YA – Nowhere on Earth

Lake, Nick. Nowhere on Earth. Alfred A. Knopf, 2020. 978-1-984-89644-5. 292 p. $17.99. Grades 7-10.

Emily would do anything to protect her little brother, Aiden, even stowing away on a bush plane when the men in black start following him around town. But crashing in the Alaskan wilderness wasn’t in the plan. However, the rapid arrival of men with guns, shooting at them, propels Emily into action. She, Aiden, and Bob, the injured pilot, head out across the dangerous landscape, trying to put distance between themselves and the hunters, making their way towards safety. The book opens with the plane crash and the adrenaline doesn’t let down. Emily’s and Aiden’s backstories are revealed as the story unfolds, including Emily’s tempestuous relationship with her parents. Emily does come to appreciate the myriad survival lessons her ex-special-ops father taught her, as well as the beauty of the Alaskan territory, but deeply resents her parents for moving from Minneapolis and forcing her to leave behind her beloved ballet. The book begins as an adventure-survival tale, but then evolves into so much more, including a massive plot-twist and several thought provoking ethical issues. A few threads could have been more fully developed, including a hint that the plane crashed due to sabotage, but readers will be forgiving.

THOUGHTS: This hard to pigeon hole book should find a home with a wide variety of readers. Perfect for those who prefer a book that grabs you from the first page, but also gives satisfaction to readers looking for some depth.

Science Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

YA – Traitor

McCrina, Amanda. Traitor. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020. 978-0-374-31352-4. 368 p. $18.99. Grades 7-12. 

War is not clean and neat, and McCrina’s Traitor masterfully portrays the emotional and ethical wreckage it causes. The two-pronged storyline begins with Tolya, in July 1944. A young soldier in the Soviet army during World War II, Tolya keeps his head down. With his Ukranian father executed as a traitor, and his mother shot for being Polish, his loyalties do not lie with the Soviets, but he enlisted because he was alone and hungry. When he shoots his unit’s political officer during an assault on a young woman, it’s only a matter of time until the NKVD, the Soviet Secret Police, arrest and shoot him. However, when he is whisked away, it turns out to be an extraction by the Ukranian Insurgent Army, who are looking for a sniper to assassinate a high ranking Soviet officer. The alternate plot line begins in June 1941, following young Ukranian Aleksey who is attempting to break  his Ukranian nationalist hero father out of a Russian controlled Polish prison prior to the arrival of German troops. As life deteriorates in the Polish city, an injured Aleksey and his brother, Mykola, find themselves in the care of the Polish Resistance. Both plotlines highlight the confusing disintegration of loyalties as the Germans advance into Russian territory. While the Russians had allied themselves with the Polish resistance earlier in the war, now they are actively hunting and killing them. Astute readers may pick up on the connection between the two plotlines early in the book; most will unravel it deeper into the story, hindered by the profusion of characters with unfamiliar names. But the ultimate moral of the story is that there are no winners in war. Readers’ hearts will ache for the profound loneliness of both Tolya and Aleksey, as they cannot bring themselves to trust anyone. Ultimately, it seems, everyone’s goal is to just survive. A character list and an outline of military units at the end of the book are extremely useful to readers in keeping the complex stories organized.

THOUGHTS: This outstanding historical fiction story highlights a lesser known corridor of World War II. The era is presented in deeply humanistic terms, highlighting the psychological toll war causes on those caught up against their will. It can be a challenging read with dozens of characters and multiple factions to keep straight, but the reward is magnificent. Hand this stunning book to Alan Gratz fans who are ready for something more mature. 

Historical Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

MG – You Choose: Can You Escape?

You Choose: Can You Escape? Capstone Press, 2020. $24.49 ea. $97.96. set of 4. 112 p. Grades 3-7. 

Braun, Eric. Could You Escape Alcatraz? An Interactive Survival Adventure. 978-1-543-57392-3.
Doeden, Matt. Could You Escape the Paris Catacombs? An Interactive Survival Adventure. 978-1-543-57394-7.
Hoena, Blake. Could You Escape a Deserted Island? An Interactive Survival Adventure. 978-1-543-57395-4.
—. Could You Escape the Tower of London? An Interactive Survival Adventure. 978-1-543-57393-0.

Reminiscent of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series from the early 80s, this series takes you on a survivalist journey to various locations. Each book in the series offers 3 paths with 41 different choices and 18 possible endings. This reviewer had the opportunity to choose a path through the Paris Catacombs, 100 feet below the cities of Paris. The path started with a choice to explore the catacombs as a young worker in the 1700s, a modern-day tourist, or as a rescuer of a group of teens lost in the labyrinth. Written for younger adventurers, this is an enjoyable book for grades 3-7 as you get to choose your own destiny during your journey. Filled with photographs of the actual catacombs and artists renderings of Paris, this adventure series is sure to delight students.

THOUGHTS: This is a great modernized version of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that many of us grew up with that will delight this generation of readers. A great read for reluctant readers since the text is not overwhelming and the chance to read the book several times to create new endings will entice them to read more.

Action/Adventure                Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

YA – The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Collins, Suzanne. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Scholastic Press, 2020.  978-1-338-63517-1. $24.99. 528 p. Grades 9-12.

The much-anticipated prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy begins 64 years before Katniss Everdeen enters the arena to fight for her life. The Hunger Games are only ten years old and are not yet the spectacle they go on to become. Coriolanus Snow, future president of Panem, along with his cousin and grandmother, have sold almost all of their possessions after the war drains their finances. The Snow name is synonymous with wealth, and they struggle to maintain a wealthy facade. The Snow family motto demands it: snow lands on top. Head gamemaker Dr. Gaul pairs each tribute with a Capitol Academy mentor. Coriolanus is paired with District 12’s Lucy Gray Baird, who immediately becomes a fan favorite due to her songbird voice. Coriolanus falls for her and, upon seeing the horrific conditions where the tributes are kept before the games, arranges for her to have food and medical care, a precursor to tribute treatment in the later books. But he still has strong loyalty to the Capitol. This is much different from his peer, Sejanus. He views The Hunger Games as unjust, and at times, Coriolanus sees his point. As his love for Lucy Gray deepens, he is conflicted. He believes in her but also in the Capitol. Most of all, he believes he needs to make something of himself in order to keep proving that snow always indeed lands on top.

Thoughts: Readers will want to simultaneously empathize and loathe Coriolanus. He wants to make the right decisions, but there are already glimpses of what he will become in later books. Fans of The Hunger Games will love discovering the origins of the trilogy’s most important symbols, such as the mockingjay and Victors’ Village. For those who have never read The Hunger Games, it serves as a good start. Similar to its predecessors’, the book does have a fair amount of blood and violence and is better suited for high school readers who are sure to enjoy this action-packed origin story.

Dystopian Fiction     Danielle Corrao, Ephrata Area SD

MG – 96 Miles

Esplin, J.L. 96 Miles. Starscape, 2020. 978-1-250-19230-1. 266 p. $16.99. Grades 6-8.

96 Miles by J. L. Esplin has the look and feel of an apocalyptic novel. Twelve-year-old John and eleven-year-old Stewart Lockwood are the offspring of single-parent and survivalist, Jim Lockwood. Their father is away on a business trip when a massive power outage strikes their area of the Nevada desert. The boys are unfazed because they have six months’ worth of water and supplies, plus a generator. What they don’t anticipate is the ruthlessness of people as materials grow scarce and the situation drags on. Forced at gunpoint to abandon their property, the narrator John immediately assumes the role of protector, a position his younger brother sometimes resents. He sets out to walk to Brighton Ranch, the home of a close family friend, 96 miles down the highway, in three days. Before long, the brothers are accompanied by two other children, Cleverly Iverson and her little brother, Will. John reluctantly accepts them on their journey at Stew’s urging, and he soon realizes the benefit of their presence, especially Cleverly, a selfless, intelligent girl who is mature beyond her twelve years. Newcomer J. L. Esplin unpacks the plot gradually, feeding the reader a bit of information to put together the puzzle. She transcends the expected blisters, sunburn, and dehydration to make 96 Miles a page-turner full of surprise and suspense that made this reader gasp aloud at least twice. Though the narrative is dire, the author provides the deftly drawn characters with senses of humor and sufficient depth to deem them worthy of their self-named tag, Battle Born. This moniker takes on a significant meaning when it becomes apparent that “survival of the fittest” is an innate impulse even in these likeable characters.

THOUGHTS: This book gives lots of survivalist tips that teachers may be able to incorporate into science lessons. Critical thinking skills are also relevant because John is challenged to make important decisions that effect his life and the lives of his companions. Different times in the story “survival of the fittest” is put to the test causing discomfort or generating discussion. Is there evidence at the end that the Battle Born are willing to let bygones be bygones? Stew and the family friend have diabetes, a factor that lends to the urgency of the quartet’s travels. Reminiscent of Susan Beth Pfieffer’s Last Survivor series and Mike Mullin’s Ashfall.

Action/Adventure          Bernadette Cooke, SD Philadelphia

YA – The Virtue of Sin; The Prom; There’s Something About Sweetie; The Starlight Claim; Rules for Vanishing; The Toll; The Speed of Falling Objects

Schuren, Shannon. The Virtue of Sin. Philomel Books, 2019. 978-0-525-51654-5. 420 p. $17.99. Grades 8 and up. 

Girls and boys don’t get to speak to one another – not in this community, not until they’re married. But, as usual, youth finds a way. When it is time for a Matrimony for all those of age, Miriam is sure that she knows who will choose her. The night, however, doesn’t go as planned, leaving Miriam to question everything she’s ever known. Married to an outsider who she doesn’t love (and who apparently doesn’t believe) Miriam is faced with a choice: comply and become the docile wife of someone she doesn’t want or face the reality that Daniel, their voice of God, may not be all that he claims to be. As the world begins to shift around her, Miriam begins to find her own path in a life that has always been dictated for her.

THOUGHTS: Miriam’s story is a powerful depiction of the control that people can hold over others and the determination it takes to let yourself be free. 

Realistic Fiction          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD

 


Mitchell, Saundra. The Prom. Viking, 2019. 978-1-984-83752-3. 212 p. $17.99. Grades 7 and up.

All Emma can dream of is dancing with her girlfriend at prom. One special, magical night where the two of them can not only be seen in public but be normal. However, that’s entirely too much for Edgewater, Indiana to handle. When the PTA finds out that someone different wants to disrupt their perfect prom, crisis mode ensues. Emma, a cover artist on YouTube, makes headlines nationwide after taking the PTA (and their new exclusive rules) to task in her latest video. Before she knows it, big names are stepping to her side while her town turns its back, and Emma is left in one big, complicated situation when all she wanted was something so simple.

THOUGHTS: Based on the hit Broadway musical, this heart-wrenching description of the challenges LGBTQIA+ youth face is all too real. From the bullies and the isolation to the unexpected support and acceptance, readers will feel every step of the way as they follow Emma along her journey. 

Realistic Fiction          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD


Menon, Sandhya. There’s Something About Sweetie. Simon Pulse, 2019. 978-1-534-41678-9. 376 p. $18.99. Grades 7 and up. 

Sweetie Nair is phenomenal. She’s sweet and kind, a star athlete, a model daughter with a perfect life and, oh yeah, she’s fat. Growing up fat in an Indian-American household hasn’t been simple for Sweetie; her mom is constantly trying to get her to lose weight so she can have an easy life, and society always has something to say about the way she looks. When Sweetie is offered the opportunity to date the ultra-attractive Ashish Patel, a star basketball player and ladies’ man, she learns the truth about just how far her mother’s prejudices go. Not to be deterred, Sweetie decides to take matters into her own hands: it’s time to show the world just who she really is.

THOUGHTS: Set in the same world, this companion novel will fill the When Dimple Met Rishi sized hole in your heart. 

Realistic Fiction          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD

 


Wynne-Jones, Tim. The Starlight Claim. Candlewick Press, 2019. 978-1-536-20264-9. 240 p. $17.99. Grades 8 and up. 

Nate Crow has grown up spending summers at his family’s isolated cabin on the lake learning how to respect nature and the elements. Joined by his friends Dodge and Paul, the boys lived idyllic childhoods enjoying their surroundings in the fair weather. But come fall, it’s time to secure the cabin and head for sturdier lodging. It’s possible to winter in the cabin, sure, but life is as hard as the snow is deep and with only one train in or out of the area the isolation could be deadly. When Dodge goes missing and is presumed dead after a winter excursion to his cabin, Nate is haunted by dreams of his former best friend. He knows he needs to do everything he can to ensure that Dodge is not still out there, alive but hurt. Nate makes the arduous hike to the cabin, only to find that the isolated cabin isn’t deserted after all. Miles away from anyone who could help, with limited supplies and a blizzard moving in, Nate must figure out how to survive.

THOUGHTS: The Starlight Claim is a thrilling survival story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. This book has a bit of everything and will appeal to anyone interested in the outdoors, life or death survival, and jail breaks. 

Action/Adventure        Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD


Marshall, Kate Alice. Rules for Vanishing. Viking, 2019. 978-1-984-83701-1. 402 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12. 

The tale of Lucy Gallows has lived on in Briar Glen for generations. Legend has it that once a year a road will appear in the woods, and the ghost of Lucy Gallows will appear. Those who follow the road are supposedly granted a wish. Sara’s sister Becca disappeared one year ago right around the time the road should have appeared. When Sara finds a journal of Becca’s with clues to the road, she knows where Becca went and is determined to go after her. Despite having resolved to go alone, former friends rally to join Sara on her journey, none of them knowing the challenges, dangers, and sacrifices that lay ahead- after all, the road doesn’t want them to leave.

THOUGHTS: While the story was more gory than I usually like to see, I appreciated that the plot line was original. The road was lined with challenges both fantastic and psychological with horror elements that truly made it a gripping and haunting tale. 

Horror Fiction         Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD

 


Shusterman, Neal. The Toll. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-481-49706-0. 625 p. $19.99. Grades 7+.

Good and evil forces are aligned to fight for the fate of human and scythekind in this gripping and satisfying conclusion to the highly popular Arc of a Scythe series. Even in a perfect word designed by an advanced AI to solve all of humanity’s problems, the foibles and weakness of humans derail the best laid plans. The power within the worldwide Scythedom is being consolidated under the self-serving control of Scythe Goddard and the ugly realities of bigotry, fear mongering, and political intrigues are on display. Our favorite characters seem helpless, the honorable Scythe Faraday has retreated in despair to an atoll in the Pacific Ocean. Citra and Rowan are found in the wreckage after the Endura disaster and are now hunted by Goddard’s minions. Also on Goddard’s hitlist is Greyson Tolliver, the sole person to whom the Thunderhead speaks and the spiritual leader to the Tonists. The Thunderhead, by its own law, cannot intervene in the affairs of the Scythedom. But can a small group of thoughtful, committed, major characters change the fate of the world? Overall, an engaging and thought-provoking read.

THOUGHTS: Highly recommended for Grades 7+. This book already has a long waiting list for fans of this top notch dystopian sci-fi series; our library purchased two additional copies to meet demand. Interest in the series should continue as a motion picture is in the works.

Science Fiction          Nancy Summers Abington SD


Fischer Richardson, Nancy. The Speed of Falling Objects. Harlequin/Inkyard Press, 2019. 978-1-335-92824-5. 336 p. $18.00. Grades 9 and up.

Danny is not like her absentee father in any way. He’s the in-your-face TV personality “Cougar,” a world-famous survivalist that is always flying off to exotic locations with celebrities to show the television audience how to survive in whatever dangerous situation unfolds. Danny’s given name is actually Danger Danielle Warren, but because that’s the opposite of her careful, quiet personality and because her father, who left her and her mom when he struck it rich with his television show, is the one who christened her with that name, she goes by Danny instead. She’s certain that her father is disappointed in her because she isn’t daring and athletic like him, and she suspects she is also the cause of her mom’s bitterness toward her dad. Danny’s caution stems from her struggles with her balance and perception due to a childhood accident that caused her to lose an eye. When Danny is just about to turn seventeen, and after years of neglect, Cougar reaches out to her for the chance of a lifetime to go to the Amazon Rainforest with him and one of the most popular heartthrobs in the world for an adventure. She jumps at the chance to prove her worth even though her mother is against it. The book takes a dark turn when there is a plane crash, and Danny is confronted with the truth of her father and a family secret and her need to summon her own survival skills to try and make it out of the jungle alive.

THOUGHTS: Although the characters and events were a bit contrived, it made the story possible, so I can forgive them. This book will appeal to some of my students who will enjoy the survival aspect. Fair warning that many people die while trying to survive the plane crash and rainforest, and there is romance.

Action/Adventure          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

MG – Ruff vs. Fluff; Share Your Smile; Rising Water; The End of the World and Beyond; Eventown

Quinn, Spencer. Ruff vs. Fluff: A Queenie and Arthur Novel. Scholastic, 2019. 978-1-338-09139-7. 293 p. $17.99. Grades 3-7.

Arthur the dog and Queenie the cat live with Mom and the twins (Harmony and Bro) at the Blackberry Hill Inn. Business is slow, so they are delighted when Mr. LeMaire checks in and recruits the twins to guide him partway up the Old Sokoki Trail. The twins return, but Mr. LeMaire doesn’t, and he is soon discovered dead on the mountainside. Happy-go-lucky Arthur and aloof Queenie know what the humans do not: Mr. LeMaire had a gun as well as an old map of the region. The local sheriff quickly makes an arrest, but both the animals and their people know that the case hasn’t really been cracked. A new guest might not be who he claims, and it seems that more than one mystery haunts the Old Sokoki Trail. Also, Arthur accidentally ate the map! Can Arthur and Queenie save the day before anyone else gets hurt?

THOUGHTS: Arthur’s voice will remind readers of Bowser from Spencer Quinn’s delightful Bowser & Birdie series: loyal, a little absent-minded, and always in the mood for a treat. Queenie, more self-possessed, is entirely disdainful of her canine compatriot. It’s all in good fun (except for the murder) with a big finale that gets the whole gang together on the mountaintop. Stay tuned for Paws vs. Claws, coming in September!

Mystery          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Telgemeier, Raina. Share Your Smile: Rainia’s Guide to Telling Your Own Story. Graphix, 2019. 978-1-338-35384-6. 133 p. $17.99. Grades 3-7.

Sometimes the wait for a new Raina Telgemeier book can feel never-ending! Until Guts arrives in September, readers can get a little practice telling their own stories with this interactive journal, which is full of “tips, tricks, and inspirational kick-starters for getting your story down on paper.” In Chapter One, “Share Your Smile,” Rainia shares how she transformed the dental drama she experienced as a tween into her beloved graphic memoir, Smile. She also provides prompts for readers to begin sharing their unique experiences through both pictures and words. Chapter Two, “All in the Family,” focuses on the week long road trip that inspired Sisters, and encourages readers to find inspiration in their own family adventures. “The Drama of School” and “The World Around You” chapters flow from Raina’s fictional comics, Drama and Ghosts, and demonstrate how real life can generate story ideas, settings, and even supernatural elements. A sneak peek at Guts rounds out this fun, colorful guide.

THOUGHTS: With plenty of empty panels for readers to practice drawing, paste in their own photos, and write their own stories, Share Your Smile is a contender for “Library Book Most Likely to Be Written In.” But it will be worth it to see Raina Telgemeier’s many fans find inspiration in these pages. Share Your Smile could also provide some fresh prompts for classroom writing assignments, especially the traditional how-I-spent-my-summer essay, as well as an English/Art curriculum crossover.

808 Writing and Drawing; Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Aronson, Marc. Rising Water: The Thai Cave Rescue. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019.  978-1-534-44441-3. 148 p.  $17.99  Gr. 5-9.

Marc Aronson tells the gripping story of the rescue of twelve young Thai soccer players and their coach during the summer of 2018, an event that attracted media attention from around the world. Aronson begins by providing information about each one of the boys, including information about the “stateless” status of many of them. The book generally follows a chronological timeline, as Thai authorities gradually started inviting various experts from other countries in to work with them to find and rescue the boys. The true story is so full of twists, dashed hopes, highs, lows, and then a final, almost unbelievable ending, that even Aronson’s restrained, matter-of-fact writing style can’t stop the book from being a page-turner. A highlight of the book actually comes in the backmatter, when Aronson explains his struggle to tell the story through a lens that is global, and not just American, in nature.

THOUGHTS: Many kids enjoy reading rescue and survival stories, and this one has all the elements of real-life drama with a happy outcome. However, this story also brings a number of global issues to the forefront, including the plight of people who, for whatever reason, find themselves undocumented or stateless. Recommended for middle schools and high schools.

796.52  Caving          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley

Aronson is renowned for his non-fiction and this book does not disappoint. Present readers will recall the dangerous and brave experiences of both the Wild Boars Soccer Team and their rescuers in a cave complex in Thailand in 2018. A cast of characters reveals the large scale of the event from the coaches, players, military, government officials, and expert helpers from other countries. The book reads like a detailed log of the events with pictures and words creating a sense of urgency to orchestrate the rescue. As time passes, students will not recall the events unfolding before their eyes, but the book will transport them to the events. Important primary quotations and facts such as being “stateless” or the story behind the name of the cave system are interwoven into the text. Four pages of full color images with captions help to clearly visualize the location and those involved. 

THOUGHTS: The author includes a section on their research. This would be very helpful to share with students embarking upon a research project. There are a lot of caves that students may have visited. A creative option is to make a display for students and faculty to share a picture or a favorite memory from visiting a cave.

796.52 World History, Survival Stories          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Avi. The End of the World and Beyond. Algonquin Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-6162-0565-2. $16.95. 304 p. Gr. 4-7.

12-year old Oliver Cromwell was convicted of stealing and must board a prisoner ship bound for the colonies, specifically, Maryland, to serve out his 7-year indentured servant sentence. His father is left behind in England and his beloved sister, Charity, is placed on a different prison ship also headed to America. (Oliver’s mother died at his birth.) Oliver soon gets purchased by a dreadful man named Fitzhugh to replace a slave that he recently murdered for trying to escape. Oliver suffers much abuse at Fitzhugh’s hands, and it seems like the only positive thing is that Fitzhugh also owns a slave, Bara, who eventually becomes friends with Oliver. Bara and Oliver spend their days tending Fitzhugh’s tobacco farm and trying to plan an escape through the swamp to find the maroons, who are groups of slaves and indentured servants rumored to have escaped and formed small colonies. Bara and Oliver know they will be killed if they are caught, but Oliver’s need to find his sister and both of their desire to leave the inhumane treatment by Fitzhugh gives them the courage to want to try. Even though they have a plan in place, they are forced to run when another of Oliver’s “follies” puts them in danger. They make their way to the great swamp and will need to use their wits to avoid the large cats, cottonmouth snakes, quicksand, and, most especially Fitzhugh and his band of men, who have followed them into the swamp.

THOUGHTS: Although this book is written for students 8 through 12 years old, some of the descriptions of brutality on the ship and actions by the evil master, Fitzhugh, are disturbing. Oliver’s somewhat sophisticated thoughts may also be lost on all but the most precocious young readers. This is the second book in the Oliver Cromwell story, but you do not have to have read the first book to enjoy and understand The End of the World and Beyond.

Historical Fiction          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Haydu, Corey Ann. Eventown. Katherine Teagen Books, 2019. 978-0-062-68980-1.  336 p.  $16.99  Gr. 5-8.

A tragic event has left Elodee, her twin sister, Naomi, and their parents, shattered. Although they do not talk about the past, they are unable to move on from it. Then, Elodee’s mother gets a job in the too-good-to-be-true village of Eventown, where the sun always shines and no one is ever sad. Naomi and their parents immediately settle in, but Elodee can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t quite right . . . even though everything’s perfect. She starts to ask questions, but soon finds that curiosity isn’t welcome in Eventown. When she visits the Eventown library and discovers it’s nothing like any library she’s been to before, Elodee is horrified. Elodee grows more and more frustrated at both Naomi and herself as she wonders why she can’t just be happy like everyone else in this seeming paradise. When strange things start to happen, like the first rainstorm ever, everyone blames Elodee, and the residents of Eventown have to make some heartfelt choices.  

THOUGHTS: This is a complex, deep, but age-appropriate story that offers an interesting take not only on the themes of grieving and the importance of sharing feelings, but also on a number of interesting philosophical questions. However, the story can also be read for the enjoyment of its well-paced narrative and well-developed characters. Highly recommended for middle schools.

Fantasy-Magical Realism          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley

Elem. – So Tall Within; Look at Me; Avalanche; Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers; Winter is Here; Dreamers; Winnie’s Great War; Perfectly Norman; Poppy and Sam and the Leaf Thief; Am I Yours; Stumpkin; Goodbye Brings Hello; Pirate Jack Gets Dressed; The Girl in the Locked Room; Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise; Can I Be Your Dog; Santa Bruce; Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian; Snow Pony and the Seven Miniature Ponies; No Swimming for Nelly; An Inconvenient Alphabet; Got to Get to Bear’s

Schmidt, Gary D. So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom. Roaring Brook Press, 2018: 978-1-626-72872-1. 48 p. $18.99. Gr. K-3.

This lyrical recounting of Sojourner Truth’s many accomplishments begins when she is a young slave girl named Isabella. Growing up, she watches as her brothers and sisters are sold away, and she too is sold time and time again. As a young mother, she finally runs away and gains her freedom. The book also details how Isabella changed her name, successfully sued her former master for the safe return of her son, and how she was reunited with her brothers and sisters. It also describes her decision to begin walking across the country, sharing the truth about slavery to people everywhere. From meeting with President Lincoln, to collecting food and clothing for freed slaves and soldiers, to teaching former slaves how to live on their own, Sojourner Truth stood tall and spoke of all kinds of freedom. This poetic text is complemented by beautiful paintings accented by recurring motifs, including trees, roots, and shadowy figures.

THOUGHTS: This will be a wonderful addition to biography collections. A lengthy biographical note at the end of the book highlights some of Sojourner Truth’s accomplishments not included in the text, such as her famous “Ar’n’t I a Woman” speech and the publication of her story, “Narrative of Sojourner Truth.”

326          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Jenkins, Steve. Look at Me! How to Attract Attention in the Animal World. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018: 978-0-544-93553-2. 32 p. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

Sometimes animals want to blend in to their environments, and sometimes they want to stand out! This nonfiction title focuses on the many ways animals attract attention when they want to be noticed. Each double-page spread highlights two different animals and describes ways they draw attention to themselves. Some animals, like the Indian bullfrog, inflate sacs on their neck when they want a mate to notice them. Others, like the royal flycatcher, raise a colorful feather headdress to attract a mate. Many sea slugs are vibrantly colored, letting predators know eating them would not be a good idea. Male hippos protect their territory by opening their mouth wide and showing off their tusks. And, pufferfish inflate their bodies to appear larger, sending a signal that they may be difficult to swallow. Jenkins’s signature cut-paper collage illustrations present an incredibly detailed look at a wide variety of animals. Most collages are mounted against bright white backgrounds, allowing the details to pop even more. Four pages of endpapers provide additional information about each animal featured in the book.

THOUGHTS: This will be a well-received addition to elementary nonfiction collections. Students will enjoy pouring over the facts about each animal, learning all about eyespots, stink fights, throat pouches, and glowing tentacles. This title will also provide a nice contrast to books about animal camouflage.

591.5          Anne Bozievich,  Southern York County SD 


Johnson, Terry Lynn.  Avalanche! (Survivor Diaries). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.  104 p. 978-0-544-97039-7. $8.69 ea. Grades 3-5.

—.  Overboard!  978-0-544-97010-6.
—.    Lost!  978-0-544-97118-9.
—.   Dust Storm!  978-0-544-97098-4.

Twins Ashley and Ryan are skiing with their family when they decide to take a detour to see Colt Summit with its untouched snow.  Their arrival on the slope triggers an avalanche, which engulfs the pair. The siblings must use their survival training in order to overcome the bitter cold, strong winds, and an encounter with a bear and a wolverine. The author is a survival expert in real life, and this is evident in the book. The plot moves along quickly with the avalanche occurring in the second chapter. At times, the story reads more like a survival guide than a work of fiction. In fact, there is a list of avalanche and wilderness safety tips in the back matter. Black and white illustrations, some full page, are found throughout the text. The author provides a link to an interactive survival quiz and a card game based on each book. While the story is slight, it is full of action and will appeal to reluctant readers and to those who enjoy the I Survived series.

THOUGHTS: This series is a good choice for libraries where shorter, high interest adventure stories are in demand.

Adventure Fiction          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD


Henkes, Kevin.  Winter is Here.  Greenwillow, 2018. 978-0-062-74718-1.  Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.

Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek have collaborated once again on this latest offering in their series of seasonal titles (In the Middle of Fall and When Spring Comes). With spare text and full bleed illustrations, the duo explores the wonder and beauty of winter. To begin the story, Henkes describes the snow that can be found on houses and in trees throughout the neighborhood. The author then goes on to create a series of sensory contrasts, such as the soft snow and the hard ice, the quiet of falling snow and the noise of busy snow plows, and the blue versus gray landscape. Henkes packs a lot of figurative language into this short volume, like personification (“Winter is reaching through the branches and crouching in doorways”) and similes (“leaves underneath are like stars in glass”).  Dronzek uses acrylic paint to create the charming illustrations, which add a very wintry feel to the story. At the end of the text, the advent of spring approaches and the story segues into When Spring Comes.

THOUGHTS: With older students, this book can serve as a mentor text for figurative language. A fabulous readaloud, it is the perfect choice for a winter-themed story time for the younger crowd. Deceptively simple, this winter tale is a must-have for every elementary collection.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD


Stewart, Melissa. Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs. Peachtree Publishers, 2018. 978-1-561-45936-0. $16.95. Unpaged. Grades K-3.

Underdogs in the animal world can be just as clever, cute, and talented as the cool cats. However, they often adapt for survival by being smelly, slow, and small. Melissa Stewart poses the questions and wonderings while keeping humor and narrative nonfiction light and easy to enjoy. Learn why the hoatzin reeks and the okapi hides, why the koala sleeps and the naked mole rat is, well, naked! The illustrations by Stephanie Lambert are expressive and detailed; making the us root for the underdogs all the more!

THOUGHTS: This text would pair well with any of the adaptation books by Steve Jenkins or others. Using an online source or an animal encyclopedia to further explore the animals listed in here would be an apt extension. Finally, students could debate between the Davids and the Goliaths of the animal world and argue facts about why they are best suited to survive.

591, Animals          Dustin Brackbill State College Area SD


Morales, Yuyi. Dreamers. Neal Porter Books, 2018. 978-0-823-44055-9. $18.99. Unpaged. Grades 1-4.

“We are stories…. We are dreamers, soñadores of the world.” Yuyi Morales tells the  story of a mother and her niño daring to travel across the border and into a foreign land to start this brave adventure (based on her own story). Life as immigrants isn’t easy, especially with language barriers at every turn. Through mistakes and exploration, the travelers seek their home. Finally, a miraculous place full of stories and ideas and dreams draws them in: a public library! “We learn to read, to speak, to write, and to make our voices heard,” she says with the succinct poetic voice that fills the book. The amazing collage artwork with characters, book covers, and colorful memories will bring readers back to dream for generations to come.

THOUGHTS: Dreamers is getting plenty of awards season buzz this year, and justifiably so. A comparison of this to her other award winning work (Viva Frida; Niño Wrestles the World) would make for a wonderful Hispanic art class. Of course, looking at the list of inspiring literature that she provides in the end notes would also be a valuable exercise.

818, Autobiographical Literature          Dustin Brackbill State College Area SD


Mattick, Lindsay. Winnie’s Great War. Little, Brown, and Company, 2018: 978-0-316-44712-6. 227 p. $16.99. Gr. 3-6.

In this companion to the Caldecott-winning picture book Finding Winnie, readers learn more about the life of Winnipeg, the black bear cub who became the inspiration for A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories. Winnie’s tale begins in the Canadian woods, which she loves exploring with her mother. But, after her mother is caught by a trapper, Winnie is taken in by the trapper’s kind-hearted grandson. When it becomes clear Winnie won’t make a good housepet, the trapper takes her to the train station in hopes of selling her. This is where she meets Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, a soldier in the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps. Alongside Harry, Winnie becomes the unofficial mascot of the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade. She stays with the soldiers and their horses during their training in Valcartier, crosses the Atlantic Ocean, and drills with them on the Salisbury Plain in England. Winnie’s sense of adventure and big heart help her make friends wherever she goes, and she realizes her duty is to make others feel better. Although it’s difficult, when it’s time for Harry and the soldiers to see action, Harry drives Winnie to the London Zoo where he knows she’ll be taken care of during the War. Even though she misses Harry constantly, Winnie still manages to spread hope and cheer to the Zoo’s many visitors, including Christopher Robin Milne. This beautifully written story is bookended by the author’s conversations with her young son, both of whom are real-life relatives of Harry Colebourn. Excerpts from Harry’s diary lend historical context to the story as well help ground Winnie’s tale in larger events unfolding on the world’s stage. Sophie Blackall’s detailed double-page and spot illustrations charm readers and perfectly complement Winnie’s remarkable tale.

THOUGHTS: This book is a thoughtful celebration of bravery, friendship, and loyalty, and it champions making the best out of life’s difficult situations. Share this title with animal lovers and students who enjoy stories rooted in history.

Fiction          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Percival, Tom. Perfectly Norman. Bloomsbury, 2018: 978-1-681-19785-2. 32 p. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

Norman has always been a perfectly normal boy – until the day he grows a huge, colorful pair of wings. He immediately tests them out and discovers how much fun it is to fly and soar through the air. But, Norman isn’t sure what other people will think of his wings, so he decides to cover them up under a puffy jacket. Norman soon discovers that wearing the jacket all the time negatively affects his daily routines. From bath time to bed time to swimming time, everything is more difficult with the jacket. Norman begins wishing he never grew the wings at all, but he ultimately realizes it’s the jacket that’s making him unhappy, not the wings. At his parents’ urging, he peels off the jacket, spreads out his wings, and leaps into the air. While he’s flying around, he notices a few other children with jackets on too. After seeing him flying around, they too remove their jackets, and the world is filled with soaring children! Norman finally understands that there’s no such thing as normal, but there is something to be said for being yourself. In the digitally-rendered illustrations, Norman appears in vibrant color, and the rest of the world and the people in it are shades of black and white. Only the final double-page spread, when all the children spread their wings and show their true personalities, appears in full-color.

THOUGHTS: This is a charming story championing acceptance and individuality. Share this title with guidance counselors, or use it to jump-start class discussions about what “normal” really means.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Cathon. Poppy and Sam and the Leaf Thief. Owlkids Books. 2018. 978-1-771-47329-3. $16.95. Gr. K-2.

Poppy and Sam are out in their strawberry field waiting for the strawberries to ripen when they hear a scream. Poppy and Sam run to find out that someone had taken a bite of Mrs. Basil’s leaf! As she exclaims that someone is eating her precious leave, Poppy and Sam decide that they will help Mrs. Basil find out who this mysterious eater is. The pair begin to ask everyone where they were at the night before, and everyone seems to be innocent. As Poppy and Sam begin to make plans to solve the case, they continue to be stumped by the culprit. Can they figure out who is eating Mrs. Basil’s leaves?

THOUGHTS: This picture book is an excellent introduction to the mystery genre for young children. The book is full of new vocabulary words and the characters are all different components of a garden. A cute read for a young mind looking for a mystery book.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Latimer, Alex. Am I Yours? Peachtree Publishers. 2018. 978-1-682-63044-0. $16.95. Gr. K-3.

Millions of years ago a breeze blew across the land and blew an egg out of a nest. This little egg rolled and rolled until it landed on level ground. As the cold night ends, the little egg hears feet and calls out, “Am I yours?” Dinosaurs travel to the egg, describing themselves and asking if the little dinosaur inside matches. As several dinosaurs come and meet the egg, the egg grows sadder realizing that it does not belong to anyone. Night draws to a close, and the sun shines on the egg, creating a silhouette, allowing the dinosaurs to find the little egg’s match!

THOUGHTS: This is a cute dinosaur book for young children. This book uses accurate names that many children will recognize, with rhyming text to help find the mother and father of the little dinosaur inside the egg. The illustrations are colorful and accurate in making connections to dinosaurs that children know.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Cummins, Lucy Ruth. Stumpkin. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2018. 978-1-534-41362-7. $17.99. Gr. K-3

A few days before Halloween, a group of pumpkins are placed on a shelf in a store. The pumpkins are scared when they see their one of their friends taken away, but are delightfully surprised to see him reappear across the street in a window as a jack-o-lantern. The pumpkins are all excited to be taken away, except for one who notices he’s a little different. Where his stem should be, he has a stump. Stumpkin. He continues to watch all of the other pumpkins be taken away, including a gourd! Stumpkin hopes for his time to come to have a home in the window across the street and wonders if that will ever be.

THOUGHTS: The design and coloring of this book are beautifully done, with simple black and white pictures and a small splash of orange. The story line is a sad one, with a sweet ending of acceptance and understanding of one’s place in life. A cute Halloween read!

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


White, Dianne. Goodbye Brings Hello. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2018. 978-0-544-79875-5. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

With each goodbye in life, we are introduced to a new hello! As the world is changing, we see how sometimes an end can create a brand new beginning. Sometimes things are scary, such as hugging your teddy before leaving him behind for school, but there is a great beginning on the other side, such as making a new friend! From changing shoes, crayons, and even your hair, each goodbye brings a hello.

THOUGHTS: This picture book is a good read for all ages, as it can help us get through some of the hard times in life. A goodbye doesn’t always mean the end but can often lead to a hello of something new. This is a great book that illustrates this concept to children, using simple language and situations that they will understand.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Day, Nancy Raines. Pirate Jack Gets Dressed. Beach Lane Books. 2018. 978-1-4814-7664-5. $17.99. Gr. PreK-2.

Pirate Jack needs to wake up and get dressed! Pirate Jack takes each of his unique articles of clothing and makes sure that the colors are all different, making him look ready for his pirate crew! Each article of clothing is something important he needs, but each needs to be different in order to be colorful and ready for his adventure!

THOUGHTS: This unique pirate color book is a great choice for young children. The book is illustrated in a unique way, allowing children to learn colors and articles of clothing. A story my first graders really enjoyed!

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Hahn, Mary Downing. The Girl in the Locked Room. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. 193 p. $16.99. Gr. 3-6.

Jules and her family just moved to old, rundown Oak Hill–once a beautiful, grand farm and mansion, Oak Hill has fallen into disrepair. It’s owners, Henry and Laura Bennett, were mysteriously killed over a hundred years before, but no one knows what happened to their young daughter Lily. Jules immediately begins to see and feel strange things that no one else can see. After some research with a new friend, she discovers that Lily’s ghost still lives at Oak Hill, never leaving her father’s third floor painting studio where her parents ordered her to hide on the fateful night that they were killed by angry hired help. Jules and Maisie, both bookworms, get an idea from their favorite fantasy series about a way that Lily may be able to change the fate of her family on that night over a hundred years earlier. Students likely won’t pay much attention to a few tidy coincidences that allow the story to move easily. Jules and Lily alternate chapters, each telling part of the story, and nothing terribly scary or graphic happens, but it’s a very satisfying creepy story which will please any reader who loves a good ghost story.

THOUGHTS: Another great middle grade ghost tale by Mary Downing Hahn. Pick it up!

Mystery/Horror          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Stein, David Ezra. Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise. Candlewick Press, 2018. 978-0-7636-8842-4. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. K-2.

Chicken just learned about the “elephant of surprise” from her teacher and is anxious to find the “elephant” in each story during storytime with her papa. He gently tries to help Chicken understand that she probably learned about an “element of surprise,” but if you know Chicken you know that she is quite strong-willed! She and Papa make their way through The Ugly Duckling, Rapunzel, and The Little Mermaid, and Chicken manages to find an elephant in each story. Stein’s story is similar to Chicken’s first tale, with Chicken popping into each story and making it her own, and his illustrations are just as whimsical as those in the Caldecott Honor-winning original Chicken story Interrupting Chicken.

THOUGHTS: Fans of Chicken and new readers alike will enjoy this clever and silly story.

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Cummings, Troy. Can I Be Your Dog? Random House, 2018. 978-0-399-55453-7. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. K-2.

Homeless dog Arfy lives in a box on Butternut Street, and he’s desperate to find a loving family. He sends a letter to the Honeywell family explaining his excellent qualifications as a family dog and asks if they will adopt him…no luck. He moves on to the butcher shop, fire station, junk yard, and deserted house on Butternut Street, each time sending a slightly more sad and desperate letter delivered by an increasingly alarmed mail carrier. After several rejection letters, Arfy receives a lovely letter with an offer for him! Mitzy Whipple, letter carrier, writes Arfy and asks “Can I be your person?” Arfy is overjoyed, and he and Mitzy live happily ever after. Eagle-eyed readers will enjoy Cummings’ colorful illustrations and will notice Arfy and Mitzy’s matching distressed expressions as Arfy receives rejection after rejection. Front endpapers showcase dog-themed stamps, and back endpapers show a birds-eye view of Butternut Street along with a note about how readers can help homeless animals.

THOUGHTS: A delightful story, sure to be enjoyed by dog lovers young and old.

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Higgins, Ryan T. Santa Bruce. Disney Hyperion, 2018. 978-1-484-78290-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-2.

Bruce’s life is certainly different than it used to be. Not only is he a goose mother, he’s family to a trio of plucky mice who refuse to leave their former hotel (known as Bruce’s home). Bruce fondly recalls his days of hibernating and skipping right past the holidays, but “…his family wanted to enjoy a cozy, now-filled Christmas together.” While the geese and mice are decking the halls and making eggnog, Bruce dons his red long underwear and warm hat to shovel snow and is once again mistaken for someone else…this time, Santa Claus! Poor Bruce, once again the victim of mistaken identity. His mice family is happy to support the idea and even tell the parents of woodland children that Bruce will happily deliver gifts that night! Bruce, of course, grumpily agrees, all the while wishing he was in his bed. Higgins’ Bruce is a delightful scrooge, always frowning and grumping at everyone while somehow still agreeing to do all the things that delight his family and friends.

THOUGHTS: Another enjoyable installment in the life of curmudgeonly Bruce and his family.

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Weinstein, Jacob Sager. Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian. Clarion Books, 2018. 978-0-544-80122-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-2.

Criminal mastermind Dr. Glockenspiel has escaped and is demanding “one billion trillion dollars,” or all the world’s books will be eaten by his army of giant moths. Oh no! The world’s top secret agents are captured by Glockenspiel’s henchmen, and it seems that the end of books is near…enter Lyric McKerrigan, secret librarian! Lyric has a knack for both disguises and pairing readers to just the right books, and she uses both talents to foil Dr. Glockenspiel and his team. The story itself is creative and enjoyable, but it’s Vera Brosgol’s graphic-style illustrations that really steal the show. While thought of by many as a picture book, I decided to put this book in my easy graphic novel section because it’s truly a perfect introduction to graphic novels. Brosgol’s style combines multi-panel pages (usually 2-4 panels) and basic use of speech bubbles with some two-page spread illustrations and boxed text. It’s a very easy-to-read graphic style that can introduce young readers to graphic novels with a super fun, action-packed story. I hope that Weinstein and Brosgol team up for more adventures of Lyric Kerrigan–she’s a new favorite of mine!

THOUGHTS: An enjoyable, action-filled story combined with fantastic graphic-style illustrations–something for many readers to enjoy.

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Trimmer, Christian. Snow Pony and the Seven Miniature Ponies. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

Must read! As you may have guessed, Snow Pony and the Seven Miniature Ponies is a horse-filled retelling of the classic Snow White fairy tale, although this version has tons of great changes. Snow Pony is a beautiful horse, beloved by children and fellow horses alike, with a particular child friend (Charmaine) and her dog (Hunter… “don’t be fooled by his name–the only thing Hunter hunted was belly rubs”). One day, jealous pony Queenies lures Snow Pony away from the farm with a trail of delicious apples, and she finds herself in the woods with no idea how to get home. She stumbles upon a small stable that’s home to seven miniature ponies, each with a special name and job (such as gathering water, taking care of bees, or delightfully enough, being a tax attorney). Snow Pony’s story ends with a happy reunion with Charmaine and Hunter, rather than a more traditional meet-up with a prince, with miniature ponies in tow.  Trimmer writes with humor for both children and adults, and this retelling will be enjoyed by boys and girls of many ages. Jessie Sima brings her signature illustration style (Not Quite Narwhal, Harriet Gets Carried Away) to Snow Pony and the result is a fabulous mix of cartoonish ponies, fairy tale trimmings, and clever humor.

THOUGHTS: Trimmer and Sima are a perfect pair–this one will fly off your shelves.

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Gorbachev, Valeri. No Swimming for Nelly. Holiday House, 2018. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. PreK-2.

A short and sweet tale about Nelly and how she overcomes her fear of water. While she adores her new swimsuit and enjoys wearing it to play basketball or go out to dinner, she’s afraid of waves and getting water in her nose and decides that swimming is not for her. Luckily, Nelly’s grandma is a champion swimmer and a very patient grandma. She never pushes or forces Nelly, but simply shows her how much fun swimming can be and supports her small steps towards swimming success (easing into the water, blowing bubbles, etc.). Valeri Gorbachev creates a story perfect for little ones just learning to swim or any kid needing some encouragement in a fearful situation, especially when a supportive adult is there to help out.

THOUGHTS: A fun summer read aloud for little ones.

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Anderson, Beth. An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin & Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution. Simon & Schuster, 2018. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. 2-4.

If ever an author/illustrator team could take a dry topic and turn it into something fun and interesting, Beth Anderson and Elizabeth Baddeley are it! An Inconvenient Alphabet tells the true tale of Ben Franklin and Noah Webster’s effort to reform the English language in America. Why do 26 letters make 44 sounds? People spelled and pronounced words incorrectly every day thanks to our “inconvenient alphabet,” and both Ben and Noah worked hard for years to make American English a more accessible, easy language. After several failed attempts, the two teamed up for a joint effort, but “…after eight years of war, people had no patience for changing the alphabet every which way. They just wanted life to return to normal.” Ben continued to encourage Noah’s efforts and Noah eventually went on to create his famous American dictionary. Though most of these entries still contained the same old “inconvenient alphabet,” Noah did contribute several lasting changes to American English (such as eliminating the letter “u” in “colour” and “honour”). The story is told in upbeat, accessible language and supported by an extensive Author’s Note and a section with notes on research (including a lengthy Bibliography of primary and secondary sources). Baddeley’s illustrations are exceptionally colorful and eye-catching; they often show Ben or Noah physically interacting with language by rearranging the letters of words or handing letters to colonists. Humorous illustrations add a tremendous amount of meaning to the text. An Illustrator’s Note explains Baddeley’s use of pet “sidekicks” to keep the story interesting and to help with pacing. Beautifully done.

THOUGHTS: Exceptional partnerships are found in the history and creation of this story. A great book to share with students learning about language.

428.1 Spelling          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Lies, Brian. Got to Get to Bear’s! Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. PreK-2.

“Heartwarming” perfectly describes this woodland friendship tale. Brian Lies, well-known for his Bat stories, sticks to his strengths and tells the beautiful story of little creatures struggling through nature, trying to make it to friend Bear’s home in a blizzard. Bear sent chipmunk Izzy a note, “Please come at once!” Izzy knows that Bear “…never asks for anything,” and sets off despite the snowflakes. When the going gets too hard, friend Scritch the squirrel offers to give her a ride, which eventually becomes treacherous as well. Eventually, four friends including Bingle the duck and Snaffie the raccoon stand atop one another in a perilous but determined attempt to make it to Bear’s to ensure that she is alright. Bear is surprised but delighted that they all arrived for Izzy’s surprise birthday party! The five friends enjoy a celebration together and Bear helps everyone home the next day as the friends sing, “No matter how steep or tough the climb, a friend is worth it, every time!” The story is sweet, but the real strength of the book falls in Lies’ gorgeous acrylic paintings. Every animal’s face is wonderfully expressive and textures seem to jump off the page (the tiny hairs on Izzy’s tail, the snow-covered birch tree, Bingle’s cozy hat).

THOUGHTS: A fun winter read aloud, especially when celebrating friendship or the cold weather birthday of a special child.

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

YA FIC – The Secrets We Bury, One Small Thing, People Like Us, Not If I Save You First, Time Bomb

Ramey, Stacie. The Secrets We Bury. Sourcebooks Fire, 2018. 978-1-492-65420-9. 320 p. $10.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Dylan is on the run; he only has a few months until he can decide for himself that he’s not attending the school for psychologically challenged students where his family wants him. Though he lacks survival and hiking experience, Dylan decides the Appalachian Trail is the perfect place to hide. A few months of hiking until he’s 18 is nothing, right?

Most people that know Dylan would say his issues would get in the way of hiking the Trail, but Dylan finds himself at home and able to think of others for the first time. Dylan isn’t the only one hiding on the Trail, though, and others need the serenity as much as he does. When it comes to survival in his carefully, yet unpredictable world, will Dylan be selfish or put the needs of others before his own.

THOUGHTS: Readers that like a character-driven novel will root for Dylan as he tries to remain anonymous. As more details are made available through his hike, readers come to understand why he’s in the situation he is. Readers looking for a realistic adventure with a bit of mystery and a subtle love interest will devour Ramey’s newest work to see if Dylan can make it.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Watt, Erin. One Small Thing. Harlequin Teen, 2018. 978-1-335-01727-7. 384 p. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Beth feels trapped in a cage – her house – ever since her older sister died tragically. Fed up with not being seen or heard by either of her parents, Beth is looking for a little taste of control in her life. Sneaking out to a party in the next town and hooking up with a guy she meets is just what Beth needs. Afterwards, though, she begins to realize how monumental her decision was, and part of her feels regret. Luckily, she’ll never see him again.

Now out of juvie and determined to live life under the radar, Chase attempts to assimilate with his former life. A welcome home party and a pretty girl who throws herself at him is just what he needs.

It isn’t until Beth and Chase realize who the other is that they truly realize the impact of their connection. Forbidden from being together yet drawn to the other, Beth and Chase struggle with their feelings as well as with grief, guilt, and loss.

THOUGHTS: Initially drawn in by the cover and the title, One Small Thing left me feeling torn. As a parent, I can understand wanting to protect your child, but Beth’s parents take protection to a suffocating level. Teens will devour this story of first love, desperate to know the outcome for Beth and Chase. Underage drinking and mature relationships make this more suitable to high school readers.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Mele, Dana. People Like Us. G.P. Putman’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-1-524-74170-9. 384 p. $17.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Bates Academy was Kay Donovan’s ticket out of her old life. Being at the top of the social food chain has had its advantages for Kay. She’s a soccer star, has a great group of friends, and has plans to earn a college soccer scholarship.

When a classmate is found dead the night before a major scouting tournament, games are cancelled and Kay begins to panic. A mysterious email from the deceased classmate that arrives the following day sets Kay on a path to make sure her long-hidden secrets stay that way. Though she’s been enjoying life at the top, Kay will do anything to get what she wants.

THOUGHTS: This deceptive, fast-paced scenario will leave readers racing ahead to see if Kay stays on top or is ruined by her past secrets. As she fights the clock to solve the mystery, Kay becomes more involved and more suspect. Fans of mystery fiction (especially those with a small town and/or private school flare) will enjoy this read. Underage drinking and casual descriptions of sexual relationships make this more suitable for mature readers.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Carter, Ally. Not If I Save You First. Scholastic Press, 2018. 978-1-338-13414-8. 304 p. $18.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Maddie and Logan don’t live the typical 10 year old’s lifestyle. In their spare time, they find secret ways to get from one place to the next – in the White House. Together they enjoy escaping the adults and the high profile lifestyle they live as the President’s son and the President’s Secret Service agent’s daughter.

Life changes drastically after shots are fired during a botched kidnapping attempt. Maddie and her dad leave DC behind and move to Alaska, where there isn’t another person around (or any way other than written letters for Maddie to contact one) for miles. In Alaska Maddie learns a new skill set to help her survive the harsh wilderness. Though she misses her best friend and writes him daily, Maddie gradually moves on and accepts her life.

Flash forward six years, and Logan hasn’t been the model First Son. He’s now being shipped to Alaska (and back into Maddie’s life) to learn a lesson. Before Maddie has the chance to give Logan a piece of her mind, they are attacked in the woods, and Logan is dragged off. Maddie wants Logan dead, but she also wants the pleasure of getting her own revenge.

THOUGHTS: Fans of survival and mystery stories will be delighted by the treacherous Alaskan setting. A strong female heroine shows that girls can have brains and beauty. Readers will be disappointed that this Carter book isn’t part of a series.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Maddie and Logan were best friends until the fateful night when terrorists gained access to the White House, and Maddie’s dad was shot. Now, six years later, Logan is back in Maddie’s life, but it’s not the life she had. Before her dad was shot, Maddie lived in Washington D.C., and her best friend was the president’s son. Now, she lives in the wilderness of Alaska with no friends, no school, and a dad who’s away for work often. Logan’s return to Maddie’s world brings back all of her anger towards him and his disregard for their friendship after she left. But when Logan is kidnapped by a henchman of “the Wolf”, the man who six years prior infiltrated the White House, Maddie must bury her anger and save her friend before the Wolf or Alaska kill him. Will Maddie’s wit and knowledge of the Alaskan wilderness be enough to save Logan and out maneuver a terrorist seeking revenge, or will Alaska win before Maddie has a chance to save Logan first?  

THOUGHTS: This is another fast-paced adventure from Ally Carter author of the Embassy Row and Heist Society series. The strong female protagonist will appeal to all readers because of the relationship between Maddie and Logan and the relatability of the two. Highly recommended for middle school and high school readers.

Adventure          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Charbonneau, Joelle. Time Bomb. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-0-544-41670-3. 352 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Each in school for different reasons, characters take a turn as the lead suspect when the radio announces one of them is the bomber. Narrated by a diverse cast of characters, seemingly innocent and not connected to each other, Time Bomb will grab readers right from the beginning and hold them hostage as the seconds tick by.

THOUGHTS: Loving character-driven, multi-point of view narratives, I knew right from the description (and author) that Time Bomb was going to be a book for me. Reminiscent of Karen McManus’s One of Us Is Lying‘s Breakfast Club style cast of characters, readers will be hooked from the beginning. Hand this one to fans of Hate List by Jennifer Brown, This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp, and Violent Ends by various authors. Though intense in topic, this book is still suitable for younger high school readers, especially given recent national events.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

YA FIC – Bad Call; Foolish Hearts

Wallenfels, Stephen. Bad Call. Hyperion. 2017. 978-1-48476-813-6. $17.99. 312 p. Gr. 6 and up.

The three, star tennis players at an exclusive California boarding school break the rules to take a secret weekend camping trip to Yosemite.  Ceo, the charismatic playboy of the group, arranges the trip, luring his teammates into a quest to hike the rugged trails of the national park and hopefully find the remnants of a drug smuggler’s plane that crashed in the 70s.  Unknown to Colin and Grahame, Ceo has also arranged for a girl he met at a summer drama camp to join them. Ellie, a soccer stand out and aspiring artist takes a risk and skips out on a college visit to take this spur of the moment adventure with her summertime crush.  As the four arrive in Yosemite Valley, the unpredictable late fall weather and simmering tensions between the boys threaten their weekend plans and their lives. The story is told from the perspectives of Colin and Ellie, who are the heart and conscience of the tale. The strained relationship between the wealthy and manipulative Ceo, scholarship student Colin whose father has just died, and Grahame, an athletic powerhouse with a competitive grudge against Ceo, is revealed through flashbacks of the past school year.  Thoughts: The story starts slow, establishing the characters’ connection, but quickly builds in suspense as the trip turns into a harrowing survival tale. Recommended for fans of adventure fiction.

Realistic Fiction      Nancy Summers, Abington School District

Mills, Emma.  Foolish Hearts. Henry Holt and Co. 2017.978-1-62779-937-9.  $17.99 314 p. Gr. 7 and up.

Claudia, a high school senior on the fringes of the in-crowd, finds herself the unwilling witness to the break-up of Iris and Paige, the cutest couple at Prospect Landower School for Girls. When discovered to be eavesdropping, Claudia becomes a target of mean girl Iris’ wrath. But as the school year begins, Claudia and Iris are unwillingly paired to work on a class project and after they nearly fail this first assignment their teacher forces them to participate in the school play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a co-production with their brother school.  The two girls form a tentative pact, which grows into an unlikely friendship that grows stronger as the year goes on. Meanwhile, the play introduces Claudia to Gideon, the male lead in the play, and a romance begins though Claudia, stung from her first boyfriend’s indifference, doesn’t feel she is worthy of his attention. Another curve comes when Claudia discovers that her best friend, Zoe and her brother are dating. I was slightly disappointed with the all too common cliche of the popular and gorgeous boy falling for the unpopular and nerdy girl. But overall, Foolish Hearts is a positive tale which focuses more on the power of friendships between the girls and their growing realization of the need to accept the people they love as they are, not as they wish they were. Thoughts: A good selection for reluctant readers and fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han will certainly appreciate this light-hearted and heart-warming story.

Realistic Fiction      Nancy Summers, Abington School District