New for Upper Elementary – The Wild Robot; The Terrible Two…; Clatter of Jars


Brown, Peter.  The Wild Robot.  NY: Little, Brown, and Co., 2016.  978-0-316-38199-4.  $16.99. 279p.  Gr. 3-6.

One stormy night, a ship of ROZZUM robots sinks near a tiny, uninhabited island.  Most of the robots go down with the ship, but one survives entry onto the island’s rocky coast and is activated by a group of playful otters. ROZZUM unit 7134 (or, Roz, as she is known to the reader) is designed for the civilized world and must quickly adapt to her new surroundings.  Fortunately, she has the ability to learn and adapt.  The animals are fearful of Roz and believe that she is a monster.  Over time, Roz learns to speak the animals’ languages, but they do not truly begin to accept her until she adopts a gosling whose mother she has accidentally killed.  Roz takes her role as surrogate parent seriously; she turns to the other animal mothers for advice on feeding and sheltering her new charge.  The island’s animals begin to offer help and advice as Roz raises “Brightbill”.  Although Roz is not supposed to feel emotions, any parent can empathize with the anxiety she feels when Brightbill must fly south for his first winter.  Eventually, the island’s peace is shattered by RECO robots with guns who are sent out by Roz’s manufacturer to retrieve all missing ROZZUM units.  The animals, who are used to surviving the cruelty of the animal world, band together to protect Roz, but they are no match for the RECOs.  However, the story ends on a hopeful note and hints at a possible sequel.  THOUGHTS:  This book is an intriguing cross between survival stories like Hatchet and robot stories like The Iron Giant.  It will have wide appeal among middle grade students and should be included in any library collection.

I really enjoyed The Wild Robot.  Roz and the island animals have distinct, almost human personalities, and the story is unexpectedly suspenseful.  This book is excellent for students making the transition from picture books to novels.  The chapters are short and generously illustrated.  The “animal-speak” featured in this story will also be easily understood by younger students.  Brief, action-oriented chapters (which often end with some kind of cliffhanger) make this book an appropriate read-aloud for teachers trying share the wonders of literature with their students.  The Wild Robot is truly something special.

Fantasy; Sci-Fi            Susan Fox, Washington Park School


Barnett, Mac and Jory John. The Terrible Two Get Worse. New York: Amulet Books, 2016. 978-1-4197-1680-5. 217 p. $16.95. Gr. 3-6.

The Terrible Two, Miles and Niles, are back at work in Yawnee Valley, pranking any and all…especially their favorite “goat,” Principal Barry Barkin. Unfortunately for the Terrible Two, their favorite target is unexpectedly taken away. Principal Barkin is removed from his job for his inability to control all the pranking, and is replaced by his father, former Principal Bertrand Barkin. Miles and Niles are excited to begin a new era of pranking the Barkins, but the elder Barkin turns out to be quite a formidable opponent. He refuses to acknowledge their pranks, so the boys become ineffective and down in the dumps. They decide that they must resort to desperate measures and recruit a temporary member to their team…Barry Barkin. In typical Terrible Two fashion, they come up with a winning plan that might go down in Yawnee Valley history as the best prank of all time. Barnett and John are their own terrific twosome, writing another hysterical story about Miles and Niles and their friendship. Kevin Cornell’s illustrations are fantastic, adding quirky and fun details to the story. THOUGHTS: Give this winner to your kids who like mixed text and illustration series (think slightly more sophisticated Diary of a Wimpy Kid) who like to laugh. It would make a fantastic read-aloud.

Humorous Fiction    Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools



Graff, Lisa. A Clatter of Jars. New York: Philomel Books, 2016. 978-0-399-17499-5. 217pp. $16.99. Gr 3-6.

Camp Atropos is a place where children with singular talents flock for the summer. Their talents range from being able to identify frogs, to mindreading, to memory recollection, and many more, but not everyone at Camp Atropos possesses a talent. Jo, the camp director, is talentless but has a bustling black-market business copying and selling her campers’ talents. These mimic talents ultimately become her downfall when a group of campers from Cabin 8 discover what she’s up to and set out to expose her. Several children attend camp with their siblings, and these sibling relationships and rivalries take center-stage in this novel as well. Each chapter is narrated by a different camper, and that camper’s name as the chapter title helps keep the large cast of characters straight.  This book is the sequel to Graff’s 2013 title A Tangle of Knots, and several characters from that book make appearances in this story as well. However, it is not necessary to have read A Tangle of Knots to keep up with this title’s storyline.  THOUGHTS: This title will be popular with fantasy fans, and it’s also a good choice for students looking for a summer-themed read. Pair it with another camp title such as Louis Sachar’s Holes or with other summer adventure stories such as The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester or Three Times Lucky.
Fantasy    Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

New Fiction Upper Elementary – Warren the 13th; Some Kind of Courage

Warren the 13th

Del Rio, Tania. Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2015. 9781584748035. 216p. $16.95. Gr. 3–6.

Even though he is only 12 years old, Warren the 13th is the sole heir to his family’s once magnificent hotel. Unfortunately, the hotel has fallen on hard times since Warren’s father died five years ago and since Warren’s Uncle Rupert brought his bride, Aunt Annaconda, to stay. Annaconda is bent on locating the hotel’s legendary hidden treasure, the All-Seeing Eye. When a mysterious bandaged guest checks in to the hotel, Annaconda is convinced the guest will locate the Eye before she does and a breakneck treasure hunt ensues. Warren is swept up in the action, hoping to locate his rightful inheritance before any other guest does. Along the way, he has to outsmart witches and monsters and puzzle out the answers to riddles, secret codes, and mazes. Although the storytelling is strong, this book’s standout feature is its illustrations. Every page includes at least one red and black ink engraving illustration, and many pages also feature distinctive typefaces that emphasize certain story elements. The bright red cover will draw readers in, and they won’t be disappointed by this creepy story.  THOUGHTS:  Readers will love this fast-paced book and its unique two-column page layout. They will eagerly join Warren on his hunt for the All-Seeing Eye, and they will wait with anticipation for the sequel, due out fall 2016. This title will be popular with readers who enjoy Brian Selznick’s heavily-illustrated tales and with anyone seeking an original adventure.

Fantasy     Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County



Gemeinhart, Dan. Some Kind of Courage. New York: Scholastic Books, 2016. 978-0-545-66577-3. 234 p. $16.99. Gr. 3-6.

The best cowboy tales are really quest stories, often motivated by loss or love or family. Some Kind of Courage takes place during the westward expansion in Washington state, and leads readers to quickly feel the danger and heartbreak that comes with frontier living. Joseph, a boy who lost everything, is determined to recover the one thing that remains – his horse, Sarah. So he heads out alone, though he quickly teams up with a Chinese boy who is also lonely and seeking something. The story moves quickly through many dangers and encounters, keeping the reader on edge and wishing for the best, even when that would be impossible. Dan Gemeinhart’s sophomore novel has found success and resonance in the quest, just like The Honest Truth did last year.  THOUGHTS: Horse lovers and wild west fans will eat this up, but it would make a great introduction for others less familiar with the genre. As a read aloud and class discussion, this book can touch on topics of race, discrimination, cruelty, family, and of course, courage!

Historical Fiction (Western)       Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District




Elementary Fiction – Lucky Strike; Dragon Masters


Pyron, Bobbie. Lucky Strike. New York: Scholastic, 2015. 978-0-545-59217-8.  272p. $18.99. Gr. 4-7.

Nate Harlow is extremely unlucky.  He’s never won a prize and always gets picked last.  His best friend, Genesis Beam does not believe in luck, and instead puts all her trust in science and logic.  Nate gets struck by lightning on his birthday and by some miracle survives.  This lightning strike has changed Nate’s luck.  Nate is suddenly the most popular kid at school and the star baseball player.  But how long can his luck last? THOUGHTS: This is a very enjoyable, fast-paced story written in a style similar to Andrew Clements.  Students will enjoy the themes of friendship and loyalty found in this book.

Realistic Fantasy          Anastasia Hanneken, School Lane Charter School



West, Tracey. Dragon Masters: Secret of the Water Dragon. New York: Scholastic, 2015. 978-0-545-64623-9. 90p. $10.00. Gr 1-3.

This book is part of a series of five so far, from Scholastic’s early chapter book line, Branches. In this story, someone is trying to steal the dragon stone, and the dragon masters must protect it.  It is fast paced and of high interest for fantasy readers and includes illustrations on every page.  It is very for early readers and includes questions and activities at the end.  THOUGHTS: There is a king, wizard, magic stone, dragons, and dragon masters in training; what more could a fantasy lover want!

Fantasy     Caroline Romano Wallenpaupack Area School


Upper Elementary/MS Series Fiction – Curious Cat Spy Club; The Quirks; Dance Divas


Singleton, Linda Joy. The Curious Cat Spy Club. Chicago: Albert Whitman, 2015. 978-0-8075-13767. 245 p. $14.99. Gr. 3-6.

Becca lives at the Wild Oaks Animal Sanctuary and has a group of friends known as Sparklers. When Becca is chasing their zorse, Kelsey helps to stop the creature from fleeing by sharing her father’s homemade cookies. Becca is grateful for her help and makes sure that her mother calls Kelsey’s parents so they understand why the cookies did not make it to the Veteran’s Hall.  It is the unlikely sound of cats in a dumpster that ties the crew of Kelsey, Becca and then Leo, an aloof boy from their class that loves robots, together. It seems that too many pets are missing. Their club meets in secret at the Skunk Shack. Their friendship will be challenged and also grow as the mystery becomes more intense. Thoughts: This book is the perfect start to a series for upper elementary and middle school readers in need of a detective story that is not overly scary.

