Elem. – Rescue at Lake Wild

Johnson, Terry Lynn. Rescue at Lake Wild. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 978-0-358-33285-9. 181 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6. 

Madi, who idolizes Jane Goodall, loves rescuing injured wild animals. She learned how to rehabilitate animals from her beloved Nana, who died four years ago, and is determined to follow in her footsteps. Madi’s parents, however, have had enough of her exploits and forbid her to bring any more animals home. But when Madi and her two best friends, Jack and Aaron, find a pair of dead beavers that have been shot, they investigate the beaver dam and find two orphaned beaver pups. Madi vows to save the pups, parental restrictions notwithstanding, and Jack, a future game warden, sees a mystery to be solved. The three 12-year-olds proceed, despite all common sense, to try to hide the beaver pups from Madi’s mom, track down why the beavers are provoking animosity in the town, and discover who is killing them. Johnson (Ice Dogs and others) scores again with this book for younger readers. The mystery provides a plot, but the heart of the story is Madi’s love of animals. Her struggles to raise the pups with the skills necessary to return to the wild make for fascinating reading, and readers will learn much about beavers, and wildlife rehabilitation. Madi is creative, inventive, and determined to do the right thing, even though she ends up making a huge personal sacrifice. Madi and Aaron are white, Jack, on the book cover, appears to have darker skin.

THOUGHTS: A great choice for animal lovers.

Mystery          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

MG – Deadman’s Castle

Lawrence, Iain. Deadman’s Castle. Margaret Ferguson Books, 978-0-823-44655-1. 247 p. $17.99. Grades 4-7.

Igor Andrew Watson does not remember his original name because he has had so many. In fact, no one in his family has their original name because every so often, they are assigned new names and a new home by The Protectors, an organization that helps keep Igor’s family safe. All Igor knows is that when he was a child, his father witnessed a horrific crime. When his father testified in court, the criminal was put in jail, and Igor’s dad made an enemy that Igor only knows as “The Lizard Man.” After their next move to escape the Lizard Man and his vengeance, twelve-year-old Igor grows frustrated with having such an odd life. He longs to go to a regular school and have real friends. After much bargaining and begging, his parents finally agree that he can attend the local middle school as long as he does not tell anyone anything about his identity or lifestyle. Igor makes two close friends and starts to live a somewhat normal life. As he explores his new neighborhood with his friends, Igor has flashbacks of memories. He thinks he has lived in this place before… and he starts to doubt that the Lizard Man even exists.

THOUGHTS: This novel’s interesting plot and cliffhanger chapters will be appealing to middle grade readers looking for a suspenseful thriller. I believe this will be a fan favorite in libraries where mysteries/thrillers are often requested.

Mystery          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

MG – Too Bright to See

Lukoff, Kyle. Too Bright to See. Penguin Random House, 2021. 978-0-593-11115-4. $16.99. 188 p. Grades 4-7.

Set in the summer before middle school starts in rural Vermont, Bug and her friend Mo, who now wants to be called Moira, are preparing themselves for the start of something new. Moira takes it upon herself to plan makeovers and make as many new friends as she can before school starts, but all of this makes Bug feel not right. Bug’s uncle, who moved to Vermont with Bug and her mom after her father passed away when Bug was an infant, just passed away leaving them to figure out how to move on. Their old creaky house has always been filled with ghosts, but now the ghost game has stepped up, and Bug is trying to figure out who this ghost is and what it is trying to say! As Bug uncovers the mystery of the ghost and what it is trying to say, Bug makes a huge discovery – he is transgender.   

THOUGHTS: This book was scarier than I thought it would be! The ghosts in Bug’s house are pretty aggressive at times, so this would appeal to horror readers. The author is transgender, and you can’t help but think that this authentic story may be semi-autobiographical. Bug’s friends’ acceptance of his identity gives you faith that kids are way more accepting than adults in these matters.

Mystery         Krista Fitzpatrick, Abington SD

Elem. – Bark Park: Scouting for Clues

Dougherty, Brandi. Bark Park: Scouting for Clues. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2021. 978-1-524-86474-3. $6.99. Grades K-2.

Bark Park: Scouting for Clues is the second book in the Epic! Originals Bark Park series! Scouting for Clues contains new adventures for Scout and his friends in the dog park. First, his blueberries go missing! Scout remembers where he left his blueberries and cannot believe that they are all gone! Scout will have to retrace his steps to figure out where his blueberries have gone. As the book continues, Scout continues to face new adventures, solve new problems, and make new friends along the way!

THOUGHTS: A great story to add to any beginning reader’s/animal lover’s bookshelf! This book contains colorful illustrations with easy to read text that will delight young readers.

