Significant Others I: (Professional Reviews) (Winter 2015)

2015. Disney’s Mickey & Minnie storybook collection. Disney Press. 304pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-142313508-1. Illustrated by the Disney Storybook Art Team.

Multiple authors contribute to this collection of stories about a variety of Disney characters, including Mickey, Pluto, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald Duck, as well as many lesser-known characters. Given the large size of the font, the collection targets children ages 3 – 6, but anyone fond of these endearing and enduring characters will enjoy all eighteen short stories. While the characters always have a problem to solve or a challenge to overcome, humor dominates, and readers will appreciate each happy ending. Stories include: A sure cure for the hiccups, A Surprise for Pluto, Donald Duck and the Buried Treasure, Goofy’s Pie Shop, Happy Sailing, and more! (DLN)

2015. Disney princess storybook collection. Disney Book Group. 304pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-148471283-2.

Readers ages 3 and up who are fond of Disney’s princesses will adore this collection. The stories include favorite Disney characters, such as Princess Rapunzel, Belle, Cinderella, Tiana and many more. The illustrations are Disney creations, and readers familiar with the characters will easily identify all of them. The short stories include different conflict, but the resolutions are satisfying and memorable. For example, when a kelpie takes Merida on a terrifyingly wild ride, she looks through the book of Highland legends and finds the reason for her frightening experience and resolves to ride only her beloved horse, Angus. In addition to entertaining readers, the nineteen stories include challenging, rich, captivating, charming vocabulary. (DLN)

2015. Marvel 5-minute Avengers stories. Disney Book Group (Marvel Press). 192pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-148474331-7.

Based on the Marvel comic book series, The Avengers, these twelve five-minute short stories are a treasury of exciting plots, conflicts, and characters. The protagonists, including Captain America, Black Widow, and Hawkeye overcome an immense cast of evil super villains, including the infamous Loki. The action is riveting, and the resolutions are satisfying, especially when new friendships develop. Stories in this treasury include: Daybreak, Small Hero, Big thrills!, No I in Team, Practice Makes Perfect, Dino Time, Not Easy Being Big and Green, Lending a Wing, Calling All Avengers!, Freaky Thor Day, Robin Hawk, Friends for Life, The Rise of a New Team. (DLN)

Amendola, Dana. 2015. All aboard: The wonderful world of Disney trains. Disney Book Group. 192pp. $50.00. ISBN 978-142311714-8. Forward by John Lasseter. Artwork from: Walt Disney Archives Photo Library, Walt Disney Imagineering Art Collection, Walt Disney Animation Research Library.

As one of the seminal coffee table books on trains, this gem focuses on the history of trains from Disney theme parks and movies, as well as Walt Disney’s fascination and experience with locomotives. The artwork is stellar, and the stories in each of the six chapters are captivating. Chapters include: Keep Moving Forward: Walt Disney Works on the Railroad, Born on a Train: The True Story of Mickey Mouse, Trains in Disney Films: From Paper to Pixels, Four Men, Four Trains: A Shared Passion for the Rails, and Behind the Roundhouse: The Not-So-Hidden Secrets of Disney Trains. Train aficionados or individuals seeking answers or information about Walt Disney’s fascination of trains will definitely want to add this book to their library shelves or coffee tables. (DLN)

Baldacci, David. 2014. The finisher. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 497pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-65220-9.

There is a lot to know about 14 year old Vega Jane. She is a Wug, a resident of Wormwood. She is sassy, cunning, aggressive, and carefree. She has a brother John, a friend Delph, a mentor Quentin, and two incapacitated parents. She is a talented Finisher, an artisan job making knick-knacks for the well to do. There is also a lot to know about the village of Wormwood. It is a magical world with dark secrets. It is surrounded by a forest that houses evil creatures. It is a routine and depressing place, and it values male crudeness and strength over female sensitivity and thought. A whole exciting chain of events is started when Vega sees Quentin disappearing after trying to bust out of Wormwood via the tabooed Quag. Eventually she has a run-in with an evil jabbit, trespasses into a forlorn house, finds a map and bestiary, is questioned by Council, and strikes to live on her own. All the while, she loses her brother, watches a wall erect, and unwittingly fights in a Deulum. Suspecting nascent magical powers in herself, and when she has had enough of the surfacing secrets, Vega decides the grass would be greener in the Quag. An all-around good book to teach in the literature and language arts classrooms. It has a highly descriptive setting, a strong female character, and some excellent vocabulary that can help students to learn. Recommended. Grades 7-12. (ADA)

Bang, Molly. 2015. When Sophie’s feelings are really, really hurt. Scholastic Inc. (The Blue Sky Press). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-78831-1.

This is as much a story about art as it is about feelings. The illustrations evoke many emotions depending on the colors, line, shape, and texture in each picture. Thankfully, Sophie’s art teacher is an observant, caring individual with skills in recognizing the unique talents in each child and is adept in guiding children to see the relationships between their feelings and the pictures they paint. All art and elementary classroom teachers should share this book with their students. (DLN)

Baron, Jeff. 2014. Sean Rosen is not for sale. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 372pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-218750-5.

Zippity do dah, Zippity “A”… is the grade readers will give Sean Rosen after reading about his next show biz idea. Unfortunately, Sean cannot sell his movie rights until he is represented by an agent or a manager. Figments of his imagination and resurrecting old connections gets Sean a $10,000 offer, but mounting frustrations with movie executives and legal issues makes Sean want to cry. A hanky is supposed to stop people’s tears, but Sean’s “Hanky” ceases production instead. Sean is an honest, creative, and likable kid – readers will enjoy his character. Aspiring writers will learn that novel storylines can have different mediums: e-mails, texts, scripts, phone conversations, and old-fashioned prose. Creative writing teachers should recommend this read to their students. Recommended. Grades 7-12. (ADA)

Bleiman, Andrew and Chris Eastland. 2015. Snuggle up, zooborns! Ready to read, level one. Simon & Schuster (Simon Spotlight). 24pp. $3.99 (paper). ISBN 9787-1-4814-3100-2. Photos by ZooBorns, LLC.

The plot of this level-one, nonfiction book is linear and the themes will be easily recognizable among young beginning readers. The language of Snuggle Up is comprised mainly of sight words that follow general phonemic patterns or rules. The photographs capture the endearing relationships among the baby ‘zooborns’ and their mothers: koalas, polar bears, meerkats, kangaroos, snow leopards, orangutans, lions, flamingos, and tigers.

