Thursday, September 28, 2017

You are not my friend, but I miss you

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Book talk: Dog used to be monkey's friend. They used to play together for hours. They used to have so much fun. Not anymore. Dog stole monkey's ball and monkey stole it back. Now monkey has his ball, but who will he toss it to?

Rave:
This short story is full of emotion and describes a common childhood experience. Monkey gets upset at his friend, Dog, but after a while realizes he misses Dog. All is forgiven and they're back to happily playing a game of catch. The pictures vary from close-ups of monkey to action sequences with multiple scenes depicted on a page. The emotions are clearly visible on all the animals and the background colors further emphasize the emotions. There's happy pastels in the scenes with friends playing and brown, blue, and red on the close-ups of an upset Monkey. The animals all have a fabric texture that makes you want to cuddle them. This would be great for sparking a discussion about friendship and sharing with young kids.

Every book its reader: I'd read this with students pre-school to 1st grade.

Topics and Trends: picture books, sharing, friendship

Extras:


Daniel Kirk has a website where he describes the inspiration behind the book and some of the process of making it: "I have long been interested in writing a book where the main character has feelings and points of view that to us, the reader, are clearly wrong." He also includes a great list of questions for discussion and things to do after reading the book, "Try writing an 'I’m sorry' letter to someone. If there’s anybody out there you owe an apology to, try telling them in a letter. Even if you choose not to send it, it will help to see your thoughts and feelings in writing."

Source: school library

You Are Not My Friend, But I Miss You by Daniel Kirk

Friday, September 22, 2017

Somos como las nubes

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Book talk: 
We Sing

Since we left home
we haven't stopped singing.
My father says
if we keep singing,
we'll scare away all the tiredness
and the fear
and become a song.

Rave: This collection of poems tells the story of migration from Central America to the United States. The author himself grew up in El Salvador and came to the United States in the 1980's, fleeing war in his home country. The poems range from the specific story of an individual to describing the migrant experience as a whole. They move in time chronologically starting in Central America and ending in the United States. Each poem has both a Spanish and English version and they're accompanied by beautiful, dreamy acrylic paintings. The poems are short, but their impact is big and could easily spark longer discussions and more research into the migrant experience.

Every book its reader: This is a great for those looking for bilingual books as well as classroom teachers and parents who want to introduce the topic of migration.

Source: school library

Somos como las nubes /We Are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta & Alfonso Ruano

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Grand Mosque of Paris

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Book talk: During the Nazi invasion of France, thousands of Jewish people found sanctuary in the Grand Mosque of Paris. This book describes how Muslims in Paris helped their Jewish brothers and sisters during World War II. They saved lives in a myriad of ways ranging from writing false papers identifying Jews as Muslims, to secreting Jewish people and resistance fighters through hidden tunnels and out of Paris in emptied wine barrels.

Rave: There are so many fascinating vignettes of courage and defiance in this book. The actions described were secretive by nature and never officially documented, but the authors have hunted down the scraps of information they could find to present these stories. Full-page oil paintings throughout illustrate the story. There's a glossary, bibliography, index and further information in the back.

Ever book its readers: This would be a great classroom share for grades 3rd - 5th.

Topics and Trends: World War II, religion, Islam, Judaism, the Holocaust, the Resistance

Extras:

This travel video has some beautiful shots of the Grand Mosque of Paris for those interested.





Source: school library

The Grand Mosque of Paris: A story of how Muslims rescued Jews during the Holocaust by Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix

Giant Squid

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Book talk: The giant squid is a tantalizing mystery. We have more close-ups photographs of Mars. We know more about dinosaur behavior. Much of what we do know about giant squids comes from pieces we have found and dissected--pieces often found in sperm whales. Despite how rarely giant squids are sighted by humans, sperm whales have been found with as many as 7,000 indigestible giant squid beaks in their stomachs. Get a glimpse into the life of these mysterious and beautiful creatures with Giant Squid by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann.

Rave: This book is beautiful and a bit terrifying, much like the creatures it describes. What little we know is described in a poetic language that creates a rich atmosphere. The pictures are gorgeous, showing parts of the squid to emphasize its size and the sense that it's lurking just out of sight. This would make a great read-aloud for budding science enthusiasts.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to students 1st-3rd with an interest in marine life who don't frighten easily.

