YA – The Obsession

San Jessie Q. The Obsession. Sourcebooks, 2021. 307 p. $10.99  978-1-728-21516-7. Grades 9-12.

Logan is suffering from the loss of his true love Sophie, who died by suicide two years ago. His friends don’t understand, he’s tired of trying to pretend he’s ok, and he wonders what’s left for him. Then he sees her: Delilah. Suddenly, everything is magical again. He hasn’t spoken to her beyond a brief hello, but he knows: She is the One. He begins watching her, learning her every perfect move, knowing her schedule and–from social media–her favorite music, foods, and more. Just as he did with Sophie (in fact, she’s almost Sophie’s twin), he orbits Delilah and must learn all he can about her. Logan is a true romantic.  Delilah is busy dealing with her own family problems: Since her dad died, her mom has fallen into an abusive relationship with police officer Brandon, who treats them both horribly and is convincing her mother to quit her job, have a baby, and leave the finances in his control. Delilah can’t stand how frightened of him they are. Meanwhile, Logan sets up cameras on Delilah’s house to protect his cherished girl, and that is how he witnesses the death of Brandon–aided by Delilah. Logan enchants Delilah on one perfect date (obviously easy, since he knows all her preferences), but then he reveals his secret video.  Delilah is horrified and trapped–or is she? She’s had enough of being controlled by fear, and by men. What if the perfect girl is the perfect murderer? Logan may not see the break-up coming.

THOUGHTS: Watching this story play out is interesting to see whether Logan or Delilah will gain the upper hand. How can one out-maneuver the other? Recommended as an alternative to the typical rom-com!

Suspense Fiction            Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

YA – Cut Off

Finlay, Adrianne. Cut Off. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-0-358-00645-9. 384 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.

A group of teenagers is competing for a one million dollar prize, each with their own reasons for needing it. In order to be accepted onto the new reality show Cut Off, contestants go through a rigorous interview process and psychological evaluation. As readers are introduced to each character throughout the early days of Cut Off, interview segments and details from the evaluations are provided. Contestants need to outlast each other while spread out around a large island jungle. When they have no choice but to work together, the contestants begin to realize they might be more cut off than they thought. Their skym cameras (3D cameras that hover and follow their every move) still work, but the tap out button seems to be malfunctioning. Could something be wrong with the fully immersive reality show? Determined to figure out what’s going on, the contestants work together to survive, being more cut off than they ever thought was possible.

THOUGHTS: This action-packed adventure has three distinct parts. What starts out as serious outdoor survival takes a sharp turn towards science fiction. Readers will want to know who outlasts the others, but those who stick with it may have questions.

Science Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

YA – Illegal

Stork, Francisco X. Illegal. Scholastic, 2020. 978-1-338-31055-9. 291 p. $18.99. Grades 7-12. (Book 2 in Disappeared series)

Brother and sister Emiliano and Sara Zapata must flee from Mexico and the nefarious unnamed boss pursuing them. They cross the border into the United States, then split up.  Sara requests asylum, and Emiliano nearly dies in the desert before being picked up by an American rancher, then reunited with his father in Chicago. Emiliano carries the cell phone of a member–perhaps the leader–of a human trafficking organization that Sara has worked so hard to bring to justice. Neither Emiliano or Sara is safe, and conditions only worsen as Sara is separated and threatened in the detention facility, and Emiliano is tracked down in Chicago. Neither Emiliano or Sara is able to trust anyone immediately, and each must trust that the other will do “the right thing”–but the right thing for the victims of the human trafficking organization could be exactly the wrong thing for Sara and Emiliano. Both realize repeatedly that their lives are expendable and meaningless to others. Sara and Emiliano share one phone call in which Sara (in code) urges him to remember what he learned from Brother Patricio. Through his work for a neighbor of his father’s, Emiliano learns of a retired policeman who may help him. But Sara is to be moved to another facility–code for ‘lost’ or ‘terminated’–and both realize that time is running out.

THOUGHTS: Stork continues Sara and Emiliano’s stories (from Book 1, Disappeared), this time in the US. The various characters show human strength and frailty, stereotypes, hopes, and hatred. A must-purchase where the first novel was popular, though this novel can stand on its own.

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

MG – Beast: Face-to-Face with the Florida Bigfoot

Key, Watt. Beast: Face-to-Face with the Florida Bigfoot. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2020. 215 p. $16.99 978-0-374-31369-2 Grades 5-8. 

Adam survives the car crash that apparently killed his parents–at least, they have disappeared. When questioned by police, he speaks bewilderedly but honestly of what he saw in the wooded road near the Suwanee River: not a person or a bear, but something bigger than a bear, covered in hair, with a human face and huge black eyes. When the local paper runs a story about the accident including a “Sasquatch-like creature,” Adam regrets saying anything. The questions and the disbelief become overwhelming, especially from his Uncle John, who takes him in while the search for his parents continues. Adam can’t forget the creature, and due to disrupted sleep and nightmares, he begins searching online for information. He learns of a local Sasquatch appearance nearly 30 years ago, and sets out to question the man who reported it. He finds the near-hermit “Stanley” who reluctantly, then completely, tells Adam all he knows about the creatures, with a strong warning that the search for answers destroys your life. Adam decides he needs answers, and sets off on his own with some basic supplies.  What follows is a hard-core survival story wherein Adam becomes so attuned to the forest and animals that he lives as one of them, soon close to starving. Then he sees one of the creatures, then more. The scenes with the creatures shift from past tense to present tense, adding to the sense of unreality. Adam has found what he came for, but can he survive, can he find his parents, and can he get proof of the creatures’ existence?