Adventure          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

YA – Out of the Fire

Contos, Andrea. Out of the Fire. Scholastic Press, 2021. 978-1-338-72616-9. 336 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

With her earbuds in, Cass Adams was out for a run on her usual path through the woods when she was grabbed and thrown into the trunk of a car. Though narrowly escaping an abduction, the police question Cass’s story. Does she have a description of the man or car or any letters or numbers from the license plate? No, she was running for her life! Frustrated with herself for being so routine oriented, Cass tries to go back to her old life. Then the pink envelopes start arriving. Methodically placed where Cass will see them and in places no one else should have access to, the letters warn Cass that she’s always being watched. The police wonder if Cass wrote them herself, but she knows they’re from him. When an old friend reconnects with Cass over the shared experience of being wronged, Cass doesn’t feel so alone. It’s not long before they realize there are other girls who have been wronged too. And they want revenge. After not being believed by the police and not wanting to burden her overworked father, Cass decides to track down her kidnapper herself. But she can’t do it alone, and to have help she has to open herself up to others and share things she may not be ready to face.

THOUGHTS: Mystery fans will devour this fast-paced thriller which is set during a two week time frame. Hand this one to readers who enjoy April Henry and Karen McManus titles.

Mystery          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

YA – All These Bodies

Blake, Kendare. All These Bodies. HarperTeen. 2021. 978-0-062-97716-8. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

It is the summer of 1958 and many gruesome murders have been occurring all along the midwest of the United States. It seems that these murders have been traveling, moving throughout the midwest and heading towards Canada. Michael Jenson is relieved to find that the murders seemed to bypass his small town… until he realizes that the murderer did not. In fact, the entire Carlson Family is murdered. This time, however, someone has been left at the scene. A girl, completely covered in blood. Thought as a victim, until everyone realizes she isn’t covered in her own blood, but rather the Carlson Family blood. Not only is she covered in blood, but she refuses to tell anyone what happened… except for young Michael.

THOUGHTS: A gripping horror/murder/thriller novel. Once you start reading, you won’t be able to stop until you hear the full story of what is going on. This novel will make you question whether this girl is telling the truth or lying and whether we really know what goes bump in the night.

Horror/Mystery                    Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

YA – The Dead and the Dark

Gould, Courtney. The Dead and the Dark. Wednesday Books, 2021. 978-1-250-76201-6. 371 pp. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

What could possibly go wrong in a town called Snakebite? That’s what celebrity TV ghost-hunters Brandon and Alejo are back in their hometown to discover, with their daughter Logan in tow. Unfortunately, Brandon’s recent arrival for location scouting coincided with the disappearance of local teen Tristan, and many in Snakebite suspect his involvement. Hoping to resolve the town’s suspicion about her dads, Logan teams up with local girl Ashley (Tristan’s girlfriend). Not everything in Ashley and Tristan’s relationship was quite as it seemed from the outside looking in, and there are clues that her partnership with Logan (who is gay) may become something more. Meanwhile, their investigation leads them to an abandoned cabin in the woods, where Ashley receives vivid visions of both Tristan and Brandon. Someone, or something, is hunting the teens in this remote Oregon town, and the race to solve this chilling situation is on. So are the ghost-detecting gadgets, which provide both important clues and light-hearted satire of programs such as Ghost Adventures

THOUGHTS: Intergenerational, small-town secrets abound in this supernatural horror novel. Debut author Courtney Gould is a writer that horror fans will want to follow; she’s delivered a compelling brew of elements for spooky book season!

Horror          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

YA – They’ll Never Catch Us

Goodman, Jessica. They’ll Never Catch Us. Razorbill, 2021. 978-0-593-11432-2. 330 pp. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Did Stella Steckler do something to Mila Keene? That’s the question at the heart of Jessica Goodman’s taut sports mystery set in New York’s Catskill Mountains. In Edgewater, the cross country team reigns supreme, and Stella is the star. Her main competitor is her younger sister, Ellie, who is more of a “people person” than Stella. In fact, Stella has a history of violence; she hurt another runner in an incident that is alluded to and fleshed out throughout the novel. But, after spending the summer at Breakbridge Elite Track and Field Center, Stella is back on a good path and clocking her best times yet. Ellie, meanwhile, is in a relationship with another runner’s boyfriend, and dealing with her complicated feelings about the abortion she had over the summer. When champion runner Mila Keene transfers to Edgewater High, both sisters are drawn to her kindness and ability to listen without judgment. When Mila disappears, the town is plunged back into its years as “Deadwater,” when three girls disappeared from the local resort’s running trails and were later found, murdered, with their shoelaces missing. The cases were never solved, and with a fresh missing person’s case, everyone is a suspect … and Stella isn’t the only one with secrets (and first place finishes) to protect. 

THOUGHTS: With chapters alternating between Stella’s and Ellie’s points of view, They’ll Never Catch Us is both a fast-paced mystery and a nuanced portrayal of sisters who fiercely protect each other’s secrets despite their deep mutual distrust. Fans of Karen McManus will run to this one!

Mystery          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem. – Fascinating Facts (Series NF)

Fascinating Facts. The Child’s World, 2021. $19.95 ea. $239.40 set of 12. 24 p. Grades 2-5. 