Other books in the read-to-read level one series by Andrew Bleiman and Chris

Eastland are also 24 pages and $3.99 (paper):
Welcome to the world, zooborns! ISBN 978-1-4424-4377-8.
Hello, mommy zooborns! ISBN 978-1-4424-4383-9.
I love you, zooborns! ISBN 978-1-4424-4380-8.
Nighty night, zooborns! ISBN 978-1-4424-4386-0.
Splish, splash, zooborns! ISBN 978-1-4814-3097-5.


Bowman, Erin. 2013. Taken. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper Teen). 360pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-211726-7.

In Claysoot, males are “Heisted” at midnight on their 18th birthdays. A wall keeps villagers from leaving, and community leaders hold plenty of secrets. When Gray discovers that he has a twin brother who was Heisted the year before, he questions the community’s credibility. Led to believe that beyond the wall is dangerous, Gray takes a risk and scales it. Unbeknownst to him, his village girlfriend follows him. Both are surprised that no harm befalls them, but they are more surprised when the Fraconian Order opens a new door for them. Now in a new world called Taem, Gray and Emma learn about scarce resources, rebel wars, and city dwellers’ fight to survive. Students who enjoy the ever-popular genre of Dystopian fiction will enjoy this book’s conflicts and surprise ending. Teachers who teach units about different cultures will find good snippets on small community traditions throughout this read. Or, they could simply assign their students to read the whole book. Recommended. Grades 9-12. (ADA)

Boyd, Lizi. 2015. Big bear, little chair. Chronicle Books. 36pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-452-14447-4.

Children ages 2 – 5 and people learning English will easily recognize the concepts because the illustrations match the adjectives and nouns. The bear is big and black while the chair is little and red. The concept of size is explored throughout the book, with the addition of “tiny” in the last set of nouns and adjectives. Fonts are large, and young, developing eyes will be able to focus on the letters. In addition to bear and chair, nouns include plant, cocoon, umbrella, bird, zebra, broom, butterfly, rock, trick, elephant, moon, star, owl, branch, meadow, salamander, lion, wagon, fish, sea, flower, rabbit, forest, tent, mouse, bus, driver, mountains, picnic, basket, seal, castle, bucket, ladder, turtle, book, penguin, iceberg, hat, snowstorm, village, and bird. The illustrations are red, black, gray, and white, and the shapes of each object reflect the corresponding phrase, e.g., big mouse, little bus, and tiny driver. (DLN)

Brown, Jeff. 2015. Flat Stanley on ice. I can read! Reading 2 with help. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-218982-0. Illustrated by Macky Pamintuan.

Since Flat Stanley is flat, about a foot wide, and half an inch thick, he is capable of extraordinary movements, including ice skating without skates. However, he also is a young boy with an ego and wants to put on a good show on ice for his coach and peers. This presents a problem when Flat Stanley falls and cracks the ice. Thankfully, Stanley’s brother has a solution, and with the help of his friends and Coach Bart, survives with a sense a humor. The sentences are above the ‘Beginning 1’ level, but pictures contribute to this high-interest story for young males, ages 5 – 7. (DLN)

Byrne, Skye. 2015. The power of Henry’s imagination. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-0626-0. Pictures by Nic George.

Readers ages 4 – 8 may be the target audience for this picture storybook, but caregivers and teachers can use the book to model the art of imagination. When Henry loses his beloved stuffed animal, a rabbit named Raspberry, his grandfather encourages him to use his imagination to envision different adventures with Raspberry. Henry and his imagined Raspberry explore a mountain, sail as pirates on a ship, and fly through space. The ending will satisfy all readers, real and imagined. (DLN)

Carle, Eric. 2015. Love: From the Very Hungry Caterpillar. Penguin Random House (Grosset & Dunlap). 28pp. $8.99. ISBN 978-0-448-48932-2

Readers familiar with The Very Hungry Caterpillar will immediately recognize the main character and unique illustrations created in the recognizable style of Eric Carle. The large fonts are suitable for young developing readers. While the text is targeting young readers ages 4 – 7 the theme of “love” is appropriate for everyone. If one doubts the message, count the number of hearts scattered throughout the pages. (DLN)

Carson, Rae. 2015. Walk on earth a stranger. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 431pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-224291-4.

Leah Westfall can sense gold around her, a skill that she tries to keep secret from everyone but her parents. The story takes place in Georgia in 1849, and there is talk of a gold rush in California. When Leah’s parents are murdered by her uncle, Leah is forced to travel west with her friend Jefferson to escape his plans of using her gold-seeking abilities. The novel, the first in a series, follows Leah as she disguises herself as a boy, joins a wagon party, and travels the treacherous road to California. The story brings the covered wagon journey to life, with realistic dangers along the way. Leah’s powers aren’t explored for most of the book, which is more intent on developing characters and setting down a foundation. Some readers may be disappointed by the book’s departure from magic to historical fiction, but others will appreciate the historical detail and will be eagerly awaiting this book’s sequel. Recommended for high school readers. (MC)

Chaud, Benjamin. 2015. The bear’s surprise. Chronicle Books. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1452-140285

Readers will be able to predict Little Bear’s surprise by looking at the cover illustration on the. When bear awakens from hibernation and cannot find his papa, he sets off to find him. His adventure to locate papa bear is quite complicated, and readers will have multiple opportunities to search and find a plethora of plants, animals, and humans in the illustrations. Eventually, Little Bear finds papa, mama, and Teeny Tiny Bear. Even though the book is targeting young readers, pre k through grade 3, the circus setting may lead to a spirited discussion about animal rights among older students. (DLN)

Clark, Emma Chichester. 2015. Love is my favorite thing. Penguin Random House (Nancy Paulsen Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-17503-9

Plummie is a rambunctious dog with lots of love. She loves almost everything: her bear, her family, the park, grass, and trees. Like all dogs, Plummie is not perfect and occasionally is a bad dog. She fears her misdeeds will cause her family and friends to stop loving her, but fortunately this story about love has a happy ending. Youngsters ages 4 to 8 will recognize the theme of love and connect with Plummie as she tries to be a ‘good girl.’ The color red draws readers to the most important items, including Plummie’s collar, coat, and. ball. However, when Plummie is isolated, questioning if people will love her again, the two-page spread is dark, and the only visible red item is her collar. But red symbolizes hope and energy, and eventually the darkness and despair disappear when Emma and Rupert open the door and Plummie enthusiastically joins her family. (DLN)

Crowley, Ashley. 2015. Officer Panda fingerprint detective. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-0623-6626-9.

Officer Panda is on a mission to solve the fingerprint mystery. The surprising ending will appeal to readers, ages 4 – 8. The sequential plot, following a specific time frame from 3:00 PM – 8:00 PM, and noticeable fingerprints on each page, guide readers through the mystery with a pleasantly surprising ending. Readers will also be pleasantly surprised by the end notes of interesting facts about fingerprints. (DLN)

Cummings, Lindsay. 2014. The murder complex. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 398pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-222000-4.

A book best taught in the psychology classroom, since it helps define the rational decision versus the complex decision. The book takes place in an overpopulated, dark-shadowed place. Nobody dies of natural causes. Food shortages and job famines allow the brutal Initiative government to think their murderous teachings are justifiable. The emotionally-sterile sixteen year old Meadow has been trained to survive. Seventeen year old Zephyr has been programmed to murder. Together, they discover the dark aim of their government’s command. The point-of-view alternates between the two teens, and that alternating point of view won’t matter. Readers will see what life could be like without death. An interesting dystopian survival story that could be taught in psychology classrooms. Recommended. Grades 9-12. (ADA)

Curran, Abbey, and Elizabeth Kaye. 2015. The courage to compete: Living with Cerebral Palsy and following my dreams. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 261pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-236391-6.

Abbey Curran won the title of Miss Iowa and went on to compete for Miss USA, but she became a role model for more than just pageant enthusiasts through becoming the first contestant with a disability to win a major beauty pageant. In this memoir, Curran tells about her struggles growing up with cerebral palsy with the help of journalist Elizabeth Kaye. As a teenager, she founded the Miss You Can Do It pageant for young women with disabilities. Her story will inspire everyone – including those with disabilities – to go after their dreams. (MC)

Derting, Kimberly. 2013. Dead silence. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 389pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-06-208222-0.

Author Kimberly Derting has done it again – she has written yet another gripping, gruesome, paranormal thriller. This fourth book in the Body Finder series once again features 17 year old Violet Ambrose. Violet has the ability to smell and taste death on those who have murdered the murdered through what is called an imprint. This novel has Violet stumbling across a series of home invasions. The scene is particularly disturbing because of the positioning of the deceased’s bodies and the youth of the family. By paying attention to detail, Violet notices and locates the sole family survivor. Violet and her team of psychics must work fast, however, since a once-hot trail is turning cold. Simple mathematics can solve the novel’s problem: Violet’s grandmother’s journal plus a brimstone cross plus a band and a Google search plus a patient boyfriend and a helpful team equals plenty of white-knuckle, nail-biting suspense. Aspiring murder mystery writers can learn how to write an excellent novel by reading this whole series. Creative writing teachers need to read this series for themselves as well as push it on their students. Highly recommended. Grades 9-12. (ADA)

Drummond, Ree. ​2015. Charlie the ranch dog rock star. I can read! Beginning 1 reading. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-234778-7. Illustrated by Diane DeGroat.

New readers should be able to read the uncomplicated sentences in this adaptation of Ree Drummond’s Charlie the Ranch Dog books. The plot and conflicts are also simple; Charlie is retiring as a working dog to become a dog rock star. Conflicts with clothing, behavior, and desire eventually lead Charlie back to his normal working ranch dog life. Illustrations complement the text, helping readers identify objects, people, and behaviors. (DLN)

Falkoff, Michelle. 2015. Playlist for the dead. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper Teen). 288pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-231050-7.

Main character Sam wakes up one morning only to find his best friend Hayden dead. A bottle of alcohol and a suicide note leaves Sam wondering where and when things started to go bad with his friend. Following the suicide note’s instructions, Sam consumes himself with a playlist of songs Hayden left behind to explain his suicide. Listening to the songs, recollections of a party, and the telling of a secret girlfriend all intersect to answer Sam’s questions. The real reason behind Hayden’s decision is quick and any comeuppances are even briefer, but the book’s mystery ends the most abruptly. The playlist keeps the plot organized and will appeal to adolescent readers. Guidance counselors could keep this book on hand to have school staff read. Lessons on grief, bullying, and re-defining oneself after a suicide could offer valuable insight to teachers. Recommended. Grades 9-12 and school staff. (ADA)

Gagnon, Michelle. 2012. Don’t turn around. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 320pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-210290-4.

Sixteen year old Noa is a computer whiz, creating a phantom family and a large bank account for herself. Peter Gregory is a rich kid with girl troubles and leads a hacktivist group called /ALLIANCE/. One day Noa wakes up on an operating table with an IV in her arm about the same time Peter hacks into his father’s computer files and suspects no good. Eventually Noa and Peter, who did not know each other before, connect via the Net. Neither Noa nor Peter has trust issues, so after much running around, they stumble upon a deep, dark pharmaceutical conspiracy. This leads to two problems: 1) the pharmaceutical company wants to keep its secret, and 2) the company has lost a piece of its prize inventory, and they want it back. The book is a bit sedate to start, while it introduces its main characters and describes its setting. Once the conflict starts to unfold, there is plenty of action. Government, ethics, or political science classes could study this book as a reminder that company conspiracies do exist. Recommended. Grades 9-12. (ADA)

Gagnon, Michelle. 2013. Don’t look now. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 319pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-210293-5.

Teachers looking to teach the idea of parallel plots in literature can use this book as an excellent example. Teenage Noa is the head of Persefone’s Army, a group of teenage lab experiments looking to overthrow an immoral pharmaceutical company called Pike and Dolan. While Noa and her army race around raiding P&D’s labs and rescuing their human lab rat counterparts, Peter runs around taking care of the technical side of things. He hacks into servers, finds blueprints, and gathers evidence against Pike and Dolan. Unforeseen obstacles threaten when Noa suspects a traitor is in her army, and Peter discovers his ex-girlfriend is the latest victim of the P&D pharmaceutical mess. Just when Noa and Peter think nobody is looking, both end up getting into boatloads of trouble. A lot of tech jargon in this book, which could make for a good required read for high school computer students. Recommended. Grades 9-12. (ADA)

Göknar, Merve Demircioğlu. 2015. Achieving procreation: Childlessness and IFV in Turkey. Berghahn Books. 201pp. ISBN 9871782386346.

In Turkey, fertility can be a disastrous thing for women, since they are made to feel that their primary job in life is to produce a child, particularly a boy. Göknar, a medical anthropologist, incorporates her research and case studies of two villages in Turkey to explore the impact of using in vitro fertilization (IFV) for those with fertility issues in Turkey. The book shows not only the scientific perspective but the social and cultural perspective as well, exploring in detail the religious impact on the desire to have a child as well as the ideals Turkish men feel they must live up to, and how infertility impacts this. The result is a thorough and thoughtful exploration on this issue. Adults studying anthropology, women’s issues, or medicine in less developed areas will find this textbook illuminating. (MC)

Goldberg, Ashley. 2015. Critter colors. Simon & Schuster (Little Simon). 28pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-4218-3.

Goldberg, Ashley. 2015. Out of shapes. Simon & Schuster (Little Simon). 28pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-4220-6.

EBook editions are available for both of the Ashley G’s concept board books for infants through toddlers.The colors and designs are compelling and appropriate for children ages 3 and under. In the first book, Ashley asks readers “what can you make out of colors?” The colors used include red, yellow, blue, white, and black. Children will recognize the color combinations and relate to the baby animals represented by different blends, such as red and green mixed together create a brown bear cub. Ashley also challenges readers to answer a different question: “what can you make out of shapes?” The four shapes are basic, a circle, triangle, square, and rectangle. Circles are always yellow, triangles are red, squares are consistently blue, and rectangles are orange throughout the book. Letters are also colorful, orange, yellow, pink, blue, red, baby blue, complementing the shapes of the objects on each page. Older readers might want to create other objects with additional shapes of various sizes of colorful paper. (DLN)

Grant, Michael. 2015. The tattooed heart. HarperCollins Publishers (Katherine Tegen Books). 389pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-220743-2.

The Tattooed Heart is the sequel to Messenger of Fear, which followed a memory-wiped girl named Mara who meets a being called the Messenger of Fear, who plays games with those who have gotten away with evil deeds. Mara becomes the Messenger’s apprentice. In this sequel, the games continue, but now Mara and the Messenger must wear a tattoo for each person who is offered justice. Intense and sometimes dreamlike, the novel explores the nature of what it means to be evil. The Messenger becomes a more complex character in this sequel, and readers who enjoyed the first novel will appreciate the growing complexity in this sequel. (MC)

Grove, S.E.. 2014. The glass sentence. Penguin Random House LLC. 489pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-670-78502-5.

If protagonists can be periods of time, the present, prehistoric, and future are the stars of this lengthy historical fiction. After the Great Disruption, we find 13 year old Sophia Tims and her Uncle Shadrack trying to survive in Boston’s New Occident, a place that is outlawing illegal immigration and outside travel. Shadrack is a mapmaker of memories, emotions, constructions, and lands. Sophia is the child of two missing parents on their own mission. When Shadrack is kidnapped and his most intimate secrets revealed, the plot begins. Sophia, being a typical multi-tasking female, must use her brief mapmaking training, must learn to trust the mysterious stranger Theo, and must understand the “because” of the Mark of the Vine and Mark of Iron if she wants to save her uncle and her parents. Very detailed and very complex to readers who do not know their history. Very engaging and very provocative to those who know elsewise. Recommended. Grades 9-12. (ADA)

Guion, Melissa. 2015. Baby penguins love their mama!. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel). 28pp. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-399-17552-7 (2014).

In this board book, suitable for children ages four and under, readers will follow ‘Mama’ and her passel of penguins as she teaches her youngsters an essential life skill each day of the week, swimming on Monday, sliding on Tuesday and waddling on Wednesday. The ending will be endearing and enduring to ‘Mamas’ and children alike. (DLN)

Helget, Nicole, and LeBoutillier, Nate. 2012. Horse camp. Egmont USA. 304pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-1-60684-354-2.

A fun, entertaining, real-life drama that touches on life from many angles: family dysfunction, sibling rivalry, teenage angst, and adult hypocrisy. Thirteen year old twins Penny and Percy and their adopted 6 year old Filipino brother are sent away to their uncle Stretch’s rural Minnesota farm because of their parent’s indiscretions. The book alternates between Penny and Percy’s first person narratives, making it an excellent study on point of view. Penny is upset that her mom has landed herself in the slammer for illegal drug distribution and that her minister dad has landed himself in Hawaii with his new hot secretary girlfriend. Percy is annoyed with his siblings, struggles to get the girl, and prefers his friends to have an edginess about them. The glue that seems to hold this dysfunctional family together is the passive aggressive Uncle Stretch and Stretches eccentric girlfriend Sheryl. Both teachers and students will enjoy this read where farm life can put the family “function” back in the family “dysfunction.” Highly recommended. Grades 3-8. (ADA)

Johnson, Stephen T. 2015. Alphabet school. Simon & Schuster (Paula Wiseman). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-2521-7.

Alphabet School joins other concept books by Stephen T. Johnson, including, My Little Red Fire Truck (2009), City by Numbers (2003), My Little Blue Robot (2012), A is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet (2008), and Alphabet City (1999). As a wordless non-fiction picture book, Alphabet School moves readers through the alphabet with letters representing objects in school; A is embedded in a library ladder and S is a playground slide. Most letters seem to be set in older school buildings, which transmits a warm, and inviting mood. While the book should join all other stellar alphabet books in classroom libraries for beginning readers and writers, it should also be included in the libraries of English language learners because it is an ideal choice for the language experience approach. (DLN)

Kann, Victoria. 2015. Pinkalicious and the sick day. I can read! Beginning 1 reading. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-224599-1 (hardcover). Artistic and Editorial contributions of Dynamo and Kamilla Benko.

Early female readers ages 5 – 7 will enjoy this adaptations of a Pinkalicious story because the sentences are simple, and the pictures complement the key concepts and vocabulary. The plot of this story is linear, with a pleasant, appealing conclusion. Pinkalicious may have the flu, interrupting her reward for perfect attendance, but eventually she recovers and is able to sit in the principal’s chair to read the morning announcements and tell everyone in school her joke about the pink panda. (DLN)

Kurtz, Chris. 2013. The adventures of a south pole pig. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 278pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-63455-5.

A pig that wants to explore territory that extends further than her pen sounds unbelievable, but it is true in this Antartica sled dog/pig adventure. Oinker Flora doesn’t know what she is in for when she accidentally, on purpose, allows herself to be captured and shipped off to an unknown fate. Rather than going to slaughter, Flora is shipped off to Antarctica. Obsessed with becoming a sled dog, with rats to ward off, and with a cat to model for, Flora pledges survival. In the process of fulfilling her dreams, she saves the captain, makes a new friend named Aleric, and positively influences the hoighty-toighty Sophia. Two thumbs up to author Chris Kurtz on this fast-paced, entertaining debut novel. This is the perfect book for students to read to their pets – cats, dogs, pigs, etc. – or to themselves or to their parents or grandparents. It’s a convincing animal adventure with an exciting storyline, simple words, and occasional black and white illustrations. Highly recommended. Grades 3-7. (ADA)

Lambert, Nancy. 2015. World of reading: Marvel: Ant-Man – game over. Disney Book Group (Marvel Press). 32pp. $3.99. ISBN 978-148473130-7. Illustrated by Ron Lim and Rachelle Rosenberg. Based on the Marvel comic book series Ant-Man.

This ‘Level 2 Reader’ is appropriate for kindergarteners through second grade students because it introduces simple story/plot lines, compound sentences, and contractions. Ant-Man and his young daughter Cassie enjoy video games at the arcade, but the games take an interesting turn when Cassie leaves her backpack at the arcade. The arcade is closed, but Ant-Man is able to shrink himself and his daughter to the size of ants, enabling them to walk under the locked door. The subsequent conflicts and solutions to a terrifying situation allow readers to see the world of video games from different perspectives. (DLN)

Law, Ingrid. 2015. Switch. Penguin Random House (Dial). 356 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3862-1.

This is the third in a popular series by Ingrid Law. Switch takes place ten years after Savvy and centers around Gypsy, Mib’s younger sister. Followers of this series will know that when a Beaumont reaches age 13 her savvy will be revealed and Gypsy’s long awaited moment has arrived. Quite suddenly she is able to see both past and future-a situation that turns out to be a mixed blessing. But then everything is turned upside down and all the Beaumont’s savvies are switched. Even little Tucker who is just seven develops his own savvy years before it is due. Gypsy’s disturbing vision of Grandma Pat in eminent danger on a clock tower leads the family and an assortment of interesting friends on a frantic search of Denver in a blizzard. As each person frantically tries to “scumble” his or her new savvy in time to save Grandma Pat, friendships and family relationships are solidified and the importance of each person is revealed.

It is hard not to fall in love with Gypsy, the central character whose concern and determination lead her to help both family and stranger. Brother Sampson has his first real romance and Gypsy meets Del, a guy who warms her heart. Grandma Pat comes to live with the family for better or worse and little Tucker adopts “Captain Stormalong Fuzzypants” a tiny ginger kitten he finds on the adventure. Switch is as fast moving and “whirly-twirly” as Gypsy herself. Young readers will embrace this new addition to the Savvy series and find themselves anxious for the next magical Beaumont story. (OJB)

Lee, Jenny. 2013. Elvis and the underdogs. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 300pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-223554-1.

Ten year old Benji Wendell Barnsworth has issues. When a bad seizure leaves Benji in the hospital, his overly protective mom can’t bare to see her “baby” suffer any more head trauma. Rather than wearing a cumbersome, embarrassing crash helmet all day, Benji campaigns heavily for a thearapy dog. Benji wins the argument. This book’s humor ramps up when an enormous, blue-colored Newfoundland dog named Elvis becomes Benji’s therapy dog. Elvis facilitates his and Benji’s relationship by familiarizing himself with Benji and then embarrassing and ultimately saving Benji’s life. Elvis helps forge friendships between the socially awkward Benji, the pressured Taisy, and the intelligent Alexander. Themes of friendship, forgiveness, and love make this book a good outside-of-school required read with an in-class discussion over each chapter or two. Recommended. Grades 3-7. (ADA)

Lore, Pittacus. 2015. The fate of ten. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 399pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-219475-6.

The sixth and penultimate book of the Lorien Legacies continues to deliver the shocking twists and heart-pounding action that fans of the series have come to expect. This installment is told from Four and Six’s alternate point of views, and deals with the Garde being in all-out war. Fans of this science fiction series will be waiting anxiously for the final installment after finishing this novel, although readers will be lost if they haven’t read the preceding books. (MC)

Macri, Thomas. 2015. Marvel: Spider-Man love bug. 24pp. $5.99. Disney Book Group (Marvel Press). ISBN 978-1-4847-3128-4. Illustrated by Christian Colbert and Matt Milla. Based on the Marvel comic book series, Spider-Man.

Peter Parker (also known as Spider-Man) is both busy as a high school student and an Avenger who fights villains. Peter also has a crush on Mary Jane, another high school student. When he actually secures a “sort-of-maybe date” with Mary Jane, Peter is called into action and, as Spider-Man, saves the city from destruction. Familiar characters with multiple conflicts of person v. person, person v. self, and person v. society will capture the attention of all Spider-Man fans, ages 4 – 8. (DLN)

Mafi, Tahereh. 2013. Unravel me. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 480pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-208553-5.

Libraries that have shelf space and readers who haven’t grown weary of Dystopian settings will enjoy Unravel, the second book in a series. Julliete versus her boyfriend(s) Adam (and Warner) continue(s). Julliete has accepted entrance into Omega Point, but the real action happens in black. Julliete is captured by Warner. Warner professes his love for Julliete to his father. There is a father-son verbal bashing, and a kidnapping that ends in a supposed fatal gunshot kill. Meanwhile, love prevails and confuses. A Mr./Dr. Castle tries to build Julliete’s abilities, while trying to help her and Adam forge their relationship. Warner seems to be the key to sparking any sort of relationship with Julliete, however. There is little use for this book in the classroom. It is a fun, riveting book for a fun, riveting second-in-the-series read. Reserved and recommended for fans of the first book Shatter Me. Grades 9-12. (ADA)

McCreely, Havelock. 2014. My zombie hamster. Egmont USA. 200pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-1606844915.

Set in a small town America with high walls and a squad of zombie hamsters, this silly horror fiction doesn’t take long before it becomes confusing and uninteresting. Protagonist Matt is looking to get a video game in his Christmas stocking, but he gets an ugly hamster instead. Hamster Snuffles ends up dying, resurrecting, and running. He runs around rural Evansvale turning resident pets and animals into zombies. When the annual pet show becomes the next target of infection, readers will become the next victims of confusion. The “Snuffles” exposition starts well, but the “Anti-Snuffles” resolution ends badly. Mission Zombie Squad: Fail. Not recommended. (ADA)

McQueen, Josin L.. 2013. Arclight. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Press). 403pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-2013014-3.

Secrets, secrets are no fun…Secrets, secrets hurt someone. But are they secrets, if you just don’t remember what happened? A lone teenage girls named Marina knows that the brightness is a sanctuary in Arclight. Those who cross over the light enter the dark and dangerous Fade. Marina appears to be the chosen one in the community, since nine lives have been lost to the Fade trying to protect her. Things don’t make sense until Honoria, a hallway implant, explains survival means spreading a virus. Upon knowing where she originated, Marina now wants to save those who protected her originally. Serving and protecting proves difficult for Marina, though. The Fade is a place that won’t let Marina forget where she came from. A team teaching partnership between science and language arts teachers is required in order to sell it to the students. If students are looking for a good, relaxing read after a long day’s grind, this book is too deep. Recommended, if taught in the classroom. Grades 10-12. (ADA)

Olin, Sean. 2014. Wicked games. HarperCollins Publishers (Katherine Tegen Books). 352pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-219237-0.

A seemingly rock-solid romance turns into threats, stalking, and harassment for nice guy Carter and his mentally unstable girlfriend Lilah. The story may take place in Dream Point Florida, but Nightmare Alley would have been a more appropriate setting. After a four year relationship, Carter has grown weary of Lilah’s anger and jealousy, but Carter has truly had enough of Lilah after her immature, drunken lapse at his best friend’s pool party. When the beautiful, sexy, and talented Jules enters the picture, Carter can’t resist her. When Lilah suspects and confirms Carter’s indiscretions, the wicked games begin, first with a baseball bat, then with lipstick and nasty notes, and eventually with social media gone viral. If the charades continue, somebody is bound to end up dead. The whole guy-cheats-and-jealous-girlfriend-gets-angry theme might be cliché, but the plot is thrilling. High school or college psychology classes could read the book to seek answers to the question: Does what goes around actually come around? Recommended. Grades 10-12 and college. (ADA)

Patent, Dorothy Hinshaw. 2015. Camas & Sage: A story of bison life on the prairie. Mountain Press Publishing. 48pp. $12.00. ISBN 978-0-87842-641-6. Illustrated by Christina Wald.

Side bars complement the story of the Camas’ first year as a bison calf on the prairie. The text follows Camas as she learns how to socialize with other young calves and acclimate to life on the prairie. Sidebars inform readers of the near destruction of the bison, but also explain the recovery of bison and other endangered wildlife. Realistic illustrations along with the text will provide readers young and old with a greater appreciation of the history, life, and habitat of the bison, noble beasts of the prairie. (DLN)

Phillipps, J. C. 2014. The Simples love a picnic. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-16667-7.

Picnics can be great fun and an exceptional time for family bonding, but they can also be chaotic. Illustrations of paper cut-outs contribute to a humorous story about a family on a picnic. While the mother tries to teach the children about food to pack for a picnic, that is “food that don’t spill,” the execution of the rule is chaotic, especially when the daughter packs ice cream because “Ice cream doesn’t spill.” Children will enjoy learning the rules, and the consequences of packing the wrong kind of food for a picnic. However, they will appreciate the underlying purpose of picnics – the value of spending time together as a family. (DLN)

Prineas, Sarah. 2015. Ash and bramble. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperTeen). 449pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-233794-8.

We all know the fairy tales, but what happens if you find yourself in one and you don’t like the “Happily Ever After” that Story has in mind? Ash & Bramble explores this idea, taking a darker interpretation of the Fairy Godmother. The Godmother runs a fortress where workers with stolen lives slave each day to make the magical objects for stories that others will be forced to live out. Pin is a seamstress with no memory of her past, but when she and a shoemaker try to run away, she finds herself caught in a different story, and it is up to Shoe to bring her back. Unlike a typical fairy tale, however, this story breaks the predictable tropes. Original and exciting, it’s a highly original read that will appeal to lovers of adventure and twists on classic fairy tales. (MC)

Ray, Mary Lyn. 2015. Goodnight, good dog. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-28612-2. Illustrated by Rebecca Malone.

It is evening, and the dog recognizes its ‘bedtime cues:’ the click of a lamp, shadows in corners, and his bed. However, dog is not sleepy and remembers the day’s activities and affections. Eventually, as young readers will discover, the dog sleeps and dreams pleasant dreams until the dawning of a new day. Affections among the family and the dog are emphasized in the illustrations with thick black outlines, which also emphasize the lamp, the household furniture, the moon, and the dog’s bed. Pastel shades of blue, yellow, green, purple, and pink convey a warm, loving mood. The lines and color will guide youngsters ages 3 – 7 on a memorable bedtime journey. (DLN)

Reagan, Susan. 2015. Slipper and Flipper in the quest for the golden sun. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4231-6387-9.

The illustrations created with pen, ink, china marker, and realistic photographs guide readers on the journey to find the Golden Sun. Much to Papa’s surprise, the adventure of twin penguins Slipper and Flipper to find Don Pingüino and the Land of the Golden Sun begins with a desire to leave the freezing South and travel North. The style is captivating, including pictures as backgrounds for illustrations, occasional Spanish works, compasses, maps, musical notes, and lyrics. The double pages may need reinforcing, but the geography lesson embedded in the story will be a memorable one for children, ages 4 – 9. (DLN)

Roux, Madeleine. 2015. Catacomb. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 330pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-236405-0.

The third book in the Asylum series follows Dan, Abby, and Jordan as they take a road trip to New Orleans to visit Jordan’s uncle. Mysteries slowly begin piling up, however – there are eerie text messages from a dead friend, a shady person following them with a camera, and talk of a group called the Bone Artists. As Abby continue to push boundaries for her photography project, Dan tries to find out more about his parents and their mysterious death. Although the novel is not without its creepy moments, the plot often feels episodic and choppy, leading to more confusion and disbelief than fear. (MC)

Rossi, Veronica. 2013. Through the ever night. HarperCollins Publishing (Harper). 352pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-207206-1.

Hundreds of years ago a massive solar flare corrupted the Earth’s magnetosphere. This caused cosmic storms called Aether. It has been months since protagonist Aria has been exiled from her fantasy home, learned of her mother’s death, and reunited with Tide leader (and boyfriend) Perry. Courting each other and searching the Still Blue should be all that’s on the agenda, but tensions rise. Aria is an outcast Dweller, food shortages among the Tide tribe grow, and Aether storms are fiercer than ever. Aria’s decision to leave the love of her life, Perry having to sell his nephew, and raids of a stronger, more powerful tribe make up this Dystopian thriller’s pulse. A good book to use to teach fantasy and dystopian elements to a class of creative writers, but because of its examples of intolerance, a history lesson to high school students would work out better. Recommended. Grades 9-12. (ADA)

Rylant, Cynthia 2002. The lighthouse family: The storm. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 80 pages. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-689-84880-3. Illustrated by Preston McDaniels.

Rylant, Cynthia. 2003. The lighthouse family: The whale. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 80 pages. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-689-84881-0. Illustrated by Preston McDaniels.

Rylant, Cynthia. 2005. The lighthouse family: The octopus. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 80 pages. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-689-86246-5. Illustrated by Preston McDaniels.

Although the five books in The Lighthouse Family series were published at least ten years ago, the themes, setting, characters, and plot with multiple conflicts are timely, and young readers in 2016 who love animals, family and the sea will connect with these stories. The principal characters appearing in all of the books are introduced in The Storm; Pandora, a cat and keeper of the lighthouse; Seabold, a dog with an adventurous and practical spirit; and three shipwrecked orphaned mice, Whistler, Lila, and baby Tiny. The five gradually become a family; secure, safe-yet-adventurous, curious, kind and loving.Rylant suspends disbelief in each book by establishing the believably treacherous conditions of the sea. The characteristics of each animal are also credible, as are the relationships among all of the characters, including a grouchy cormorant named Huck. Thankfully, Rylant uses descriptive accurate vocabulary when writing about concepts or animals (one octopus vs many octopi). The graphite sketches vividly depict scenes and characters, complementing all literary elements. The remaining books in the series, are The Eagle and The Turtle. (DLN)

Sauer, Tammi. 2015. Roar!. Simon & Schuster. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48140224-8. Illustrated by Liz Starin.

The colorful illustrations, including bright greens, yellows, and purples compliment the text as a young boy, his cat, and dragons become friends and recognize their limitations and abilities. Readers will understand the boy’s feelings when he realizes he is not a dragon by the black background, and they will know he is terribly upset by the red background and large white tears. Youngsters ages 4 – 8 will appreciate the excitement, the drama, and the comforting conclusion of this friendship-filled tale. (DLN)

Savage, J. Scott. 2014. Case file 13: evil twins. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 258pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-06-213337-3.

Young readers who like eerie camping tales are going to find nothing wrong with this monstrously funny, semi-gruesome doppelganger mystery. Nick, Carter, and Angelo still believe in monsters. During a camping trip, a small tape measure shows a twenty three inch footprint. Sasquatch is suspected by Angelo, which makes Nick and Carter want to report and run. Going against the advice of a woodsman, something weird is taken back home. When well-known characters begin acting bizarrely, the trouble-shooting begins. It isn’t until internal conflicts rear, Oreo cookies foreshadow, and an inevitable resolution ties loose ends that a perfect fiction mystery fiction ensues. Teachers can recommend this book to emphasize the elements of fiction they are lecturing about in class. Recommended. Grades 7-12. (ADA)

Savage, Stephen. 2015. Where’s Walrus? And Penguin?. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-40295-8.

Readers of all ages will enjoy looking for Walrus and Penguin after they escape from the zoo. The two animals are clever and disguise themselves to blend into their environment. The zookeeper is determined to find the two escapees, but Walrus and Penguin skillfully avoid capture until an accident. Walrus falls while playing baseball and ends up in the hospital where he meets the love of his life, Nurse Walrus. The large illustrations tell the story in this wordless picture book and children ages 4 – 8 will enjoy identifying Walrus and Penguin as they experience life outside the zoo. The conclusion is predictable, especially after Walrus meets Nurse Walrus in the hospital, but ‘happily ever after’ is pleasant, even in a zoo. (DLN)

Scotton, Robert. 2015. Splat the cat Christmas countdown: A touch and feel book. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper Festival). 12pp. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-06-197865-4.

Newborns and toddlers with an appreciation for the lights and glitter of the Christmas season will enjoy Splat’s adventures of putting up a tree, decorating it, wrapping gifts, dreaming of Santa Claus, and opening presents. Infants may not be able to focus on the illustrations or sit patiently as someone reads the book to them, but they will enjoy the textures included in the illustrations. Infants may also focus on the star because it is shiny and a brilliant gold. (DLN)

Slobodkina, Esphyr, with Sayer, Ann Marie Mulhearn. 2015. More caps for sale: Another tale of mischievous monkeys. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 40pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-0624-0545-6.

Celebrating the 75th anniversary of the beloved Caps for sale (Slobodkina, 1908-2002), is More caps for sale: Another tale of mischievous monkeys. According to the end notes about the authors, the story is based on ideas the two shared during their time together. The story is delightful and readers will see the mischievous monkeys at work and they also see the oblivious behavior of the peddler. Readers, ages 4 – 8, will smile along with the monkeys and the townspeople, as the peddler finally sells all of his caps. As with Caps for sale, teachers can easily transform More caps for sale into a theatrical production. (DLN)

Sutherlan, Tui T. and Kari. 2013. The menagerie. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-078064-7.

Readers will find The Menagerie rife with mythical creatures and mountains of mystery. Logan and his father move to Xanadu, Wyoming. This happens to be the very place a secret zoo, called the Menagerie, houses a concoction of magical, mythical beasts such as unicorns, phoenixes, and dragons…oh my! When six griffin cubs go missing, Logan and his two new friends Zoe and Blue have two missions: 1) find the missing cubs, and 2) find out who was responsible for the “cubs-cape.” If the missions fail, the Menagerie will be shut down. The search leads to tripping over hellhounds, sacrificing some hamburgers, and identifying destroyed clothes. A melting pot of new and interesting creatures will appeal to animal lovers, but an overly exuberant plot might confuse struggling readers. Keep this book in the library for kids to decide. Recommended. Grades 5-7. (ADA)

Teague, David. 2015. The red hat. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-142313411-4. Illustrated by Antoinette Portis.

In this story, the color red dominates the plot and conflicts of person v. person, person v. self, and person v. the wind, as well as emphasizing the theme of friendship. Readers will clearly see the connection between the boy with the red scarf and the girl with the red hat because the scarf and hat are a brilliant red. The color red brings energy to the characterizations of the boy and girl, the theme, settings, and the style. Readers of all ages will learn to appreciate the strength and character of the wind and the determination of a young boy with a red scarf befriending a girl with a red hat. (DLN)

Walsh, Ellen Stoll. 2015. Where is Jumper?. Simon and Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-4508-5.

Prepositions dominate this story about the disappearance of Jumper, a field mouse. As his friends look for him, readers will see them move through multiple prepositional phrases. Readers ages 4 – 8 and English language learner can observe the mice as they climb over and around rocks, run across a log, and eventually find Jumper, until he disappears again. (DLN)

Warner, Penny. 2014. The Code Busters Club: Case 4: The Mummy’s curse. Egmont USA. 181pp. $16.99. ISBN 9781606844695.

Youngsters Cody, Quinn, Luke, and M.E. belong to their own self-made club called The Code Busters. They have had a passion for creating and solving their own codes for a few years. On a Friday, their Teacher Ms. Stad, takes them to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose to see hieroglyphs and ancient artifacts. They are even going to see a real mummy. The museum visit is a tour of four rooms that display over four thousand artifacts. As the storyline twists and turns, student rumors circulate about the Eye of Horus. When a museum anomaly is noticed, a student “buzz” ensues. The Eye of Horus and an amulet are all the Code Busters need to prove they are not thieves. This novel proves that not all literature belongs in the English classroom. Let the alphabetical and historical codes of The Mummy’s Curse bust into the language arts, math, and history classrooms. Highly recommended. Grades 4-7. (ADA)

White, J.A.. 2014. The thickety. HarperCollins Publishers (Katherine Tegen Books). 488pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-225724-6.

Is there such a thing as a “good” witch? Twelve year old Kara Westfall has the potential to be one, but she is haunted. Haunted by the memories of watching her mother’s execution, haunted by the reality of her father’s crippling depression, haunted by her little brother Taff’s constant ridicule by their neighbors, and haunted by the dark forest called Thickety that surrounds their community of De’Noran. When a little bird coaxes Kara into the Thickety, she stumbles across a grimoire of magic. He book is nothing but an untapped secret for Kara at first. But Kara soon discovers that the grimoire contains magic that is very, very much a part of her. Although very dangerous, Kara thinks she could use the dark magic to seek justice against those who have wronged her and her family. Good or bad, “witch” will Kara choose to be? Readers will enjoy the mysterious setting, believable characters, and magical plot of this book. History teachers could teach snippets of this book in regards to its theocratic community, pariahs, human injustice, and persecutions of witches. This book supports the Common Core State Standards. Highly recommended. Grades 5-12. (ADA)

White, Kiersten. 2013. Mind games. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper Teen). 256pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-213531-5.

Fate has carved out a life plan for two sisters, Fia and Annie. Annie is blind, but she has visions of the future. Fia holds the gift of supreme confidence; her first impulse is never wrong. Both girls are offered rooms at an elite boarding school, with rivalry strings attached. When Fia’s boss Keane orders the murder of Adam, a young man she feels strangely attached to, she begins to see the dark side of humanity and the organization in which she works. Fia never knew she needed to kill, so she could pay her room and board. The numerous flashbacks narrated in this paranormal thriller can be used to effectively teach literature students about the fiction element of flashback. Recommended. Grades 9-12. (ADA)

Williams, Pharrell. 2015. Happy!. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 32pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-0-399-17643-2. Cover design by Kristin Smith and Kelley Brady. Back cover and interior photography by Amanda Pratt, additional photographs are courtesy of

Creative artists, young and old, will enjoy moving and or clapping along with Happy, the lyrical adaptation of Pharrell Williams’ energetic song and video, Happy! Music teachers and other caregivers can use the book in a variety of ways, including motion, identifying items and characters, differentiating among the costumes of the children, and recognizing letters, words, phrases, sentences, and punctuation marks. Readers will happily read Happy! many times. (DLN)

Wilson, Karma. 2015. A frog in the bog. Simon and Schuster (Little Simon). 32pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-4452-1 (2003). Illustrated by Joan Rankin.

First published in 2003, the 2015 version is a Little Simon board book, appropriate for children ages 0 – 3. The shape and sturdy pages are ideal for little hands and curious minds. Frog is very hungry and eats all of bugs within reach on his perch on a log — a tick, two fleas, three flies, four slugs, and five snails. His stomach grows bigger after each meal, but the bugs are relieved when frog realizes his moving log is actually an alligator. As frog screams, the bugs crawl out of his belly, and frog shrinks to an unpalatable size. Alligator leaves the frog alone and the bugs learn a lesson about staying out of reach of frog’s long tongue. Young readers will enjoy the rhyming words, assonance, numbers, and an exciting, suspenseful plot. (DLN)

Winters, Ben H. 2015. Romantically disturbed: Love poems to rip your heart out. Penguin Random House LLC (Price Stern Sloan). 64pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-0-8431-7313-0. Illustrated by Adam F. Watkins.

Readers ages 8 and older will certainly recognize the macabre nature of this collection of poetry. The poems are horrifying and readers will realize love can be demonic, twisted, jealous, and shocking. The poem about Saint Valentine shares accurate information about his violent death in Rome. He was tortured, beaten, beheaded and tossed to the wolves for their lunch. Variations on recognizable themes may prompt readers to create other poems based on familiar phrases; “Roses are red, violets are blue. All these flowers will die one day; so will I, and so will you” (page 62). (DLN)

Wooding, Chris. 2014. Silver. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 313pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-60392-8.

At Mortingham Boarding Academy in England, dangerous silver creature insects called the Infected force the school bully, the misfit outcast, the unsuspecting gullible, and the dark-pasted new kid to join forces. After noticing a few silver-colored beetles around campus, students Paul, Caitlin, Erika, Adam, and Mark discover that other students bitten by the beetles turn into savages with zombie-like characteristics. Infection turns into a plague when it is discovered that those infected are driven to infect all living things, both human and animal. Readers first learn that the infected carry a virus that turns organic matter – bone, flesh, fur, etc – into metal. After a helicopter crashes leaving two survivors, readers discover that the spreading virus was the result of a botched government experiment. Readers will wonder if survival is even possible after it is learned that the many, many infected actually sacrifice themselves to a bigger more “monstrous” cause. Because of its scientific origins, this book would make a great study in the science classroom. Because individual strengths seem to bind an otherwise loner cast of characters, this book’s characterization can be analyzed in the literature and language arts classrooms. An intriguing, fast-paced, horrifying thriller! Highly recommended. Grades 9-12. (ADA)

Zelinsky, Paul O. (adaptor and illustrator). 2015. The wheels on the bus. Dutton Books for Young Readers. 16pp. $24.99. ISBN 978-0-525-44644-6 (1990).

Published for the first time 25 years ago, The Wheels on the Bus remains a classic among early readers and singers. This version is delightful. This version may act as a search-and-find book because the number 25 is hidden 25 times on the cover of the book. The movable parts on each page add to the engagement potential between young readers and the text. This is a book readers and caregivers will want to carry with them “all over town.” (DLN)