YA – Faith: Greater Heights

Murphy, Julie. Faith: Greater Heights. ‎ Balzer and Bray, 2021. 978-0-062-89968-2. 352 p. $18.99. Grades 8-12. 

Ever a fan of anything Julie Murphy writes, diving into a magical realism book gives pause to some readers. The authentic writing style is descriptive enough to make the reader feel like they’re flying. This  is part two of Faith’s story, and she is fully aware of her superpowers but still not super sure how to deal with her grandmother’s dementia or how to cope with exes. Murphy’s world building and origin story preparation make it pretty clear that we can expect more to come on Faith’s story, with action plugged into scenes when Faith isn’t just trying to figure out normal life.

THOUGHTS: For Julie Murphy fans in general, this book should make its way onto high school shelves as long as book one is already there. While you’re at it, you can make sure you have a few of her other series as well. Murphy has a knack for writing in an inclusive way that feels like how it should’ve always been (spoiler: it should’ve been). Her writing is trustworthy and representative. 

Fantasy           Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

Elementary – King & Kayla; Last Firehawk; Mama Lion; Avengers

Butler, Dori Hillestad. King and Kayla and the Case of the Mysterious Mouse. Peachtree, 2017. 978-1-56145-879-0. $14.95. 48 p. Gr. 1-3.

King is a dog, and Kayla is his human. King is the narrator of this entry level mystery series. King loves to play fetch with his ball, but one day King ends up with a ball that looks like his, but definitely is not his ball. Determined to find his ball, King starts investigating. A stray cat tells King Mouse took the ball. King tries to imagine just exactly how a mouse could take his ball. Kayla is also trying to solve the mystery, but King can’t wait for her. He escapes, gets into the yard next door, and follows his nose right through the doggie door, where he meets a large dog named Mouse. Luckily, both dogs agree playing together is great! THOUGHTS:  Each page is liberally illustrated, including may full page illustrations. With spunky King as narrator, this book is sure to delight many a new reader who wants a “chapter book”.   

Mystery      Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District


Charman, Katrina. The Last Firehawk.  Scholastic, 2017. $4.99 ea. 90pp. Gr. 1-3.

The Ember Stone. 978-1-338-12213-8.

The Crystal Caverns. 978-1-338-12251-0.

Small owl Tag yearns to be an Owl of Valor and prove his braveness. While he is too small to face battle, he unexpectedly gets an opportunity to show his mettle. When Tag and his squirrel friend Skyla accidentally stray far from home, they find an unusual egg that hatches into a firehawk, a mystical bird thought to be extinct. With the land under attack from Thorn, an evil vulture, the three friends are sent on a quest to recover the scattered pieces of the magical Ember Stone, which, when reassembled, will hopefully be strong enough to defeat Thorn. THOUGHTS:  These liberally illustrated books have enough text to provide a satisfying plot for young readers not yet ready for Erin Hunter’s Warriors series.  

Fantasy      Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District


Muth, Jon J. Mama Lion Wins the Race. Scholastic Press, 2017. 978-0-545-85282-1. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-Gr. 2.

It is race day, and Tigey and Mama Lion are vying for the big trophy.  In order to win, they must beat other characters like the Flying Pandinis, the Knitted Monkey crew, and Bun Bun.  However, as they fly through the countryside in their vintage cars, Tigey will soon learn that winning may not be everything.  The beauty of the world, the significance of kindness, and the value of friendship can be appreciated regardless of whether they win or lose.  Gorgeous illustrations, complete with cameos by well-known characters like Clifford the Big Red Dog and Mo Willems’ Pigeon, complement this sweet story with an important message for young children.  THOUGHTS: Teaching children to be kind and compassionate towards others is a lesson that will never become obsolete.  This book, full of lovable characters, will serve as a great discussion starter for such a lesson. After reading the story, students could brainstorm acts of kindness that would be possible for them to do for others.  This pleasant story would make a great addition for any library that serves young readers.

Picture Book       Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD


Glass, Calliope. Avengers: Ms. Marvel’s Fists of Fury. Marvel Press, 2017. 9781484781463. $17.95. 128 pp. Gr. 3-5.

Ms. Marvel has to fight bird creatures in this graphic chapter book. Kamala Khan is your average young, female Muslim girl from New Jersey. When she walked through an unusual mist she developed superpowers, like the ability to stretch her legs and super strength, that she now uses to protect the citizens of Jersey City while trying to do well in school. Ms. Marvel has a big biology test she needs to study for so, thankfully, Thor turns up to help her solve the avian crime spree led by the half-bird Super Villain, The Inventor. In the story, Kamala must deal with real-life relationship issues with her good friend, Nakia since she doesn’t know her friend is a superhero. Hijab-wearing, Nakia, doesn’t understand why Kamala blows off her texts and their Biology test study date and Kamala isn’t free to tell her the truth. Thor helps her to accept her faults and to learn to accept her friends’ help.  THOUGHTS: Ms. Marvel’s foray into chapter books for younger readers is a good way to introduce younger readers to the Marvel universe of characters and especially to the young, female, Muslim superhero, Ms. Marvel, who saves the people in Jersey City, NJ. A male Avenger superhero, Thor, shows up in this story to keep certain young male readers interested.

Juvenile Comic/Graphic Novel              Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Miss Marvel


Wyatt, Alphona. Miss Marvel: Generation Why. New York: Marvel Worldwide, 2015.978-0-7851-9022-6. $15.99. Gr. 7-12.

Kamala Khan is adjusting to her new life as a superhero, but it’s pretty hard. In her strict Muslim household, her parents barely let her speak to boys, let alone stay out late fighting the injustice that plagues Jersey City. So, by day, Kamala is a normal teen, but by night, she finds herself fighting giant sewer alligators and other weird baddies. Teaming up with Wolverine and a big, goofy dog named Lockjaw, Kalama must work against a new villain, the Inventor, while also looking for two missing teens. But, being a superhero takes it’s toll; her friends are suspicious and feel like she’s hiding something, and Kamala’s powers don’t always work when she wants them to. Is this really the life Kamala wants? Can she be both a superhero and a normal teenager, while also pleasing her parents, teachers, and friends? As in the previous volume, Miss Marvel, Kamala barely knows why or how she became a superhero, and in this volume, readers only find out a little more. Regardless, Kamala is an excellent role model for teenagers, and a fantastic, fierce Marvel hero. Readers will scramble to get their hands on this face-paced, action packed volume. THOUGHTS: If you haven’t already done so, add the Miss Marvel series to your teen graphic novel collection now! She’s the only Pakistani Muslim female superhero out there, and to make things even better, the comic is well-written, witty, and totally fun.

Graphic novel    Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

The Shadow Hero


Yang, Gene Luen and Sonny Liew. The Shadow Hero. New York: First Second, 2014. 978-1-59643-697-8. $17.99. Gr. 7-12.

Distinguished graphic storyteller Gene Luen Yang teams up with master illustrator Sonny Liew to give readers a glimpse into the origins story of The Green Turtle, who may be the first Asian American superhero. Based on the short lived, five-volume comic by cartoonist Chu Hing for Blazing Comics, Yang creates his own fascinating and significant tale about one man’s quest to become a superhero and fight crime in Chinatown during the 1940s. When the Ch’ing Dynasty collapses in China, four shadow spirits come to council to decide the best way to protect their homeland. Unable to reach an agreement, the turtle spirit hides in the shadow of a drunk man he discovers asleep in the cargo hold of a ship bound for America. Years later, in Chinatown, nineteen-year-old Hank works alongside his father in the family grocery store. His mother, convinced that there is a better life out there for her son, attempts to make Hank into a superhero. At first, Hank resists, but when tragedy strikes his family, he realizes that fighting crime- and ending the many injustices in Chinatown- may be his true calling. With the help of the turtle spirit, Hank’s journey is inspiring and culturally significant as traditional Chinese and Cantonese traditions are infused with the comic book world of super heroes. Yang smartly uses humor and wit throughout the story, and Liew’s illustrations are relevant to the time period explored while remaining faithful to comic culture. This is an absolute must for any graphic novel collection.

Graphic Novel     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

This book was wonderful; I knew I’d enjoy it, but it certainly exceeded expectations. The story and artwork compliment one another beautifully, and I was completely engaged. Normally I glance over the imagery in graphic novels and find myself focusing on the words, but Liew’s artwork is incredible, and the spirit shadow’s presence is woven into the frames in a way that makes you slow down and really appreciate the artwork. Yang’s storytelling is fulfilling and funny, in a way that both kids and adults can enjoy, which makes it so great to recommend. This one has been flying off the shelves, and I’m glad that we could add a diverse title to our graphic novel collection!