Kruesi, Liz. Inventions. 978-1503844698.
—. Space. 978-1503844636.
Lassieur, Allison. Natural Disasters. 978-1503844681.
—. Scary Stuff. 978-1503844704.
Pearson, Marie. Dogs. 978-1503844629.
Peterson, Sheryl. U.S. Presidents. 978-1503844599.
Smibert, Angie. Engineering. 978-1503844612.
—. Math. 978-1503844643.
York, M.J. Dinosaurs. 978-11503844667.
. Earth. 978-1503844650.
—. History. 978-1503844605.
—. Human Body. 978-1503844674.

Did you know that Theodore Roosevelt had a photographic memory? Or that Chester Arthur was a clotheshorse who owned 80 pairs of shoes? These are just some of the presidential tidbits shared in the U.S. Presidents volume of the Fascinating Facts series. Each volume explores unusual and unique facts and stories on a given subject. Facts are grouped together by chapter (for example, the U.S. Presidents book chapters included “Life in the White House,” “First Families,” and “Strange but True Tales.”) The text is accompanied by numerous sidebars as well as photos on each page. A glossary as well as links to web resources are also included.

THOUGHTS: Perfect for aficionados of fact-style books, this series is a worthwhile additional purchase for elementary collections.

363.34-973.09 Science, Math, Animals, History          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD  

The world is a mysterious place, filled with lots of unique and bizarre stories! This series focuses on some of the most odd stories of the world, including stories about the human body, space, natural disasters, and scary stuff. The Reviewer read Natural Disasters and Scary Stuff. Natural Disasters showcases some of the most iconic types of natural disasters, including earthquakes and tsunamis, volcanoes, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Each section of this book describes what the natural disaster is, in addition to presenting unique stories about each. Scary Stuff displays some of the most iconic scary items found throughout the world, such as vampires and werewolves! Scary Stuff shares some legends of these scary items, in addition to ways to prevent and/or save yourself from the monsters that go bump in the night.

THOUGHTS: This series is very well done. It includes a lot of information that is presented with colorful visuals and pictures, both photographs and illustrations.

363.34-973.09                    Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

MG – Linked

Korman, Gordon. Linked. Scholastic Press, 2021. 978-1-338-62911-8. 246 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

Chokecherry, Colorado is a small town on the up and up – could even be the next Orlando! While paleontologists from a prestigious university are attempting to locate dinosaur fossils after dinosaur poop is discovered, a swastika appears painted on an atrium wall in the local school. The principal is determined to put an end to the hateful act by starting a unit on tolerance and after three weeks is confident that the event was a one time thing. But when a second and a third swastika appear, it looks as if the past of Chokecherry may be coming back into focus. The students of the school take it upon themselves to support one another and learn more about the Holocaust in order to fight back. An idea to start a paper chain that is six million links long, one link for each person who died during the Holocaust, becomes their primary focus. Lincoln Rowley, the popular athlete, helps round the troops and with the help of the student council and art club presidents, their huge undertaking begins. But when a local media star shows up, hoping to expose the town’s past while highlighting the paper chain, things get complicated. Told in different perspectives, this novel has twists and turns that will keep you reading!

THOUGHTS: Another hit by Korman, this title touches on a sensitive subject, antisemitism and the KKK. The characters each struggle with an inner demon which must be addressed before they can truly accept themselves and others. More somber than some of Korman’s other works, Linked has a balance of humor, hope, and sadness for how others treat people that are different from them. 

Realistic Fiction        Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Chokecherry, Colorado is not exactly a tourist destination. The small town does not have a whole lot going for it except for newly discovered dinosaur fossils which bring archeologists from a big city university to the area. Most people are content for the town to go unnoticed until an unfortunate event brings national press: Someone has drawn a swastika on the atrium wall at Chokecherry Middle School. Lincoln Rowley (Link as he is known to his friends and family) loves sports and pranks. He does not really think too much about the swastika until he learns a secret about his family, and he realizes that his ancestors are Jewish. He decides to complete a crash course in Judaism and have a bar mitzvah. Because of this decision, Link becomes the unofficial mascot of the newest middle school tolerance project: A paper chain with six million links to represent the six million Jews who perished during the Holocaust. With the help of his friends Caroline, Michael, and Dana, Link and the entire school work towards this phenomenal goal with the hope of erasing the bad press from the swastika. This plan goes awry when more swastikas appear around the school, and no one seems to know who is drawing them.

THOUGHTS: Gordon Korman has once again knocked it out of the park. Told in alternating points of view, Korman’s book explores the very relevant topic of when a hate crime happens in a “it couldn’t happen here” community. This book would be an excellent literature choice for ELA classes in conjunction with a Holocaust unit in social studies or a school-wide reading challenge. The topic can lead to rich discussions with powerful lessons.

Realistic Fiction           Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD