeply hidden family secret comes to light. A journey from the hills of Hollywood to a village in Ghana may be just what he needs to rediscover who Blade Morrison is and for what he stands.   THOUGHTS: Like Alexander’s sports themed The Crossover and Kicked, Solo is told in verse. With the music inspired characters, this time the story is interspersed with song lyrics, many by main character Blade Morrison. Fans of music, especially rock and roll, will appreciate the references and lyrics. Within the short lines, there is much more than music. Family contentions, addiction and substance abuse, as well as one’s identity are all pieces of the puzzle. This book has so much more to offer all readers, and reluctant readers especially will enjoy its brief verse style.

Realistic Fiction       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

 

Alexander, Kwame and Mary Rand Hess. Solo. Blink, 2017. 978-03107-61839. $17.99. 464 pp.  Gr. 9 and up.

Blade Morrison hates most of his life. Seventeen and about to graduate from high school, he has grown up the son of ultra-famous rock star, Rochester Morrison.  But fame, wealth, and a Hollywood Hills address can’t make up for the spiral of drug use and unsuccessful rehab stints his father has failed to master since Blade’s mother’s death eight years ago.  The tabloids, the paparazzi, his father’s embarrassing episodes are building up anger in Blade.  The few bright spots are his secret girlfriend, Chapel, his talent and love for songwriting and guitar, his music mentor Robert, and sometimes, even his older sister.  But his anger leads to a secret family revelation, he was adopted which shakes his identity even further.  Impetuously, he heads to Ghana to locate his birth mother, but not until he smashes a priceless guitar that was a gift from his father and inks his arm “Chapel” just before he finds Chapel kissing her former boyfriend.  Needless to say, Blade is swimming in agony and anger as he leaves the States.  This is an extremely well-written novel in terms of word choice, rhythm and interest; it is clever in so many word and musical ways.  The use of American music to illustrate various situations lends insight and easily leads the reader to seek out (or call up a mental soundtrack) specifically mentioned songs, largely blues and rock.  I caught enough clever musical references to be certain I missed many more.  However, character development and the overall storyline are largely unbelieveable.  Blade changes too quickly and completely from self-centered, angry, whiny, privileged son of a rock star who hates said rock star into calm, open-minded, hopeful young man at peace with his music, his father, and his place in the world.  And this change is due to what?  Two weeks in Ghana to locate his birth mother?  Other characters and changes are fairly unbelieveable as well, mainly his father’s decision (yet again) to change, and certainly his new love interest, ultra-wise Joy, in Ghana.  Blade switches from devotion to his American ex-girlfriend who cheats on him, to new-found Joy (pun intended) within days, again, unrealistically, lustfully, or at least unhealthily.  THOUGHTS:  Overall, this is an enjoyable read for the fantastic writing skill, abundant music knowledge, and obvious love of music, but the story lacks verisimilitude.  

Realistic Fiction      Melissa Scott, Shenango Area School District

 

Alexander, Kwame. Solo. New York: Harper Collins, 2017. 978-0-310-76183-9. 464 p. $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Kwame Alexander has struck again! In his signature verse, Alexander’s newest novel, Solo, is reminiscent of The Crossover and Booked, but with decidedly more mature content and characters. Blade is tired of being let down by his father, former rock star, Rutherford Morrison; he’s tired of Rutherford’s grand gestures that inevitably end up with Blade humiliated, or Rutherford back in rehab. Blade finds comfort in two things: his music and his very serious girlfriend, Chapel. When a bombshell revelation from Blade’s sister coincides with a betrayal from Chapel, Blade decides to travel to Ghana to find some answers to his questions about who he is, and where he came from. While Blade lacks some of the charm and likability that Josh (The Crossover) and Nick (Booked) both displayed, he’s still a compelling character. His passion for music is endearing, and his all-encompassing relationship with Chapel is definitely relatable. Give this to fans of Alexander who have outgrown the middle grade section of the library. Thoughts: While I really enjoyed this book, I found Blade’s trip to Ghana slightly unrealistic. Not only did Blade just get on the plane without any pre-planning whatsoever, he had no trouble navigating through a foreign country nor did he encounter any obstacles once he arrived at his destination.  

Realistic Fiction Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

 

Menon, Sandyha. When Dimple Met Rishi. Simon Pulse, 2017. 978-1481478687. 384 pp. $26.00. Gr. 9-12.

Dimple Shah lives and breathes web development, so she’s thrilled when her parents agree to let her attend Insomnia Con in San Francisco during the summer before she enrolls at Stanford University. Rishi Patel is also at Insomnia Con, partly to participate in the intense six-week app coding contest, and partly to meet Dimple, whom his parents have selected as his potential marriage partner. Unbeknownst to Dimple, her parents are also in on this scheme to pair her with an “I.I.H.” (Ideal Indian Husband). Rishi introduces himself by saying, “Hello, future wife!” and a mortified Dimple flings her iced coffee at him and scurries away. To her chagrin, Rishi has requested her as a partner for Insomnia Con, and when they start working together Dimple realizes that Rishi is artistic, funny, and sincere. Rishi, meanwhile, likes Dimple’s smile and all-in approach to pursuing her goals. Their perspectives alternate as they explore San Francisco and develop their app initiatives amidst hipsters, hippies, and not-so-friendly competitors. Menon’s wonderful debut novel is spared from predictability by witty banter, a cool setting, and flipping stereotypical relationship roles upside down (Rishi is the one hoping for an arranged marriage, and Dimple is focused on her work). THOUGHTS: This delightfully of-the-moment rom-com, complete with coding and caffeine, belongs in every teen collection!

Realistic Fiction, Romance     Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel could not be more different.  Dimple is an independent young woman, passionate about coding, who feels confined by her parents’ expectations – specifically her mother’s, who seems bent on making Dimple into the perfect wife.  Rishi is a rule follower to his core; he wants nothing more to please his parents, even if that means setting aside his own dreams.  Rishi is thrilled with the idea of an arranged marriage with Dimple, something that he’s known about, and daydreamed about, for a long time.  Dimple, on the other hand, has no idea that there is any arrangement with Rishi, and anyway, marriage is the last thing on her mind.  So when the two of them meet for the first time at Insomnia Con, a summer coding program, it goes hilariously awry, beginning with Dimple pouring her iced coffee all over Rishi when she thinks he’s a stalker.  Sandhya Menon has written a delightful, smart, funny romantic comedy, starring two protagonists who think they know exactly what they want out of their lives, but after some unexpected revelations, realize maybe there’s more out there for both of them.  While the ending is a little too neat and tidy, it’s gratifying to see Dimple and Rishi become the people they were meant to be. THOUGHTS:  I loved this book. Dimple and Rishi are extremely relatable, and I enjoyed the reversal of gender expectations; Dimple is focused solely on college and a career, whereas Rishi is excited by the prospect of having a wife and family.  The way Menon depicts microaggressions, and the different ways that Rishi and Dimple deal with them – Dimple clams up, and Rishi confronts it head-on – is both realistic and poignant.  While the supporting characters are a little stereotypical, it doesn’t detract from the story at all.  Highly recommended for all high school libraries!

Realistic Fiction; Romance    Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

YA Fiction – Girl on a Plane; Into White; The Underground Railroad; Noteworthy

Moss, Miriam. Girl on a Plane. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2016. 978-0544783997. $17.99. 288 p. Gr. 8 and up.