THOUGHTS: With a likeable narrator, reasonable length (215 pages), and an attractive cover (see the creature in the trees?), Key has written a suspenseful survival story that will attract middle school readers curious about Bigfoot. Key includes helpful explanatory information about Sasquatch sightings.

Fantasy, Paranormal Fiction        Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

MG – Golden Arm

Deuker, Carl. Golden Arm. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. $17.99. 978-0-358-01242-9 . Grades 5-8.

Sixteen-year-old Laz Weathers may be slow, but he sees his future baseball prospects pretty clearly. His solid pitching gets no real training and won’t get noticed in his small, poor district. His own weak academics, his stutter, and his ‘tics’ in response to anxiety don’t do him any favors, either. It’s Laz’s younger half-brother, Alberto, who people respond to, and who will speak up when Laz can’t or won’t. But this summer, Alberto’s father has returned and moved in with their mom in their trailer park, causing initial resentment and adjustment by both boys. Laz convinces Alberto to stick with the scrappy baseball team led by Coach L—, who coaxes and cajoles thirteen youths to join the team, then badgers coaches of established teams to compete. Thanks to Laz’s pitching, they often win, which gets him noticed. Laz learns that his family must move (the trailer park will be razed for a high-rise) and that his district will eliminate baseball for his senior year. This allows Laz to join another team, if they’ll have him. A coach who noticed his “golden arm” will give Laz a chance, but can he leave when Alberto is being drawn into drug dealing? Just when Laz has the perfect chance to shine in a championship game, Laz learns his brother is in serious danger from his drug-abusing friends, and it doesn’t matter if Alberto has used, sold, or not–he’s the immediate target. Laz’s choices show his character and alter everything for his future.

THOUGHTS: Deuker shines with baseball scenes and infuses each interaction with tension and a sense of doom. This is hard to put down and will pull in baseball fans and non-fans (the sports writing is that superb). Readers will root for Laz, even as they see everything stacked against him. When the novel ends, I found myself wondering about a sequel showing Laz’s choices in a tough environment over the next 5-10 years, and how his integrity will be tested. This powerful, timeless novel melds baseball with the pressures of class status, mixes dreams with hard reality, and the result is a first-choice novel not to be missed.

Sports Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

MG – Hunger Winter: A World War II Novel

Currie, Rob. Hunger Winter: A World War II Novel. Tyndale House, 2020. $14.99 253 p. 978-1-496-44034-1  Grades 4-8.

In late 1944, 13-year-old Dirk’s father has gone into hiding as a leader of the Dutch Resistance against the Nazis. The chase begins immediately; in chapter one, Dirk learns via a neighbor that his older sister Els has been captured by the Gestapo, to question and torture for information, and to encourage their father’s cooperation. Dirk knows his next move must be to escape with his younger sister, six-year-old Anna, to their grandparents’ home, but questions and worries bombard his mind. Chapter two reveals Els’s perspective as she is starved; questioned; threatened; and worries for her father, brother, and sister.  Most of the story is Dirk’s, but returns to Els’s point-of-view in the final chapters. This tense novel reveals the strength of the Dutch people during what became known as the “Hongerwinter” when Nazi control of resources led to daily food rations of a mere 320 calories per person. Dirk must call upon memories of his father’s instructions and strength to guide him through difficult decisions on his journey, while shielding Anna from the brutal realities of war as best he can.

THOUGHTS: This is a middle-grade novel a step up in complexity and danger for readers who loved Number the Stars and The Devil’s Arithmetic. It will expand readers’ knowledge of Nazi tactics and brave Dutch resistance. An inspiring read.

Historical Fiction; World War II in Netherlands  Melissa Scott, Shenango 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 – Opposite of Always; Rebel; The Girl in the White Van; I Am a Feminist; The Revolution of Birdie Randolph; Slay; Frankly in Love; Hack Your Cupboard; All Eyes on Us; The Grief Keeper

Reynolds, Justin A. Opposite of Always. Katherine Tegen, 2019. 978-0-062-74837-9. $17.99. 457 p. Grades 9 and up. 

Jack King has spent most of his life on the sidelines – figuratively and literally. He attends his high school’s sporting events but only to cheer on his best friend Franny from the stands. Jack also is on the figurative sideline in his friend group. Though he had a major crush on Jillian during freshman year, she started dating Franny before he could tell her how he felt. He has spent much of high school content with being their 3rd wheel, supporting them through their family struggles. During senior year on a visit to a nearby college the trio of friends is hoping to attend, Jack meets Kate on a dingy stairwell, and he feels as though he finally has a chance at getting off the sidelines. Jack feels that he is falling in love with Kate, and she seems to return his feelings, but she keeps secrets and fails to commit completely to a relationship. When Kate suddenly falls ill and dies, Jack inexplicably time travels back to the moment they met on the stairwell and relives it all again… and again… Armed with knowledge of Kate’s future and the future in general, can Jack change the course of events and save Kate’s life? Can he fix his friends’ problems, too? Opposite of Always tells a mostly realistic but also slightly fantastical story that explores the concepts of time, priorities, relationships of all kinds, and what really matters. 