Realistic Fiction; Mystery   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School




Soderberg, Erin. The Quirks and the Quirkalicious Birthday. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. 978-1-61963-370-4. 199 p. $13.99. Gr. 3-6.

Join the next installment in the series as the twins prepare for their tenth birthday. For the first time, they will have a party and can each invite ten guests since they have been living in Normal, Michigan, for a few weeks. Who will they invite and how will they agree on the location and special events for the party? In their quest to solve the Quikalicius Birthday Hunt from their grandfather, the two will learn how to work together and  when to tell  a joke.  In a way, the series reminds you of Savvy by Ingrid Law as most of the family members have certain powers. Full page and smaller black and white illustrations advance the narrative. Thoughts: With a family and mixed special abilities, I think of this book as a perfect read for students who have older sibling devouring Ingrid Law’s Savvy. With powerful abilities, students could also relate the characters to various comic book characters.

Realistic Fiction       Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School




Berk, Sheryl. Dance Divas: Showstopper. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. 127 p. 978-1-61963-575-3. $15.99. Gr. 3-6.

Enter the sixth novel in the series as Miss Toni decided that the dancers will have time off during the week of President’s Day. While used to having the finest costumes available, this time the dancers will have to make their own costumes based upon the card they select. Gracie selected the joker card and has difficulty narrowing down her costume. To fuel her dream, Anya and her mother live thousands of miles away from her father and brother. Rochelle and her family invited them over for Christmas, but it  wasn’t the same. They are preparing for the dance competition in Las Vegas. Anya and her mother fly out to LAX and learn that her brother passed his driver’s test. During her week, the teacher is practicing merging ballet and hip-hop. At what could be her last performance in Las Vegas with her dance troupe, she learns that her brother was seriously injured when driving. What will happen next? Thoughts: While a sixth in the series, I think a student could read the books in any order and take delight reading the books.

Realistic Fiction    Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

Fuzzy Mud; Written and Drawn by Henrietta; Forbidden

fuzzy mud

Sachar, Louis. Fuzzy Mud. New York: Delacorte Press, 2015. 978-0-375-99129-5. 181p. $16.99. Gr. 4-6.

Tamaya Dhilwaddi is a good student at Woodbridge Academy in western PA, quiet but conscientious. As she navigates the life of a fifth grader, she walks to and from school each day with her older neighbor, Marshall. Marshall was also a good student until Chad, a new student, moves in and starts bullying him. To avoid a confrontation, Marshall takes Tamaya home from school on a not-so-shortcut through the woods. When Chad finds and comes after them, Tamaya grabs a fistful of “fuzzy mud” and throws it at his face. The mud, it seems, has an awful reaction on Tamaya’s hand and when she learns Chad is missing imagines the worst about him. The mystery is fast-paced as she goes looking for him, followed by Marshall, and the three find out the hard way about “fuzzy mud.” It is actually a man-made rapidly multiplying microorganism gone awry, which readers gradually learn about through alternating chapters of testimony from an inquiry into Sun Ray farm.  Thoughts: The story is part mystery, part realistic fiction, and very fast-paced. It is reminiscent of Holes in how neatly the parts come together. Highly recommended for a quick read-aloud worthy of conversation about the environment, bullying and friendship.

Realistic Fiction; Mystery      Lisa Weiss, Churchville Elementary School



Liniers, Ricardo Siri. Written and Drawn by Henrietta. New York: TOON Books, 2015. 978-1-935179-90-0 60p. $12.95. Gr. K-3.

This is a story within a story. Henrietta is given a box of colored pencils which she says is “as close as you can get to owning a piece of the rainbow.” She then uses them to create a story, thinking aloud with her cat, Fellini, as she includes suspense, new ideas, and the “plot thickens.” Her story includes a nod to Narnia, as a three-headed monster comes into her room looking in her messy wardrobe for a hat. As she joins them on the adventure, they meet another monster, a quiet mouse, and ultimately find what they are looking for together.  Thoughts: Through fabulous language about writing and drawing from the start (“A book is like a world you can carry around with you.”) to following Henrietta’s thinking process in creating a story, this book is a great find for budding writers and illustrators. The graphic format is simple but detailed enough that independent readers will enjoy it as well.

Graphic Novel        Lisa Weiss, Churchville Elementary School




Bunting, Eve.  Forbidden.  New York: Clarion Books, 2015.  978-0-544-39092-8. 217 p. $17.99.  Grades 5-8.

