Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Rabbit Listened Review

When Taylor's blocks are knocked over, everyone has advice about what they* should do. Chicken thinks Taylor should talk about it. Bear thinks they should get angry and shout. Snake thinks they should knock over someone else's blocks. But only bunny sits next to Taylor in silence and listens when they feel ready to talk. Eventually Taylor feels better and they make plans for a new, even bigger, structure.

This sweet story has a lot of emotional wisdom. Taylor rejects everyone who tells them how they should feel. Only rabbit is willing to sit quietly and listen to Taylor actually process their feelings. This book is a great way to start a conversation with a child about how to work through big emotions. It's also great for teaching children how they can be good friends to others. I love that Taylor's gender is ambiguous and never explicitly stated. The illustrations make great use of white space to show Taylor's feelings of isolation. The use of a purple background at the beginning and end show that Taylor has recaptured their excitement about building with blocks.

*I use they/them pronouns for Taylor in this review rather than assigning a gender to the character.

Drawn Together Review

A young boy is less than excited to spend time with his grandpa. They don't eat the same food. They don't watch the same shows. They don't even speak the same language! The boy soon grows bored and takes out some paper and markers to entertain himself. When his grandpa sees, he excitedly takes out his ink pot and brush. They have finally found a common language! Together, they go on an adventure combining their styles.

The way Santat combines the grandson and grandfather's styles is simply breath-taking. The format goes from comic panels at the beginning to show time passing to full-color spreads in a more traditional picture book layout. I love the way the characters choose to draw themselves and that they exchange their preferred drawing implement at the end. The end papers bring it all together with the front displaying the grandson's style and the back the grandfather's. A sweet, inter-generational tale.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Tru & Nelle

Tru & Nelle (Tru & Nelle, #1)

Book talk: Nelle has lived in Monroeville, Alabama her whole life, so she knows how people there expect her to behave. But she's never felt comfortable in the frills and dresses other girls wear and would much rather climb trees or play with her slingshot than stay clean indoors. Tru is staying with relatives when he comes to town. With his fancy, big city fashions and high voice he is instantly marked as an outsider. The impeccably dressed boy and tom-boy find something in common in their love of Sherlock Holmes. Before long their pretend game of Sherlock and Watson turns into a real investigation when someone is falsely accused of a crime.

Rave: This book, based on the real-life friendship of Truman Capote and Harper Lee, contains so many gems that it's hard for a brief description to do it justice. Tru and Nelle (as they were called as children) instantly bond over their outsider status. They investigate cases while pretending to be Sherlock and Watson, hang out at the court house, write stories, and put on a memorable Halloween party. The book doesn't gloss over anything and racial prejudices, the Klan, depression, and abuse are all mentioned in a matter-of-fact way but they're not really focused on. I could see this confusing some kids but it would make an excellent read-aloud and discussion starter. These details help create an authentic sense of place. The book takes its structure from Capote and consists of a novel with a set of related short stories afterwards. Even those unfamiliar with Capote and Lee will be drawn into this story and find them easy to relate to as outsiders.

Every book its reader:
I'd give this to fans of historical fiction and outsider tales 4th grade and up.

Topics and trends: biographies, historical fiction, mysteries, gender


Source: school library

Tru & Nelle by G. Neri: buy it or check it out today!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Midnight Thief

Midnight Thief (Midnight Thief, #1)

Book talk: Stealing is a way of life for Kyra, and she doesn't have much pity for the corrupt, rich people that she steals from. So when she gets a job offer that will pull one over on them, she takes it. But when she discovers the hidden motivations behind the job, she starts to question everything. Tristam is a loyal knight who is willing to sacrifice himself for the realm. He's always had faith in the palace and the unwavering moral rightness of his cause. But when he witnesses the brutal death of his best friend, it sets him on a path to discover the hidden corruption and brutality at court. A thief and a knight may make a strange pair, but in a world that no longer makes sense unlikely alliances may be the only answer.

Rave: I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I thought it was going to be another cliched fantasy thief story but it consistently defied this expectation. There were plenty of characters to root for and, refreshingly, there were psychological consequences to the violence they witness. I'm so used to reading books filled with violence where it's glorified and people just shrug it off that I really appreciated seeing characters responding to it in a realistic way. There are multiple groups playing against each other and none of them is entirely good or evil and some individuals in a group may be honorable while others are corrupt. I found this refreshingly realistic too. Blackburne does a wonderful job painting a portrait of a complex world where there aren't a lot of clearly good choices. Characters make mistakes and allegiances change as first impressions turn out to be wrong. I'd highly recommend it to fans of fantasy.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to fans of high fantasy 7th & up.

Topics and trends: fantasy, medieval times, thieves, knights, werecreatures

Source: School library

Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne: buy it or check it out today!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Brief Reviews Spring 2016

The Stockholm OctavoI really enjoyed the setting of this novel in late 19th century Sweden. There were aspects of the plot that probably had more tension for me than intended because I have very little knowledge of Swedish history. The plot was intricate with plenty of political intrigue and many characters to follow. If you like plot-focused books I think this would appeal to you. Unfortunately I'm more of a character-focused reader and there weren't any characters that I felt particularly attached to. Still, it was a fun read and I found the tarot and fan aspects fascinating. I particularly appreciated the emphasis on women's roles behind the scenes during that era. The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann

Pride and Predator (Ben Reese, #2)This was a great countryside mystery. The detective is an academic from America who happens to be in Scotland doing some appraising work on an old estate when a murder is committed. The characters were all drawn very well and the setting was a lot of fun. I enjoyed traveling back to Scotland via book. The mystery itself was engaging to piece together (although I figured it out pretty early on). I really enjoyed spending time with the characters and I'll be interested in reading the rest of the series. A fun, light vacation read. Pride and Predator by Sally Wright

Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect ScienceI'm not usually a big fan of memoir but I found this account of a resident surgeon's life fascinating. He focuses on different issues facing medicine and provides insight in an approachable way. Gawande's writing style is clear and eloquent and I learned a lot. Far from the stereotype of the arrogant surgeon he's surprisingly willing to admit both his own shortcomings and those of the profession in general. I'll be reading his other works and I'd recommend it to those interested in the subject. Complications by Atul Gawande

Return to Augie Hobble** spoiler alert ** I definitely enjoyed parts of this novel and it had me chuckling quite a bit. With its short chapters, lovely illustrations, and sense of humor I think it would be particularly good for struggling readers. I didn't personally enjoy the novel as a whole as much as I thought I would though. It starts as a humorous realistic story about a kid whose dad owns an amusement park. Then it flirts with the supernatural as there's a possible werewolf. Then it suddenly turns into a tear jerker as Augie's best friend unexpectedly dies. That is hardly dealt with before the supernatural angle comes back on strong. The werewolf plot is finally tied up when his friend comes back from the dead as a ghost and hijinks ensue. The whole book was scattered and I couldn't get settled into it. Very little time was spent on character development and I sometimes even had difficulty keeping all the characters straight because they blended together. I'm sure the way the plot jumps around will be engaging for some readers, but it wasn't my thing. Return to Auggie Hobble by Lane Smith

The Winner's Kiss (The Winner's Trilogy, #3) I really enjoyed this book and I like the way it concluded the trilogy, which is important to me because I've become so invested in these characters over the course of the series. But I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the first two. The plot wasn't as intricate and there weren't as many meaty moral conundrums. The first two books I read in a sitting staying up late because I simply couldn't put them down. This book I enjoyed but read it over the course of several days and didn't have trouble stopping when it grew late. Still, if you've read the first two books you'll definitely want to finish up the series with this installment. The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)This is a fun fantasy series if you want some light reading but it doesn't really stand out from the pack and the plot doesn't stand up to much scrutiny. The writing is full of cliches and hard to pronounce made-up names for people and places. The world and the characters never felt authentic to me. First off, the whole premise of the book that the king would give that much power to a champion chosen from a group of people with such questionable backgrounds and loyalty is odd to me. Even the idea of the castle made of glass seems absurdly ill-advised. Secondly the characters don't seem to have authentic responses to their situations. The main character is a highly trained assassin who was orphaned at a young age, suffered abuse at the hands of her adopted father figure, and spent a year being brutalized in what is described in the book as a 'death camp.' And yet not long after being released from it her main concern is whether or not she can attend a ball? There are some references to the trauma she's suffered but overall she seems to have recovered incredibly quickly and well. Don't even get me started on the people telling her that she looks prettier when she smiles. (Because,you know, after all she's been through it's her responsibility to make the people at this corrupt court feel better when they look at her and as an assassin looking pretty should be her main priority.) In fact a large proportion of the narrative is devoted to her looks and how pretty she is and how handsome the prince and oh my goodness no one can resist them on account of their beauty! I'm also not sure how the captain of the guards for such a cruel king seems so inexperienced at killing people and just generally naive. How did he get that position? None of the characters are particularly nuanced. The main driving force of the plot is the love triangle and just as much time is spent on flirting as the tests for the champion. If you're looking for a light fantasy romance series, this will do the trick but if you're looking for an adventure about an assassin I'd look elsewhere. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass

Silver in the BloodThis is a frothy, light-hearted historical romance with some shape shifters and a coup plot thrown in for good measure. The story revolves around two New York socialite cousins at the end of the 19th century. They're sent to Romania to meet their mothers' family. One is outgoing and leaves a series of scandals in her wake while the other is more reserved. When they finally make it to the old family estate they discover a secret that their proper upbringing in no way prepared them for. It's a bit predictable and some of the characters are pretty one-note but that's in fitting with the light tone of the novel. There's excerpts of the girls' diaries and letters woven throughout the text and the relationship between them is my favorite part of the book. They have romantic subplots but the most important relationship in the plot is the friendship between them, which is refreshing. I particularly enjoyed how they both handle the news of their family secret differently and the more reserved cousin gets a chance to find her inner strength and thrive. Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George

One This touching novel in verse is told from the perspective of conjoined twins. Grace and Tippi (named for Hitchcock actresses) have been sheltered and home-schooled their whole life, but a change in the family's fortune means that they have to attend school for the first time. They're understandably nervous about how the other kids will treat them, and are relieved to find two good friends. But just when they finally get settled into their new routine, things take a turn for the worse. This novel is a quick and emotional read and I loved getting to know Grace and Tippi. I wish the novel had a broader focus though. At the beginning it's revealed that their father is an alcoholic, their sister is anorexic, and Grace develops a crush on a boy at school. I thought the book would explore these sub-plots more but instead the second half focuses almost exclusively on medical issues around being conjoined. Especially considering how much Grace laments in the text of the novel how people see them as nothing more than conjoined twins I was disappointed at how much of the novel focused exclusively on this aspect of their lives. I wish the fact that they were conjoined was just one of many aspects about who they are that was explored in the novel instead of the main focus. All the other subplots I previously mentioned just get dropped once the medical issues arise and are never really resolved. I'd be interested to read a sequel that fleshes out the characters further. Still it is a moving novel with memorable characters and a very quick read if you'd like to try it.  One by Sarah Crossan

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4) This was mostly satisfying as a conclusion to the series, but I didn't like it as much as the other books. There were a lot of strange plot threads and characters to tie up. This meant that the focus was more on the plot than in the previous books where we got to spend a lot of time just getting to know the characters and exploring their relationships. One thing that was consistent across the books was the gorgeous language. There were so many striking passages that I gave up keeping track of them. There were a few things left vague at the end and I would have preferred more explanation, but overall I was happy with it. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Friday, June 8, 2018

Six of Crows

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)

Book talk: The Barrel is the part of town controlled by warring gangs. The part people avoid if they can afford to, unless they have illegal tastes and nefarious intentions. Kaz came to the barrel as a broken child, but now he practically rules it. His path to the top wasn't pretty and he's done a lot to earn his reputation as a monster. When a richly rewarding job is offered to him, he sees the possibility not just to become wealthy enough to leave the barrel behind, but to slake his long-nursed thirst for revenge. The job is impossible, of course, so if he has any chance of succeeding and surviving he'll need a crew that's the best of the worst: “A gambler, a convict, a wayward son, a lost Grisha, a Suli girl who had become a killer, a boy from the Barrel who had become something worse.” “Six people, but a thousand ways this insane plan could go wrong.”

Rave: I loved everything about this book from the rag-tag crew of misfits to the daring heist plot to the setting in the familiar world of the Grisha. The characters were fully developed and diverse including different races, sexual orientations, and physical abilities. An author's note at the end explains that she has to use a cane on occasion much like the character of Kaz and I really appreciated her thoughtfulness in the approach to all her characters. Most of them have gone through trauma and while that clearly affects them and isn't downplayed they still get the chance to change and grow and prove that they're survivors. The shifting perspective really allowed me to get a sense of each character and their struggles and made them feel very real and dear to me. It also helped create suspense because each character's knowledge was incomplete so seeing who knew what allowed me to piece together the plot in a way that was fun. Highly recommended, especially for fans of the Grisha trilogy (although you don't have to read that to understand this book.)

Every book its reader: I'd give this to fans of fantasy and heists. Think Ocean's Eleven crossed with Lord of the Rings. There's some pretty intense violence at times so I'd say 8th and up.

Topics and trends: Heists, fantasy, diversity, multiple perspectives, disability, LGBTQ

There's a strong fan community for this book, you can find its wiki here:

There's a lot of great fan art too, like this drawing of all the characters by Kevin Wada


“When everyone knows you’re a monster, you needn’t waste time doing every monstrous thing.”

“She wouldn't wish love on anyone. It was the guest you welcomed and then couldn't be rid of.”

“the only law that applied to her was gravity, and some days she defied that, too.”

“You wouldn't know a good time if it sidled up to you and stuck a lollipop in your mouth.”

“There was no part of him that was not broken, that had not healed wrong, and there was no part of him that was not stronger for having been broken.”

Source: school library

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Weight of Feathers

The Weight of Feathers

Book talk: Two families of traveling performers, alike in dignity, meet in a small town. The Palomas have a mermaid act and the Corbeaus perform tight-rope acts up in tall trees. They put on costumes for the audience, but there's more truth to their acts than people realize. Both families have unique genetics that set them apart, and both are proud and insular and cling to tradition. One of those traditions is the feud that breeds a deep-seated hatred of the other family into their bones. When a son and daughter of these warring families fall in love, it threatens to tear both of their families apart.

Rave: A classic Romeo and Juliet with magical realism flair. The story revolves around two rival circus families each imbued with a special gift over air or water. The two families speak French or Spanish and a saying from each language opens every chapter to designate perspective. The language is beautiful and if the plot is a bit predictable it's still completely satisfying.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to students looking for romance with a magical flair. 6th & up.

Topics and trends: Star-crossed lovers, magical realism, French, Spanish, circus performers, feuds, diversity

Image result for weight of feathersImage result for weight of feathers

Bonus Quote:
“He thought the feud was live ash a boot heel could stomp out. He didn't notice it burning down both their houses.”

Source: school library

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore: buy it or check it out today!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Detective Gordon

Detective Gordon: The First Case

Book talk: Detective Gordon is getting on in years but he's still the best detective around. When he discovers a young mouse who steals a single nut out of hunger, he decides that instead of arresting her, he should take her on as an apprentice. A case is calling, but first they must take care of the terribly important business of tea and cakes!

Rave: This book is full of wry humor and witty observations. Detective Gordon has a good heart and shows mercy as he metes out justice to the woodland creatures. There's a lot of cute childhood touches like how particular Gordon is with his stamp. It reminds me of how serious the kids take it when I let them stamp their library books. It's all rounded out with simple but beautiful illustrations.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to early chapter book readers who enjoy animals and mystery. It would also make a great class read aloud.

Topics and trends: early chapter books, mysteries, animals,

Source: school library

The First Case by Ulf Nilsson: buy it or check it out today!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Tiny Pretty Things

Tiny Pretty Things (Tiny Pretty Things, #1)

Book talk: Ballet is a delicate and graceful dance, but the dancers are strong, hard, and fiercely competitive. Nowhere is this more true than at the American Ballet Conservatory. The top ballet academy attracts dancers that are more concerned with being the best than being happy. They will push their bodies and their relationships to the limits to get the lead, and if they have to take someone else down to get to the top, so be it.

Rave: Make no mistake, this is a soap opera in novel form--high drama full of frenemies and betrayal. It is highly entertaining though, and the characters are well-rounded enough that I cared about their struggles even though they were far from perfect. I enjoyed taking some ballet for fun when I was younger, but I can't imagine what it must be like to have this kind of dedication and focus as a teenager. After reading this book, I'm glad I was a lazy dance student!

Every book its reader: I'd give this to students looking for female-centered drama 8th & up.

Topics and Trends: ballet, diversity, drama, queen bees


Source: school library

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton: buy it or check it out today!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Symphony for the City of the Dead

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

Book talk: A city of millions cut off from the rest of the world and left to starve. People killing for ration cards, which provide a mere 125 grams of bread made with sawdust mixed in to the flour. Desperate people resorting to cannibalizing the plentiful corpses lining the street. It sounds like the premise for a YA dystopian novel, but it really happened. In 1941 Nazi forces blockaded the city of Leningrad in a siege that would last two and a half years and result in the deaths of over a million people. One of the people trapped in the city was composer Dmitri Shostakovitch. When he escaped the city, he wrote a symphony that would commemorate those lost and give hope to those still trapped. This is his true story.

Rave: This thick, nonfiction tome should have taken me ages to slog through, but instead I tore through it like it was the latest sci-fi thriller. I don't have any particular interest in WWII or classical music and I'd never even heard of Dmitri Shostakovitch, but I love M.T. Anderson so I picked the book up anyway and I'm so glad I did. The story is at turns moving, disturbing, and triumphant. The prose is as beautiful as I expect from this author. It is a prime example of the power of narrative nonfiction.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to those interested in WWII 8th grade and up.

Topics and trends: WWII, composers, biographies, classical music, narrative nonfiction, history


Bonus Quotes:

“Gradually, like the emigration of an insidious, phantom population, Leningrad belonged more to the dead than to the living. The dead watched over streets and sat in snow-swamped buses. Whole apartment buildings were tenanted by them, where in broken rooms, dead families sat waiting at tables. Their dominion spread room by room, like lights going out in evening.”

Source: School library

Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson: buy it or check it out today!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018



Book talk: The harmonica is a humble instrument, but in the right hands its music can uplift the spirit and connect people. This harmonica more so than most. It all starts with Otto who gets lost in the woods and meets three magical sisters who prophesy "Your fate is not yet sealed. Even in the darkest night, a star will shine, a bell will chime, a path will be revealed." This magical instrument travels through the ages connecting people suffering through their darkest moments: a disfigured boy in Nazi Germany, an orphan during the Great Depression, and a farmer's child during World War II. Open your heart to their stories, and the harmonica will connect you to them too.

Rave: This is a well-written novel that reveals the patterns of history and breaks your heart only to stitch it back together and leave it warm and hopeful. It tackles some big issues, at a level that is accessible and engaging for middle schoolers. It would make a great classroom read.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to historical fiction fans 5th and up.

Topics and Trends:
WWII, the Great Depression, musical instruments, harmonicas, diversity


There's lots of extras on the author's site:

Source: school library

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan: buy it or check it out today!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club

Book talk: When Hitler invaded Denmark, the adults reluctantly accepted the occupation, too terrified of the overwhelming Nazi forces to fight back. But teenagers rose up to spark a resistance. Knud Pedersen founded the Churchill club with other students and together they started to sabotage the occupying Nazi forces. When the members were finally caught and it was revealed that the brave resistance fighters were teens, it sparked the Dutch resistance among adults. Read the history of the Churchill Club in their own words in this thrilling nonfiction account.

Rave: This inspiring true story of teenagers organizing themselves in a fight against overwhelming evil belongs on the shelves of every middle and high school library. The Dutch resistance is not particularly well covered in American schools, so it should contain a lot of new information on a high-interest topic. The book is meticulously researched and quotes extensively from interviews the author conducted. A great choice for narrative nonfiction.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to students with an interest in WWII or looking for an engaging narrative nonfiction.

Topics and Trends: WWII, resistance fighters, changemakers, narrative nonfiction, history


Source: school library

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchilll Club by Phillip Hoose: buy it or check it out today!

Friday, May 25, 2018

A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)

Book talk: “Lila Bard knew in her bones that she was meant to be a pirate.” Regency London is a hard, dirty place for an orphan, but Delilah Bard is harder and dirtier. She knows what it takes to survive, and she knows that she'd rather die on an adventure than live in safety. So when a mysterious man appears who can turn blood and whispers into weapons and preens about in his magical coat, she knows that following him will finally lead her to the adventure she's always wanted. She doesn't have much to miss about London when she travels with this strange man into another dimension where the water glows red with magic. Delilah is a woman with nothing to lose but her life, and several worlds of possibilities to gain.

Rave: I was so absorbed in this book that I almost missed my flight even though I was seated at the gate. Luckily I looked up during the last call and made it on. This is one of my favorite fantasy series and I read a lot of fantasy, so that's saying something. Delilah and Kell are all I could ask for in protagonists and the sharp writing, witty dialogue, and immersive world building kept me completely engaged. Highly recommended!

Every book its reader: I'd give this to fans of fantasy adventure.

Topics and trends: fantasy, adventure, strong characterization,


Clearly I'm not the only one obsessed with this series. You can find a whole wiki here and someone wrote a great song inspired by Lila Bard

Image result for a darker shade of magicImage result for a darker shade of magic
Bonus Quotes:

“I apologize for anything I might have done. I was not myself.”

“I apologize for shooting you in the leg.” said Lila. “I was myself entirely.”

“The bodies in my floor all trusted someone. Now I walk on them to tea.”

“Kell wore a very peculiar coat. It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible.”

“He’s … charming and spoiled, generous and fickle and hedonistic. He would flirt with a nicely upholstered chair, and he never takes anything seriously.”

Source: Powell's Books

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Challenger Deep

Challenger Deep

Book talk: Caden is a brilliant student. He is well-liked by his peers and part of a loving family. But Caden is increasingly convinced that he is on a dangerous trip to the Marianas Trench with a crew that's threatening to mutiny. He is struggling to keep track of reality, but the choppy waters of his illness keep pulling him under. When he makes it to the surface, he gets glimpses of failed medication and looks of shame, pity, and disappointment. When he sinks into his delusions he's at the center of a conflict between the captain and crew as he documents their journey through his art. He is conflicted and fighting and exhausted, but giving up would mean losing everything.

Rave: An excellent book on schizophrenia. The way the narrative switches between reality and life on the ship keeps the reader off balance and provides a glimpse into the mind of someone who has schizophrenia. This is a book that really stays with you. For those who suffer from any mental illness there's many things to identify with from the struggle to find an effective treatment to the puzzle in the hospital missing a dang piece.  For those who have never had a mental illness, it's an illuminating glimpse into that experience that will foster empathy. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Every book its reader: It's certainly not a fast-paced action thriller, but for those who enjoy character studies and those who suffer from mental illness themselves, this book is an unforgettable experience.

Topics and Trends: Schizophrenia, mental illness, character-focused, building empathy


 Image result for challenger deep shustermanImage result for challenger deep shusterman
Bonus quotes:

“And when the abyss looks into you - and it will - may you look back unflinching.”

“You see demons in the eyes of the world, and the world sees a bottomless pit in yours.”

“They all think medicine should be magic, and they become mad at me when it's not.”

“Don Quixote - the famous literary madman - fought windmills. People think he saw giants when he looked at them, but those of us who've been there know the truth. He saw windmills, just like everyone else - but he believed they were giants. The scariest thing of all is never knowing what you're suddenly going to believe.”

“I feel her wave of worry like a patio heater - faint and ineffective, but constant.”

Source: public library

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman: buy it or check it out today!

Monday, May 21, 2018


Book talk: “The heavy blade hung high above the prisoners, glinting against the stars, and then the Razor came down, a wedge of falling darkness cutting through the torchlight. One solid thump, and four more heads had been shaved from their bodies.” In a post-technological age where the past is all but forgotten, a rebellion is stirring. The nobility are being captured and executed. Their only hope is the mysterious red rook who keeps sneaking into prisons and freeing people, leaving a red-tipped feather behind. 

Rave: I adored this re-imagining of The Scarlet Pimpernel! The dystopian setting provides a perfect background and gender-swapping the main character creates a more modern feeling. There's the perfect mix of action, world-building, and romance. 

Every book its reader: I'd give this to fans of swash-buckling adventure stories and characters like Robin Hood. 8th & up

Topics and trends: adventure, romance, french revolution, re-tellings, dystopian, gender-swapping


Sharon Cameron has tons of cool extras on her site about everything from the science behind her extrapolations to create her future world to the art of swordplay.

Check out the trailer:

Bonus Quotes:

“He thought she was someone who could break the pattern of history. And he was offering to break it with her.” 

“She was clever, and beautiful, and hard as burnished bronze.” 

Source: school library

Rook by Sharon Cameron: buy it or check it out today!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Brief Reviews Winter 2015-16

The MiniaturistI enjoyed getting lost in the world of seventeenth century Amsterdam and the touch of magical realism. The miniaturist is a unique and mysterious character that drew me under a spell. It's a great escapist read for a vacation and makes me want to go back to Amsterdam. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton: buy it or check it out today!

This book actually changed the way I see the world. The science behind how stereotypes really do affect all of us is simply astounding. As well as the toll that trying to fight those stereotypes can take on the body. Steel's writing is very accessible and intersperses personal anecdotes with the science so it's entertaining and easy for everyone to read. And everyone should read it. I can't recommend it enough. Whistling Vivaldi and Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us by Claude M. Steele: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


Danza!: Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México

Danza! tells the story of Amalia Hernandez, the founder of El Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. She drew from local dance traditions throughout Mexico and combined them with ballet and modern techniques to create spectacular performances. The costumes are inspired by local tradition and when the company tours it takes more than three tons of costumes with it! Tonatiuh captures these beautifully by combining digital collage with his hand-drawn illustrations. I love this mixed-media approach which uses photographs to fill in fabric, hair, and other materials and adds a wonderful texture. Amalia's life and the spread of Mexian folkloric dance is an inspiring tale. I'm lucky enough to have seen the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico perform and recommend that you do too, but first read this book!

Danza! by Duncan Tonatiuh: buy it or check it out today!

Breathe Like a Bear review

Breathe Like a Bear: 30 Mindful Moments for Kids to Feel Calm and Focused Anytime, Anywhere

This colorful and practical guide leads kids through a variety of exercises in mindfulness. The bright illustrations and simple language make it an engaging way to teach mindfulness to even the youngest kids. The exercises are broken down into five sections: Be Calm, Focus, Imagine, Make Some Energy, and Relax. Each exercise gets a fully illustrated two page spread with large text in appealing fonts explaining what to do in kid-friendly language. I love the squirrels with their kindness exercise and the wolf that leads the get your grumpies out exercise, but it's afternoon as I write this, so I am most drawn to the energizers. This example from that section certainly looks appealing to me. Just look at that lion!

Breathe Like a Bear by Kira Willey, illus. by Anni Betts: buy it or check it out today!

Bravo Review

Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics

Reading comforts me.
I find magazines in trash piles.
Reading leads to writing.
I find poetry in tomato fields,
and stories in the faces
of weary workers.

-from "Tomas Rivera" by Margarita Engle

This gorgeous collection of poetry highlights many lesser-known figures from artists to activist. The poems are short but inspiring and made me want to learn more about the people described. It would be a great class share, especially with the full-page mixed media illustrations that could each make beautiful posters on their own. Brief additional biographical information is included in the back, but you will probably want to do more research on your own after reading.

Bravo!: Poems about amazing Hispanics by Margarita Engle; illustrated by Rafael Lopez: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Accident Review


When Lola spills orange juice all over a nice, white armchair she exclaims "I've ruined everything! I'll hide in the library! They have books and bathrooms. And I'll stay there till I'm a grownup." But on the way to the library one catastrophe follows another and soon Lola's gathered a large group. When everything seems to go wrong a little bird whispers "accident" and shows everyone how to own up to their mistakes make it all better again instead of running away.

I would have spent hours pouring over the details in these illustrations as a kid. There's so many small, humorous moments in the background. Above all I like that it emphasizes that accidents are okay and everyone from kids to adults can have them. The characters' overreactions are funny, but in the end the message that is clear that calmly admitting your mistake and helping to fix it is the way to go.

Adults might appreciate this episode from Hidden Brain talking about how language can influence the way we see the world. Part of it focuses on how our language around accidents affects where we place the blame and how we remember them.

Just look at all the hilarious details in one page of this book:

Accident by Andrea Tsurumi: buy it or check it out today!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Under a Painted Sky Review

Book talk: One day Samantha had a happy, stable life running a dry goods store with her father and dreaming of moving to New York to play violin. The next her father and her home are lost in a fire, and when their land lord tries to take advantage of her, she kills him in self defense. Of course, no jury is going to side with a Chinese girl who killed a White man, so she's forced to flee or face the noose. Together with a runaway slave, Annamae, Samantha sets her sights on the freedom of the west. Traveling as two girls wouldn't be safe, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy. The trail holds more surprises than they anticipated, including two cowboys they team up with for safety. But will the four of them be able to make it out West, and what will happen if the boys discover their secret?

Rave: I confess that I love a good Western and it was nice to find one with POC leads. The characters are well drawn and the tension delicious as they start to develop crushes while being forced to maintain their gender masquerade. There's all the excitement you'd expect to find on the trail as well as interesting commentary about the times that you wouldn't find in a white-washed western. To top it all off, the prose is a beautiful.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to students 7th and up looking for historical adventure and gender swapping tales.

Topics and Trends: gender swapping, westerns, people of color, #weneeddiversebooks, #ownvoices, romance, musicians, violin

Bonus Quotes:

“No one ever injured an eye by looking at the bright side.”

“Maybe life just tastes sweeter after you’ve licked death.”

Source: school library

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee: buy it or check it out today!

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Scorpion Rules Review

The Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace, #1)

Book talk: When the UN gave responsibility for world peace over to an artificial intelligence, it came up with a solution that no one anticipated. Instead of using atomic bombs for deterrence it works on a smaller, more personal scale. Every world leader is required to give a child over to be raised and taught in the prefecture. All of their needs are seen to, they get a wonderful education among the elite, and if their parents declare war on another country, they are executed. Those in power have always been willing to send other people's children off to die in wars, but they are far more hesitant to sacrifice their own. The system worked. Until the sacrificed children decide to fight back.

Rave: This book has a lot of meaty moral questions to dig your teeth into, but the pace is never slowed by them. The diverse cast was created with care and they each shine in their own way. The AI running the place is perhaps the most interesting character of all. I absolutely adored this.

Every book its reader: I'd give it to students 8th & up looking for a science fiction adventure.

Topics and Trends: politicians, royalty, AI, dystopia


Bonus Quote:

“Did you know, the man who invented the atomic bomb once said that keeping peace through deterrence was like keeping two scorpions in one bottle? You can picture that, right? They know they can't sting without getting stung. They can't kill without getting killed. And you'd think that would stop them...But it doesn't."

Source: school library

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

This Song Will Save Your Life Review

This Song Will Save Your Life

Book talk: Elise's sophomore year of high school is not going as planned. Over the summer she dedicated herself to becoming popular. She studied popularity and all the latest trends like she would prepare for a final, but when school starts she fails so badly that her social standing drops even lower. She comforts herself by sneaking out of the house for late-night walks. When she stumbles on a secret, under-ground dance club she discovers a group of people who actually like her and a way to get out of her head and enjoy herself. Even more importantly, she discovers a passion for DJing. Soon she's leading a double life: social outcast high-school student by day, popular up-and-coming DJ by night. But she can't keep it up forever, and sparks will fly when the two halves of her life come crashing together.

Rave: The characters in this novel are so well drawn and I was completely sucked in by Elise's emotional journey. It captures adolescence and the messy path to self-acceptance perfectly.  I have never been one to frequent discotheques, but I enjoyed learning about this subculture and the world of DJs. Elise's narrative voice brings lightness and humor to a heavy subject.

Every book its reader: I'd give it to students looking for a realistic, character-focused book. It's particularly good for those with an interest in DJing. 8th and up.

Topics and Trends: DJ, club culture, depression, suicide, popularity, romance


Image result for this song will save your life

Image result for this song will save your life

Image result for this song will save your life

Bonus Quotes:

“Throughout it all, you are still, always, you: beautiful and bruised, known and unknowable.”

“Sometimes you have to give up something you are to get to who you want to be.”

“I was smiling like a crazy person because I has just made a hundred people dance, I had just made a hundred people scream, I had just made a hundred people happy. I, Elise, using my own power, had made people happy.”

“Imagination is so often no match for the absurdity, the randomness, the tragedy of reality.”

Source: school library

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales: buy it or check it out today!