MG – Two Degrees

Gratz, Alan. Two Degrees. Scholastic, 2022. 978-1-338-73567-3. 365 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

In his newest book, blockbuster historical fiction author Alan Gratz takes on climate change, and hits it out of the ballpark. In a now familiar format, Two Degrees highlights three teenagers experiencing three different, yet equally devastating disasters incited by climate change. In the Sierra Nevada range of  California, Norwegian-Japanese-American Akira Kristiansen and her father are horseback riding when Akira spots a wildfire. Her father, a climate change denier, insists there is no concern, until they find themselves surrounded by flames. In Churchill, Manitoba, white Canadian Owen Mackenzie and his Indigenous buddy, George, are heading out on a weekend trip to George’s family ice fishing cabin when they find themselves in mortal danger from a polar bear. In Miami, Puerto Rican Natalie, unhealthily obsessed with storms since terrifying Hurricane Irma just missed Miami a few years ago, is watching television weather reports of Hurricane Reuben when the category five storm suddenly changes direction, heading directly for Miami. The Big One is here. The point of view rotates between the three characters as tensions quickly mount. Akira, separated from her father, must try to outrun the wildfire and escort an injured girl to safety. After Owen makes a number of thoughtless mistakes, he and George find themselves fending off a hungry polar bear with limited resources, while Natalie, swept out of her home by surging flood waters, struggles to stay alive. In each situation, the teen comes to grips with how climate change is responsible for his or her dire situation. Gratz does an excellent job elucidating the chain reaction effects of climate change, particularly in Owen’s story, where the connections are less obvious. In typical Gratz fashion, all three stories eventually intersect with an emotionally satisfying, soul-stirring conclusion. 

THOUGHTS: This book is a call to action on climate change. Students will be on the edge of their seats until the end of the book. The nonstop action makes it perfect for reluctant readers or those who need an immediate hook to grab their attention, as well as an excellent classroom read-aloud. A first purchase for libraries serving intermediate grade readers and older. 

Realistic Fiction                Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – The Great Dictionary Caper, drawn together, Mommy’s Khimar

Sierra, Judy. The Great Dictionary Caper. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-1-481-48004-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

When words in the dictionary get bored, they escape from the dictionary and have a little fun.  Onomatopoeias form a marching band and parade across the page; antonyms play hide and seek. Action verbs jump, bounce, run, and somersault across the page. Even palindromes get in on the action and have a family reunion. However, things begin to spiral out of control as words without rhymes feel left out, interjections begin interrupting, and conjunctions fail to hold things together. Ultimately, Noah Webster himself restores order by commanding the words to get back in the dictionary. A hilarious play on words and linguistic concepts, this book is both educational and fun, and it comes complete with a glossary of linguistic terms in the back.

THOUGHTS: This title is an elementary English teacher’s dream! It would serve as an excellent supplemental resource for teaching concepts like onomatopoeias, contractions, interjections, homophones, palindromes and more. It would be especially useful for visual learners struggling to grasp these concepts. Definitely a must-have for every elementary school English collection.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

Lê, Minh. drawn together.  Disney- Hyperion, 2018. 978-1-484-76760-3. Pages 32. $17.90. Gr. K – up.

A kid and his grandfather spend time together, but don’t speak the same language. Their differences stand out through the food they eat (boy- hotdog; grandfather- asian noodles) and the TV grandfather watches. Their facial features express their feelings of unhappiness and boredom… until the boy gets out his markers and begins drawing. The grandfather’s face lights up, and he gets his own drawing utensils, a sketch book, ink, and brushes. The realization that they can communicate with each other is heartwarming. Things go well, and even when they hit a bump in the road, they don’t give up. Finally embracing and knowing each other, the story ends with the kid waving goodbye from the car holding one of grandfather’s brushes. The grandfather smiles back holding a marker aloft.

THOUGHTS: This is my new favorite book. The progression of the characters from unhappiness to complete communication, all without words, gives me goosebumps. Younger kids enjoy the story for what it is, the older ones point out symbolism, societal differences, and enjoy the comic like panels in the beginning and end.

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

Thompkins-Bigelow, Jamilah. Mommy’s Khimar. Salaam Reads, 2018. 978-1-534-40059-7. Pages 32. $17.99. Gr. Pre K – 1.

“Mommy’s Khimar” is told from the point of view of a small child in a loving family. Her mommy wears khimars during the day and when she goes out of the house. This head-covering symbolizes safety and love for the little girl. She loves going into her mother’s khimar closet, and when she is allowed to wear her favorite, her imagination overflows. She is a princess, a bird keeping her baby brother warm in his nest, a superhero! Her grandmother is not the same religion as her parents, but they love each other and are family. After the day is done and the khimars are put away, the girl imagines she is still wearing it while she falls asleep, smelling her mother’s scent and feeling safe and loved.

THOUGHTS: This book should be a must for any Preschool – Kindergarten library. It does the dual job of introducing children in a positive way to the Muslim religion as well as reaffirming any children who are part of that community. Children will relate to the world of pretend and wanting the safety and love of their parents.

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

YA Graphic Novel/Poetry – Speak: The Graphic Novel, Gone Rogue, For Every One

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak: The Graphic Novel. Illustrated by Emily Carroll. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018. 978-0-374-30028-9. 374 p. $19.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Melinda enters high school having called the cops at an end of summer party. On the first day, she has “the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, the wrong attitude, and…[no one] to sit with” (4). Through the course of the graphic novel, readers experience Melinda’s first year of high school following a sexual assault which goes unreported. As Melinda withdraws further into herself, readers can see and feel the impact of her assault and the loneliness she experiences by keeping it a secret.

THOUGHTS: Years of readers will rejoice with this graphic novel version of Anderson’s modern classic Speak. If possible Carroll’s illustrations heighten Melinda’s lonely and bleak narrative. While art is a major comfort to Melinda in the novel, artwork is at the center of this adaptation. No scenes are graphically depicted; however, Melinda’s situation is unchanged.

Graphic Novel     Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Meyer, Marissa. Wires and Nerve Vol. 2: Gone Rogue. Feiwel & Friends, 2018. 978-1-250-07828-5. 324 p. $21.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t yet read The Lunar Chronicles, stop now and go read!

Once again told from Cinder’s right hand android, Wires and Nerve Volume 2 is narrated by Iko as she tracks down Alpha Lysander Steele, leader of a rogue group of Levana’s wolf-soldiers. Steele seeks revenge on Cinder for withholding the mutation anecdote from the remaining wolf-soldiers.

With preparations for a world peace celebration and Queen Selene’s visit to Earth on the horizon, Iko has a lot of work to do. Before she can kick back and relax, Iko has to make sure all of her friends are safe. Iko has had enough of Kinney’s constant jabs about her “android-ness,” causing her to explore her own origins. Regardless, Iko is ready to celebrate, and she knows how to have a good time!

THOUGHTS: Featuring all of your favorite characters, readers who love Meyers’ Lunar Chornicles world will be sad to see it over but satisfied with the open-ending of Volume 2.

Graphic Novel     Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Reynolds, Jason. For Every One. Antheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2017. 978-1-481-48624-8. 112 p. $14.99. Gr. 6 and up.

Much in the manner of Jimmy V’s 1993 ESPY speech and Randy Pausch’s 2007 Last Lecture (minus the terminal diagnosis), Reynolds tells every one never to give up on his or her dreams, no matter how big or small. Written before his dreams were realized, Reynolds’ story is that much more motivating. He is the living example of never giving up on one’s dreams, though he didn’t achieve them when he thought he would.

This inspiring poem is the perfect graduation or just because gift – for every one.

THOUGHTS: Teachers using Reynolds’ books in their classrooms can pair this poem to give students some background on his life, or it would make a beautiful addition to teaching poetry. Kids will connect with his words. No matter what part of life readers are in, they will find hope and encouragement. The title could not be more fitting, as this book truly is for every one.

811 Poetry          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Girl Underwater – New YA Thriller


Kells, Claire. Girl Underwater. New York: Dutton, 2015. 978-0-525-95493-4. 291 p. $26.95. Gr. 10 and up.

College sophomore and competitive swimmer Avery Delacorte is en route to Boston for Thanksgiving when her flight crashes into a remote lake in the Rocky Mountains. Against all odds, Avery, her teammate Colin Shea, and three young boys survive the impact and make it to shore. Scenes of their high-stakes alpine survival are intercut with Avery’s recovery in the hospital, her efforts to return to campus and rejoin the team, and her unwillingness to face Colin and the boys again. Tension mounts with every page as the reader wonders, why is Avery so sure she let them all down out there? If she is meant to be with her college boyfriend, Lee, then why does her mind keep wandering back to Colin? And can she swim again without memories of the ordeal overwhelming her? This debut novel by Philadelphia native Claire Kells could easily have been published as YA. With athletics, adventure, suspense, and spine-tingling romance, it’s one of the best crossover books of 2015 (so far)!
Realistic Fiction      Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

The audiobook production is read by the wonderful Julia Whelan, who also lent her voice to The Impossible Knife of Memory and I’ll Give You the Sun, among many other titles. Playing a sample of this stellar audiobook would be a great way to interest students in the novel and audiobooks alike!