THOUGHTS: Contemporary YA romance meets Groundhog’s Day probably best describes Opposite of Always. As a result, the plot – by nature – is a bit repetitive. However, Jack’s self-deprecating humor makes him an easy character to root for, so with each iteration of the plot, the more he tries, the more readers will want to see him succeed. Though the narration is often heavy in dialogue, that’s okay because the snappy banter between Jack/Kate or Jack/Jillian is delightfully laugh-out-loud funny. Any YA book with a relatable male narrator gets my recommendation, but add the fact that Jack and his friends are black, and that makes this an excellent addition to any collection, especially one where students demand books with diverse characters. 

Realistic Fiction          Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD

Lu, Marie. Rebel. Roaring Book Press, 2019. 978-1-250-22170-4. $18.99. 376 p. Grades 7 and up.

One decade ago Eden’s older brother Daniel – better know by the nickname Day – took the Republic of America by storm, rising above poverty to become the nation’s most notorious criminal and later the rebellion’s hero. Now settled into Ross City, Antarctica, Eden is a top university student, and Daniel works for AIS, the Antarctican Intelligence System. The leveling system of Antarctica ensures the boys are living comfortably on the Sky Floors – but what neither boy realizes is how unhappy they both are. Alternating narratives show Daniel as an overprotective, older brother and Eden as an independent, frustrated younger brother. While the boys live together, they’re beginning to drift apart, and both feel frustrated by their relationship. Tired of living in his brother’s shadow, Eden is ready to make a name for himself, even it if takes him into the dark and dangerous Undercity. With friend Pressa by his side, Eden is ready to test his skills in a big way – an illegal way – entering Undercity drone race. When Eden’s invention catches the eye of Daniel’s and AIS’s target, life becomes more dangerous. This of course is right around the same time June and the President of the Republic of America are scheduled to arrive in Ross City. What follows is a fast-paced story about brothers and what it means to look out for each other while becoming who you were born to be.

THOUGHTS: Fans of Marie Lu’s writing will rejoice with this new installment to the Legend series. Though Lu takes a new approach with narrators in this fourth book, there is still enough of June’s character to satisfy earlier readers. References to previous events (and Daniel’s struggle to remember them) make this most suited for readers of the series; however, new readers can follow along as a new cast of characters surround the main conflict. Highly recommended for secondary libraries, especially where dystopian or sci-fi books are popular.

Dystopian Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Henry, April. The Girl in the White Van. Henry Holt & Company, 2020. 978-1-250-15759-1. $17.99. 224 p. Grades 7-12.

About 7 months ago Savannah and her mom relocated to Portland to live with her mother’s newest boyfriend. Tim isn’t exactly what his online dating profile promised. Though Savannah is trying to make the best of life in Portland, she hasn’t really found her place except in the Kung Fu dojo. There she finds solace, and she’s working on building her strength and her confidence. With her mom working nights Savannah is forced to spend some time with Tim. Luckily, Kung Fu gets her out of the house for a bit most nights. When Tim threatens to take away Kung Fu, Savannah runs out of the house and loses herself in that night’s class. Daniel, a fellow student, notices that Savannah seems distracted. Afraid to get too close to anyone only to move away again (they’ve lived in many different towns and states throughout Savannah’s life), Savannah doesn’t let herself get too tied to Portland. Distracted on her walk home and trying to figure out how to apologize to Tim, Savannah doesn’t notice she’s not alone. All of her Kung Fu lessons can’t save her from Sir, who overpowers Savannah and kidnaps her. Savannah isn’t alone in the RV, though. She’ll need to rely on her determination and convince Jenny that life is still worth living if they have any hope of getting free.

THOUGHTS: With fast-paced, compelling stories and characters readers will root for, it is no wonder why April Henry’s books are popular in my high school library. The Girl in the White Van is no different and is a must have for secondary libraries where mysteries or other books by Henry are popular.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Orca Issues. Orca Book Publishers, 2019. $21.41 ea. $64.23 set of 4. 175 p. Grades 9 and up.

Polak, Monique. I Am a Feminist: Claiming the F-Word in Turbulent Times. 978-1-459-81892-7.
Siebert, Melanie. Heads Up – Changing Minds on Mental Health. 978-1-459-81911-5. (2020)

Stevenson, Robin. My Body My Choice: The Fight for Abortion Rights. 978-1-459-81712-8.
Tate, Nikki. Choosing to Live, Choosing to Die: The Complexities of Assisted Dying. 978-1-459-81889-7.

Polak’s narrative explores multiple aspects of feminism starting with a chapter on its history from the suffragists of the early 20th century up to the current movement including the Women’s Marches in 2017. The book covers feminism around the world, highlighting many issues girls and women on this continent do not typically have to deal with like lack of access to education and genital mutilation. It looks at feminism in the workplace, feminism as it relates to love and relationships, rape culture, body image, issues of diversity and sexuality, and more. Finally, Polak discusses the toxic masculinity that exists in our culture and offers suggestions for readers to support men in becoming feminists, too. The book contains colorful photos and illustrations on nearly every page. Sidebars highlight specific news stories, individuals making a difference, or unique products that support the movement like, for example, a nail polish that changes color when it comes in contact with a date rape drug. The book also contains a very thorough glossary and list of resources at the back. Though Polak is from Canada and many of her references and examples come from that country, she also cites people, studies, and stories from the United States, so readers from the US do not feel like the book is irrelevant.

THOUGHTS: This book is an excellent resource for students doing a research project on feminism or simply seeking personal awareness on the topic. A relatively quick read, it could be read cover-to-cover, but could also be easily searched for a single specific topic using the index. While the lexile suggests the writing is at a high 9th grade reading level, Polak’s style is simple and conversational enough that it is accessible for a wide range of readers. Polak points out on several occasions that equal treatment for all is the aim of feminism, whether a woman wants to subscribe to traditional gender roles or not. As her title suggests, her purpose is to have all readers proclaim that they are feminists and shed the word’s negative connotation it has gained in recent years.

305.42 Feminism          Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD

Colbert, Brandy. The Revolution of Birdie Randolph. Little Brown, 2019. 978-0-316-44856-7. 336 p. $17.99 Grades 8 +. 

A sweet and empathetic coming of age story about a sixteen-year-old growing up in a rough neighborhood in Chicago. Dove Randoph, affectionately called Birdy by her family, has led a sheltered life kept away from trouble and temptation by her protective parents. The unexpected arrival of a new boyfriend and her long lost Aunt Carlene shows Birdie a different view of life away from the high expectations and straight lines drawn by her loving but controlling parents. These two new individuals in Birdie’s life both have checkered pasts. Carlene is in recovery, overcoming years of drug addiction and life on the streets and Booker has spent some time in juvenile detention, which definitely marks him as unsuitable in the eyes of Birdy’s parents. But both Carly and Booker expose Birdy to a new way of experiencing life, and this adds spark and adventure to her sedate existence. These new experiences and conversations open Birdy’s eyes and lead her down a path of her own choosing, rather than that of her parents’. This touching novel shows a teen figuring out how to live life on her own terms, walking the line between her loyalty to her family and following her own heart. Colbert expertly weaves together so many interesting and important themes, rebellion, family, addiction, rehabilitation. She gives an empathetic portrayal of the troubled Carlene and Booker and shows the potential for redemption every person may have inside of them.

THOUGHTS: With several of the author’s previous books on bestseller and awards lists, this novel is sure to be a teen favorite.

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Summers Abington SD

Morris, Brittney. Slay. Simon Pulse, 2019. 978-1-534-44542-0. 321 p. $18.99. Grades 7-12. 

Kiera Johnson lives a double life. By day she is one of four African American students at Jefferson Academy. She excels academically and works hard to fit in, never wanting to be seen as an outlier. But by night, Kiera lives in a world she has created, one in which she can truly be herself, the world of SLAY. An underground game that requires a passcode to get in, SLAY caters to the black community all over the world. More than 500,000 gamers use SLAY as a sanctuary from the real world, and Kiera, along with her developer Cicada, gives them all a safe place to be themselves. Known only as Emerald within the game, Kiera keeps her double life a secret from even her closest friends and family. But when an unexpected tragedy thrusts the game, and Emerald, into the limelight, Kiera must fight to keep her world and her online community safe from intruders.

THOUGHTS: Slay was an incredibly fun read. Morris explored the deeply important ideas of community and belonging in a way that was fresh. An empowering read.

Realistic Fiction          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD

Yoon, David. Frankly in Love. Putnam, 2019. 978-1-984-81220-9. 406 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12. 

Frank Li knows his parents are racist. They look down on anyone who isn’t Korean, so much so that when his sister married a black man she was disowned. As Frank tries to cope with senior year and the girls that come with it, he finds himself in a cultural conundrum. His parents would like nothing more than for him to date a nice Korean-American girl, but Frank Li only has eyes for Brit Means, a white girl who is definitively not Korean. Joy Song, a close family friend, finds herself in a similar situation prompting the teenagers to make the obvious choice, pretend to date each other so neither their parents nor their significant others ever find out that there is an issue. What follows is a whirlwind story that will take the reader on a journey to explore race, relationships, and what it takes to be true to yourself.

THOUGHTS: Frank Li’s story will resonate with anyone who has ever felt their choices would never be supported by their parents and has had to deal with the emotional fallout of that thought.

Realistic Fiction                Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD

Wiegand, Alyssa, and Carla Carreon. Hack Your Cupboard: Make Great Food with What You’ve Got. Zest Books, 2019. 978-1-942-18607-6. 168 p. $19.99. Grades 9-12.

Let’s face it: grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning up after yourself in the kitchen are three big components of “adulting” that must all master eventually. Hack Your Cupboard is here to guide the way from cereal-for-dinner to a fancy date-night dinner with minimal kitchen catastrophes. Authors Alyssa Wiegand and Carla Carreon have organized their collaborative cookbook into four sections: Your First Kitchen, Dorm Room Dining, First Apartment Dining, and First Solo Kitchen. Within each section are tips on stocking your pantry, food storage, selecting kitchen equipment, and mastering kitchen techniques from beginner (basic vinaigrette) to intermediate (caramelizing onions) to advanced (deep frying). The cookbook’s signature element is the concept of “hacking” recipes by using what’s on hand to improve each dish or tailor it to your personal tastes. Recipe pages are liberally peppered with gourmet, spicy, budget, healthy, and hearty hacks: incorporating nuts or fresh herbs, adding protein like chicken or shrimp, marinating veggies for more flavor, and preparing part of the recipe in advance to maximize prep time. 

THOUGHTS: The cookbook benefits from the authors’ “you’ve got this!” tone and beautiful, full-color photographs of each prepared recipe. Ramen noodles topped with shredded rotisserie chicken and red peppers have never looked so delicious! Hack Your Cupboard is a worthy addition to every library’s cookbook section, and it will appeal to cooking novices or anyone looking for ways to rejuvenate their worn-out recipes.

641.5 Cooking          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Frick, Kit. All Eyes on Us. Margaret K. Elderry, 2019. 978-1-534-40440-3. 374 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12. 

Logansville’s elite girl Amanda Kelly has it all: she’s pretty, she’s popular, she’s rich, and she’s witty to boot. To top it all off her boyfriend is none other than Carter Shaw, of Shaw Realty, and together they make the perfect power couple, the new generation that will take over the town. But Amanda’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems; Carter’s been cheating on her, slumming it with Rosalie from Culver Ridge. Rosalie, for whom going out with Carter is nothing more than a convenient cover, has no intentions of keeping Carter around once high school is over. She plans to move into an apartment with her girlfriend. All is well for both Amanda and Rosalie as long as no one knows. But when a Private number begins sending the girls threatening messages and ultimatums attempting to expose their secrets to their families and communities, will they choose to work together to save their futures?

THOUGHTS: A fun, fast-paced mystery that will keep you guessing until the end!

Mystery          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD


Villasante, Alexandra. The Grief Keeper. Putnam, 2019. 978-0-525-51402-2. 310 p. $17.99. Grades 9 and up. 

How much would you give up to ensure your safety? Your family’s? Marisol and her little sister Gabi have fled El Salvador and purchased illegal passage into the United States. Their family, torn apart by gang violence, is no longer safe. The sole future the girls have is to be granted asylum. Trapped in a Pennsylvania immigrant detainment center, the only hope for the girls is their ability to prove their need to stay in the asylum interview. When the interview does not appear to go as Marisol had hoped, she and her sister flee the center at the first chance they get. Unexpectedly, an opportunity presents itself that seems to be too good to be true, take part in an experiment that will potentially treat the grief of others for one month, and they will be allowed to stay legally. Marisol jumps at the chance but the toll is one she never imagined. How much can one person be expected to endure?

THOUGHTS: Touching on immigration and exploitation, The Grief Keeper is a thought-provoking novel that brings to light the plight, hopes, and fears of those who have nowhere left to go.

Realistic Fiction           Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD

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 – The Light Jar; An Invisible Thread; Pay Attention, Carter Jones; How to Win a Nobel Prize; The Lost Girl; Click; Klawde (books 1 and 2); U.S. Government Behind the Scenes; Art Skills Lab; Legendary Goddesses; Operatic; Behind the Scenes with the Pros; The Tornado Scientist

Thompson, Lisa. The Light Jar. Scholastic, 2019. 978-1-338-21630-1. 240 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

Nate and his mother escape in the middle of the night from his abusive stepfather Gary.  Due to an argument between his mother and grandmother, and because Gary would look for them at Nate’s grandmother’s house, Nate’s mom takes them to an old cottage of a friend. They hope they have found quiet refuge, but the cottage is in filthy condition and a bitterly cold climate. Just as Nate realizes this is nothing like what he’d hoped, his mother leaves to get them some much-needed food. And she doesn’t return. Fears old and new close in on Nate. Is he completely alone? Can he trust anyone? What if his mom has returned to Gary? Then Nate’s old friend Sam reappears. Seriously, he thought his imaginary friend was gone! How could he be such a baby? Nate wants to be brave, but Sam is comfortable, and it sure is nice to have someone to talk to. Then a young girl named Kitty appears, from the adjacent estate, and pulls him into a local treasure hunt unsolved by a girl who died years ago. Again, he’s torn. Companionship helps, but his fears are huge and his questions unanswered. As he helps Kitty and waits for his mom, Nate remembers his anger at how his own father left, how Gary seemed so nice, and how slowly he and his mom became subject to Gary’s anger and abuse.  The story concludes as Nate finds strength to survive and make hard decisions…and says goodbye to Sam and Kitty.

THOUGHTS: An unusual and well-meaning story, with uneven character development. Nate’s past seems real, but his present reality is marred by his own contradictory responses. In the early chapters he seems to be an 8 or 9-year old unaware of why his mom is leaving and why she is afraid, while a week later he seems to be the 12-year-old who fully understands the dynamics and is ready to forge ahead. The return of Nate’s mom, and his dad, the restoration of their relationship with his grandma, and amazingly, the vanishing of Gary make for a happy, if unbelievable, ending. Best for upper elementary.

Suspense          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Schroff, Laura, and Alex Tresniowski. An Invisible Thread. A Young Readers’ Edition. Simon & Schuster, 2019.  978-1-534-43727-2. 212 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.  

This title is the young reader’s edition of the 2011 An Invisible Thread. It details the early life of 11-year-old Maurice, essentially homeless in Manhattan in the mid-1980s, who often goes for days without food and must beg for change in hopes of a meal. He is always between temporary homes with his grandma, two sisters, mom (when not jailed for fighting), and a rotating group of up to a dozen family and friends. On the street one day, Laura Schroff, USA Today advertising executive, declines to give him money, then returns and offers to buy him lunch at McDonald’s. Maurice is grateful for a full stomach but wary when she offers to meet regularly on Mondays; he’s been taught that no one does something for nothing. Trust no one. His hunger wins out, and a friendship with Miss Laura begins. They meet regularly for four years, Maurice learning various life skills and Laura learning compassion and how to keep a promise. What Maurice says he loves the most is “the big table”–that is, Laura’s Thanksgiving family meal that goes on for two hours, with family talking and laughing. For the first time in his life, he makes a goal for the future: “Someday, when I grow up, I’m gonna have a big table like that for me and my family. And we’re all gonna sit around and talk and laugh just like your sister’s family does” (120). The story is told largely from the point of view of Maurice, with good results. Readers see his confusion about social expectations, his awe of huge meals, and his growing confidence as he takes in not only food but also helpful lessons all new to him.  

THOUGHTS: An inspiring and eye-opening tale for young people who may never have imagined a homeless life or what it takes to change one life. Perhaps the strongest message comes from Maurice’s teacher, when she meets Miss Laura at a parent-teacher night: “Children like Maurice are always disappointed. Every day someone else lets them down. I hope you realize that you can’t just come in and out of Maurice’s life. If you are going to be there for him, you have to really be there for him. You can’t just wake up one day and abandon this boy” (101). That message of resilience–in the face of need, lies, difficulties, or let-downs–is a necessary one for would-be helpers to hear. Recommended.

Biography          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Schmidt, Gary. Pay Attention, Carter Jones. Clarion Books, 2019. 978-0-544-79085-8. 217 p. $16.99. Grades 5-8.  

Carter Jones’ first day of sixth grade is memorable for the mayhem of his family–he and three younger sisters under the care of their overburdened mother. And it is memorable for the arrival of the butler–Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick, former employee of their grandfather, willed to the family after his grandfather’s death. Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick drives a purple Bentley (dubbed “the Eggplant” by Carter) and preaches proper decorum while having an appropriate, timely solution for just about everything and remaining impeccably neat. The humor is palpable as he chafes at American slang, dress, food, and more. His arrival is perfectly timed, for Carter’s father is deployed to Afghanistan, and the family is struggling with a loss slowly revealed by Carter. As Carter rightfully struggles with anger and grief, the butler teaches him and his classmates cricket, which improbably becomes wildly popular at their school. The school is led by Principal Sweiteck–the novel is thus linked to Schmidt’s Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now. The butler also teaches Carter how to handle his overwhelming emotions–with proper decorum befitting a young man on either side of the pond.  

THOUGHTS: Gary Schmidt understands growing up and gets to the heart of how to do so in the midst of devastating pain. This fantastic novel will make many wish for a Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick of their own and is highly recommended for every middle school library.   

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Marshall, Barry, and Lorna Hendry. How to Win a Nobel Prize. Kane Miller, 2019. 978-1-610-67829-2. 178 p. $6.99. Grades 3-6.

Mary is an aspiring scientist who dreams of one day winning the Nobel Prize for something that she contributes to the world of science. As the tale begins, she is waiting to meet a real Nobel winner named Barry Marshall, but he is late, so she starts to snoop around. Somehow she stumbles into a room full of winners from across and space and time, and Mary bargains with the group to see their moments in history and gather advice from each member. What follows is a series of short, informative chapters which introduce discoveries and Nobel Prize winners familiar (Einstein, Curie, Fleming) with many unfamiliar voices. In fact, the travels wonderfully highlight the diversity and varied backgrounds and countries that the selected winners represent, including commentary about equal rights for women in their fields. The book also does a great job of taking concepts that are complex and explaining them into an understandable scientific terms. To assist, there is an activity associated with each chapter which allow for the readers to experiment, observe, and try it yourself. Extra notes and illustrations accompany each chapter and keep the tone and information appropriate for readers looking for an introduction to this unique world of world-changers!

THOUGHTS: As the author is himself a Nobel Prize winner and main character in the story, there is a sense of both relatability and authority to the nonfiction story. Though some subplots and patterns are inconsistent during the story, it is a fine example of how to merge fiction (science fiction time travel) in with nonfiction and biography. It could compare well with the Kid Series (Kid Athletes, Kid Scientists) by Quirk Books.

Science Fiction          Dustin Brackbill State College Area SD

Ursu, Anne. The Lost Girl. Walden Pond Press, 2019. 978-0-062-27509-7. 368 p. $16.99  Grades 4-7.

Twins Iris and Lark are “identical, but not the same.”  Practical, responsible Iris has always looked out for Lark, who has a big imagination but is introverted and a worrier. They’ve always been inseparable–until fifth grade, when they are placed in separate classrooms for the first time, and forced to join different after-school clubs as well. Both girls struggle. Lark does not like her teacher, who encourages her to participate when she would rather stay in the background. Iris feels bereft, and worries that Lark is falling apart without her. Meanwhile, things are going missing: everything from Lark’s favorite bracelet to a famous painting in a city museum. Iris is sure something is amiss, something she can’t quite name but that terrifies her all the same. As she starts spending more time in a local antique shop with a very peculiar owner, Iris finds herself drawn into a full-blown magical mystery. The sometimes-intrusive narrator’s identity is not revealed until the end of the novel.

THOUGHTS:  The Lost Girl is a beautifully written story, rooted in reality for the most part, but interwoven with hints of folk- and fairy-tales, and a fantastical ending. This is a complex, thought provoking novel that, among other things, offers a positive portrayal of different ways girls can be strong and powerful, and can give and ask for help. Highly recommended for middle school libraries.

Fantasy Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Miller, Kayla. Click. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2019. 978-1-328-70735-2. $24.99. Gr. 4-6.