Miriam Moss’s fictional account of her own experience as a hostage is truly captivating. Set in 1970, the plot centers around teenager Anna’s flight to her boarding school in England after visiting her family in Bahrain. Due to recent events involving planes being taken hostage by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Anna worries that her plane could face the same fate. Sadly, her premonition comes to pass and her plane is taken hostage and rerouted to an airstrip in Jordan. Passengers are kept on the plane with limited food and water, used for propaganda photos, and told that their plane will be blown up if the British government does not release a Palestinian hostage. Anna’s friendship with another teen and a younger child are sweet and realistic, and Moss gives Anna strength but also moments of vulnerability. The story moves quickly and will easily keep the attention of young teens looking for an exciting read, but it has the added bonus of highlighting and describing a period in history that might not be well-known to today’s teens. THOUGHTS: Highly recommend this title for middle school and high school libraries as an engaging and memorable historical fiction.

Historical Fiction  (1970s Middle East)   Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

This was a fast and interesting read, and did make me want to research more about this time period and what was going on with Palestine and Israel in the early 1970s. This is an excellent title to pair with a nonfiction piece or account of the hostage situations. Miriam Moss includes a short chapter at the end describing her own personal memories of her time as a hostage, and this adds an important layer to a student’s understanding of the story. This is also a good read for reluctant readers, as it is short and plot-driven.

 

Pink, Randi. Into White. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2016. 978-1-250-07021-0. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Latoya Williams is one of the few black students in her Montgomery, Alabama, high school. After a bullying incident with another black student, devout Toya prays to be white, assuming it will fix all of her problems. As she says, “Black skin was filled with so many barriers, so many restrictions…” (77).  The next day, Toya wakes up changed with glittering blonde hair and ivory skin. With a new attitude, Toya is ready to conquer everything from the popular crowd to her bickering parents. With the help of her gifted brother Alex, Toya enters school as Katarina and begins living day to day as a white girl. At first she feels powerful in her new skin, but soon she learns that the life she desires is far from perfect. Soon, Toya finds that the time she’s focused on herself has alienated her from the people that matter most to  her, especially Alex. THOUGHTS: While at times somewhat predictable and generalized, Into White explores very important themes on race, gender, and consent that could lead to larger important discussions in the classroom.

Contemporary Fantasy      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

 

Whitehead, Colson. The Underground Railroad. New York: Doubleday, 2016.  978-0385542364. 320 p. $26.95. Gr. 11 and up.

Colson Whitehead’s latest novel is a dramatic and innovative reimagining of the underground railroad system in place in the American South, leading to the North, in the 1800s. In Whitehead’s world, the underground railroad was not only an elaborate communication system between abolitionists and slavery opponents; it was an actual railroad, a mishmash of cars and locomotives rushing slaves to new points along the route and safe havens for runaways. The novel follows Cora, who escapes along with a male slave from her plantation. The novel is graphic and raw, and Cora’s story is fraught with peril and setbacks. Cora eventually comes in contact with Ridgeway, an infamous slave catcher, intent on returning as many runaways as possible. This novel will haunt readers, but hopefully also assist with understanding the many ideologies and structures in place during this awful period in American history. THOUGHTS: Give this to mature students seeking to understand more about slavery and racism in America’s past.

Historical Fiction    Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

Though this is marketed as a book for adults, I thought it important to include the title in our list of books reviewed for young adults. Not only will it attract interest because it is a National Book Award Winner, but it is also a great counterpart to the much-often read and discussed book in high schools, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Some might find it a better representation of the black experience in America, much above that of the hapless Jim.  Indeed, many of the characters in Whitehead’s novel portray attitudes still in place in our society today, and can spark great conversation or discussion about race and racism in order for students to draw parallels to today’s world and events.

 

Redgate, Riley. Noteworthy. New York: Amulet Books, 2017. 978-1419723735. 400 p. $17.95. Gr. 9 and up.

After reading and loving Seven Ways We Lie, I was excited to receive an advanced copy of Riley Redgate’s newest novel, Noteworthy. While a strong follow-up, it is not nearly as captivating and lacks some of the spark and uniqueness of her first novel. The story follows Jordan Sun, a scholarship student attending the prestigious Kensington-Blaine boarding school for the performing arts. Her focus is theatre, but after three years she still has yet to earn a part in the musical, mainly due to her lower, more masculine range. At the beginning of her junior year she’s recovering from a breakup and again fails to get a musical spot. When she learns that the legendary Sharpshooters, an all-male acappela group, is looking for a new member, she decides that she has nothing to lose by dressing up as a boy and trying out for the group. “Julian” earns a spot, and begins rehearsals, masquerading as a boy whenever she is around the group members. Jordan is an interesting character, and her inner monologues are valuable and thought provoking (if a little too frequent towards the end of the story). Some willing suspension of disbelief is necessary (how is Jordan continually able to sneak out of her dorm room and into a boys’ dorm, how do more teachers not notice what is going on, etc.), but her relationships with the boys highlight and question numerous gender stereotypes. Redgate also does a commendable job of incorporating the musical side of things into her story; it would have been awesome to have a soundtrack with this one! THOUGHTS: Musically-inclined students as well as those interested in pushing gender stereotypes and boundaries will enjoy this title. Recommended for all high schools.

Realistic Fiction    Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

As noted in the review above, this was a title that I was looking forward to reading and did, for the most part, enjoy. It does drag a bit at the end, but the climax is exciting and will keep readers on the edge of their seats. I did expect Redgate to bust out of the typical boy-girl relationship, and I feel like she failed a bit on this front. Following the general format of YA romances does, however, make this title more approachable for a greater number of teens. I look forward to having my students read this and hear their responses to it.

Elementary Series NF – New from ABDO

musicscience

Latchana, Karen Kenney. Science in Action.  Minneapolis: ABDO, 2016. 32pp. $18.95.  Gr. 2-4.

The Science of Music: Discovering Sound. 978-1-62403-962-1.

The Science of Glaciers: How Temperature Works. 978-1-62403-961-4.

Music is a language that speaks across all boundaries.  There is a type of music for everyone.  So using the topic of music to introduce the often complicated science of sound is a great way to get students interested in the subject.  This series, entitled Science in Action, takes every day topics and uses them to connect to the scientific principles that make them possible.  Insets with famous scientists, graphs and charts about various statistics, bright and colorful graphics all combine to make the topic come alive for students.  The text also includes bold faced vocabulary words that are then explained in a glossary, as well as interesting connections to historical figures and even to the animal world which give depth to the topics covered. Included in the back of the book is an idea for an extension experiment as well as a link to a website that is monitored and updated by the publisher about the topics presented in the series.  THOUGHTS:  This series is a solid addition to any nonfiction collection.  The use of topics such as music, race cars, roller coasters and others catch the attention of students and make real world connections to the complex world of science.  Portions of these books could be great as a supplement or a read-aloud for a science unit.

Science    Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy

 

sportstrivia

Sports Trivia. Minneapolis: ABDO, 2016. 48 p. $22.95. Gr. 2-4.

Ervin, Phil. Basketball Trivia.  978-1-68078-0024.

Howell, Brian.  Baseball Trivia. 978-1-68078-001-7.

This series of books  written in a “Question/Answer” style will appeal to sports fans.  It uses simple text but contains lots of history, stats and action that sports fans are always looking for.  Providing a nonfiction sports book helps even some reluctant readers to master text features while engaging in a subject they love.  Each book is divided into four sections based on the level of sports knowledge; Rookie, Veteran, Champion, and Hall of Famer.  They provide both black and white and color illustrations of famous athletes, a glossary of sports terms, and even a trivia quiz that readers can use to test their new knowledge after reading! The publisher also provides a website with extension activities and more information that is updated and kept current. Sports in the series include basketball, baseball, football, hockey, soccer and an Olympic edition.  Thoughts:  This series will be popular with the sports crowd!  Providing simpler text for the early reader will help to encourage fluency while using a topic that will hold their interest. Oh, and putting Steph Curry on the cover of the basketball edition will definitely draw attention to this fun set!

Sports                 Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy

 

maryceleste

Mysteries of History. Minneapolis: ABDO, 2016. 48 p. $22.95. Gr. 3-6.

Krasner, Barbara.  The Mystery of the Mary Celeste. 978-1-68078-024-6.

Rea, Amy C.  The Mystery of Atlantis. 978-1-68078-023-9.                            

This series is a riveting look at some of the most famous mysteries in history.  The text is simple but provides many opportunities to stop and think about the evidence presented in the story.  Students are presented with quotes from primary sources and asked to respond by showing how the details in the story or quote support the main idea.  Readers are also given clues and asked to choose which theory they feel is the answer to this mystery based on the evidence provided in the text.  Along with rich text, charts, graphs, diagrams and maps, students and teachers are given links to videos and extension materials  through a site, mycorelibrary.com.  The author provides multiple opportunities for students to engage and interact with the topic including writing from the perspective of someone there, researching the topic further and writing about their findings, and using the evidence to choose a theory and support it with details. Titles in this series include:  The Mystery of the Mary Celeste; The Mystery of Atlantis; The Mystery of Area 51; The Mystery of the Roanoke Colonists; The Mystery of the Sphinx; The Mystery of the Nazca Lines.  Thoughts:  The high-interest topics of these books will make them popular in any library.  The extra activities and support for Common Core Standards and critical thinking make them a valuable asset for teachers to use as a stand alone or in conjunction with a history unit.

History          Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy

 

coralreefs

Bioindicator Species. Minneapolis: ABDO, 2016.  48pp. $22.95. Gr. 3-6.

Gagne, Tammy. Dragonflies Matter. 978-1-68078-010-9.

Murphy, Julie.  Coral Reefs Matter.  978-1-68078-009-3.     

This series focuses on the interrelationships of organisms in our environment and discusses threats to the ecosystems around the world.  Each book describes the organism, its purpose in the ecosystem, and the indications that they are giving to show that the ecosystem is in danger.  Full color illustrations provide a window into the world of nature being described, while graphs, charts and maps provide readers with statistics needed to synthesize the data. Throughout the text there are quotes from magazines and experts that readers can analyze and respond to.  At the conclusion of the books, there are several suggested projects and writing activities to challenge readers to think critically about the subject.  The publisher also provides extension activities and supplements for teachers through the website, mycorelibrary.com, that is updated to provide current information.  Titles in this set include:  Dragonflies Matter;  Coral Reefs Matter;  Bees Matter;  Frogs Matter;  Monarch Butterflies Matter;  Polar Bears Matter.  Thoughts:  This set of books challenges readers to examine the ecosystem and the impact that we as humans are making to our environment.  Along with critical thinking skills, these books encourage students to use multiple sources to collect data and information and fully support common core standards.  These topics could be used as a stand- alone unit, or in conjunction with a unit on climate change or biomes.   An excellent resource for both students and teachers.

Science; Ecosystems        Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy

 

bluesharks

Hansen, Grace.  Sharks. Minneapolis: ABDO, 2016. 24pp. $19.95. Gr. K-2.  

Blue Sharks. 978-1-68080151-4.

Bull Sharks.  978-1-68080152-1.

Sharks have a fascination all their own.   These beautiful photographs of sharks in their ocean habitats will pull readers in.  The simple text and large font will keep beginning reader’s attention and provide support for fluency success.  The text features including a glossary, boldfaced words and a Table of Contents thatl reinforce how to find information in a nonfiction text  .   These simple, yet attractive books are a great introduction to the world of nonfiction for the new reader.  THOUGHTS:  A nonfiction collection today must include examples like these that are simple enough for even the earliest reader to manage with success.  The cool pictures and spooky sharks will keep them coming back for more!

Sharks      Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy