MG – Super Puzzletastic Mysteries: Short Stories for Young Sleuths from Mystery Writers of America

Grabenstein, Chris, et. al. Super Puzzletastic Mysteries: Short Stories for Young Sleuths from Mystery Writers of America. 978-0-062-88420-6. 378 p. $17.99. Grades 4-7.

Inspired by Encyclopedia Brown books, Chris Grabenstein assembled a collection of short story mysteries to challenge readers’ deduction skills. Written by twenty middle grade and YA authors, each mystery offers the opportunity to see if you can find the clues, eliminate the red herrings, and arrive at the correct solution. Answers and explanations are provided at the end of the book. The contributing authors range from famous (Alane Ferguson, Stuart Gibbs, Chris Grabenstein, Lauren Magaziner) to familiar (Lamar Giles, Kate Milford, Peter Lerangis) to new discoveries (Tyler Whitesides, Bruce Hale, Gigi Pandian), and mysteries skip from fairly easy to totally devious. These stories will definitely challenge readers’ critical thinking skills.The anthology will please diehard mystery fans of all ages, or provide a fun read-aloud classroom activity. Readers will enjoy connecting with the work of favorite authors, but more exciting, will be introduced to new authors and books.

THOUGHTS: This is a delightful, long overdue modernization of the Encyclopedia Brown two-minute mysteries. The puzzles are generally challenging, but fair, although one or two seemed like the solution required a large leap of logic. A recommended purchase for middle grade libraries.

Mystery          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

MG – Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Immigrant Women Who Changed the World

Favilli, Elena. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Immigrant Women Who Changed the World. Rebel Girls, 2020. 978-1-733-32929-3. 305. $35.00. Grades 6-8.

This collection of short stories explores the real lives of one hundred women who have immigrated to countries all over the world. Each one-page biography notes the country of origin, the country the woman resided in after immigrating, an illustration depicting the featured woman, and often a quote. Although short, each biography explains how each person has found success in the career she is passionate about. Included are a mix of historical figures like Rose Fortune, who was Canada’s first female policeman; and contemporary figures like Reyna Duong, who currently employs people with down-syndrome at the restaurant she owns. Immigrants featured have found success in the fields of finance, psychiatry, engineering, art, politics, activism, and more. After reading these biographies, readers will believe that no dream is too large and no person is too small to realize their potential.

THOUGHTS: Teachers can use this collection of stories as a daily read-aloud or writing prompt. Each story is sure to spark conversation and further research. The book will inspire readers to be brave, independent, and to overcome adversity. Display with other books in the Rebel Girls series to attract readers.

305.4 Social Groups Women          Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD

YA – Jackpot; Last True Poets of the Sea; Wicked Fox; Red at the Bone; Hungry Hearts; Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens; One of Us Is Next; What We Buried; Opioid Crisis; #MeToo Movement; The Plastic Problem; Full Disclosure; All We Could Have Been; The Hand on the Wall

Stone, Nic. Jackpot: All Bets Are Off. Crown, 2019. 978-1-984-82962-7. $17.99 343 p. Grades 8+.

Rico Danger (yes that’s her name, pronounced) is a high school senior working at a convenience store to support her struggling family. She learns that a 100 million-dollar lottery ticket has been sold there on Christmas Eve while she was working and when no one steps up to claim it, she recalls a sweet older lady who visited that night. Believing that woman may be the holder of the winning ticket, Rico sets out on a quest to find her and hopefully get a tiny share of the payout. Rico finds an unlikely helper in her popular and super wealthy classmate, Zan. As they work together to try to find the lotto ticket holder, they realize they have a lot in common despite their family circumstances. Though the book does take on the serious topics of poverty, sacrifice, and family issues, it is overall a lighthearted read with a slowly building romance between opposites.

THOUGHTS: Nic Stone is another solid, up and coming African American author to follow. With popular titles in the last two years – Odd Man Out and the exceptional Dear Martin, Stone’s latest book should be popular with high school students.

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Summers Abington SD


Drake, Julia. Last True Poets of the Sea. Hyperion, 2019. 978-1-368-04808-8. $17.99. 391 p. Grades 9 and up.

After her brother attempts suicide, Violet’s family is torn apart. Her parents retreat in their grief at home in New York City; her brother is in a treatment center; and Violet, a sixteen-year-old wild child, is sent off to live with her uncle in her mother’s hometown on the coast of Maine. While there she is determined to isolate herself, but she is sent to volunteer at the aquarium where she meets Orion, a local teen with a unique circle of friends. The story follows Violet as she faces her own trauma over her strained relationship with her brother and his mental illness. Woven in is her new quest to investigate her family’s strange history, including the mystery of the famous shipwreck that her great great grandmother survived. Another element is a love triangle that develops between Violet, Orion, and Liv. With parallels to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, this is a sweet and thoughtful novel with lovely prose, an enchanting setting, and vivid characters.

THOUGHTS: A lovely coming of age tale that addresses mental illness, family dynamics, sexual orientation, and first romance. Recommended for fans of Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun.

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Summers Abington SD


Cho, Kat. Wicked Fox. Putnam, 2019. 978-1-984-81234-6. 420 p. $18.99. Grades 8 and up. 

The gumiho, seductive foxes masquerading as women who eat the livers of men to survive are just myths, right? Jihoon has grown up hearing the stories of the gumiho from his grandmother, his halmeoni, but he knows that they are just scary stories, ones meant to keep children from the woods at night. That is until an otherworldly encounter in the forest brings all those stories to life. Miyoung, a gumiho, manages to save innocent bystander Jihoon when a dokkaebi, a goblin, attacks although she loses her fox bead in the process. Without the bead Miyoung is unable to hold the energy, the gi, she sucks from humans to survive, making it necessary to feed more often and making her more dangerous. But when their worlds collide in another life or death situation, Miyoung is faced with a choice she never thought possible: save herself or the life of a human.

THOUGHTS: Set in modern-day Seoul, this mythical love story paints a vivid picture of a world unseen, where monsters live alongside men and the stories that you grew up to discredit just may be the thing that saves your life.

Fantasy (Mythology)           Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD


Woodson, Jacqueline. Red at the Bone. Riverhead Books, 2019. 978-0-525-53527-0. 208 p. $26.00. Grades 10+.

Woodson knows how to tug at your heartstrings. Whether you’re a mother or not, this book so sharply addresses the complicated relationship of mothers, daughters, and extended relatives. The novel is told in a back and forth, switching from the perspective of a mother at age sixteen and her sixteen year old daughter as she gets ready to participate in her debut to society. Each character was authentic in their own way, making the story relatable to most readers. Woodson touches on themes of race, legacy, social class, parenting, coming of age, and family dynamics. The narratives toggle back and forth between 2001 and 1985, when Iris and her daughter were both sixteen, respectively. The family history allows Woodson to mention historical events such as the race riots in the early part of the 20th century as well as the attacks on September 11, 2001.

THOUGHTS: There are some heavy topics covered in this title that some young and immature readers might not be able to digest on their own including teenage pregnancy, dysfunctional mother/daughter relationships, drug abuse, 9/11, and sexuality. This book should be on the shelves of all high school libraries for mature readers.

Realistic Fiction          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD


Chapman, Elsie. Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love. Simon Pulse, 2019. 978-1-534-42185-1. 368 p. $18.99. Grades 7-12.

A true collaboration between best-selling authors that are interconnected by not only location, but by a few characters as well. The thirteen stories include various different genres and tackle topics that are easier to handle with a sweet confection or a magic soup dumpling. Not only is the collection diverse in genre types, but also with characters including nontraditional families, gang violence, bi-racial families, people of color, and a lot of the author’s #ownvoices. My favorite story in the collection is the final tale: “Panadería ~ Pastelería.” The protagonist shows up in many other stories with a unique and handcrafted pastry at moments when characters didn’t know they needed it more than anything in the world. This concluding story includes topics of generational differences and coming of age all while focusing on the moral of the story: do what’s right, and you get to choose what is right.

THOUGHTS: This anthology would be a good addition to high school libraries that supply content for contemporary fiction. This title can be recommended to reluctant readers to provide a feeling of accomplishment in finishing one or two tales, but can also serve as exposure to a variety of genres for readers who are looking to branch out.

Short Stories          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD


Boteju, Tanya. Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens. Simon Pulse, 2019. 978-1-534-43065-5. 384 p. $19.99. Grades 8-12.

Small town? Check. Bored teen? Check. Bi-racial queer protagonist? CHECK! Drag kings and queens and #ownvoices? Check! CHECK! CHECK! After spending time with her nerdy best friend at the town carnival, Nima stumbles into a drag show that leaves her with more questions than answers about herself and her world. Luckily, Deidre, a drag queen with flair, takes on Nima as a side project and not only serves as her mentor but another adult to trust when she isn’t even sure where her mom is. As Nima muddles through discovering secrets about her mom, working through a crush, and getting on stage to finally participate in a show, there are quite a few subplots with different characters including her hippie dad, a gay family friend, and even a childhood friend who isn’t sure of his place in the world. Written by a queer author who has knowledge about the drag community makes the story authentic and provides a true depiction for a reader who hasn’t had exposure to drag.

THOUGHTS: A great addition to any library that needs more diversity, a better LGBTQ+ representation, or an example of a novel written with attention to precise detail or pronoun usage and hope. The storyline is a bit jumbled, but tells a hopeful story with a cast of diverse characters.

Realistic Fiction          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD


McManus, Karen. One of Us is Next. Delacorte Press, 2020. 978-0-525-70796-7. 384 p. $19.99. Grade. 8-12.

The sequel to One of Us is Lying has the same thrill, but it’s missing some of the avant-garde pieces of the first book. Many of the main characters in the second book were featured in some manner during the debut. Mauve, Phoebe, and Knox take center stage in the newest mystery at Bayview High. Per McManus’ classic whodunit writing format, the mystery of who is behind the deadly game of truth or dare keeps readers on the edge of their seat. A game of truth or dare via text message has all of Bayview High constantly checking their phones for updates. Truths are escaping that confuse even the sluethy-est among the characters, and the dares are getting lethal. The pacing is perfect, and the ending will be sure to shock even the most astute readers.

THOUGHTS: A book that should sit right beside its counterpart on every high school shelf but can just as easily stand alone. This is another great answer for a psychological thriller on a school library shelf to fit the craving many teens have from some of the trending adult novels of the same genre.

Mystery          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

A year after the Bayview Four are exonerated in the death of Simon Kelleher, several copycats have appeared, but not until a viral game of Truth or Dare begins has anyone taken the copycats seriously. Now, students are choosing to complete a Dare or have a Truth about them revealed. But, not everyone wants to play. Maeve, Phoebe, and Knox are all targets of the game who refuse to participate, opening themselves up to a horrible Truth being revealed. As they dig into the chatroom used by Simon during his revenge plot, they meet Darkestmind and begin investigating who is behind the viral Truth or Dare. When tragedy strikes and a student ends up dead, their inquiry into Darkestmind becomes a full investigation into him (or her), their dead peer, and the past, individually and in relation to others. As more tragedy strikes Bayview, will Maeve, Phoebe, and Knox be able to uncover Darkestmind before it’s too late, or is revenge the new norm in Bayview?

THOUGHTS: Personally, I think One of Us is Lying is a fine stand-alone that didn’t need a sequel. That being said, One of Us is Next is in high demand. It lacks some mystery because it is more predictable than the first, and I found it difficult to keep all of the minor characters straight and their connections to the others. It felt like more of a realistic fiction read for the majority of the text over a mystery read. I did not like the connection in the end to the characters and story; it was both predictable and disjointed. This text felt forced in comparison to McManus’s previous two novels. It is still highly recommended, though, for YA collections.