Sixteen-year-old Josie Ferguson is sent to live with relatives after her parents succumb to an influenza outbreak in 18th century Scotland.  Josie’s aunt and uncle live along the country’s rocky northern coast and are as menacing as the stormy sea.  Right from the beginning, Josie senses that there is something wrong with her surroundings.  She is determined to discover the town’s secrets and encounters hostility at every turn. While searching for answers she meets a young man named Eli, who is “forbidden” to her.  Josie eventually realizes that the town is preying on ships traveling along the stormy coast, but she cannot foresee the supernatural turn of events, or Eli’s involvement, in stopping the carnage.  THOUGHTS: Forbidden is a solid introduction to the gothic literary genre.  Although older students probably won’t enjoy the hurried nature of the plot, or the chaste romance between Josie and Eli, middle school students will find plenty to keep their interest.  This book is being marketed to a YA audience, but other reviewers have suggested it for younger readers, something that seems to be “on the mark.”

Forbidden is reminiscent of gothic romances by Phyllis Whitney and Mary Stewart and is completely enjoyable.  The plot is somewhat formulaic (innocent girl sent to live with unknown relatives stumbles upon great evil) but the paranormal twist, with the presence of  avenging ghosts, keeps it fresh.  The fact that there is a historical element to the story makes it even more interesting; the deliberate wrecking of ships actually happened along rocky coasts all over the world during the 1800s.  This is a short novel that will be perfect for reluctant readers and young women will enjoy the “romance” between Josie and Eli.

Historical Fiction; Paranormal            Susan Fox, Washington Jr./Sr. High School


New Middle Grades…The Trilogy of Two; Newts; Home is the Place


Malouf, Juman. The Trilogy of Two. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers. 2015. 978-0-399-17114-7. 416p. $15.34. Gr 5-8.

Twelve-year-old identical twins Charlotte and Sonja Tatters have amazing musical talent. They’ve spent their entire lives performing with a travelling circus alongside their adopted mother, Tatty the Tattooed Lady, and their Uncle Tell, the fortune teller. Lately, it seems like the twins’ power over their audience is stronger than normal, and one night, their playing even channels an indoor rainstorm and levitates the entire crowd. When the girls’ musical talent is abruptly stolen and Tatty is kidnapped, the twins learn they are really the Daughters of the Key, and they play an important role in protecting the mythical Seven Edens from greedy Katz von Stralen who is out to rob all the worlds’ children of their talents. Malouf’s vivid storytelling pulls listeners into this fantasy world, leading them through the Outskirts, the Million-Mile-High City, the Golden Underground, and the Forlorn Forest.  THOUGHTS:  Strong middle-grade readers will enjoy following Charlotte and Sonja on this novel’s three-part adventure, but the amount of world-building necessary for setting the story’s foundation may deter others.

Fantasy    Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County




TenNapel, Doug.  Nnewts:  Escape From The Lizards.  New York:  Scholastic,  2015.  978-0-545-67646-5.  185 pages.  $10.95.  Gr. 4-8.

The Nnewts, a community of amphibians, live in the the village of Nnewtown. Herk is a young Nnewt who is  confined to his home’s spawning pool because his legs are not strong enough to support his body. When Nnewtown is attacked by the evil Lizzarks, Herk’s parents are killed and he is forced to escape. On his journey he meets many new characters who give him the courage to confront the Snake Lord, the villian who replaced his strong legs with weaker legs.

This is the first volume of this new graphic novel series.  The illustrations in this book are very enjoyable and complete the story.   My students can not get enough of the graphic novel genre, and I believe they will enjoy this storyline as well.  THOUGHTS:  Herk’s adventures will hold the attention of the most reluctant reader.  This book is recommended for any elementary or children’s collection.

Graphic Novel       Anastasia Hanneken, School Lane Charter School




Martin, Ann M. Home is the Place. New York: Scholastic, 2015. 978-0-545-35945-0. 215p. $16.99. Gr 4–6.

This book is the final in a quartet of stories that follows four generations of the same family: Abby, Dana, Francie, and Georgia. This volume begins with Georgia’s sixth birthday and follows her for the next twenty years of her life. As her story unfolds, her mother Francie, grandmother Dana, and great-grandmother Abby’s stories intertwine. Georgia also learns some secrets about her great -great-grandmother Nell after discovering her diaries hidden away behind a secret panel in her girlhood home in Maine. Each of the book’s chapters takes place in a different year, and the story culminates with great-grandma Abby’s 100th birthday party celebration.  THOUGHTS:  Martin’s straightforward storytelling and vivid descriptions bring the past alive while also drawing readers into Georgia’s present-day world. This title will be popular with thoughtful readers who will enjoy tracing the bond between the women in this family from generation to generation. Although this story can stand alone, to be fully appreciated, it should be read with the preceding three volumes.

Historical Fiction Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County