Topics and Trends: nonfiction, giant squids, marine biology, narrative nonfiction, picture books

Extras:

The AP has raw footage of one of these creatures making a rare appearance at the surface of the ocean. There's no voice-over, just the gentle bubbling of the diver's oxygen tank, which lends it a rather hypnotizing air.



Source: school library

Giant Squid by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann

Journey

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Book talk: A lone wolf strikes out from his pack and heads south to California. His radio collar allows scientists and animal lovers to follow his progress. Abby watches with excitement as he heads closer to where she lives, but she's also worried. Some people don't want the wolves to come back to their land. Will this one survive?

Rave: Journey alternates between the perspectives of the wolf and a young girl following his progress. The young girl's story provides context and adds tension as she worries over the fate of the wolf. She even participates in a contest to name him. The wolf is from Oregon and the girl lives in Northern California. Even the girl's grandparents as far away as Mexico follow the wolf's progress. This is based on real events and there's a lot of great back matter including the real Journey's path, a timeline of wolf conservation efforts, and questions and activities for a classroom.

Every book its reader: This would be great as a part of a science unit in a classroom, but it's also an excellent story for young wildlife enthusiasts at bedtime. 1st - 3rd grade.

Topics and Trends: wildlife conservation, wolves, picture books

Extras:
Brain scoop did an excellent episode talking about wolf conservation that gets into wolf and coyote cross breeding and goes further into other topics mentioned in passing in this book. There are scenes in the video that show animal carcasses that are graphic, so preview it before sharing it.




Source: school library

Journey: Based on the true story of OR7 the most famous wolf in the west by Emma Bland Smith; illustrated by Robin James

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Handful of Stars

A Handful of Stars

Book talk: Lily loves life in her small town and she's looking forward to summer and the annual Blueberry Queen Pageant. Then her blind dog slips away and runs off into the blueberry field. Salma, the daughter of one of the migrant workers, sacrifices her lunch to lure the dog back to safety. It's the beginning of a new friendship that will change both their lives. But will their friendship survive when they both enter the Pageant?

Rave: This sweet story of friendship is everything I've come to expect from Cynthia Lord. It's touching without being overly saccharine. It teaches lessons without being preachy. It's filled with a gentle humor and well-drawn characters. It's perfect for summer reading, and who can resist a book with a dog on the cover?

Every book its reader: I'd give this to students 3rd & up looking for a sweet tale of friendship.

Topics & Trends: Friendship, #weneeddiversebooks, migrant workers, Maine, dogs, pageants

Extras:

Here's an interview with the author about the book:


And here's a picture of an adorable panda enjoying the book:
(from The Nerdy Panda blog-- Check it out!)

Source: school library

A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord: buy it or check it out today!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Willow and the Wedding

Book talk: Willow loves weddings, so she is excited Uncle Ash is getting married to David, and even more so when she finds out that she gets to be the flower girl. Their wedding will be on the beach and dessert will be her favorite: donuts with sprinkles. Everything will be perfect--if only she can convince her uncle to put his childhood fears behind him and dance. 

Rave: This sweet story is a lesson in empathy. Willow learns that her uncle used to love dancing until he was in the school musical and got teased for his affinity for dance. Willow sets out to help him reclaim his love of dance to great success. Her care for others is on display at the wedding as she helps relatives: providing a blanket for an aunt who gets cold and a cool drink for an overheated uncle. Adults will appreciate this diverse but not didactic offering and kids will enjoy imagining they're at this fantastic beach and donuts wedding.

Every book its reader: Hand this book to aspiring dancers and flower girls in grades k-2.

Extras: Don't miss the end papers and this delightful dino:



Source: school library

Willow and the Wedding by Denise Brennan-Nelson; illustrated by Cyd Moore: buy it or check it out today!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Circus Mirandus

Circus Mirandus

Book talk: Micah Tuttle loves listening to his grandpa's stories of the magical Circus Mirandus with its invisible tiger, flying birdwoman, and a powerful magician known as the Lightbender. People think they're just stories, but Grandpa insists that they're true and Micah believes him. Now Grandpa is dying and the only thing that can save him is a miracle. Luckily, the Lightbender owes his grandpa just that. But is the circus real? Will Micah be able to convince the Lightbender to pay his debt? It's hard to believe in magic in a world of cynics, but Micah would do anything to give his grandpa another chance.

Rave: This is a beautifully-told, heart-breaking story of the connection between a boy and his grandfather. The circus is delightful and the magical elements fantastic, but when you boil it down this relationship is the core of the story. It suffuses the whole book with emotion and a deep meaning about the difficulty of letting go. On top of all that it's a great magical quest/adventure story.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to fans of magical adventures and tear-jerkers. It has a classic feel like Peter Pan and would make a great family read-aloud. 3rd & up.

Topics and Trends: Grandfathers, grief, circuses, magic, tearjerkers

Extras:

The Texas Bluebonnet Awards made a great trailer:


There's a lot of great quote images made to promote this book:






Bonus Quote:

“Grandpa Ephraim was always saying things that sounded so important Micah wanted to wrap them up in boxes and keep them forever.”

Source: School Library

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Lost in the Sun

Lost in the Sun

Book talk: Playing sports always brought Trent joy. Everyone in town knew him as the golden kid who could excel at any type of game, and he took pride in his reputation. Until the day a pick-up hockey game changed his life forever. One slapshot to the chest combined with an un-diagnosed heart condition made Trent a killer. Now it's a new school year and a new baseball season. It should be a fresh start, but Trent can't leave the past behind. He's changed into someone his friends and family don't recognize and he's not sure if he can ever go back, or if he even wants to. Will he ever play sports again? Who will he be without them?

Rave: The characters in this story are simply fantastic. It would take a very cold heart not to sympathize with Trent as he recovers from the grief and guilt of accidentally killing another kid. The adults around him seem to think that just telling him it's not his fault should be enough for him to get over it, which sadly reflects the lack of knowledge around mental health in our society. I appreciate the way Trent's struggle is depicted, but I think kids will just enjoy the compelling story. Those who enjoy sports will be especially impacted by the loss Trent feels at his inability to play the way he did before. Misfits and sports neophytes, on the other hand, will relate to the other main character Fallon, who helps Trent adjust to his new life. A little something for everyone.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to students looking for a moving novel, especially sports enthusiasts. 4th grade and up.

Topics and Trends: mental health, grief, guilt, sports, baseball,

Extras:

There's a fan-made book trailer




Source: public library

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff: buy it or check it out today!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Shutter Review

Shutter

Book talk: Fighting vampires is in Micheline's blood. It's been the family business ever since Van Helsing fought Dracula, and her bloodline gives her a distinct advantage: the ability to see the aura of the undead. For her, exorcising ghosts and shooting vampires is just another day in the office. Micheline and her crew respond to emergency calls armed to the teeth with weapons both mundane and specialized, including a modified camera that can capture the spiritual energy of ghosts. But for Micheline a bad day at the office doesn't mean a paper jam. It results in her and her crew getting infected with a soulchain that will kill them in a week or less, unless they can exorcise the ghost that cursed them. With new purpose and higher stakes than ever before, Micheline does what her family has been doing for centuries: she hunts.

Rave: This is a fantastic horror story. It pays homage to Dracula while creating its own world. The explanations of the science behind the supernatural elements is satisfyingly detailed instead of the typical hand-waving and explanation of "because magic".  The horror elements are truly terrifying and the plot fast-paced, except for a few passages of backstory. I particularly enjoyed that it's set in the SF Bay Area.

Rant: The narrative got a bit overly dramatic at times and there were some cliched elements, but that's to be expected in a horror story.

Every book its reader: The book is pretty intense, but it should be perfect for horror fans and I don't know why someone who doesn't like horror would read it anyway. 8th grade and up.

Topics and Trends: SF Bay Area, Horror, Vampires, Ghosts, Supernatural,

Extras:
The wonderful Naiomi Bates has made a trailer for the book:


I found this great image with a quote:

Bonus Quotes:
“Bloodlines and last names didn't make a man extraordinary — the extraordinary existed in what we did in life, not in who we were.”

Source: public library

Shutter by Courtney Alameda

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Review

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition

Book talk: What would you do if your family didn't have enough to eat? If they didn't have access to running water or electricity? What if you had no money to fix any of it? If you're anything like William, then you'd head to the library! In this true story, William describes how he combined knowledge gained from studying library books with scrap metal and junk to make a windmill that changed his life forever.

Rave: This book is absolutely fascinating. Of course as a librarian I'm a sucker for any story about the transformative powers of libraries. William is remarkable and hearing his story in his own words was incredibly moving. Added morals about STEM, recycling, and life in Africa make this an ideal fit for classroom reading. It's an engaging read for students on their own too.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to students 4th grade and up looking for an inspiring and gripping true story.

Topics & Trends: STEM, #weneeddiversebooks, Africa, Malawi, libraries, recycling, memoirs, drought, famine

Extras:

I made this image from the cover of the book and a great quote in it:


Bonus Quote:

"No matter how foreign and lonely the world was outside, the books always reminded me of home, sitting under the mango tree.”

Source: school library

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Young Readers Edition) by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer: buy it or check it out today!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Book talk: Simon has a major crush, the only problem is he doesn't know who he's crushing on. After a pseudonymous post about not being openly gay in his high school, he met Blue. Blue and Simon have been messaging ever since, and Simon can't get enough of him. When another student discovers their e-mail conversations, everything is put in jeopardy. Simon is blackmailed with the threat of having not only his secrets revealed, but Blue's as well. How will he keep their secrets safe while staying true to himself? How far will the blackmail go? And most importantly, who is Blue?

Rave: I was a goner the moment I read the exchange ending in "I think you're cute and grammatical, too." I didn't know I could be so invested in a fictional relationship with a mystery crush. All the characters are fleshed out from the kid blackmailing Simon to his embarrassing but loving parents. The play brought me back to my own high school theatre days and the ending was simply perfect.

Every book its reader: I can't recommend this book enough. I've given it as a present and shoved my library's copies into plenty of hands. Great for those looking for a high school romance 8th grade and up.

Topics and Trends: LGBTQ, romance, school stories, high school theatre, secret admirers

Extras:

I'm not surprised this book has inspired a lot of people to make fan art & tributes, including this trailer:



The publishers made these two quote images to promote the book:


Bonus Quotes:

“He talked about the ocean between people. And how the whole point of everything is to find a shore worth swimming to.”

“Really, though, there are only two kinds of weather: hoodie weather and weather where you wear a hoodie anyway.”

Source: public library

Simon vs. the Homo Spaiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli: buy it or check it out today!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Brief Reviews Fall 2015 Part 1

Heap House (Iremonger, #1) On the one hand, I liked just how weird and unlike anything else this book is. On the other hand, this book is really weird! The story it most reminds me of is Gormenghast with the Gothic atmosphere and the family dynasty clinging to odd traditions despite their world crumbling around them. But add to that talking objects that form a bond with a person, a healthy dose of cousin marriage, and a world seemingly based on the junk lady from Labyrinth. In the end it just didn't work for me. The internal logic of the world fell apart and while the world-building was detailed, the characters never went beyond archetypes. The characters were what drew me into the world of Gormenghast and these characters were not as engaging. It was refreshing just to read something different, and I can understand its appeal but it's not my cup of tea. Heap House by Edward Carey: buy it or check it out today!

A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of PoetryWhat I liked about this poetry collection was that the poets represented a variety of countries and Milosz's commentary on why he selected them. Getting into the mind of a man who is a great poet in himself to see what he likes when he reads poetry was an interesting experience, even if I didn't always like the same poems he did. A Book of Luminous Things edited by Czeslaw Milosz: buy it or check it out today!





Belzhar I naturally liked the premise of this novel: an English class that changes the lives of a group of troubled teens. I absolutely hated the conclusion and the lesson it imparts though. This is a completely irresponsible depiction of recovery from mental illness. Coping with mental illness is a long road that requires a lot of work and often many tries to get the right combination of therapy, medication, and life changes. Throwing a bunch of teenagers with serious mental health issues together then having them all end up in relationships with each other is not a happy ending--it is a recipe for disaster. There are no magical quick fixes when it comes to mental health and starting a new relationship before coping with your own issues is not usually a good idea--especially when the person you're in a relationship has unresolved issues of their own. It's not really about the power of literature in the end either, just the power of magical notebooks. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer: buy it or check it out today!

Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle (Gabriel Finley #1)I really enjoyed the puzzle/adventure aspect of this novel. The ravens and their riddles were clever and fun to read about. The mythology of the book is appealing, especially Gabriel's discovery that is family has a special bond with ravens. The characters are a mess though. They're all paper-thin stereotypes. The most troubling aspect is that at the end a character with an abusive father decides to return to him to try and fix things and the adults in the book seem to think this is a good idea. What? They need to be calling child protective services and figuring out the best way to help this family. Not sending a kid back to a verbally and physically abusive father and just hoping it will all work out. I would not recommend this. There are plenty of good fantasy novels for children out there that don't imply that children can fix their abusive parents on their own. Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Riddle by George Hagen

Undertow (Undertow #1)A lot of my students love mermaids. A lot of my students love dystopias. I'm not sure how much those circles intersect though. This is the mash-up nobody asked for. I loved the main character and I would have enjoyed reading a book about her and her life without the evil mermaids, but the evil mermaids refused to go away. I still liked the book well enough until it got to the deus-ex-machina ending, at which point I was over it. I love this author, and I wanted to like this book, but it didn't work for me. Perhaps there's someone looking for a gritty mermaid story who will be delighted to find this book. I'm not that person though. Undertow by Michael Buckley: buy it or check it out today!


Friday, June 9, 2017

Dumplin' Review

Dumplin' (Dumplin', #1)

Book talk: “I hate seeing fat girls on TV or in movies, because the only way the world seems to be okay with putting a fat person on camera is if they’re miserable with themselves or if they’re the jolly best friend. Well, I’m neither of those things.” Willowdean goes by Will to her friends and Dumplin' to her ex-beauty queen mother. She is unafraid to wear her swimsuit and if people stare, then that's their issue, not hers. But when she enters a beauty pageant with some other unlikely contenders, her mother is horrified. First kisses, broken friendships, Dolly Parton, drag queens, beauty pageants, and self-discovery. This is one year Dumplin' will never forget.

Rave: I cannot get enough of Will's bold and sassy voice and her defiant attitude. She is a character worth rooting for, even when she makes mistakes along the way. It was refreshing to read about body image issues that are prevalent in society but rarely discussed--especially in such a nuanced and honest way. Those aren't the only issues that receive such a frank treatment either. Evolving friendships, romantic relationships, grief, and mother-daughter relationships all get the same funny and insightful treatment. Plus there's Dolly Parton. What more could I ask for?

Every book its reader: I'd give this to teens looking for a funny, realistic book 8th grade and up.

Topics and Trends: body image, beauty pageants, drag queens, romance, friendship, mother-daughter relationships, grief, the South

Extras: 

Check out these great images from the publisher:




You can find more quotes in this video:



Bonus Quotes:

“There’s something about swimsuits that make you think you’ve got to earn the right to wear them. And that’s wrong. Really, the criteria is simple. Do you have a body? Put a swimsuit on it.”

“All my life I’ve had a body worth commenting on and if living in my skin has taught me anything it’s that if it’s not your body, it’s not yours to comment on.”

Source: public library

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Half a World Away Review

Half a World Away

Book talk: Jaden's parents wanted a baby, but by the time they brought him home he was already a toddler. The orphanage he was in often didn't give him enough food to eat let alone care and attention. Now he's eleven, but he can't stop hoarding food or lighting fires. He know's he's not what his parents wanted, which is why they're going to Kazakhstan to finally adopt a baby. When they get there though, the baby they'd thought they were adopting is already gone. They have to stay there and choose a new one. Meanwhile Jaden gets to know some of the toddlers there and forms a special bond with one.

Rave: This book breaks your heart then stitches it back together again. It is such a honest portrayal of the lingering effects of trauma and some of the possible complications of international adoption. I loved reading about all this from Jaden's perspective, and watching as he formed a bond with a toddler at the orphanage. There's a lot of harsh truths, but through it all there's good people who may make mistakes but are nevertheless trying hard to do the right thing. It's a quiet but important novel.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to kids looking for a tear-jerker 4th grade and up.

Topics and Trends: international adoption, mental health, pyromania, orphanages,

Extras:

I made this image from one of my favorite quotes from the novel and a cool model of a heart I saw in a museum.



Source: public library

Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata

Monday, June 5, 2017

If I Ever Get Out of Here Review

If I Ever Get Out of Here

Book talk: There's a lot that Lewis loves about his life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation: the games of fire ball, his friends and family, and the ease and familiarity that comes from being with your own people. Life outside of the reservation isn't always easy. He's the only kid from the reservation in his advanced class at school, and the other kids never let him forget it. He's never had a friend in his class until George moves to the nearby military base with his family. They hit it off right away and connect over their love of music. But the base and the reservation are very different worlds. Lewis doesn't think George will understand and George can tell Lewis is keeping secrets. Maybe will a little help from his friends, Lewis will learn to let it be.

Rave: This book, set in 1975, has a lot of great musical references that fans of The Beatles and Wings will definitely appreciate. Most of the book feels like it could easily happen today though. Native Americans still face discrimination, vets still have difficulty getting the help they need, military families still move a lot, poverty is still widespread. All this means that even though the novel is set in the past, it has a lot to say about current events and issues.

The characters in this novel are well fleshed out. They are a mix of good traits and bad, they make mistakes while trying to do the right thing, and they help each other out when they're down. I grew to care for all of them and became completely absorbed in their lives even though there's not a fast-paced plot.

Every book its reader: Highly recommended for 8th grade and up looking for a realistic fiction story with strong characterization.

Topics & Trends: the Tuscarora Indians, the 70's, music, The Beatles, poverty, military families, bullying, friendship, #ownvoices, #weneeddiversebooks

Extras: 
This is the song that inspired the title:




Source: school library

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth: buy it or check it out today!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Phoebe and Her Unicorn Review

Phoebe and Her Unicorn (Heavenly Nostrils, #1)

Book talk: If a unicorn granted you one wish, what would you ask for? Phoebe wishes for infinity wishes, then infinity dollars, then super powers. When the unicorn refuses to grant her any of those, she aims for something more realistic: for the unicorn to become her best friend. But becoming friends with a unicorn is more  than Phoebe bargained for. The unicorn, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, is incredibly vain and clearly not used to close contact with humans. But on the other hand, she's a freakin' unicorn! Having a magical creature as your best friend can't be all bad...

Rave: This comic reminds me of Calvin and Hobbes, and I don't make that comparison lightly. The "Shield of Boringness" means that most of Phoebe's classmates can't see her unicorn. That doesn't stop them from having hilarious adventures on their own though. The sweeping imagination and spot-on humor mixed with the daily trials and tribulations of childhood make this comic a delight for all ages. I eagerly read each new volume as it arrives then pass it on to a colleague of mine who loves them too. The students make sure they rarely stay on the shelf for long.

Every book its reader: I wasn't kidding when I said all ages. The appeal and humor of this comic are universal.

Topics & Trends: humor, unicorns, comics

Extras:



Source: school library

Phoebe and Her Unicorn: A Heavenly Nostrils Chronicle by Dana Simpson: buy it or check it out today!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Clover's Luck Review

The Magical Animal Adoption Agency, Book 1: Clover's Luck

Book talk: When Clover's friends get accepted into a horse camp and leave her behind, she knows she's fallen victim to her bad luck yet again. Then she stumbles upon a magical animal adoption agency in the woods by her house. She learns how to take care of fairy horses, unicorns left behind by spoiled princesses, and even a baby dragon. It seems her luck is turning around, until the owner of the agency disappears on a trip and leaves her to take care of the animals by herself. Will she be up to the challenge? Is there more bad luck lurking around the corner? Clover's summer is going to be either the best or worst of her life, but it certainly won't be boring!

Rave: I would have been all over this when I was a kid! Employee at a magical animal adoption agency would have immediately become my dream job, and I would have spent hours playing imaginary games where I was Clover. Even as an adult I couldn't resist the charm of this novel as Clover slowly gained confidence and learned how to take care of herself by taking care of others. Plus, fairy horses! They're tiny horses for fairies! Why has no one told me about these before?

Every book its reader: I'd give this to animal lovers and fans of fantasy looking for a sweet early chapter book. The reading level is 2nd & up but there's nothing in it that younger kids couldn't handle as a read aloud or if they're strong readers themselves.

Topics and trends: mythical animals, unicorns, dragons, pets, animal rescue

Extras: 


Source: school library

Magical Animal Adoption Agency: Clover's Luck by Kallie George, Illustrated by Alexandra Bolger: buy it or check it out today!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Ellie's Story Review

Ellie's Story (A Dog's Purpose)

Book talk: Ellie has always been smart. That's why she was chosen for a special purpose. She was trained as a puppy how to track and find people. At first, it was just a game to make her human happy. But as she grew up, she could sense that her work was important. Whether it was finding injured humans in disaster zones or comforting people when they were sad, she helped people when they most needed it. But what would happen if she couldn't do her job any more? Would she still have a purpose? Would she still have a human who loves her?

Rave: I was completely fascinated by the training process for a search and rescue dog from the dog's perspective. Cameron does a great job describing what it's like and imagining how a dog would puzzle out what humans want it to do. The story goes along at a pretty fast clip through Ellie's life with a lot of tear-jerker moments but things always work out in the end.

Every book its reader: Because the main character is a dog, I could see a wide range of kids from 3rd grade up enjoying this title.

Topics and Trends: dogs, search and rescue, disasters, tear-jerkers

Extras:


Source: school library

Ellie's Story: A Dog's Purpose Novel by W. Bruce Cameron: buy it or check it out today!

The Girl at Midnight Review

The Girl at Midnight (The Girl at Midnight, #1)

Book talk: “Not the truth, but close enough. Maybe she ought to make that her life motto”  Echo is a runaway and a thief. She lives in a secret room in a library and survives on the edges of two societies: the one we know, and the society of the Avicen. The Avicen are a proud and ancient race of people who grow feathers instead of hair. Some might find this disconcerting, but they're the only family Echo has ever known. So when a threat to the Avicen emerges, Echo is determined to risk everything to help.

Rave: What's not to love: a girl who lives in a library, an alternate world full of magic and strange creatures hidden behind the one we know, a thief with a sarcastic wit but a strong moral compass. This book is firing on all cylinders. I'll even admit to enjoying the love triangle, as cliched as it may be. It's not the most original book I've read, but it was certainly a fun ride!

Every book its reader: I'd give this to fans of Daughter of Smoke and Bone  and other fantasy romances 8th grade and up.

Topics and Trends: urban fantasy, moral thieves, fantasy creatures, romance

Extras:


Bonus Quotes:

“The young always think they’re invincible, right until the moment they learn otherwise. Usually, the hard way”


“If war had taught him anything, it was that it took the people who deserved long and happy lives and gave them short, brutal ones instead.”

“The was something about churches that she found unsettling. Everything seemed overly concerned with death, as if someone had forgotten that the basis of the religion for which they'd been built was a rebirth.”

Source: school library

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey: buy it or check it out today!

The Fixer Review

The Fixer (The Fixer, #1)

Book talk: Hardwicke Academy: the school of choice for the children of the DC elite. It's exclusive, it's secure, and it's about to be completely rocked by its newest student. Tess Kendrick is the younger sister of infamous political fixer Ivy Kendrick. Caught in a messy affair? Need to make a story disappear? If you're lucky, and you can afford it, you'll hire Ivy to take care of all your needs and keep your secrets. Tess grew up on a farm with her grandfather, about as far away from political intrigue as you can get. But her sister's reputation has preceded her and it isn't long before Tess is fixing problems for students on campus. Their parents are major power players, and their problems go beyond school drama. Soon, Tess has uncovered a major scandal that even her sister might not be able to fix. With her life on the line and her world turned upside, she needs to decide where her loyalties lie and what she's willing to risk.

Rave: This fast-paced political thriller for a YA audience delivers House of Cards style drama to a younger set. The plot is relentless and full of betrayals, twists, and high stakes. Tess is a very sympathetic character as she's thrust into a world she's completely unprepared for and tries to do her best.

Every book its reader: I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a good thriller. 8th grade and up.

Topics & Trends: fast-paced, political intrigue, private schools, school dramas

Extras:

You can learn more about the book in this interview with the author:


Source: school library

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Marvels

The Marvels

Book talk: A young man survives a shipwreck in 1766 and goes on to create a dynasty of famous actors in London. Another runs away from his boarding school in 1990 to seek out his estranged and eccentric uncle who lives in an even more mysterious house. Their stories, told through pictures and words intertwine in unexpected ways that will leave you flipping pages and looking for clues about how their stories meet.

Rave: This story completely wrecked me. I was so deeply touched by the slowly unraveling story of the uncle and his mysterious house. I was drawn in by wondering how the two stories connected ,and when they finally did, I was not a pretty sight. After reading this, I made a point of visiting the museum that inspired it when I was in London last summer. Going to the museum was a unique and moving experience. This was emphasized by the museum policy against photographs or talking forcing me to experience everything in the moment in a very personal way. The way the first story was told entirely through images was gorgeous and innovative. Honestly I'm getting a bit teary just thinking of it all right now. The whole experience of this book is simply beautiful.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to fans of tear-jerkers, history, and mystery.

Topics and trends: Tear-jerkers, History, Museums, Acting, LGBTQ,

Extras: Of course Brian Selznick made an amazing book trailer, too. Why is he so talented!?



I made this image from one of my favorite quotes in the book and a picture I took in London.


Source: ARC from ALA Annual 2015

The Marvels by Brian Selznick: buy it or check it out today!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Brief Reviews Summer 2015 part 3

The Mad Scientist's DaughterThis was one of my favorite books I read last year. I'm always a sucker for stories that involve robots gaining sentience and fighting for their rights. Instead of looking at this issue from a larger societal perspective, this story approaches the issue from an extremely personal angle. The story revolves around a scientist's daughter who grows up with a very human-like robot.  At first he's just her friend and companion, but as she grows older their relationship becomes more complicated. The way their relationship evolves was completely absorbing. At times the story was absolutely heart-breaking, but I couldn't put it down. It was a thoughtful and unconventional romance with plenty of food for thought about how we treat each other and what makes us human. The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Casandra Rose Clark: buy it or check it out today!

It's Just a Jump to the LeftA fun story about die-hard Rocky Horror fans who are going through a hard time. I have met people who used a weekly Rocky ritual to get through difficulties and find a surrogate family, so it rang true to me. My only real complaint is that it was too short. I wish there had been more time to flesh out the characters and resolve the main conflict. Still I'd recommend it to fans of Libba Bray or Rocky. It's Just a Jump to the Left by Libba Bray: buy it or check it out today!




TimeBomb (Timebomb Trilogy #1) What I appreciated most about this time-travel story was the diversity of the cast and how true they each were to their own eras. All time travel stories start to fall apart if you look at the plot too closely, but I'm more than willing to suspend disbelief if the characters and story are good. That is certainly the case here. I particularly enjoyed reading about Cornwall in 1640. The characters have very different voices and perspectives, and each gets their turn to tell their story. I got a good sense of them even though I'd say the book is more plot than character focused, setting a fast and thrilling pace. I'd give this to teens looking for a time traveling adventure. TimeBomb by Scott K Andrews: buy it or check it out today!



Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1)This is a wonderfully atmospheric sci-fi horror story. I listen to it on a road trip with my sister and mother and we were all completely rapt as we strained to hear the audiobook from my phone speakers and find out what in the world would happen next. I didn't always understand what was going on, but that was where a large part of the horror came from: the feeling that understanding was just around the corner, and that was where I wanted it to stay. The characters and their psychological states are well explored and everything in the novel felt immediate. I'd give this to fans of science fiction, horror, and psychological thrillers. Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer: buy it or check it out today!




Terra I liked this book's sense of humor from the first. The dry, absurd humor and space theme made a comparison to Douglas Adams immediately come to mind. There are a lot of really funny moments in this story about the only human girl on an alien planet. As the story continued, however, it became clear that Benn's strength lies more in humor than plotting. By the end my exasperation at the plot outweighed my amusement at the humor. I'd give this to people who are just looking for a laugh. Terra by Mitch Benn: buy it or check it out today!




Awkward This comic of middle school rivalries and romance is sweet and funny. It should be easy for readers of all ages to relate to the awkwardness of middle school and the difficultly of navigating its treacherous waters. Fans of Smile will find plenty to enjoy here. This is a great pick for younger kids who want to read about middle school as the plot is pretty innocuous and the illustrations appealing.  Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Orbiting Jupiter Review

Orbiting Jupiter

Book talk: Jack lives an old-fashioned, quiet life on a farm in a small town. When he finds out his parents are fostering a teen who has been to prison and has a history of violent outbursts, he isn't sure what to think. The first sign Jack has that Joseph is more than his past is that the cows trust him. The more Jack learns about Joseph's life, the more Jack wants to help. The only thing Joseph really seems to care about is getting to meet his new-born daughter. Jack could never have anticipated the heartache and sacrifices that Joseph's path would require.

Rave: Get out your tissue boxes because just one may not last you with this novel. I fell so deeply in love with all the characters. There's so many well-meaning people trying their hardest to do good in such heart-breaking circumstances. I appreciate that there's no candy-coating or easy outs. Despite the tragic ending, this book still managed to leave me hopeful thanks to the many inspiring characters in its pages.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to fans of tear-jerkers 6th grade and up. It would be a great pick for book clubs. It would make for some excellent discussions.

Topics and trends: tear-jerkers, foster care, adoption, abuse, alcoholism, rural life, teen pregnancy

Source: ARC from ALA
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt: buy it or check it out today!