Like a Flip Turn

Rae, Hannah. Like a Flip Turn. Gettysburg, PA: Hannah Rae, 2014. Available on Kindle Only. 344p. $2.99. Gr. 9-12.
In the little town of Lake Caywood, three women, all of different ages, find their lives intersecting.  Their stories are very different, but each has a struggle of her own; Jenny has just moved into the town after suffering an emotional break-up with a boyfriend; Lydia must come to terms with the death of her brother, and Old Lady Gallagher needs to decide what will become of her home.I can’t say enough good things about this book! I haven’t read much magical realism, but this book really enchanted me with that genre. The characters in the book are so well thought out that I connected with them on many levels, waiting to see how the magic would unfold in each of their lives. I really enjoyed reading about Axa’s (the art teacher) friendship with Jenny, but the real question is – where can I get myself a Petey Goode!?!

This is the first book written by Hannah Rae, so I’m excited about future books by her. With such a great debut novel, she is guaranteed to make an impact in the book world. Word of advice: scoop up anything this author has to offer!

Realistic Fiction; Fantasy      Nicole Starner, Biglerville HS/Upper Adams MS



Colbert, Brandy. Pointe. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014. 978-0-399-16034-9. 333 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

At age 13, Theo was focused on ballet, her best friend Donovan, and her secret older boyfriend, Trent. But then Trent dumped her, Donovan vanished, and Theo developed a severe eating disorder. Four years later, she’s healthier and steadily pursuing her dream of being one of only a few African-American ballerinas to dance with a professional company. When Donovan is found and returned home, Theo is shocked to discover that the “person of interest” in Donovan’s abduction is none other than Trent. Now Theo is torn between her dark secret and her loyalty to Donovan, who isn’t speaking to anyone. As one of the last people to see Donovan before his disappearance, Theo is expected to testify, and she battles with herself over how much to reveal about her history with the man on trial. Will it impact her opportunities in the dance world?  Will it change how a new love interest sees her? Meanwhile, the more she worries, the less she eats. The reader will clearly see the abusive nature of Trent’s relationship with Theo before she herself does, which makes her awakening to the truth all the more poignant. The author includes information on pertinent support services such as in a Resources section. This beautifully creative debut novel is realistic YA fiction at its best.

Realistic Fiction            Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

I thought Pointe was a strong contender for a Morris Award nomination, but sadly it was overlooked! I cannot wait to read whatever Brandy Colbert writes next.

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future


King, A.S.  Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future.  New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2014.  978-0-316-22272-3.  306 p. $18.00.  Gr. 9 and up.

Glory O’Brien has just graduated from high school and has no plans for her future.  Having lost her mother to suicide when she was just four years old, she is struggling to find a purpose for life.  When she and her friend, Ellie, drink the ashes of a mummified bat, they begin to see visions for the future.  These visions involve a second civil war and a loss of women’s rights, and they terrify Glory.  She starts recording her visions, hoping that her account of this horrible future will somehow prevent it from happening.  Meanwhile, she starts going through her mother’s darkroom and journals, as well as piecing together photo journals of her own, in an attempt to find meaning for her own life.  By the end of this complex coming-of-age story, Glory begins to live her life in the present and has hopes for a long and meaningful future.

Realistic Fiction, Paranormal/Dystopian       Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

I had a difficult time classifying this book.  While the protagonist and setting were very realistic, Glory’s visions of the future added paranormal and dystopian elements to the story.  Therefore, I could see this book reaching a wide audience, including fans of realistic fiction, fans of dystopian fiction, fans of coming of age stories, and more.  Because of the strong female protagonist and the focus on women’s rights in the future, this book would especially resonate with young girls.

I must say I had a hard time getting into this book because of the strange mix of genres.  By the end, however, I was glad I stuck it out.  The message this book sends about cherishing the memories of the past, living in the present, and hoping for the future is one that we could all be reminded of every now and then.  While the ending didn’t necessarily tie up all loose ends, it was definitely memorable.

Trust Me…I’m Lying


Summer, Mary Elizabeth. Trust Me, I’m Lying. New York: Delacorte Press, 2014. 978-0-385-74406-5. 328 p. $17.99. Gr. 8+.

Julep Dupree is a small-time con artist and a master of disguise who learned her trade from the best: her dad, Joe. She’s known around St. Agatha’s Prep School as a fixer: for a respectable fee, she can make other people’s problems go away, but now she has a problem of her own. The seedy apartment she shares with her father has been trashed, and he is missing, leaving nothing but a series of puzzling clues behind. With help from her best friend Sam, a cute senior named Tyler, and barista-in-training / private eye Mike, Julep juggles a booming ID forging business, staying off the dean’s radar, and getting to the bottom of what her dad had on the bad guys, even as she reluctantly concedes that the odds are stacked against finding him alive. This enjoyable but somewhat farfetched novel careens from madcap chases to real menace (encounters with the Ukrainian crime syndicate and human trafficking, to name a few). The characters are extremely likable and the fast-paced, exciting plot will appeal to strong and reluctant readers alike.

Realistic Fiction (Suspense)            Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

I enjoy recommending “read-alikes” to my students, and Trust Me, I’m Lying would be a great choice for fans of Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber (Houghton Mifflin, 2011) or Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff (Little, Brown, 2013). The publisher also compares the novel to Heist Society by Ally Carter (Hyperion, 2010). I’d love to know what other books librarians might recommend to reader’s of Summer’s debut!

What I Thought Was True


Fitzpatrick, Huntley.  What I Thought Was True.  New York: Dial Books, 2014.  416p. 978-0803-739093.  $17.99.  Gr. 9+. 

Seashell, Connecticut, is made up of the wealthy, main islanders who spend their summers on Seashell Island, and the townies, or islanders, that live their year-round, taking care of the summer clientele.   Gwen is a townie who lives with her housekeeper mother, cousin, and autistic little brother.  She normally waits tables at her father’s diner, but this summer she scored a job as a caretaker for a rich widow.  She is looking forward to laying low this summer and getting out of Seashell right after she graduates next spring. Gwen is a smart, intelligent girl who has a bad reputation because she made two mistakes with two main island boys, including Cass.  Cass throws a wrench in Gwen’s summer plans when his dad gets him the “character building position” of being an island yard boy.  Seeing Cass on a daily basis brings up complicated and painful memories for Gwen.  She becomes confused as Cass takes time out of his schedule to help out with her little brother.  Gwen realizes that she may have misjudged Cass and some of the other upper class, summer only residents.

I really enjoyed this book while I was reading it, but once I finished, I realized not much actually happened in the book. The only character I really liked was Cass, but there is no teenage boy in the world that would be that patient. It wasn’t that I disliked Gwen; I just thought her actions were pretty unrealistic. Since it’s in first person, we get a clear insight into her mind and thought process. The reflection passages that detail her actions with Spence and Cass do not reflect how she really is at all. I appreciate that it sends the message that everyone makes mistakes, but I think the unpredictability is unrealistic. I still recommend this one to my Sarah Dessen fans and to those who liked Fitzpatrick’s other title, My Life Next Door, which I loved.

Realistic Fiction        Melissa Daugherty, Sharon City Schools

Teeny Little Grief Machines…a High/Low Novel


High, Linda Oatman. Teeny Little Grief Machines. Costa Mesa: Saddleback Educational, 2014. 978-1-489-84162-9.  $15.99. Gr. 9-12.

“Sexy Lexi” finally finds her voice.  In this novel, Lexi is a caregiver to her 8-year-old brother with autism, a stepdaughter to bipolar, chain smoking Tanya, sister to three-week-old ghost, Carissa Grace, and daughter to an incarcerated-once-again father. Isolated from everyone she loves, Lexi searches for a way to connect.  Grasping, she begins to drown in the isolation, cutting herself, smoking marijuana, and finally, breaking down in front of everyone at school.  Hospitalized after the episode, she begins to come into who she is and own who she is.  Linda Oatman High creates a character who readers are able to invest their empathy and sympathy.  Doubting why people are born to live lives filled with despair, Lexi floats in and out of self awareness, finally fitting into herself.

The novel is a high interest low reading level novel.  The cover shows a girl drowning, and Lexi is drowning in her grief, her isolation, and wanting to be “normal”. Students who are on the edge can easily identify with Lexi, her grief, socioeconomic status, dysfunctional family, and low self-esteem.   Because of these risk factors, the novel does pull in the students who can relate.  That she is enticed by a “bad boy” who is the “King of the Weed”, only intensifies the need to like Lexi.  The author tries to add in a romantic aspect, but does not elaborate, only introducing us at the end.

Novel in Verse     Brooke Gerlach, Manheim Central Middle School