Olive has the ability to be friends with everyone; she just naturally clicks! The 5th grade is going to be hosting their annual Variety Show which is great, except for the fact that not one specific person wants Olive to be in their act. Olive feels pulled in every direction and can’t see why she doesn’t have just one best friend or just one person who would want her in her group. How can she find her own place and her own person, rather than just being friends with everyone? It isn’t until she has a sleepover with her eccentric Aunt Molly that she finds a way to work with everyone…a way to make everything click!

THOUGHTS: The idea of finding that one special friend that you are best friends with can be hard, especially for someone who gets along with everyone! This story is told in a graphic novel format, allowing for an easy read for students, especially girls, who may be struggling to find their own clique in school.

Graphic Novel          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Marciano, Johnny, and Emily Chenoweth. Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat. Book 1. Penguin Workshop. 2019. 978-1-524-78720-2. $14.99. Grades 4-8.

For an evil warlord cat, what could be worse than being banished to the worst possible place in the galaxy? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Which is exactly what happens to former Lord High Emperor Wyss-Kuzz. Thankfully, there is something that comes even sweeter after being banished… revenge! After being banished to Earth, Wyss-Kuzz decides to force his way into one of the ogre’s dwellings and create a device to return back to his home planet for his sweet revenge.

At the same time, Raj is bored. His family has just moved from New York City to the middle of nowhere. Not only that, his mother has signed him up for Survival Camp! When a green flash appears in the night and the doorbell rings, Raj is delighted to see a cat on his doorstep! After convincing his mom to let him keep the cat, Raj has no idea what he has let into his house or his new pet’s plan…until newly named Klawde begins to talk to him about his plans. Can Raj help Klawde return to his home planet? Or even more important, can Raj survive Survival Camp?

THOUGHTS: The first in a series, Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat holds a lot of inside jokes that older elementary and middle school students would greatly appreciate. The double-sided story of both Klawde and Raj are captivating, making the reader feel as though they are diving into two different worlds. The illustrations accompanying the story are funny yet allow readers to still their imaginations. A great story for reluctant readers that can continue as the series grows.

Adventure/Action/Fantasy           Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Marciano, Johnny and Emily Chenoweth. Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat: Enemies. Book 2. Penguin Workshop. 2019. 978-1-5247-8722-6. $14.99. Grades 4-8.

After being sent back to Earth, Klawde is furious! Not only has he been sent back, but his number one loyal subject has taken his job and is now the ruler of his previous homeland! This is absolutely ludicrous. The only that that could be worse has happened; his number one enemy Ffang has been banished to Earth as well. It is up to Klawde to show Ffang who is the number one most evil ruler of them all.

Meanwhile, Raj is facing his own enemy. After starting school and really enjoying his new robotics class, his enemy from Brooklyn has joined him. How can Raj stay friends when Cameron seems to take them all away from him? Everyone things Cameron is so cool since his mom is a famous comic book writer. Raj decides to take a note from Klawde and perform sweet, sweet revenge…

 THOUGHTS: A great second book to the Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat series!  This books lets us dive further into real life and alien life trouble with two completely different characters. Readers will enjoy the growth and depth as they continue to read about Raj and Klawde.

Adventure/Action/Fantasy         Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

U.S. Government Behind the Scenes. Capstone Press, 2019. $26.49 ea. $105.96 set of 4 (hardcover). 64 p. Grades 6-8.

*Burgan, Michael. The Department of Justice. 978-0-7565-5903-8
Burgan, Michael. The Department of Energy. 978-0-7565-5900-7
Kenney, Karen Latchana. The Department of Homeland Security. 978-0-7565-5901-4
Rechner, Amy. The Department of Education. 978-0-7565-5902-1

This series takes readers on a behind the scenes tour of several government departments. The title I reviewed, The Department of Justice, does a wonderful job of explaining the role, function and make up of the justice department. The title includes pictures of current individuals in the government, a timeline, charts, and even a section on how kids can find lawmakers in their area and get involved. There is also a comprehensive bibliography and source notes which provide a perfect example of how to cite sources for students. 

THOUGHTS: This book will appeal to students who are interested in becoming involved in making change in our government. With easy to read chapters and valuable resources included, this title and series would be an upgrade to your government collection. The series would provide an in depth look into several government departments that have been in the news recently.

347.73 Civil Procedure & Courts          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Art Skills Lab. Crabtree Publishing, 2019. $8.95 ea. (paperback). 32 p. Grades 4-7.

* Ewasiuk, Sandee. Drawing Skills Lab. 978-0-7787-5234-9
Ewasiuk, Sandee. Mixed Media Skills Lab. 978-0-7787-5235-6
Ewasiuk, Sandee. Painting Skills Lab. 978-0-7787-5236-3
Hodgson, Sarah. Collage Skills Lab. 978-0-7787-5233-2
Hodgson, Sarah. Printmaking Skills Lab. 978-0-7787-5237-0
Yates, Jane. 3-D Art Skills Lab. 978-0-7787-5225-7

This series provides a hands-on approach to assist students in building their art repertoire. Each book provides techniques, tools, and skills that can be used to hone students’ skills in various mediums and methods of art. Each book provides tips, a “try this” section, and examples of different art pieces. Each title also provides inserts on famous artists and what they became famous for (including a picture of their work) that relates to the skill being presented. The projects allow readers a chance to apply the techniques discussed in each title to create their own amazing art. The titles in the series highlight various types of art from pencil and paper to 3D art.

THOUGHTS: This series is easy to read and full of excellent tips and strategies that can make anyone feel like an artist! The information regarding a skill can be found on a single spread in the title, making it easy to follow all directions and to be able to see the final product. This series is a valuable asset to any school looking to provide a positive experience when it comes to creating your own artwork.

741.2 Drawing          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Legendary Goddesses. Capstone Press, 2019. $21.49 ea. $85.96 set of 4 (hardcover). 32 p. Grades 3-9.

Gagne, Tammy. Aphrodite: Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty. 978-1-543-55451-9
* Gagne, Tammy. Hera: Queen of the Greek Gods. 978-1-5435-5453-3
Leavitt, Amie Jane. Persephone: Greek Goddess of the Underworld. 978-1-543-55454-0
Schwartz, Heather . Athena: Greek Goddess of Wisdom and War. 978-1-543-55452-6

Legendary Goddesses focuses on the women deities of Greek mythology. The series explores several well known goddesses and the stories that made them famous. Each title is divided into chapters with distinct focus on their powers and skills and how they played a role in history as well as modern culture. There is a glossary, a list of titles to read more about the goddesses, and internet sites related to the title provided through FactHound. The layout of the text is reader friendly with pictures and captions, challenging words with their definitions, and Goddess Facts. 

THOUGHTS: This series would be a welcome addition to a library collection that is Greek God heavy (Zeus, Poseidon, Ares, Apollo, etc.) and provide a look into the power and cunningness of the Greek Goddesses. There are little known facts and interesting stories about the goddesses that will leave readers impressed with the women of mythology.

292.2 Classical (Greek & Roman) Religion          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Maclear, Kyo. Illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler. Operatic, 2019. 978-1-554-98972-0. 160 p. $19.95  Grades 5-8.

Maclear’s spare text paired with Eggenschweiler’s lush, broadstroke monochromatic illustrations are the perfect vehicle to deliver a story exploring the perennial issues facing middle schoolers. Charlie, one of three Asian girls in her middle school, knows that you should always “look bored” (32) and never let anyone know you care about anything . . . or anyone. Yet, she’s fascinated by the enthusiasm of her music teacher, Mr. K., who challenges his students to find a song that speaks to their souls. When Mr. K. introduces the class to opera, Charlie is entranced, and decides to learn more about Maria Callas, a woman who was not satisfied to be quiet and stay in the shadows. Meanwhile, she’s also entranced by her crush, Emile . . . who can’t return her romantic feelings, but turns out to be just what she needs in a friend. Without being preachy or coming to simple, tidy conclusions, Maclear and Eggenschweiler show their characters wrestling with taking risks when it comes to standing out and reaching out. Separate storylines and time periods are indicated by color: yellow for the current, end-of-school springtime; blue for the previous fall; and red for Maria Callas’s biography as told by Charlie.

THOUGHTS:  This nuanced portrayal of the deep emotional lives of middle school students infused with music history (there’s more than opera here) will be a big hit with the intended audience. Highly recommended for middle school libraries; a solid purchase for high school libraries. 

Graphic Novel          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Behind the Scenes with the Pros. Capstone Press, 2019. $21.49 ea. $85.96 set of 4 (hardcover). 32 p. Grades 3-9.

Koehn, Rebecca. Behind the Scenes of Pro Football. 978-1-543-55525-0
Nicks, Erin. Behind the Scenes of Pro Hockey. 978-1-543-55426-7
Velasco, Catherine Ann. Behind the Scenes of Pro Baseball. 978-1-543-55427-4
*Velasco, Catherine Ann. Behind the Scenes of Pro Basketball. 978-1-543-55424-3

This series gives insight into the way a sport is run behind the scenes. Readers will learn how players train to keep their bodies healthy, how they recover after games, get endorsements, and how players are traded between teams. The text is easy to read, and each section is displayed on a two page spread. The challenging words are in boldface type and explained at the bottom of each page. The title has photographs of current players as well as intriguing fast facts. The series covers a variety of sports and uses FactHound to allow readers to access other websites related to the content of the book.

THOUGHTS: This series is great for kids who are interested in learning more about what goes into becoming a major league sports player. There is decent content connected to famous players to keep readers interested. Definitely for upper elementary to lower middle school even though it is for grades 3-9.

796.323 Basketball          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Carson, Mary Kay. The Tornado Scientist: Seeing Inside Severe Storms. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-544-96582-9. $18.99. 75 pg. Grades 4-6.

This narrative nonfiction title on storm hunting is sure to grab the attention of any student that has a passion for meteorology. The title chronicles the life of Robin Tanamachi and her passion for studying tornadoes and supercells across the nation. Broken into seven chapters that focus on topics from where tornadoes are prevalent to the science behind the formation, this title has it all. Each chapter supplies stunning photographs of tornadoes, damage caused by tornadoes, and the scientists in action. The text provides graphics to explain tornado devastation and is the perfect balance between science and storytelling. There is a detailed collection of words and acronyms storm chasers use which is helpful to decoding parts of the more “sciency” chapters. Links at the back of the title provide further information on tornado safety, the Vortex Southeast team, as well as Robin’s blog. 

THOUGHTS: For avid storm chasers, this title is a must! This book reads quickly and provides jaw dropping photographs of just how powerful a tornado can be. Will surely inspire students to want to know more!

551.55 Meteorology          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD