MG – War Machines Series NF

West, David. War Machines. Crabtree Publishing, 2020. $20.70 ea. $124.50 set of 6. Grades 5-9.

Combat Planes. 978-0-778-76666-7.
Combat Helicopters. 978-0-778-76679-7.
Rockets and Missiles. 978-0-778-76667-4.
Submarines. 978-0-778-76668-1.
Tanks. 978-0-778-76684-1.
Warships. 978-1-427-12412-8.

Combat Helicopters and Tanks is a comprehensive resource filled with information on combat helicopters and tanks. Using a historical timeline approach, this book informs readers of the development of the combat helicopter or tanks through various stages of its development and updates through several wars and battles that have occurred in history. Realistic photographs show the different types of helicopters and tanks, as well as the situations in which they were used. The back of the book contains a glossary and a page listing with the helicopters or tanks mentioned in this book. This book allows readers to see the way that combat helicopters and tanks have changed the way war is strategically planned throughout history.

THOUGHTS: Readers interested in the military will love this comprehensive guide to the specific machinery listed in this book. Readers will be able to receive a snapshot of history, while learning about specific war machines.

358.4 WES          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

MS NF – Peace & War; Ecosystems Research Journal

Ogden, Charlie. Peace & War. Crabtree, 2018. 978-0-778739074. $8.95.  32pp. Gr. 4-6.

This book is a good introduction to the subject of war and peace for the younger reader (about 10 to 12). It includes bolded vocabulary that is included in a glossary, a Table of Contents, an index, and discussion questions. At 32 pages the book does not go in-depth into the subject matter, but it does offer a decent overview to different types of war, consequences of war, and significant wars in history (significant to American readers). The photographs, type, and layout are visually appealing.THOUGHTS: This is a good introductory resource for children about a difficult subject: war. This book handles the atrocities of war well. The visuals and text are suitable to the young reader, but the images chosen (the pile of shoes from the Holocaust, the 911 memorial, napalm burning, etc.) are just horrible enough to make an impact but not so graphic as to cause nightmares. This would be a good, not overwhelming resource about the subject of war and peace for younger readers.

Juvenile Nonfiction                                                Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

 

Ecosystems Research Journal (series). Crabtree Publishing, 2017. $27.60 Hardcover, $8.95 Paperback. 32p. Gr. 4 – 7.

Hyde, Natalie. Amazon Rainforest Research Journal. 978-0778734925.

Hyde, Natalie. Great Barrier Reef Research Journal. 978-0778734956.

Hyde, Natalie. Rocky Mountains Research Journal. 978-0778734963.

Johnson, Robin. Everglades Research Journal. 978-0778734949.

Johnson, Robin. Sonoran Desert Journal. 978-0778734970.

Rodger, Ellen. Arctic Research Journal. 978-0778734932.

The hands-on reporting style and colorful photographs will catch students attention. The information about environment, animals, and the attention to detail will impress teachers and librarians. Every journal has a mission, unique to the area the research takes place in. The arctic is focused on climate and environmental changes whereas the everglades has a wildlife biologist studying loss of freshwater and if there are other concerns such as pollution or invasive species. All the journals have 11 entries chock full of status reports (how an animal or landmark is doing), sightings of animals, and descriptive facts.  THOUGHTS: I think the layout of the book will appeal to students. Many have words written as if the author is keeping a journal on a tablet, iPad, or phone. This series also has more titles to offer that will be coming out in the next year or so.

Series Nonfiction; Ecosystems       Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

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

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

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

Story Collection, Horror                   Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

 

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

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

Realistic Fiction     Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

 

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

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

Fantasy      Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

 

YA – Ready to Fall; Thunderhead

Pixley, Marcella. Ready to Fall.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2017. 9780374303587. $17.99. 360 p. Gr. 8 and up.

After the death of his beloved mother, 16-year-old Max Friedman struggles with his spiraling depression and an unhealthy obsession with an imaginary brain tumor.  Withdrawing from his grieving father and completely unable to cope at his public school, he is given the opportunity to switch to a progressive private high school.  The school matches new students with a student fellow and a faculty mentor, and so Max meets Felicia, the pink-haired free spirit who goes by the name Fish and the demanding professor Gates. The change is a lifeline for Max.  With the help of his new circle of creative friends, some inspiring teachers and his supportive father and grandmother, Max hopes to lift the heavy veil of his depression and make a fresh start. Many of the characters in the book are intriguing;  well-developed and flawed or struggling in some way and Max’s relationships with all of them ring true. The writing is emotionally charged and Max’s grief is palpable. Pixley peppers the pages with scenes from Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Shakespeare’s Hamlet, writings that mirror Max’s pain and depression, but also help him come to terms with his own struggles. THOUGHTS: Could be used as a contemporary companion piece for classes studying either of these classic works.