Mystery        Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Boorman, Kate. What We Buried. Henry Holt and Co., 2019. 978-1-250-19167-0. 304 p. $17.99. Grades 8-12.  

What We Buried is a twisty mystery that constantly had me second guessing myself and my ability to keep characters, timelines, and realistic events in order. Liv, a former child pageant star and reality TV star, doesn’t have a great track record with her brother, Jory. As a court case for emancipation nears a gritty end between Liv and her parents, Jory is sitting back and watching how the media and Liv’s followers react to the news. Before the hearing, their parents disappear, and Liv and Jory are left to find out what happened to them in the desert of Nevada. There is never a clear sense of time or perception as the narration toggles back and forth between Liv and Jory. The time the siblings are forced to spend together makes them travel back to places from their childhood to reconsider their life choices so far.

THOUGHTS: A must have for any high school library looking to add to their thriller collection with a young adult perspective. The characters are hard to like, but the tension and sense of confusion encourage curious readers to not put the book down. The unreliable narrator can be a challenging concept for some readers.

Mystery          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD


Hyde, Natalie. Opioid Crisis. Crabtree, 2019. 978-0-778-74973-8. 48 p. $9.95. Grades 7-10. 

This six chapter book focuses on what a responsible citizen can do to understand, inform, and take action on the epidemic that has “affected every community, class, ethnic group, industry, and age group.” The first chapter defines the crisis and some of the key terms. In addition, there is a glossary in the back of the book. Although the second chapter uses the perspective of the opioid crisis to frame how to find quality and reliable information, most of the information could be applied to any general research project. Chapter three dives into the recreational and street use of opioids and how the crisis developed. Chapter four focuses on the effects the opioid epidemic has had on families, work society, and individuals. The last two chapters offer statistics on where the crisis stands and a look toward the future, including initiatives from the government. Each page includes color photographs, and there are many graphical representations and pop out text boxes.

THOUGHTS: Neatly packaged, this title should be in all middle and high school libraries to provide concise and accurate information on a very emotional and pervasive topic. Two chapters include valuable research and reliable information checks that can be helpful across topics.

362.29 Drugs          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD


Hudak, Heather. #MeToo Movement. Crabtree, 2019. 978-0-778-74971-4. 48 p. $9.95. Grades 7-10. 

Organized in six chapters focusing on the definition and international issues of sexual harassment and abuse, #MeToo Movement covers the major points of the movement including a glossary and further reading suggestions. Each chapter ranges from four to twelve pages and many pages have multiple photographs, graphs, and other pop outs that make this current issue accessible to readers as middle grades. The history, including dates and information about the founder of the movement, Tarana Burke, provide context to readers who may be lucky enough to not have experienced sexual harassment or assault within their social circles. The last two chapters focus on the reader and provide ways to stay informed and ways to influence the future of the #MeToo movement.

THOUGHTS: This succinct nonfiction title should be on shelves in middle and high school libraries to provide resources on a topic that is current and pervasive across ages, races, and social economic classes. The inclusion of ways to encourage the reader to become active within the movement is particularly insightful as many students are not looking for resources just for an assignment, but to help shape their perspective and discover ways to make change.

Nonfiction          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD


Salt, Rachel. The Plastic Problem. Firefly Books, 2019. 978-0-228-10231-1. 80 p. $9.95. Grades 7-10. 

Full of disturbing pictures and data on the plastic problem that is plaguing the globe. Each page has full color photos with enough text to get the information across to the reader, but not too much to make the work feel like a textbook or peer-reviewed journal article. Although it’s not arranged in chapters, there is a table of contents that provides the reader the opportunity to focus on a specific topic. There is also a glossary and index in the back of the book. The flow of The Plastic Problem begins with definitions and some foundational knowledge about plastic and the plastic industry, including how humans use plastic and where it ends up. It continues into problems at the micro and macro level of producing, using, and discarding too much plastic and ends with suggestions for solutions that can be accomplished on local, small levels.

THOUGHTS: This book doesn’t do a deep dive on any of the problems or solutions for the plastic problem, but provides enough information for a curious reader to get started. The title would be good for middle grade and possibly high school shelves, but should be accompanied by more in depth books to provide a more comprehensive study of a specific plastic problem.

363.72 Environment          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD


Garrett, Camryn. Full Disclosure. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-984-82996-2. 320 p. $21.99. Grades 10-12.

Not many contemporary novels take a full dive into the world of HIV-positive main characters, especially based in current day. Starting at new high school is daunting, but when you’re a teen who isn’t sure about her sexuality and is HIV-positive, the task is that much more daunting. Simone finds herself at home with the drama kids and two other friends and even becomes comfortable enough to start a relationship with someone, but now she has to decide whether or not to disclose her medical history with Miles. Her dads don’t make the potential for Simone to discuss it with her doctor any easier.

THOUGHTS: This book covers a lot of representation including LGBTQ+, HIV-positive, and African American (#ownvoice). It even hits on topics that most teens have to deal with like bullying and sexuality while layering on perspective and information about HIV that most teens might not remember from health class. This is a well-written debut novel that deserves space in a collection lacking diversity.

Realistic Fiction          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD


Carter,T. E. All We Could Have Been. Feiwel & Friends, 2019. 978-1-250-17296-9. 304 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.

Lexie’s brother committed murder when he was 15 years old. Her brother has been locked away since the day of the murders. Despite having nothing to do with her brother’s actions, Lexie has been treated like a criminal ever since. She has standing appointments with her therapist and finds control in her life by wearing the same color each day of the week. At the fifth school since she was 12, Lexie finds comfort in a neighbor and a peer in the drama club. She decides to try and control a bit more of her life and her friendships, but the results have rippling effects and leave her questioning every aspect of her life so far.

THOUGHTS: Carter represents mental illness and even a bit of asexuality, but in a dark and twisty way that isn’t relatable to most readers. The lesson that is brought to life through the characters about not making assumptions about who someone is or believes is something that teens of all backgrounds can benefit from. Like much of her other work, this book is highly emotional and targets mature readers who have an understanding of grief, PTSD, and the uneasy terrain of high school gossip and drama (outside the actual drama club).

Realistic Fiction          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD


Johnson, Maureen. The Hand on the Wall (Truly Devious Book 3). Katherine Tegen Books, 2020. 978-0-062-33811-2. 368 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.

Following the death of Stevie’s mentor, Dr. Fenton, Stevie uses information from Dr. Fenton, along with the clues she has figured out, to solve the mystery of the Truly Devious letter from 1936 and the kidnapping of Iris and Alice Ellingham. But, unsure of the current climate at Ellingham and who she can and cannot trust, Stevie decides to maintain secrecy about what she has learned and continue her investigation before revealing her findings. As a blizzard approaches, Ellingham is shut down and students are sent home, but for the students of Minerva, who follow the bright-idea of David and hide in order to remain behind. As David convinces them to investigate his father, Senator King, Stevie continues her own Ellingham investigation and soon learns of secrets hidden in the walls that confirm her initial discoveries and unveil the truth behind Truly Devious and the Ellingham murders of 1936.

THOUGHTS: Johnson masterfully concludes this trilogy with an ending that keeps readers on edge. Her intersection of present mystery with the 1930s Ellingham mystery keeps the reader rooted in each mystery and the connection between the two. This is a must-read trilogy for mystery lovers.

Mystery          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

YA FIC – Wrong Train; Very, Very Bad Thing; Furyborn

De Quidt, Jeremy. The Wrong Train.  David Fickling Books, 2017. 9781338121254. 206 p.  $18.99.  Gr. 7-10.

This collection of eight truly creepy short stories has an equally creepy framing device:  a boy gets on a train going the wrong way and decides to get off as soon as he can. Unfortunately, the stop turns out to be dimly lit and nearly deserted. Train after train passes by without picking him up. The boy meets a strange old man who persists in telling him tales of terror to pass the time. Each story has a unique setting and characters, and each story has an ending more spine-tingling than the last. As the evening wears on, the boy does everything except beg the old man to stop telling the stories, but he persists, and there is an especially chilling twist at the end. THOUGHTS: This book is perfect for fans of R.L. Stine and for kids who are eager to read, but not quite ready for, Stephen King. Note that The Wrong Train isn’t for the faint of heart: there are no happy endings to any of these stories, including the frame story. Recommended for all middle school and high school libraries, as it’s almost impossible to have too much good horror fiction on hand.

Story Collection, Horror                   Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

 

Self, Jeffrey. A Very, Very Bad Thing. New York: PUSH, 2017. 978-1-338-11840-7. 240 p. $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Jeffrey Self’s A Very, Very Bad Thing reads like a modern take on John Knowles’ classic A Separate Peace. Marley is an average teen, who struggles with finding something he’s passionate about and mostly wants to be left alone. When he meets new boy Christopher, his worldview completely changes, and he falls hard and fast. Unfortunately, Christopher’s father is an evangelical preacher who believes homosexuality is a sin, and who has sent his son to numerous conversion therapy camps in the hopes of stamping out all of Christopher’s unnatural urges. Despite this, Christopher and Marley find support from Marley’s parents – former hippies with a penchant for meditative circles and extreme creative expression – his theater loving best friend, Audrey, who often acts as his conscience, and Christopher’s aunt, who does not support her brother-in-law’s views in the least. When Christopher’s father sends him to yet another conversion therapy camp, disaster strikes. The book toggles back in forth between the present and several months in the past; the present day chapters slowly reveal details about Marley’s rise to fame, and his shame about the circumstances that lead him there.  THOUGHTS:  This is not a subtle story; the message is loud, and clear, and gets in the way of could be a compelling tale. While the characters are charming at times, for the majority of the book they are all stereotypical archetypes, which hinders the reader’s ability to fully connect with any of them.

Realistic Fiction     Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

 

Legrand, Claire. Furyborn. New York: Sourcebooks, 2018. 978-1492656623. 512 p. $18.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Legrand has stepped out of her middle-grade shoes and leapt right into the heart of YA literature with a blockbuster of a novel. Furyborn, the first book in the Emperium trilogy, is an epic (in both scope and length – it’s a whopping 512 pages) fantasy adventure written from two different points of view: Rielle’s and Eliana’s, two strong-minded, fierce, and conflicted women whose loyalties are tested over and over again. There is a prophecy that two queens will rise: the Sun Queen and the Blood Queen, both of whom will have the ability to control all seven elemental magics – wind, fire, water, shadow, light, metal, and earth. After Rielle inadvertently displays her astounding magical abilities, it is discovered that she, in fact, can manipulate all of the elements. She is put through a series of trials to test not just her abilities, but also her control – when she was five years old, she lost her temper, and set her house on fire, resulting in the death of her mother. But Rielle has another secret: she has been communicating with an angel inside her head, an angel who’s help comes at a steep cost. One thousand years later, almost all of the lands have been conquered by the Emperor, and Rielle, her magic, and angels are nothing but myths and legends that few believe ever existed in the first place.  Eliana, known as the Dread of Orline, is one of those people; she is a hired assassin, working for the Emperor, hunting down rebels. She, too, has a secret: she cannot be injured; wounds close up, bones reknit, burns heal. She is forced to confront who or what she is when she learns some shocking secrets about her past. Legrand is a natural storyteller, and has imbued her novel with a cast of complex and diverse characters; she cleverly ends every chapter with a cliffhanger, and since each chapter flips between Rielle and Eliana, it’s almost impossible to put down. This is a very mature read, however, and not appropriate for younger readers – there is an extremely graphic sex scene, and the text is peppered with casual swearing. Thoughts: This is a perfect novel for fans of Kate Elliott’s Court of Five series, Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes series, and Kiersten White’s And I Darken series.

Fantasy      Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

 

Upper Elementary/MS – Sybil Ludington; Eureka Key; Flying Lessons; Jingle

Abbot, E.F. Sybil Ludington: Revolutionary War Rider (Based on a True Story series). New York: Feiwel & Friends, 2016. 978-1-250-06835-4. 192 p. $15.99. Gr. 3-6

Sybil Ludington is part of a spy family during the Revolutionary War. Her father, in charge of a unit of militiamen, needed help with the war effort. Sybil and her sister write notes in code to communicate with other regiments. Her mother and sisters save the house from invasion by outsmarting the British spies. When someone is needed to gather her father’s men to fight, sixteen-year-old Sybil braves numerous dangers, riding by herself through the night to sound the alarm. THOUGHTS: A very interesting book about a period in time not many know about. I love the non-fiction aspect of it! There are historical photographs and pictures throughout the book depicting scenes and items (a coal scuttle for example) so the reader is given a better sense of what it was like.

Historical Fiction     Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

Thomson, Sarah L. Secrets of the Seven: The Eureka Key. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016. 978-1-61963-731-3. 240 p. $16.99. Gr. 5-8.

Middle schooler Sam Solomon is really smart, but really bored. He uses his brains to hack the school bell to play music from his favorite video game, and to access the principal’s computer to change his best friends grades. His teachers and parents are worried that this behavior will turn into real trouble. So when Sam wins The American Dream contest and gets to spend the summer on a trip across the country, everyone is hopeful for a positive change. Sam and the other contest winners, brainy Martina and elusive Theo, set off to Death Valley, California, ready to explore seven natural wonders of America. At each stop, the trio will solve puzzles and use clues from the nation’s history to find seven piece of a powerful artifact. But at the first stop, things don’t go very well, and Sam, Martina and Theo find themselves in the middle of a very powerful mystery. They soon discover that they hold the key to unlocking a secret from America’s past, and that there are people out there that will do dangerous things to keep it a secret. THOUGHTS: A fun, approachable read for fans of any Rick Riordan book or the National Treasure movies.

Adventure     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

 

Oh, Ellen Ed. Flying Lesson & Other Stories. New York, NY: Crown Books, 2017. 978-1-101-93459-3. 216 pp. $16.99. Gr. 4-8.

As the cry for more diverse books in children’s literature starts to see results, this collection of short stories edited by Ellen Oh, cofounder of We Need Diverse Books, should gain prominent attention as an exemplary work. The ten short stories capture important and ordinary moments of youth across the country, allowing the reader to hopefully see themselves as well as the lives of other ethnicities and viewpoints. From Matt de la Pena’s hoop obsessed teen to a poor struggling obedient son from Kelly Baptist to Tim Federle’s slightly neurotic and obsessed girl facing a secret Santa dilemma, each story is immediate, empathetic, and engaging. Other distinguished authors include Jacqueline Woodson, Kwame Alexander, and Grace Lin. As Oh says in her foreward, “… our stories are unique, just like we are.” With inspiration and a closing sample from Walter Dean Myers, we have a warm and readable look into the many lives whose stories are diverse yet connected, often through the power of books.  THOUGHTS: Great for both read alouds and ideas for writing prompts, I would recommend this book to classroom teachers who want to show perspective and point of view. Plus, hopefully, it will open the readers to new ways of understanding and valuing each other.

Realistic Fiction; Short Stories     Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District

 

Korman, Gordon. Jingle (A Swindle Mystery). New York: Scholastic Press, 2016. 978-0-545-86142-7. $16.99. 199 pp. Gr. 3-7.

Griffin Bing, Ben Slovak, and their crew are back at it in Jingle, a Christmas themed Swindle mystery.  After receiving letters thanking them for volunteering for the Colchester family’s Santa’s Workshop Holiday Spectacular, an annual holiday event presented by the wealthy Colchester family for the town of Cedarville, Griffin, Ben, and the gang are horrified that their holiday and winter break plans have been ruined, and it’s all Logan’s fault.  Facing the daily misery of dressing like an elf and working with their nemesis, Darren Vader, the group determines this will be the worst Christmas ever; of course that is until the prize of the the spectacular, the Star of Prague, goes missing, and Griffin, Ben, and their friends become prime suspects.   Going from elf to robbery suspect doesn’t exactly make for the best break ever, but it does allow Griffin to get back to his “plans”.   Knowing that this time they aren’t to blame, the friends set out to clear their names and figure out who really stole the Star of Prague.  Of course, they get arrested and into their own trouble along the way (what’s a tiny bar fight when you’re in middle school), and have to deal with their own personal (Logan not getting into the North Star Players) and family (Hanukkah vs. Christmas) problems.  THOUGHTS:  This was my first Swindle mystery and was very easy to understand even though I hadn’t read the previous seven titles.  This is a fun, fast-paced mystery for upper elementary and middle school students.  The interaction of the friends is both a great example of friendship and a lesson in when to say no or question “the plan”.  Gordon Korman once again delivers a winner.

Mystery     Erin Parkinson, Beaver Area MS/HS

My True Love Gave to Me…a Holiday short-story collection

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Perkins, Stephanie, ed.  My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories. New York: St.      Martin’s Press, 2014. 978-1-250-05930-7. $18.99.  336 p.  Gr. 9+.

This anthology features short stories that revolve around Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and all other folklore, events, and popular figures associated with the winter season.  The stories are written by popular young adult authors, such as Rainbow Rowell, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Matt De La Pena, Holly Black, Kelly Link, Laini Taylor, Gayle Foreman, Kiersten White, Ally Carter, and Stephanie Perkins, who is also the editor.  There is a romance theme to most of the stories, but the depth and emotion that each author packs into the limited number of pages is impressive. There are stories of friends who almost become something more each New Year’s Eve, a girl who falls in love with the boy who runs the Christmas tree lot, and a Jewish boy who realizes just how important traditions are as he dresses up like Santa for his boyfriend’s little sister.

Holiday Short Stories   Melissa Daugherty, Sharon City Schools

With one or two exceptions, I loved all of the stories in this collection.  It is the perfect book to curl up with a cup of coffee in front of the fire and get excited about Christmas or winter in general.  Each story is unique and enjoyable in its own right.  I especially liked Rainbow Rowell’s Midnights, It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins, and The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link.

The Bane Chronicles…a superstar compilation by Clare, Brennan, and Johnson

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Brennan, Sarah Reese, Cassandra Clare, and Maureen Johnson.  The Magnus Bane Chronicles.  New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014.  528 p.  978-1442-495999.  $22.99.  Gr. 9+.

This collection of short stories is a supplement to both of Clare’s The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series.  Each story features the elusive and flamboyant warlock, Magnus Bane, and back story about specific events or characters mentioned throughout both series.  In one story, Magnus attempts to help a targeted Marie Antoinette escape from France in order to impress an attractive and persuasive soldier.  In “The Midnight Heir”Magnus returns from a 25 year hiatus to England where he runs into a debauched, wildly drunk and destructive young Shadowhunter, who just happens to be the son of his friends, Will and Tess Herondale.  He escorts James, the appropriately named teen, back to the London Institute and learns there is more to the boy’s troubling behavior than meets the eye.  Fans will appreciate learning just what happened in Peru, more about Bane’s torrid affairs, and awkward details about when he began dating Alex.

I really enjoyed this collection because Magnus is one of my favorite characters in Clare’s series.  The writing is witty and the historical references are carefully plotted. I have a group of girls who are obsessed with The Mortal Instruments and were counting down the days till I got this one in.  The short stories were previously released monthly throughout the year of 2013 as Kindle singles on Amazon, which leads one to question why it was republished in a physical form if not for any reason other than profit.  Also, if you have not read any titles in this series, Magnus is gay, just in case that is something you have to watch out for in your collection. Throughout the series he has relationships with males, females, vampires, and Shadowhunters.

Fantasy            Melissa Daugherty, Sharon City Schools