Realistic Fiction       Nancy Summers, Abington School District

 

Shusterman, Neal. Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe Book 2).  Simon and Schuster, 2017. $18.99. 504 p. 9781442472457. Gr. 7 and up.

Thunderhead, the second novel in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, is a compelling sequel to the boldly original Scythe. The series is set in a dystopian future in which the Thunderhead, an omniscient, advanced AI system, has solved most of humanity’s problems including war and mortality.  The Scythdom was created to maintain a sustainable population and scythes are the individuals selected and trained to be the benevolent guardians of death, gleaning people as necessary to prevent overpopulation.  But now within the Scythdom, the Old Guard and the New Order factions are at war with each other. Cintra, as Scythe Anastasia, is revered as an inspiring Junior Scythe, respected for her adherence to the Old Guard principles.  Rowan, who has been denied his initiation, has assumed the mantle of Scythe Lucifer, a vigilante out to bring justice to the New Order scythes who relish their power and the perks of their positions. The Thunderhead itself features as a narrator and provides us with glimpses into its consciousness, objectives, and motivations as the defacto government head and deity. As the two sides of the Scythedom fight for control,  the Thunderhead is forbidden from intervening in their struggle and is unable to resolve the battle between the noblest and basest instincts of individual human beings. THOUGHTS: Yet another winning series from Shusterman, the master storyteller; readers will be eagerly awaiting the final book in this trilogy. A recommended purchase for all YA collections.

Science Fiction, Dystopian     Nancy Summers, Abington School District

YA FIC – Spill Zone; Skinful of Shadows; Race to the Bottom of the Sea; Starfish

Westerfeld, Scott. Spill Zone. First Second, 2017. 978-1-59643-936-8. 224 p. $22.99. Gr. 9-12.

Addison and her sister Lexa live in the seemingly abandoned town of Poughkeepsie, New York. Lexa hasn’t spoken since her parents disappeared three years earlier, when a strange “spill” occurred and changed the town forever. Not many venture into the spill zone, where nightmarish creatures and cruel manifestations lurk around every corner. But in order to support herself and her sister, Addie illegally ventures into the zone to capture pictures of the otherworldly terrors inside, selling them to curious outside collectors for top dollar. While in the zone, Addie has rules for herself that she refuses to break in order to stay alive – that is, until a collector offers her an incredible sum of money for extremely dangerous photographs. So Addie decides to take the risk, putting her life in danger, but to also hopefully to learn more about the spill – which might not be the only one in the world. A haunting, peculiar story from YA staple Westefeld, with surreal artwork from Alex Puvilland. THOUGHTS: A good addition to any graphic novel collection where post-apocalyptic tales are still popular.

Graphic Novel      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

 

Hardinge, Frances. A Skinful of Shadows. New York: Amulet Books, 2017. 978-1-4197-2572-2. 415 p. $19.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Frances Hardinge writes odd, dark, twisty, and cleverly complicated novels, and her most recent offering, A Skinful of Shadows, is no different. This is the story of Makepeace, a girl raised in a strict Puritan community, who has the ability to house spirits inside of her head. Most of her life, Makepeace fought against these spirits and spent her formative years learning defensive tactics to keep them out. However, after a devastating accident leaves Makepeace orphaned, she unwittingly allows the spirit of a once-captive bear to take up residence in her head. Bear, as she calls him, becomes a fierce ally, and he and Makepeace form an unshakeable bond. Sent to live with her mysterious and aristocratic relatives, the Fellmottes, Makepeace learns some disturbing secrets about this side of her family, so when it becomes clear that her life is in danger, Makepeace flees. The novel is set in England during the reign of King Charles I, amidst great political turmoil and upheaval; the civil war between the Royalists and Parliamentarians plays a large role in the plot, with Makepeace both spying for, and subjugating herself to, both sides. While on the run, Makepeace acquires other spirits; watching the interplay between all of the personalities, including Bear, is what makes this story great and drives the action. Makepeace, who has no cause to trust anyone other than herself and Bear, must learn to come to terms with her abilities, and learn to put herself – literally – into the hands of others.  At the same time, she transforms from a girl with no agency into a fully-fledged, autonomous young woman, who is not afraid to get what she wants.

Historical Fantasy     Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

 

Eager, Lindsay. Race to the Bottom of the Sea. Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2017. 978-0-7636-7923-1. 432 p. $17.99. Gr. 6 and up.

Life is a series of oceanic adventures for Fidelia Quail, daughter of two prominent scientists (a marine biologist and a zoologist) in Lindsay Eager’s Race to the Bottom of the Sea. On track to be as brilliant as her parents, and already with several substantial and successful inventions under her belt (including a two-person submersible), Fidelia’s future looks very bright indeed. When disaster strikes, and Dr. and Dr. Quail are tragically lost during a storm, Fidelia is consumed by grief and guilt and is unsure how to move on. Her mourning is rudely interrupted by Merrick the Monstrous, the most fearsome pirate alive, who kidnaps Fidelia with the intent of using her to find his treasure. Merrick, however, has some secrets of his own, and is, perhaps, not as monstrous as everyone things. THOUGHTS:  This book is at once a fast-paced adventure novel of the high seas, while at the same time it’s also a philosophical look at life, death, and sacrifice. The latter at times feels too heavy for middle-grade readers; this, combined with Merrick’s backstory all about his doomed romance (the reader knows who his love interest is, but Fidelia does not), makes this novel less accessible than it should be.  However, Fidelia is such a feisty, whip-smart heroine, who uses both common sense and her scientific mind to think her way out of trouble, and she will definitely resonate with readers of all levels. Her relationship with Merrick, and her growing empathy towards him, is palpable, and serves to move the plot forward. Hand this to readers who enjoy quirky, outside-the-box tales.

Fantasy      Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

 

Bowman, Akemi Dawn.  Starfish.  Simon Pulse, 2017.  978-1-4814-8772-6. 343 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

All her life, Kiko Himura has felt like an outsider.  She suffers from anxiety and wants nothing more than acceptance from her mother, who belittles Kiko’s Japanese descent (which came from her father) as well as her dreams of attending Prism Art School in New York City.  When Kiko receives a rejection letter from Prism, she is devastated.  She cannot stand to live in her house any longer with her emotionally abusive mother and her sexually abusive uncle.  She cannot move in with her father, for he is too preoccupied with his second wife and their newborn twin daughters.  Therefore, when a childhood friend invites her to head to California with him and look at art schools out west, she decide to take advantage of the opportunity.  Once there, Kiko begins to flourish.  Under the mentorship of artist Hiroshi Matsumoto, who befriends her at an art show, Kiko begins to find herself through art, and she finally gains the courage and conviction that had been missing all her life.  A moving story that will speak volumes to any reader who has ever experienced anxiety or self-doubt.  THOUGHTS: Though slow-moving at first, the pace of this novel picks up about halfway through, and readers will find themselves desperately rooting for the realistic and relatable Kiko and hoping that she soon finds her voice.  Besides drawing relatable characters, the author has also interweaved a love story and complicated family dynamics into the novel, creating a narrative that will speak to a variety of readers for different reasons.  A 2018 William C. Morris Award finalist, this novel will have readers anxiously awaiting Bowman’s next release, set to debut in September of 2018.

Realistic Fiction      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

MS Fiction – Metropolitans; Erth Dragons; Warden’s Daughter; Payback

Goodman, Carol. The Metropolitans. Viking. 2017. 978-1-101-99766-6. $16.99. 355 p. Gr. 4-8.

Madge wanders into the Metropolitan Museum of Art one morning after she is kicked out of her apartment by her aunt. Joe, a Mohawk boy, follows her into the museum after she shares her sandwich with him. In the museum, Madge and Joe meet Walt, a Jewish refugee from France, and Kiko, a Japanese-American girl whose father works at the museum. After the teens witness the theft of a rare Arthurian manuscript, they discover they have had the same foreboding dream, and the manuscript theft is just a catalyst for far larger evil. At first glance, The Metropolitans looks like a classic tween mystery. But the plot covers a lot of territory: Arthurian legend, treatment of Native American children (Joe is forced from his home into a brutal Indian school), and prejudice against Japanese Americans at the start of WWII. Laced with code breaking and channeling characters from Arthurian Legend, this story never slows down, as the four children rush to avoid the bombing of Manhattan.  THOUGHTS:  Of course this book brings to mind The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  This time, however, the venerable museum is at the center of a Nazi plot to bomb Manhattan. The four youths gain a firsthand understanding of war and prejudice as they desperately try to decipher what is happening around them.

Historical Fantasy     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

 

D’Lacey, Chris. The Erth Dragons: The Wearle. Scholastic, 2017. 978-0-545-90018-8. $16.99. 284 p. Gr. 4-8.

Hurray! Chris D’Lacey has a new series about dragons. Dragons inhabiting the planet Kimera sent an exploratory group to Earth but lost contact with them. A second group has been sent to determine the fate of the first dragons. This group has established a tenuous cohabitation with the humans in the area they have settled, but after a human who violates the boundary between human and dragon land is killed by the dragons, the humans goad the dragons into war. Ren, a young human boy is fascinated by the dragons and discovers a way to infiltrate dragon territory without being detected by the dragons. Caught in dragon territory when the war begins, Ren befriends Gabriel, a young dragon in disgrace with the colony. Ren discovers he understands the dragon, and the pair set out to discover the source of erratic dragon behavior which is fueling the dragon/homm (human) conflict. THOUGHTS: Fans of the Wings of Fire series will love this complex dragon world.  

Fantasy     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

 

Spinelli, Jerry. The Warden’s Daughter. Alfred A Knopf, 2017. 978-0-375-83199-7. $22.99. 341 p. Gr. 4-8.

Cammie is the warden’s daughter. Her father is the benevolent warden at a women’s prison outside Philadelphia, and she lives with him in an apartment overlooking the exercise yard. Cammie’s mother was killed when she was a baby and living with her father has always been enough. Until the summer of 1959, when Cammie is turning thirteen, and the impact of not having a mother hits home. Cammie decides to make Eloda Pupko, the prison trustee inmate who watches over Cammie and takes care of the apartment, her surrogate mother. The harder Cammie pushes and acts out, desperate to hear words a mother would say, the more Eloda seems determined to keep her distance, until Cammie explodes, and Eloda finally forces the girl to face her mother’s death. Set against a background of rock and roll, American Bandstand, and the finely limned inmates, this story quietly sneaks up on you until the tears are rolling down your cheek. THOUGHTS:  Another masterful book from Spinelli. It may require a thoughtful reader to appreciate the nuances of character, but it is a beautiful story.  Historical Fiction       Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

 

Korman, Gordon. Payback (Masterminds series). Balzer & Bray, 2017.  978-0-06-230005-8. 311 p. $17.99. Gr. 3-6.

In the third and final book of the Masterminds trilogy, Eli, Tori, Amber, and Malik are still on the run from the evil Dr. Hammerstrom and their former “parents” of Project Osiris. This project, a science experiment with dubious moral value, intended to answer the nature vs. nurture debate once and for all by cloning child versions of criminal masterminds of all kinds–thieves, terrorists, killers, computer hackers, and more–and raising them in a seemingly perfect community free of influence from the outside world to see if the child clones would turn into productive, honest adults or if they would follow in the footsteps of the people who provided their DNA. It sounds very dark, but Korman does a good job of writing the series at child-appropriate level. The four kids who escaped Project Osiris want to free the rest of the kids who don’t know the truth about their origins, so they travel around the country looking for help and answers from different adults while doing what they need to in order to survive, including living in a GIrl Scout cookie warehouse and stealing a few cars along the way. The series ends with Eli, Tori, Amber, and Malik at a tropical beach resort in a showdown with Dr. Hammerstrom and a satisfying ending. THOUGHTS: A great action adventure series for upper elementary students who can handle and understand the nature vs. nurture concept.

Action/Adventure             Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

YA NF – How Dare the Sun Rise; March Against Fear; Martin Luther; American Fire

Uwiringiyimana, Sandra, and Abigail Pesta. How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child. Katherine Tegen Books, 2017. 978-0-06-247014-0. 288 pp. $19.99. Gr. 9 and up.

This excellent memoir relates how one “war child” went from stateless refugee to leading activist. Growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sandra Uwiringiyimana enjoyed a happy childhood in a large, loving family. Her parents strongly valued education and envisioned a life for their daughters beyond an arranged marriage; her siblings were both her playmates and protectors. However, the possibility of war was a constant cloud on the horizon. When she was ten, Sandra’s family fled to a refugee camp in Burundi that was attacked by a rebel militia. With a gun to her head, Sandra said goodbye to life, but the rebel spared her and she escaped into the darkness. Miraculously, after the massacre she reunited with some of her family, and together they began a journey that would ultimately bring them to Rochester, New York. Sandra’s challenges continued as she learned to navigate American culture, race relations, and her flashbacks to the Gatumba massacre. Sandra’s passion for education and human rights have driven both her activism and her quest to heal from the trauma she suffered. THOUGHTS: Sandra Uwiringiyimana has written a moving account of her harrowing years as a child of war, and the strength and support she found to rebuild her life. It stands alongside other standout titles such as Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara, Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee, and A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah.

In her closing Information and Resources section, the author highlights three organizations:

  • Jimbere Fund, whose mission is to revitalize distressed communities in rural Congo (www.Jimberefund.org)
  • The Maman Shujaa, a women’s movement for peace, women’s rights, rights of the indigenous, and nature (www.HeroWomenRising.org)
  • RefugePoint (www.RefugePoint.org) helps refugees in life-threatening situations find safety and rebuild their lives

92, Autobiography    Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

 

Bausum, Ann. The March Against Fear. National Geographic, 2017. 978-1-4263-2666-0. $19.99. 144p. Gr. 7 and up.

The March Against Fear is the story of the last great, but sometimes forgotten, civil rights march. James Meredith was one of the first wave of recruits into the newly integrated Air Force, and he was the first African American to successfully integrate the University of Mississippi. It was that courage and determination that gave him the idea of marching across his home state of Mississippi to encourage African Americans to register to vote. A year earlier the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed but still a majority of African Americans had not registered to vote. Meredith thought that fear of retaliation was holding people back from registering, and this Walk Against Fear would be the thing to inspire them to register. On the second day of the march Meredith was shot. Fortunately, he didn’t die, but with the shooting his walk turned into a march and his cause was taken up by civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Stokely Carmichael. This march and the violent confrontations that the people who took part in it endured pitted King’s nonviolent response with Carmichael’s demand for “black power.” Following the march, all across the country there was growing unrest and frustration with racism and protests were held in at least 20 major cities. The media focused on what they thought was Carmichael’s call to violence and “black power” became the legacy of the March Against Fear.  THOUGHTS: Ann Bausum spoke to our students in support of the publication of this book. Our students and some teachers were mesmerized by this bit of history that they had never heard of. This book has powerful quotes and engaging photographs on solid black backgrounds that make it a pleasure to read. It would be an excellent book to use for Social Studies book clubs at the 7th through 9th grade level.

323.1196; Civil Rights      Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

 

Ciponte, Andrea Grosso and Dacia Palmerino.  Renegade: Martin Luther, The Graphic Biography. Plough Publishing House, 2017.  9780874862072. 160 p. $19.95. Gr. 8 and up.

Beautifully illustrated and well researched, this graphic novel follows the life of Martin Luther, the man who challenged the Catholic Church and inspired the Protestant Revolution. It is a fast read that captures the tumultuous times in Germany at the beginning of the 16th century, a time of poverty, plague and suffering. Martin was the son of hard working, strictly religious family. He excelled in school and was granted the opportunity to study at the University in Erfurt with the hopes of becoming a lawyer and improving his family’s lot. When caught in a violent storm, Martin has an epiphany which brings him to the church. Obsessed with salvation and faith he pores over the scriptures as he seeks to reconcile his growing doubts with the practices of the Holy Catholic Church. His major complaints against the Church over the sale of indulgences and the true meaning of faith and grace lead him to post the infamous 95 Theses on the door of the Cathedral. The novel presents Luther’s reasoning on the questions of faith, his friends and foes in his struggle to clarify his theology, and his efforts to bring the word of God closer to the people of Germany.  The good the bad and the ugly of Luther’s life is exposed, including his end of life tirades against Jews, Anabaptists and the peasants of Germany.  Ciponte’s drawings are gorgeous and colorful – evocative of some of the great masterpieces of the Renaissance.  THOUGHTS: Could be used as a companion text for students of world history to bring this revolutionary time period to life. Having a degree of background knowledge would help the reader understand the events in this retelling.

92, Graphic Biography               Nancy Summers, Abington SD

 

Hesse, Monica. American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land. Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2017. 978-1-63149-051-4. 255 pp. $26.95. Gr. 10+.

Monica Hesse, author of the excellent young adult WWII mystery Girl in the Blue Coat, returns with a compulsively readable true crime case study. In American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land, Hesse relates the story of Accomack County, part of Virginia’s Eastern Shore peninsula, where dozens of abandoned buildings were set ablaze in 2012 and 2013. The story hinges less on whodunnit (the arsonists are already serving time) than why-dunnit. American Fire’s subtitle teases the answer, which Hesse reveals through depictions of the county’s cultural history, the crime of arson itself, the painstaking efforts of law enforcement, and an intense but ill-fated love story. THOUGHTS: American Fire is narrative nonfiction at its best. Written for adults, it’s also a perfect choice for teens who are listeners of the S-Town podcast, readers of David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon, or simply enjoy puzzling out a seemingly random crime spree. One gripe: an Eastern Shore map would have been helpful! Hopefully one will be included when the paperback edition is released.

364.16; Crime     Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Middles School – EOD Soldiers; Victoria Torres

Manning, Matthew K. Art by Carlos Furuzana and Dijo Lima. EOD Soldiers. Capstone, 2017. 978-1-4965-3415-6. 40pp. $19.49 ea. Gr. 4-8.

Enter with the U.S. Army’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal in Afghanistan in this new graphic novel series. In Go Slow, Specialist Rose Campbell is reminded by her protective father to take everything in while being careful throughout the dangers of Afghanistan. In The List, Private Matty Giaconne makes note of experiences in Afghanistan to have answers prepared when he returns and others ask about his service there. He also worries about the disagreements he has had with his wife. Both books show the danger faced and the bravery displayed by those in the EOD. Full color artwork clearly captures the emotion and danger facing our EOD soldiers.  Back matter includes more information about EOD such as schooling or badges, visual questions, and a glossary. THOUGHTS:  This series is excellent for students that love to learn more about the military and those who gravitate towards graphic novels and artwork. The stories will leave an impact on the reader. The books could be included in a lesson as they are not too long, but leave room for discussion and research.

Graphic Novel; War      Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District

 

Bowe, Julie. Victoria Torres Unfortunately Average. Stone Arch, 2017. 978-1-4965-3800-0. 148p. $19.49 ea. Gr. 4-8.

In Vicka For President!, 6th grade Victoria is inspired to run for class president by her parents, siblings, and closest friends.  At her school, the President is the student receiving the most votes and the person with the second most votes becomes Vice President. Her classmate Annelise is very popular and also is able to spend her parents wealth on tokens and stickers. Henry will also run for president as challenge with a campaign around mud.  Victoria determines her slogan, stump speech, and ways to improve the school with a compost and garden. Will that be enough with all of Annelise’s trinkets and the boys all clamouring for humourous Henry and his campaign of mud?

In So Much Drama, it is time for the big 6th grade Shakespeare play. This year will be Romeo and Juliet. Vicka’s best friend is the director, and Vicka is upset to be cast as Friar Lawrence. Will everything work out in the end?

THOUGHTS: In 2016, the first four books in the series were published. The realistic fiction hooks upper elementary and middle school readers.

Realistic Fiction      Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District

I’ll Meet You There

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Demetrios, Heather.  I’ll Meet You There.  New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2015.  978-0-8050-9795-5. 388 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

Skylar Evans wants nothing more than to leave Creek View after graduation and attend art school in San Francisco.  This dream is threatened, however, when her world starts spinning out of control.  First, her mother loses her job at Taco Bell and falls into a deep depression.  Then, Skylar is reunited with Josh Mitchell, a former coworker who lost his leg while serving as a Marine in Afghanistan. As she desperately tries to save her mother and begins to develop a relationship with Josh, Skylar begins to rethink everything Creek View means to her.  Will she really be able to leave behind this place and these people?  Although the book is an obvious love story, Josh’s recollections of war and Skylar’s emotional maturation throughout the book will also entice fans of war and coming-of-age stories.

Realistic Fiction        Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

Although the story is told mainly from Skylar’s point of view, Josh’s thoughts and war flashbacks are interspersed throughout the book, adding to its appeal for male as well as female readers.  The book really provides readers with a glimpse of the struggles soldiers face after returning home from war, and the author’s note at the end includes information about the Wounded Warrior Project as well as recommendations for further reading on the war in Afghanistan.  Underage drinking, steamy love scenes, and swear words make this title more appropriate for high school audiences.