Significant Others I: (Professional Reviews)

This Side of Wild

Paulsen, Gary. 2015. This Side of Wild: Mutts, Mares, and Laughing Dinosaurs. Simon & Schuster (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers). 160pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-5151-2. Illustrated by Tim Jessell.

This book provides a wild romp into the real-life adventures of author Gary Paulsen and a profound understanding of interspecies relationships. Paulsen’s latest compilation has four chapters, beginning in Wyoming and showing the bonds between humans, a couple of horses, and a dog, and ending en route to California on Interstate 10 with teachings about the birds and the bees. Everything in between is chock full of anecdotes, insights, and reminiscences about how the two legged must learn to live with and respect the four pawed, the four hooved, and the two winged. It’s funny, it’s philosophical, and it’s entertaining. Teenagers will enjoy the stories, and teachers will enjoy the Reading Group Guide included. Recommended for grades 5-8. (ADA)


Dear Dumb Diary

Benton, Jim. 2016. Dear Dumb Diary Deluxe: Dumbness is a Dish Best Served Cold. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic). 224pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0545-93228-8.

Anticipating soaring college costs and dealing with a father’s lost job, Jamie Kelly and her friends Angeline and Isabella take a personal finance class one step further than the rest of their classmates at Mackerel Middle School. People need to eat. This basic need leads to the design, the implementation, and the eventual flop of the four proportioned Health-O-Plate. Unfortunately, pre-teens are not the most health conscious and adults have bigger fish to fry. Jamie ends up with a very full plate when trying to keep her Health-O-Plate idea alive; she must maintain friendships as well as promote new ideas to potential buyers. This book offers a great lesson on “grit,” which is when kids pick themselves up after falling down. Best served to female readers. Recommended for grades 3-7. (ADA)


Meet the Bobs and the Tweets

Springfield, Pepper. 2016. Meet the Bobs and Tweets. Scholastic Inc. (Egg in the Hole Productions). 80pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-0-545-87072-6. Illustrated by Kristy Caldwell.

The real estate business must be slow, so it’s making outrageous hookups that real estate Mo must go! The unkempt and sloppy Bobs have been kicked out of their house. The neat and on-fleek Tweets are looking for a brand-new street. At about the same time, the slobby Bobs and neat-freak Tweets, both move to Bonefish Street. Things are okay as long as there is a divide, but meetings go awry when both families collide. It’s at the neighborhood pool when things get rough. The Tweets want safety, and the Bobs make that tough. As Mark the lifeguard tries to make things right, each family’s black sheep, Dean Bob and Lou Tweet, forge themselves together super-duper tight. The color, illustrations, and rhyme will make students think it worth the half hour read. Teachers could use the book with older students as a stepping stone to writing rhymes, understanding meter, and identifying basic poetic devices. Recommended for grades 1-8. (ADA)


Killing Time in Crystal City

Lynch, Chris. 2015. Killing Time in Crystal City. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). 240pp. $10.99. ISBN 971-1-44-244012-8.

Seventeen-year-old Kevin is a hot, broken mess. Looking to escape a tense situation with his dad, which led to him breaking his arm, and avoid his friend Jasper after an uncomfortable encounter, Kevin hops a bus to Crystal City to live with his uncle. Kevin befriends a fellow-casted girl named Stacey while on the bus, and together they meet yet another cast-mate, Molly. The triage spend most of their time figuratively killing time in Crystal City by roaming the beach and socializing. The three end up in each other’s lives due to the girls’ Catholic hostel stay. When the three friends are separated, Kevin suffers. He suffers flashbacks of the aforementioned tension and discomfort with his dad and friend, and he suffers when his stay literally turns into a killing time in Crystal City. It is not exactly action-packed, but this is a good undramatic coming-of-age thriller. It offers good, brief examples of flashbacks that can be taught in the classroom. Recommended for grades 9-12. (ADA)


The Maypop Kidnapping

Surrisi, C.M. 2016. The Maypop Kidnapping. Lerner Publishing Group (Carolrhoda Books). 304pp. ISBN 978-1-46-775789-8.

Set on a coastal village in Maiden Rock Maine, 8th grader Quinnie Boyd is unnerved. Her favorite teacher, Ms. Stillford, has disappeared. Quinnie had just seen Ms. Stillford the night before. Together they set up a date to meet at the local diner. When the reliable Ms. Stillford doesn’t show up, Quinnie goes looking for her. The only thing Quinnie finds is evidence to support that Ms. Stillford has been kidnapped: missing clothes, an unfinished peanut butter and jelly sandwich, unanswered phone messages, and a cat with tuna breath. Quinnie’s sheriff mom and diner-owner dad do not believe it is a kidnapping. This is when Quinnie enlists the help of her long-time friend, Ben, and a interloper, Zoe. Everybody is a suspect in this kidnapping, no matter how unlikely it may be—a long-time admirer, a couple of nuns, a gaggle of cats, or a beach bum boy band—who could have done it? It is a good mystery for middle school students. It is a quick paced and quick witted read with only a few characters and just the right amount of suspicion and evidence. All the pieces of the puzzle come together to make a nice, tidy ending. Recommended for grades 5-8. (ADA)



Fiedler, Lisa. 2015. Mouseheart: Hopper’s Destiny. Simon & Schuster (Margaret K. McElderry Books). 368pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-1-48-142090-7.

Damage to the rat city of Atlantia in Brooklyn’s subway tunnels has been done. It is now up to the mouse, Hopper, to re-establish the empire he is destined to save. Hopper is overwhelmed, however, by his sister Pinkie and his brother Pup. Pinkie wants to rule over Mouseheart, and Pup wants to prove himself to his brother. If Hopper wants to help restore Atlantia–first by feeding its citizens, then by defeating the evil ferals–he needs to convince Pinkie to offer her Mūs soldiers to help him. Hopper loses sight of his goals and gets sidetracked when a couple of exterminators presumably eliminate his two best alliances. Hopper may have derailed momentarily, but hops back on track when he sees what the Atlantians have aspired to do. A great animal fantasy to teach middle schoolers that people must work in harmony with nature’s animals. It also offers lessons in fulfilling one’s destiny, remaining steadfast, and keeping faith. Recommended for grades 3-8. (ADA)



Mead, Richelle. 2015. Soundless. Penguin Random House LLC (Razorbill). 288pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-59-514763-9.

Life is difficult for Fei and her sister in their small, ancient village in China. Even though the village residents are plagued with deafness, blindness, and hunger, Fei is doing well. She is an artist, which puts her on a pedestal, and she is fed properly and has accommodations. When Fei suddenly starts to hear, and when the village begins to receive little to no food rations from the village below, she and her ex-boyfriend Lei Wi dare to seek help. Together Fei and Lei Wi combine their abilities—Fei’s hearing with Lei Wi’s sight—and descend to the valley below. Upon arriving, Fei and Lei Wi see a successful village and discover the resources were obtained at the expense of their own small village above. The old rhyme, “Secrets, secrets are no fun. Secrets, secrets hurt someone,” rings true. History, civics, and geography teachers will see this book as a good assignment for teaching students how a government’s “secrets” are used to control its people by lining their own pockets and making the “Fat Cats” fatter, but in the end it hurts its citizens. Highly recommended for grades 7 and up. (ADA)


The Dungeoneers

Anderson, John David. 2015. The Dungeoneers. HarperCollins Publishers (Walden Pond Press). 332pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-233814-3.

Growing up surrounded by eight sisters and no brothers is cause enough for Colm Candorly to turn rogue! To help put food on the table and escape the clamor of his sisters, Colm goes into town and pulls off a few “four-finger discounts,” and pickpockets with ease. When rogue Finn Argos catches wind of Colm’s liftings, he recruits him. Thievery is much more charming than losing his whole hand, so Colm agrees to train as a Dungeoneer. Colm trains with three others—a druid, a mage, and a barbarian. Together, they are all set to battle merciless goblins, evil orcs, and deadly scorpions. As apprentices for Thwodin’s Legions, they are in search of hidden treasures. A few unexpected events make for several good plot twists that uncover one big betrayal. There is probably not a huge demand for action adventure books for teaching in the classroom. No matter, house this book in the school library. Recommended for grades 7-12. (ADA)


Cover of "A Drop of Night"

Bachmann, Stefan. 2016. A Drop of Night. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 464pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-228992-6.

A drop of horror, a drop of suspense, and a drop of fright combine to make a worthy read called A Drop of Night. Seventeen-year-old Anouk has been misled. She thinks she has been awarded an all-expense paid trip to France to explore the great 18th century historic Palace of the Butterfly. Rather than exploring, Anouk and four other teenagers find themselves zig-zagging through the palace’s maze of deadly rooms in order to thwart the very dead and very sinister Marquis du Bessancourt. Anouk and the other palace invites find themselves relying on an apparition referred to as the Butterfly Man. If they do not want the palace to be their final resting ground, they all must race against time to evade deadly razors, metal globes, and poisonous gasses. A good historical fiction that would be tough to teach to a class of mainstream students. A class of voracious readers would benefit from the history, geography, and the social status of the 200 year old characters, however. Recommended for grades 9-12. (ADA)


Sword and Verse

MacMillan, Kathy. 2016. Sword and Verse. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper Teen). 384pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-232461-0.

Slavery is very much alive in this medieval fantasy novel. Raisa, 14, is an Arnath slave serving as Prince Mati’s literacy tutor in Quilara. Raisa and Prince Mati spend a lot of time together studying symbols and words. How romantic! It is so romantic, in fact, that the two fall in love. Because this budding romance is a no, no according to the king, they separate. During their separation, Raisa is approached by the Resistance, a group of Arnath slaves looking to bring Quilara’s monarchy to its knees. The plot busily thrusts and parries from Raisa and Prince Mati’s love affair, to Raisa’s secret sleuthing, to uncovering the truth behind a piece of writing from her past, to decisions on how to overthrow Quilara’s government. Readers will see if love, respect, and promises trump the classes. Literature teachers can recommend this mythological fantasy to their avid readers in efforts to reinforce the idea of words and language being something to revere and share, not something to take for granted. Recommended for grades 9-12. (ADA)


Assassin's Heart

Ahiers, Sarah. 2016. Assassin’s Heart. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper Teen). 448pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-236378-7.

Religion meets murder in this gripping romantic revenge adventure story. Life as an assassin is the only life teenager Lea Saldana knows. She is in one of nine families competing to kill their way to the top rung of the social ladder. For Lea, she has vowed to kill only as a service to the God Safraella, the Goddess of death. Lea’s faith is unwavering and her moves calculated and deliberate. Her only mistake is in regard to matters of the heart—she falls in love with Val, a member of one of the Saldana family’s rivals. Little does Lea know that Val takes advantage of her love in order to find and kill her family. To avenge the brutal slaying of her family, Lea sets out with a heavy heart to find her estranged uncle. A coin, a monk, and a staunch faith in Safraella all help to quell Lea’s anger and make it possible for her to travel cross country. Sinister ghosts, rival assassins, and nasty rumors work to prevent Lea from accomplishing her mission. Many plot flares will keep readers engaged—romance, mystery, murder, adventure, worship, revenge, and more. Teachers can assign students to pick a “flare” and write a theme paper on it. Recommended for grades 9-12. (ADA)


Stick Cat: A Tail of Two Kitties

Watson, Tom. (2016). Stick Cat: A Tail of Two Kitties. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 208pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-06-241100-6.

Me-wow! This “tail” of two kitties is a cat purr and a feline frolic of a good read. When Stick Cat’s owner, Goose, is away, Stick Cat and Edith, the neighbor cat, will play. The adventures begin when Edith squeezes herself through a hole in Stick Cat’s apartment on the 23rd floor. The two kitties then decide how to play their day away. Sometimes they stare at each other until one of them falls asleep, sometimes they listen to music, and sometimes they fall asleep in the apartment window sill. On this particular day, Stick Cat and Edith hunt for treasure under the couch. It does not take long for them to stop hunting and become mesmerized with a piano tuner’s music in the apartment building next door. During a mid-tune Crash! Boom! Bang! at ground level, the tuner finds himself trapped. The day becomes long when Stick Cat and Edith spend the rest of their day trying to rescue the piano man. They are only an apron ride and a cat leap away from saving a musician’s day. Any cat loving student will enjoy the simple illustrations, the fur-brained schemes, and the humorous storyline of Stick Cat’s heroic adventure. Recommended for grades 3-7. (ADA)


Terrifying Tales

Scieszka, Jon, et. al. (2015). Guys Read: Terrifying Tales. HarperCollins Publishers (Walden Pond Press). 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-238558-1. Illustrated by Gris Grimly.

A compilation of eerie and creepy, chilling and scary, and mysterious and magical tales from the darkside. Eerie and creepy: A boy cannot shed his angry, dark, blood-red-eyed imaginary friend—Ever! Meanwhile a gross, wrinkled, reading teacher’s poetic verses can kill. Chilling and scary: A blue bearded recluse dismembers wives who break their vows. Plus, three carved, war painted coconuts go nuts and move themselves off a bookshelf to rest at the feet of a disliked teenager. Unfortunately, what happens is no dream. Mysterious and magical: A dead man’s tattoos sketch themselves on the murderer’s body, slowly and painfully. And, Poof! An overconfident, arrogant magician is humbled when he becomes the permanent part of a disappearing act. There are more stories to read, if you dare! This Guys Read is not just for guys. It can be for girls as well. A whole book of stories about 20-30 pages long and organized on the theme of terrifying. It will be a hit! Enough said. Highly recommended for grades 5-12. (ADA)


The Book of Chocolate

Newquist, HP. 2017. The Book of Chocolate: Amazing Stories of the World’s Favorite Candy.Penguin Random House LLC (Viking Books for Young Readers). 160pp. $ 17.99. ISBN 978-0-67-001574-0.

Chocolate, the elixir of the gods! We know it as a candy, a baking ingredient, a comforting drink, and an aphrodisiac, but what most of us do not know is that chocolate in its liquid, moldable form originally began with Henri Nestlé’s recipe for infant formula. Nestle had tried to develop a substitute for cow or goat’s milk for infants who could not successfully nurse. His recipe, which included dried cow’s milk, wheat flour, sugar and water, was later paired with chocolate and condensed milk to create a liquid form of chocolate. Rodolphe Lindt continued the experiments until he was able to stabilize the syrup into the moldable form we know as chocolate through a method called “conching.” So successful were Lindt’s chocolates, that he kept his formula secret for over two decades.

This detailed and well-researched book takes the reader through the history of chocolate from the time of the ancient Olmec civilization in Mesoamerica where traces of cocoa have been found in pottery, to modern times and a possible connection between the chocolate consumption of a country and the number of Nobel Prizes. Author HP Newquist explains how the beans are grown and processed, the importance and influence of chocolate bars in World War Two, corporate and family in-fighting over chocolate empires, human labor abuses in harvest and production, and the influence of chocolate on the movie industry where movies such as “E.T., the Extra Terrestrial” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” contributed to the soaring sales of Reese’s Pieces and the Wonka Bar.

Newquist has enriched this text with historical photos, old posters, pictures of the production and product, maps, and pottery from the ancient world. His discussion of the chemical composition of chocolate partially explains why chocolate has such powerful allure on humans. Notably, there is a full two-page spread on “Women in Chocolate” highlighting the success of women like Katrina Markoff, Cecilia Tessieri, and Marical Presilla. The book concludes with a pictorial graph of the most popular chocolate brands in the U.S. (#1 is M & M), a glossary, and other chocolate resources including company websites. This book is recommended for any level reader interested in chocolate, its production, history, and influence. A cautionary note-do not read this book when hungry-the photos alone will drive you to the nearest candy counter! (OJB)


Two Truths and a Lie: It's Alive!

Paquette, Ammi-Joan, and Laurie Ann Thompson. 2017. Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive!. HarperCollins (Walden Pond Press). 176pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-241882-1. Illustrated by Lisa K. Weber.

If you have ever played the party game, “Two truths and a lie,” you will understand the premise of this exciting science book aimed at the mid-elementary through high school age reader. Authors Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson have arranged the book in three parts–plants and fungi, animals, and humans. Each part has three chapters and within each chapter are three topics. Topics are covered with considerable detail and include specific, highlighted vocabulary. An answer key, located at the back of the book, identifies which of the three topics is the lie and provides clarification of why this is so. There is so much more to this intriguing book! At the end of some chapters there will be a list of facts that contain one “fake” and the reader must guess which option it is. Other chapters feature “Try This,” a section where readers are encouraged to make their own experiments or keep a nature journal. Another special interest feature is “Talk It Out,” suggestions for questions that readers might ask each other or discuss. There are other resources in this book including focused vocabulary words, a research guide that provides resources such as library references, Wiki, Internet search engines, and interviews. The bibliography is arranged by chapter and topic, making it easier for the reader to locate sources for the specific topic of interest. Clear photographs, labeled diagrams, and clever cartoon characters further enhance this unique young adult reference. Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive is both well researched and well organized. Scientific information is presented in a manner that engages and challenges the reader. With topic titles like, “Poop to the Rescue,” “Frankenstein’s Fix,” or “Gelatinous Curtain of Death,” readers can’t help but be drawn to this book. (OJB)


Life by Cynthia Rylant

Rylant, Cynthia. 2017. Life. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division (Beach Lane Books). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-145162-8. Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel.

“Life begins small…and then it grows.” So begins and ends this beautifully illustrated tribute to life. “What do you love about life?” is answered by the hawk with “sky,” by the camel with “sand,” and by the snake with “grass.” Author Cynthia Rylant touches on the beauty and the trials of life by reminding the reader every corner of the world there is something to love and to protect and, while there might be some wilderness, there will always be a new road ahead.The illustrations by Brendan Wenzel are stunning and fit with the simple, but eloquent prose of the author. The animals are pictured in their natural habitats–gorilla in the tall grass, polar bear in the snow, whales in the ocean, and deer in the woods. The night scenes are a dazzling blue with a bright moon and starry skies. This is a picture book to be treasured by young readers who will ask parents to read it again and again. (OJB)


Beastly Brains

Castaldo, Nancy F. 2017. Beastly Brains. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 160pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-54-463335-3.

Jealousy, anger, strategic planning, communication–are these only within the purview of human response, or do other animals share these traits? Author Nancy Castaldo takes the reader on a journey to explore the brains of animals from humans to the lowly earthworms. It turns out it is not the size the brain, but the brain size in relation to the body’s dimensions which determines intelligence. This brain-body ratio is measured as an encephalization quotient (EQ) and, although humans have the highest EQ, dolphins come in a close second. Castaldo gives credit to the early works of scientists such as Descartes, Aristotle, and Darwin, and highlights the ethnographic work of researchers like Jane Goodall with chimps, Diana Reiss and John Lilly with dolphins, Brian Hare with bonobos and dogs, and Alex Taylor with crows. She even touches on the eternal question of whether dogs are smarter than cats, and handily dodges any affirmation of either being smarter by noting while cats have a more complex brain and greater short-term memory, they are hampered by their love of leisure, comfort, and self-gratification. This carefully researched text provides an intimate and fascinating look at the intellect and emotions of animals, and encourages continued research and animal activism. Additional resources include YouTube and other video works, a glossary, a bibliography with links to webpages and NPR broadcasts, and ways to use a case study approach with animals including your own pet. Readers will come away from this work with new respect for the capabilities of all living creatures. Recommended for upper elementary through post-secondary readers. (OJB)


Who Was Cesar Chavez?

Rau, Dana Meachen. 2017. Who was Cesar Chavez? Penguin Random House LLC (Grosset and Dunlap). 112pp. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-45-153362-3.

In 1962, Cesar Chavez, activist and farm worker, organized the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) to fight for better pay, benefits, and working conditions for the over 300,000 men, women, and children working in the California farm fields. Most of these laborers were Latino and had emigrated from Mexico, although their ranks were also comprised of Filipinos, other Asians, poor whites, and African-Americans. Chavez was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor by President Clinton and President Obama made La Paz, (the union headquarters) into a national monument and declared March 31st Cesar Chavez Day. Who was Cesar Chavez? chronicles the life of this powerful organizer from his childhood in the Arizona desert to his multiple imprisonments for boycotting lettuce and grapes and his close work with Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and California Governor Jerry Brown. Throughout the book there are special interest pages including a biography of Dolores Huerta, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. Additional resources include a bibliography, websites, a timeline of Chavez’s life, and a timeline of the world. This black and white book provides both biographical information on Cesar Chavez and a careful history of the farm worker’s movement for upper elementary through high school age readers. (OJB)


A Dog in the Cave: the Wolves Who Made Us Human

Frydenborg, Kay. 2017. A Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 256pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-544-28656-6.

How much do you know about dogs? When we think of dogs we think of “man’s best friend,” the faithful pet who meets us at the door when our workday has ended. You probably didn’t know that dogs may have an even more highly developed set of social skills than do humans. The science behind these beloved animals is fascinating and complex! Author Kay Frydenborg presents the reader with a combination of archaeology, paleontology, biology, neuropsychology and history to explore what makes dogs special and important to humans. In addition, Frydenborg includes emerging research, anecdotal stories like that of Bretagne and other hero dogs of 911, and impressive photos. The photos include cave drawings, Neolithic rock art, past and current dog researchers, MRI scans of dogs, as well as dogs engaged in activities from Frisbee catching to rescue missions. This book is a carefully researched source of information for readers from mid elementary age through adult. (OJB)


Step Right Up

Bowman, Donna Janell. 2016. Step Right Up: How Doc and Kim Key Taught the World About Kindness. Lee & Low Books. 48pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-62014-148-9.

In the late 1880’s, self-taught veterinarian and former slave William “Doc” Key rescued a gray Arabian mare from the circus where she had been mistreated. Doc nursed Lauretta back to health and bred her to produce a colt. The colt, named Beautiful Jim Key, was a sickly, wobbly little guy who almost didn’t make it. Doc recognized an amazing intellect in Jim when he was very young and worked to develop his skills. Eventually, Jim could combine letters to spell words, identify state flags, add numbers, move the hands of a clock to tell time, and finally to write. Doc took Jim with him as he traveled with his medicine wagon and later to perform in special exhibitions. They were a sell-out performance everywhere they went. Doc refused to let the producers segregate the audience in any way, so they played to integrated audiences across the U.S. Doc was devoted to the humane treatment of all animals and he had the children in the audience take a pledge to treat all animals with kindness. Despite multiple attempts to discredit Doc and Jim, none ever found the act to be fraudulent. In their later years, Doc, Jim, and a dog named Monk retired to the farm where they lived out their years in devoted companionship. Step Right Up is a moving story of love and friendship between human and animal. The book is further enhanced with the colorful, expressive linoleum block prints of award winning artist Daniel Minter. An “Afterword” provides a bonus section with historic photos of both Jim and Doc. Recommended for elementary through middle school age readers. (OJB)


27 Magic Words

Moranvillle, Sharelle Byars. 2016. 27 Magic Words. Holiday House Books. 208pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-0-82-343657-6.

Fifth grade is always a tough year, but for ten-year-old Kobi it has been made more difficult with a move from her grandmamma’s apartment in Paris to her uncle’s home in Des Moines where everything is different and nothing is predictable. Five years ago, her parents left on a sailing trip leaving Kobi and her older sister Brook with their grandmamma. Before she left, Kobi’s mother gave her twenty-seven special words written on post-it notes. For Kobi, these words are magic. The most magical word is “Avanti” and it allows her to see her parents on a tropical island. As Kobi gradually settles into her new life, the truth of her parents’ death at sea in 2011 emerges. With the support of her Uncle Wim, his fiancé Sally, older sister Brook, and school friend Norman, Kobi gradually comes to terms with the reality of her loss.

27 Magic Words is a touching story of love, loss, and the difficulties of navigating the world as an emerging adolescent. Upper elementary and middle school students will be drawn into the magic of this story. (OJB)


Vietnam: A History of the World

Freedman, Russell. 2016. Vietnam: A History of the War. Holiday House Books. 160pp. $20.00. ISBN 978-0-82-343658-3.

Opening with a front page photos of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall and an unnamed duty soldier, Vietnam: A History of the War chronicles the occupation, war, and times of independence which have defined this country. Author Russell Freedman begins the story in AD 40 when sisters Trung Trac and Trung Nhi rallied forces to overthrow the Chinese and make themselves queens. The story continues with the long occupation by the French and its profound influence on culture, language, and architecture, followed by the WWII occupation by the Japanese, and the eventual involvement of the U.S. in the country’s conflicts. Much of the text is devoted to how and why America became involved in the war and the ramifications at home and abroad. This important work takes a boldly honest look at the incalculable cost of the war in terms of human casualty on both sides, the burning and massacres of villages, and the devastating aftermath of a ravaged countryside with millions of displaced people. Freedman also weaves into this book a chronicling of the American resistance to the war and the involvement of important figures like Martin Luther King Jr. Additionally, he includes a biography of Ho Chi Minh who went from an unknown French-educated student in 1911 to leader of the Communist North Vietnam and eventually became one of the most influential opposition leaders.

Vietnam: A History of the War provides a rich photographic history of the country and people of Vietnam as well as an unflinching look at the effects of the flammable napalm, Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire in protest, and the aftermath of police violence toward protesting American college students. The book ends as it begins, at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, this time with an American soldier paying his respects. In addition to this valuable photographic documentation, there is also a timeline from 1859 through 1995 when America resumed full diplomatic relations with Vietnam, a glossary, and a selected bibliography. Vietnam: A History of the War is a carefully researched text and an important resource for students of all ages who are studying American history. (OJB)


Brown vs. Board of Education: A Fight for Simple Justice

Rubin, Susan Goldman. 2016. Brown v. Board of Education: A Fight for Simple Justice. Holiday House Books. 144pp. $18.95. ISBN 978-0-83-43646-0.

Brown v. Board of Education: A Fight for Simple Justice is a critical study of the origins and outcomes of the Brown v. Board decision in 1954, yet it is offers the reader so much more. Through the voices of those who lived through times of racial segregation, and with accompanying historical photos, the reader experiences what it was like to be a student of color terrified to walk home after dark for fear of injury or even death, or what it was like to walk miles through all kinds of weather to a school miles from home since the neighborhood school was for whites only. Readers learn of the early life and education of Thurgood Marshall, the black lawyer who argued the Brown case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court and who was eventually appointed to the Supreme Court in 1967. The book does not end with the landmark decision, but covers the struggles to desegregate schools such as the brave walk of the Little Rock Nine, attempts to avoid desegregation such as the closure of schools in North Carolina from 1959-1964, and the demonstrations of the pro-segregation National Association for the Advancement of White People. Woven into this work are other important events such as the pioneering work of Dr. Kenneth Clark who demonstrated how the self-image of black children is affected by segregation. Final chapters remind readers segregation has not ended and the struggle continues through efforts like the Harvard Project and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Richard Rothstein is quoted in 2014 saying, “Schools remain segregated today because neighborhoods in which they are located are segregated. Today things are getting worse” (pg. 97).

The black and white archival photos in this work are powerful and show the inferior schools for children of color as well as discriminatory signs like, “Colored Waiting Room.” There is a timeline which begins in 1839 with the origins of the term “Jim Crow” and goes to 1967 when Thurgood Marshall is named to the United States Supreme Court. Additional resources include brief summaries of landmark cases such as Plessy v. Ferguson and Sweatt v. Painter, the text of the Fourteenth Amendment, the complete text of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision, places to visit, videos, and ways to contact the authors.

This meticulously researched text should be a required reading in social studies classrooms and is appropriate for upper elementary through high school readers. (OJB)


Florence Nightingale

Reef, Catherine. 2017. Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 192pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-54-453580-0.

Frequently referred to as “The Lady With the Lamp,” Florence Nightingale is often pictured as a solitary figure carrying a lantern while tending to the ill and injured. In this carefully researched and detailed biography, author Catherine Reef presents an honest depiction of the enigmatic Florence Nightingale. Born to a family of means, Florence lived in Italy, England, and France. She and her sister, Parthenope, were educated by private tutors and were groomed to be mistresses of great estates where they would be dedicated to family, needlework, and the management of the many servants. From her early years, Florence wanted none of this and dreamed of a life with purpose. She tried to convince her parents she should go to a public hospital to learn how to become a nurse, but they were adamant against women, particularly women of her stature, working in such an environment while rubbing shoulders with the “lower classes.” In a bold move without parental approval, Florence spent two weeks at the Kaiserswerth Nursing Institute and from there she moved on to the management of the Establishment for Gentlewomen During Illness. Her most famous contribution came when she left London for the Crimean Peninsula where she served the wounded and dying in the Crimean War. In the midst of the most unsanitary conditions, she established strict care and sanitation protocols. Her relentless work during this time destroyed her health, but still she carried on and established the Nightingale School of Nursing. After years of ill health, Florence Nightingale died at the age of ninety. Although she wanted little fuss, her funeral was attended by thousands of people who had been touched by her care, teaching, and dedication.

Author Catherine Reef presents an honest portrayal of Nightingale with human flaws such as ambition, authoritarian management style, and single-mindedness which often meant Nightingale ignored the needs of family and friends. She includes rare historic photographs, portraits of family and friends, excerpts from Nightingale’s casebook, and sketches of old cartoons. There are detailed notes for each chapter of the book and an extensive bibliography. This book is more than a meticulous biography of Nightingale's’ life and work, it also provides great insight into society, the position of women, and state of medical care during Victorian times. It is an important contribution to literature about women’s history and medical history. Recommended for middle and high school readers. (OJB)


Assassin's Heart

Ahiers, Sarah. 2016. Assassin's Heart. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperTeen). 448pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-236378-7.

Lea lives in a kingdom with families of assassins. At seventeen, she's in a forbidden relationship with a rival family's assassin, Val. This Romeo and Juliet setup immediately leads to tragedy, with Lea's family ending up dead, and Lea suspecting Val of betrayal. Lea sets out to seeks revenge on the family who killed her family. Unfortunately, despite the reader being told Lea is an excellent assassin, she makes blunder after blunder to a point of disbelief. Readers who can look past the questionable characterizations and rushed world building might enjoy the adventures and the new romance Lea finds. (MC)


We Were Never Here

Gilmore, Jennifer. 2016. We Were Never Here. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperTeen). 320pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-239360-9.

Lizzie Stoller collapses and ends up in the hospital with no warning. She battles her newfound ulcerative colitis and tries to adjust to her gloomy existence in the hospital. When she begins to visit with Colin and his therapy dog, her world begins to open up once more. However, Colin has secrets he is hiding. What could have been an intriguing romance is flattened by stiff, unlikeable characters with no chemistry. The novel ends on a bittersweet note, capturing the longing of a relationship, one which couldn't work out. Fans of romance novels might not be satisfied with this one. (MC)


How it Feels to Fly

Holmes, Kathryn. 2016. How it Feels to Fly. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperTeen). 368pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-238734-9.

Sam's dream of being a dancer was overshadowed by crippling anxieties over her body, and when she gains more weight than deemed “appropriate” for a ballerina, her tyrannical mother sends her to a summer therapy camp to face her anxieties. The therapy goes deeper than Sam's eating habits, and as she meets other artists and athletes with their own insecurities and fears, Sam delves deep into herself in order to heal. Sam's internal progress is realistic and affecting, and the diverse supporting characters all feel developed and realistic. Anyone who hasn't liked who they saw when they looked in the mirror will relate with Sam's struggle. (MC)


The V-Word

Keyser, Amber J. 2016. The V-Word: True Stories About First-Time Sex. Simon & Schuster (Beyond Words/Simon Pulse). 208pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-58270-590-3.

The V-Word is a necessary, frank, and diverse collection of true stories from women on losing their virginity. The stories, all fairly short, explore the awkwardness, excitement, uncertainty, and empowerment of sex, both straight and queer encounters. Following the stories is a section which answers questions about sex, the female body, masturbation, following one's values, and safety and consent. The result is an honest, healthy look at sexuality which doesn't try to persuade or dissuade teenage girls on whether or not they should have sex. The result is a much-needed, informative, and personal book and it can empower teenage girls as they figure out their own sexuality and courses of action. (MC)


Sword and Verse

MacMillan, Kathy. 2016. Sword and Verse. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperTeen). 384pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-232461-0.

Raisa is a slave, but in a world where words are sacred, she also belongs to a group educated in reading higher order symbols. The novel opens with the beheading of the current Tutor-in-training, and Raisa is soon sent to take her place. She takes up a grueling training process, where any mistake could mean death. Amidst all of this, she begins to fall for Prince Mati, the man she is training beside. Additionally, a resistance against the current political system is beginning to form – a resistance in which Raisa could play a key role. The plot is slow-moving, with a good deal of the plot devoted to the romance, which may disappoint some fantasy fans. However, some might enjoy the novel and it's slow-building political plot and rich setting. (MC)


This Savage Song

Schwab, Victoria. 2016. This Savage Song. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 464pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-238085-2.

Kate is trying to prove she is as ruthless as her father. August, a monster, wants nothing more than to be a human, even though he can steal souls with a song. In a post-apocalyptic former United States where different kinds of monsters terrorize the outer limits of the cities, Kate and August strike up an unlikely friendship. While the plot moves slowly at first, the two main characters are unique and interesting and keep the reading engaging. Recommended for high school readers who enjoy post-apocalyptic stories or horror. First in a series. (MC)


Please Don't Tell

Tims, Laura. 2016. Please Don't Tell. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperTeen). 336pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-231732-2.

Joy doesn't remember what happened at the party where Adam Gordon died. Did he fall into the quarry–or did someone push him? Joy begins to panic and thinks she is the killer when an anonymous blackmailer begins threatening to expose her. Joy's twin sister, Grace, has secrets of her own. This book is elevated from a typical whodunnit thriller by a complex relationship between the two sisters, strong supporting characters, and a satisfying twist ending. (MC)


Big Dog and Little Dog

Pilkey, Dav. 2016. Perrazo y Perrito/Big Dog and Little Dog. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing. 24 pp. $3.99. ISBN 978-0-544-81324-3.

This book, great for ages 4-7, tells a simple story about the friendship of two dogs. It would be ideal for early English and Spanish learners, as it is in both languages. Fun and educational activities are in the back of the book. (COM)

Este libro, para edades 4-7, es un cuento sencillo sobre la amistad de dos perros. Sería ideal para principiantes ingleses y españoles porque es en ambos idiomas. Hay actividades educativas y divertidas en la parte de atrás del libro. (COM)


The Magic Word

Barnett, Mac. 2016. The Magic Word. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-235484-6. Illustrated by Elise Parsley.

Youngsters ages 3–7 years old may identify with Paxton’s rebellious actions when he changes the magic word, “please” to alakazoomba. The consequences are appealing to Paxton, but not the babysitter or his parents. Multiple fanciful objects appear each time Paxton says the word, “alakazoomba.” Eventually, Paxton apologizes to his parents and best friend Rosie, but not to his babysitter. Readers may wonder why someone with a disagreeable, sarcastic, demanding, yet lazy demeanor would agree to babysit an energetic boy in the first place, but the cause and effect scenarios can generate worthwhile discussions. (DLN)


The Witches of Benevento

Marciano, John Bemelmans. 2016. The Witches of Benevento: Beware the Clopper! Penguin Random House LLC (Viking Books for Young Readers). 144pp. $13.99. ISBN 978-0-45-147182-6. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall.

Book three of the series, The witches of Benevento, is written for boys and girls, ages 7–10. Set in the 1820’s in Benevento, Italy, the story reflects the superstitions of the time. Children are terrified of the witches and other supernatural beings, including the Clopper, Janara, and Manalonga. Maria Meppina is terrified of the witches, and always follows the rules to avoid contact with the supernatural. She is also curious and one day, instead of following the rule of running through the theater to avoid a witch, she stops in the middle and meets the Clopper. The subsequent events will resonate with children who are also tempted to withhold the truth and keep a pleasant secret. John Bemelmans Marciano, grandson of Ludwig Bemelmans, author of the original Madeline books, crafts a delightful tale set in a different time period; a story celebrating curiosity, family, and intergenerational friendship among very different people. (DLN)


The Adventures of Henry Whiskers

Priebe, Gigi. 2017. The Adventures of Henry Whiskers. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 160pp. $5.99. ISBN 978-1-48-146574-8. Illustrated by Daniel Duncan.

Henry Whiskers is a mouse with human characteristics living in a dollhouse at Windsor Castle on a hill above the River Thames in London, England. He loves reading, adventures, his family, and is willing to face and overcome his fears. Multiple conflicts propel the plot, including a rescue of his sister, Isabel, outwitting Titus, a cat, and befriending a rat, Silver Snout and his grandson, Widget. Readers of the ages 7–10 year old will soon appreciate Henry for his endearing qualities and his willingness to befriend others who are different. The next book in this new series is also set in Queen Mary’s Dollhouse and includes familiar, as well as unfamiliar, characters. (DLN)


Duck, Duck, Dinosaur

George, Kellie. 2017. Duck, Duck, Dinosaur and the Noise at Night. HarperCollins Publishers (Festival). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-235317-7. Illustrated by Oriol Vidal.

Children familiar with bedtime routines will connect with Feather, Flap, and Spike as they get ready for bed. As the three siblings prepare for bed in their own nest for the first time they share a story, a group hug, then they fall asleep. However, they wake abruptly because they hear a loud, scary noise. Children, ages 3 – 7 will enjoy guessing the source of the GRRRORE noise and may have firsthand experience with the cause of the disturbing loud sound. (DLN)


Step Up to the Plate Maria Singh

Krishnaswami, Uma. 2017. Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh. Lee & Low Books (Tu Books). 288pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-1-60-060261-0.

Living in Yuba City, CA during WWII (spring 1945) nine-year-old Maria is a mixture of three converging cultures. Her father is from India, her mother from Mexico, and she and her younger brother, Emilio, are United States citizens because they were born in the US. Multiple conflicts propel the novel, including unjust discriminatory American laws, stereotypes, and struggles at home, at school, and in the community. One realistic element that prevails throughout the story is the role baseball plays in the story. Maria loves baseball, and with the encouragement of her fifth grade teacher and coach, Maria speaks out to save the only baseball field in Yuba City. Because of the number of conflicts and themes in this historical novel for readers in grades 4-8, it is an excellent choice for a read-aloud if discussions about the time, place, characters, conflicts, and themes are included. (DLN)


Midnight Jewel

Mead, Richelle. 2017. Midnight Jewel (The Glittering Court). Penguin Random House LLC (Razorbill). 416pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-59-514843-8.

This second novel in the Glittering Court trilogy will not disappoint fans of the first book, The Glittering Court. The characters in Midnight Jewel are intriguing with secrets from the past and present. Mira, the protagonist, is an adventurous and brave refugee with spirit and brains. Her plans do not include marrying a gentleman to pay off her contract. Readers, ages 14 and up, will be captivated by the fast moving plot, multiple conflicts, and the relationships among the characters, Mira, Adelaide, Tamsin, and Grant. Romances develop, fortunes are won and lost, wars threaten peace, and buccaneers threaten stability under the pretense of helping the poor and disenfranchised. Multiple themes are woven throughout the novel including good versus evil, deceit, friendships, the prevailing nature of love, hope, honesty, and corruption. Set in the past, readers will recognize various types of conflict with an antagonistic character–especially the unpredictable nature of sailing across various bodies of water. (DLN)


Flora and the Ostrich

Idle, Molly. 2017. Flora and the Ostrich: An Opposites Book. Chronicle Books. 20pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4521-4658-4.

Yellow is the predominant color young readers, ages 1 – 3, recognize. In this particular story, it augments the concept of opposites in the endearing relationship between Flora and the Ostrich. Fold out pages emphasize certain opposites, such as hello – goodbye, under – over, stop-go, sad – happy, and apart – together. (DLN)


When a Wolf is Hungry

Naumann-Villemin, Christine. 2017. When a Wolf is Hungry. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 34pp. $16.00. ISBN 978-0-8028-5482-7. Illustrated boy Kris Di Giacomo.

Edmond Bigsnout lives alone in the woods but wants a city “grain-fed, silky-haired rabbit” for dinner. Although he is determined to have a sweet bunny for dinner, he also is forgetful and kind. First he leaves his knife in the elevator, then proceeds to loan his chainsaw, rope, pot, and grill to various tenants in the building where Edmond’s coveted rabbit lives. The illustrations complement the text with a recognizable plot, but with an ending that will surprise all readers. Themes of kindness, sharing, determination, and friendship are easily identifiable. Subtle references to earth-friendly choices will captivate observant readers of all ages. (DLN)


The Warli People

Shin, Hye-eun. 2017 (English edition). The Warli People. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 36pp. $10.00. ISBN 978-0-8028-5476-6. Illustrated by Su-bi Jeong. Edited by Joy Cowley.

Warlis are an ancient civilization living close to several rivers in India, such as the Ulhas River that flows into the Arabian Sea. Using poetic verses and complementary linocut illustrations, the book shares the story of the cycle nature of the Warli habitat, values, mores, standards, and culture; the tribe, spring, planting seeds, hunting, sun-dried seawater (salt), the forest, rainy season, new life, animals and trees, the village at night, harvest, food, festival night, and wedding day. The illustrations are not exact replications of traditional Warli paintings, but the style is identical to the original art form of expressing life using a combination of circles, squares, and triangles. As an informational book, the text and pictures can augment the study of ancient and contemporary cultures, and the illustrations can also complement art lessons about different painting techniques. (DLN)



Roberts, Willo Davis. 2017, 1998. Pawns. Simon & Schuster (Simon Pulse). 160pp. $10.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-8619-4.

One definition of pawn is a person used by others for their own purposes. Teddi is recently orphaned and living with Mamie, his next door neighbor. These are two people used as pawns in a scheme by a Dora, a pregnant nineteen-year-old unexpected visitor. The story line moves quickly as a suspicious, curious Teddi unravels Dora’s nefarious plot to live permanently with Mamie and Teddi. (DLN)


Arrow of Lightning

Bruchac, Joseph. 2017. Arrow of Lightning. Lee & Low Books (Tu Books). 400 ppp. $19.95. ISBN 978-1-62014-330-8.

Readers, ages 12 and up, will not be disappointed with this conclusion of the Killer of Enemies series. In this third and final book of the series, protagonist Lozen, continues to defend her community, using all her powers to finally achieve peace for her friends and family. The plot is propelled by multiple conflicts and themes of good versus evil, the value of friends, family, and community. Lozen’s quest for peace contribute to a riveting novel that concludes a vibrant series by Joseph Bruchac -- a series with accurate references to American Indian traditions, including the Navajo (see p. 342 and the reference to the Sun, Turquoise Boy and horses). (DLN)


Quicksand Pond

Lisle, Janet Taylor. 2017. Quicksand Pond. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 256pp. $16.99. ISBN: 978-1-4814-7222-7.

Jessie Kettel does not want to spend her summer vacation at Quicksand Pond with her father, brother and sister, Julia. Julia is horrified to discover the house they are renting is without Wi-Fi and reception for her cell phone. Jessie is less anxious, and quickly becomes friends with Terri Carr, a local girl from a “no-good” family. The two girls form a unique, sometimes troubling friendship as they explore the pond on a raft, and more importantly, uncover secrets of the past that are imbedded in the present. Themes of friendship, loss, betrayal, judgement, and secrecy prevail. These are propelled by conflicts among family, friends, neighbors, and the community as a whole. However, the most memorable aspects of the story revolve around the development and growth of all of the characters, especially Jessie, Terri, and the Kettel family members. (DLN)


An A to Z of Monsters and Magical Beings

Onn, Aidan. 2017. An A to Z of Monsters and Magical Beings. Laurence King Publishing. 56pp. $17.99, ISBN 978-1-786270672. Illustrated by Rob Hodgson.

This book will definitely appeal to children, ages 4 and up, with an interest and affinity for benign, mischievous, nefarious monsters and beasts. The monsters and beasts are not always associated with a specific country or region of the world because they are ubiquitous and can be found anywhere, such as ghosts. However, some are specific to locations, such as the Banshee of Scotland and Ireland, the Eloko in African rainforests, the Kraken in the seas around Norway and Greenland, the Ushi-oni of Japan, the Xing Tian of Chinese origin, and the Yeti in the Himalayas. A charming companion to the monster alphabet book is Scary bingo Fin with monsters and crazy creatures, also illustrated by Rob Hodgson (a boxed game with 49 illustrations, published in 2017 by Laurence King Publishing, $19.99). Three to seven can play this variation on the well-known board game of Bingo. But unlike the book by Onn where monsters are identified by species, such as Yetis, zombies, Eloko, et al, players must identify creatures by their names, such as Booboo, and Hairy Jim. (DLN)


Pom Pom Panda

Henn, Sophy. 2017, 2015. Pom Pom Panda Gets the Grumps. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 30pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-399547768.

Pom Pom Panda wakes up in a cranky, unpleasant mood. This continues until he realizes he drove all of his friends away from him on the school playground. His mood changes, his friends forgive his deplorable behaviors, and all is well, until Pom Pom is caught playing tag. Youngsters, ages 2 – 4, may recognize Pom Pom’s mood changes, because they too may wake up angry and regularly see consequences for their attitudes. (DLN)



Martin, Bill Jr., & Archambault, John. 2017, 1993. Words. Simon & Schuster (Little Simon). 16pp. $6.99. ISBN: 978-1-5344-0125-9. Illustrated by Lois Ehlert.

Children, ages 0 – 3, will agree the best words in this concept book are the longer, more descriptive and interesting words, such as dinosaur, carrousel, hokeypokey, tango, and gooey. The shorter words, such as I, me, go, you, simply are not as fascinating as the “fancy, dancy, prancy, antsy words.” (DLN)


Get Well Soon, Spot

Hill, Eric. 2017. Get Well Soon, Spot. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Young Readers Group). 10 pp. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-14-137242-6.

Spot, the puppy, is ill, but his friends, Alligator, Monkey, and Hippopotamus, come to his aid with juice, a get-well soon card, a story book, and ice cream. Readers will recognize the positive attributes and benefits of friends and comforting gifts when healing. (DLN)


Curious George

Alexander, Francie & Jessie Wollman & Karen Knapstein. 2017. Curious George: Sight Words: 10 book Reading Program. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing. 10 books, 16 pages each, 50 flash cards, word tracker chart, stickers. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-544-89824-0.

Ten books with the lovable character, George the monkey, introduce and reinforce a variety of sight words for early readers, PreK – 1.

The ten book program includes:
Here is Curious George
Count with me—One! Two! Three!
Go, George, go
In or out? Up or down?
Curious George can help!
Play hide-and-seek with George
It is time for Curious George
Curious George goes to school
Curious George looks at words.

The study words used in each story, are bold-faced for emphasis and the sentences correspond with illustrations, e.g., “George has a blue cap and a brown bat.” Caregivers and instructors can easily go beyond the text to expand interest and vocabulary, e.g., discussing a baseball field and the game of baseball (book 1). (DLN)


Into the Wild

Cronin, Doreen. 2016. Into the Wild: Yet Another Misadventure (The Chicken Squad). Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 112pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-5046-1. Illustrated by Stephen Gilpin, Cover by Kevin Cornell.

Fans of the Chicken Squad, Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie, will enjoy their new misadventure as they investigate and observe the new box/hutch in their yard. In addition to the mystery of the box and its contents, the writing style nurtures vocabulary development among readers. Readers, in grades 1 – 3, are introduced to vibrant vocabulary that propels their interest and intellect. Words such as surveillance and binoculars are challenging, but readers will be able to understand them because of context clues and black and white illustrations created digitally. (DLN)


Chester and Gus

McGovern, Cammie. 2017. Chester & Gus. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 272pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-233068-0.

Because the story is told from the point of view of Chester, a dog with aspirations to become certified as a service dog, readers in grades 3 – 7, will get a different perspective of the relationship between a dog and his person, a ten –year old boy diagnosed with autism. The road to becoming a service dog is long, but Chester perseveres and eventually is trained as an official service dog. Bonding with ten year old Gus is also challenging, but eventually the two develop a positive relationship. Given the characters and the conflicts, including bullying at school and at home, Chester & Gus, would be an exceptional read-a-loud for young people 8 – 12 year old. (DLN)


Fox and the Jumping Contest

Tabor, Corey R. 2016. Fox and the Jumping Contest. HarperCollinsPublishers (Balzer + Bray). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-239874-1.

Fox is determined to win the jumping contest. He builds a jetpack, attaches it to his back, then waits for his turn. The animals in the contest, Frog, Turtle, Elephant, Bear, and Rabbit, all have different talents and jumping styles, but no one outperforms Fox with his jetpack. Readers, ages 3 – 8, can easily follow the plot as animals queue up for their turn to jump. Youngsters will also recognize the final conflict when Fox and Rabbit struggle to claim the 1st place trophy. The final scene is more than one of a gloating Fox; it is also a hilarious image of Bear, Turtle, and Frog propelled upward by the jetpack. (DLN)


Good Morning, Grizzle Grump!

Blecha, Aaron. 2017. Good Morning, Grizzle Grump! HarperCollins Publisher (Harper). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-229749-5.

Grizzle Grump wakes-up from his winter hibernation and is starving for food. He finds berries, fish, and bugs. He loses all of his food to friends. Onomatopoeia enhances the drama of Grizzle Grump’s quest to satiate his grumbling, rumbling, gurgling, gargling, empty stomach. The final scene will appease readers, ages 3 – 8, who are upset each time Grizzle Grump loses his food. (DLN)


Moo Moo in a Tutu

Miller, Tim. 2017. Moo Moo & Mr. Quackers Present Moo Moo in a Tutu. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-241440-3.

Children, ages 3 – 7, will enjoy Miller’s debut picture book as an author-illustrator. Since the entire text is conveyed in balloon captions, readers can easily identify the characters speaking. At the beginning of the book, they know they are in for an entertaining adventure because Moo Moo, a large, robust cow, states “Mr. Quackers, I just had the best idea in the whole world!” To which Mr. Quackers replies, “Another one?” Moo Moo’s idea is to become a ballerina. Wearing a self-designed tutu, Moo Moo crashes a ballet performance, frightening the dancers and destroying the show. Readers will smile at the end of the book when Moo Moo shares another “best idea,” one which includes Mr. Quackers as an essential partner. (DLN)



Braun, Melinda. 2016. Avalanche. Simon & Schuster (Simon Pulse). 272pp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1-4814-3822-3.

Mature young adult readers, ages 14 and up, with an insatiable desire for terrifying, yet believable adventure stories may read Avalanche in one sitting. Matt and friends are skiing in Colorado over spring break when they are caught in an avalanche. Not all survive, and Matt chooses to venture out and seek help when he perceives leaving the abandoned cabin as the only choice. Foul language, alcohol, and recreational drug use may offend some readers, but the inclusion is credible and contributes to an adventure that is realistic. The story establishes unique, genuine characters with different personalities. Readers will be intrigued by the accurate portrayal of a teenagers’ struggles with friends, family, and life in general. Thankfully, humor reinforces the realism of the characters, settings, themes, and conflicts. (DLN)


The Blue Hour

Simler, Isabelle. 2017. The Blue Hour. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 42pp. $19.00. ISBN: 978-0-8028-5488-9.

The blue hour is the time between the end of the day and the darkness of night. Conveyed through blue hues, from pale blue to midnight blue, readers can follow different animals from around the world as they settle into the silence and darkness of the night. Using the text and the final double page spread of animals painted in white on different geographic areas of the globe, readers can match the wildlife with habitats, e.g., an artic fox, illustrated in the text as pale blue and white, is painted white and placed on the northern part of Greenland (the arctic). Blue whales, surfacing in text towards the end of the blue hour, are accurately placed on the world map in three of their known locations. Although the illustrations are not totally in blue hues, the dominant colors are shades of blue; all identified on the two page spread at the beginning of the book in round or oval dollops, similar to what readers will find on a palette of paints. Readers of all ages, 3 – adult, interested in viewing the world through the lens of a color, will appreciate the representation of nature through hues of blues. (DLN)


Dead Man's Rapids

Durbin, William, & Durbin, Barbara. 2017. Dead Man’s Rapids: A Blackwater Ben Adventure. University of Minnesota Press. 200pp. $16.95. ISBN: 978-1-5179-0223-0.

It is 1899 and Ben Ward, age 13, along with his friend, Nevers, are cook’s assistants for Ben’s father in a logging camp in Minnesota’s north woods. Ben is delighted when his wish comes true and his father quits. Instead of a kinder, gentler cook, the replacement cook is Old Sard, an argumentative, vocal, opinionated veteran and undocumented immigrant of two Germanic wars. The descriptions of the experiences of Ben, Nevers, Old Sard and the loggers expose the reader to the mercurial weather conditions, terrifying rapids, and the brutal conditions of logging. Readers will learn about logging and the language of loggers, e.g., a wanigan is a floating cook shack; hypochondriac (Ben and Nevers reference to Sard) is defined as “a fella who worries too much about being sick” (page 65). Themes, conflicts, are settings are historically accurate and characters are realistic; everyone works exceptionally hard and all appreciate storytelling, humor, and shenanigans. The story would be an excellent novel to include in classrooms studying Minnesota history or logging in the late 19th century. (DLN)


Royal Bastards

Shvarts, Andrew. 2017. Royal Bastards. Tempus. 352pp. $18.99. ISBN: 978-148476765-8.

Lyriana, age 15, Princess of the Kingdom of Noveris, abandons all protocol and sits with the table of bastards rather than her seat next to Lord Kent, chief of the Western Province. As the plot unfolds, readers are confronted with adventure, danger, ambition, espionage, intrigue, friendship, love, betrayal, violence, destruction, and hope. Lyriana joins the bastards Tilla, Jax, Miles, and Zell on a frantic quest to save herself and share the truth of the murder of the Royal Archmagus, brother to the King of Noveris, and the treachery of Lord Kent and his accomplices. Readers 14 and older with a passion for complex plots, conflicts, themes and setting within the fantasy genre, will be spell-bound as they follow the bastards and the princess on their journey. (DLN)


A Boy Called Bat

Arnold, Elana K. 2017. A Boy called Bat. HarperCollins Publishers (Walden Pond Books). 208pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-244582-7. Pictures by Charles Santoso.

Bixby Alexander Tam, or Bat, likes to live a structured life and he has specific likes and dislikes. For example, he only likes creamy yogurt, and dislikes yogurt with fruit on the bottom. He has sensitive hearing and does not like loud sounds. When nervous, excited, or deep in thought, he tends to flap his hands. His mother probably characterizes him best when she said he is a sweet and thoughtful boy with a “busy, busy, mind.” In addition to learning about a delightful, smart, boy, readers, ages 6–10, will appreciate the care, concern, and affection Bat gives an orphaned kit, or baby skunk, his veterinarian mother brings home to nurse until she can give the skunk to the Wild Animal Rescue Center. Bat has a month to convince his mother he can care for the kit, eventually named Thor, until it is time to release him to the wild. The multiple conflicts are credible, Bat struggling with his emotions, likes and dislikes, peers, father, sister, mother, and school personnel. Bat develops significantly throughout the story, primarily because of his responsibilities, and sincere fondness of Thor. Occasional black and white sketches augment the emotions of characters, including the gentle expression of Bat’s mother when she introduces the kit to Bat and his sister Jane. The large ovals with huge dark pupils convey the scene accurately, mother’s kindness and the awe and wonder of the siblings. (DLN)


Traitor Angels

Blankman, Anne. 2016. Traitor Angels. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 400pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-227887-6.

Although the accuracy of this historical fiction set in the 1600s is questionable, for example, Deborah, John Milton’s third daughter was his amanuensis, not Elizabeth – the name of his third wife. Readers ages 12 and older will enjoy the blend of intrigue, romance, science, poetry, and religion evident throughout the book. The majority of characters, John Milton, King Charles II, Viviani, Galileo, and Marino are historical figures, and of course poet aficionados will recognize John Milton as the author of the epic poem, Paradise Lost. (DLN)


Springtime Blossoms

Nolen, Jerdine. 2017. Bradford Street Buddies: Springtime Blossoms (Green Light Readers, Level 3). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 48pp. $3.99. ISBN 978-0-54-487390-2. Illustrated by Michelle Henninger.

Reading independently is the description of Level 3 books and students yearning for early chapter books with charming characters, a gentle plot, and delightful images of spring will enjoy this Bradford Street book. The bright colors of springtime–yellow, green, blue, purple, lilac, and pink–dominate the illustrations conveying a hopeful, happy message of friendship, cooperation, and Earth Day. Although not a book about vegetation, readers will learn facts about gardening and the tools of the trade. (DLN)


Strega Nona and the Twins

dePaola, Tomie. 2017. Strega Nona and the Twins: Ready to Read Level One. Simon & Schuster (Simon Spotlight). 32pp. $3.99. ISBN 978-1-48-148137-3. Illustrated by Tomie dePaola.

This level one reader by Tomie dePaola adheres to the standards established by Simon Spotlight with “easy sight words and words to sound out; simple plots and dialogues; and familiar topics and themes.” The illustrations complement the characters and topics on each page, e.g, in Strega Nona and her tomatoes. Readers will identify the familiar character and the spelling of her name (pages 4 & 5, unnumbered). On page 6 (unnumbered) readers will see the word “TOMATOES!” and identify the picture of tomato plants on page 7 (unnumbered). Both books include pronunciation guides of two common Italian words prevalent in the stories, signora and bambolona. Readers will enjoy the comical, magical ending in Strega Nona and the Twins when they discover the misguided assumptions of Big Anthony and Bambolona, an excellent opportunity for critical and creative thinking/reading. (DLN)


Aleca Zamm is a Wonder

Rue, Ginger. 2017. Aleca Zamm is a Wonder. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 160pp. $6.99. ISBN 978-1-48-147060-5.

Aleca Zamm believes she is a failure, and all but one of her classmates, Maria, reinforces her self-deprecation. That is until Aleca’s 10th birthday when she accidentally discovers a powerful secret. She has the ability to stop and start time by saying her name, Aleca Zamm. Readers with knowledge of the language of magicians will understand the significance and pronunciation of her name. Aleca learns about the history of unusual powers in a handful of her ancestors when her great aunt Zephyr arrives suddenly for a visit. As readers, ages 8–11 uncover the secrets about Aleca’s relatives, they can ask themselves questions about whether unique powers are a blessing or a curse. While the powers mentioned in this fantasy are not real, readers can examine their gifts and talents and reflect on whether their personal unique characteristics are a blessing or a curse. (DLN)


Bright Lights. Big Kitty!

Jacobs, Paul Dubois, and Jennifer Swender. 2017. Animal Inn: Bright Lights. Big Kitty! Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 112pp. $5.99. ISBN 978-1-48-146232-7.

Readers ages 7–10 interested in a charming story about pets and their owners with respite for animals will enjoy the next book in the Animal Inn series. As advertised, the Inn is “one part hotel, one part school, and one part spa.” When one of the pets, Whiskers, is catapulted into the air in reaction to a loud leaf blower, he becomes the pet celebrity of the week when Big Dog, a human host to the television program, Big Dog in the Morning, invites the entire household, four and two legged animals, to his show. Whiskers, is the “Super Cat” but his sister saves the show. The personality, antics, and development of the characters complement the themes of family, friendships, adventure, and opportunity. (DLN)


Living in Egypt

Perkins, Chloe. 2017. Living in Egypt: Ready to Read Level Two. Simon & Schuster (Simon Spotlight). 32pp. $3.99. ISBN 978-1-48-149712-1. Illustrated by Tom Woolley.

According to the level two standards of Simon & Schuster, non-fiction informational books include “longer sentences, simple chapters, and high-interest vocabulary words.” This book meets the criteria. Told from the perspective of a young girl living in Egypt, Amira will captivate the interests of readers curious about aspects of Islam, Egypt and her family. A glossary at the beginning of the book defines important words in order to understanding the plot, characters, and theme, e.g., Ramadan, Mecca, and sphinx. Characters include Amira, her sister, father, and grandmother, but readers might wonder about the mother because there is no mention of Amira’s mother. (DLN)


Duke Kahanamoku

Calkhoven, Laurie. 2017. You Should Meet Duke Kahanamoku: Ready to Read Level Three. Simon & Schuster (Simon Spotlight). 48pp. $3.99. ISBN 978-1-48-149700-8. Illustrated by Stevie Lewis.

According to the level three standards of Simon & Schuster, the nonfiction text includes “longer more complex story plot and character development; challenging vocabulary words and more difficult sentence structure.” The standard is met in this biography of Duke Kahanamoku, often referred to as “the father of surfing” and “the human fish.” His story is remarkable, and children will appreciate his persistence and perseverance: winning Olympic medals, saving people, and establishing the art, skill, and value of surfing and the surfboard. (DLN)


Long May she Reign

Thomas, Rhiannon. 2017. Long May She Reign. HarperCollins (HarperTeen). 432pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-241868-5.

Freya would rather spend time in her laboratory conducting scientific experiments than at the court where she serves as a distant relative of the King; she is twenty-third in line to the throne. Readers, ages 12 and older, will recognize the fantastical setting, but the book is more of a mystery than a fantasy. Characterization of Freya is substantive and readers will enjoy following her development from a quiet woman to a formidable, inquisitive, problem-solving queen. The development is possible because the gluttonous king and the majority of his guests die mysteriously at his birthday banquet leaving Freya as the heir to the throne. She avoided death because she and a friend secretly left the birthday party for her laboratory. Using her scientific acumen, Freya overcomes a threatening challenge to her reign as the rightful Queen. Readers can celebrate Freya’s transformation from a socially awkward, self-deprecating, doubting young adult to a strong, wise, interesting young woman. (DLN)


Sky Blue Water

Peterson, Jay D., and Collette A. Morgan, et. al. 2016. Sky Blue Water: Great Stories for Young Readers. University of Minnesota Press. 240pp. $19.95. ISBN 978-0-81-669876-8.

Capturing the diversity and challenges of living in Minnesota as a young adult are twenty short stories and poems by mature and novice Minnesota authors. A variety of voices, genders, geographic regions, and cultures, such as Native American, Colombian, Norwegian, Vietnamese, African American, Hmong, Indian American are represented in this anthology for young adults ages 12 and older. Themes reflecting the lives of young adults are as diverse as the contributors, including family secrets, bullying, accepting newcomers, family relationships, friendship, fear, loss, and hope. (DLN)


I Love You Because You're You

Baker, Liza. 2017 (2001). I Love You Because You’re You: A StoryPlay Book. Scholastic, Inc. (Cartwheel Books). 24pp. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-54-594527-1. Illustrated by David McPhail.



Beaumont, Karen. 2017 (2011). Shoe-la-la! A StoryPlay book. Scholastic, Inc. (Cartwheel Books). 32pp. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-33-811555-0. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham.


Snuggle Bunny

Dopirak, Kate. 2017. Snuggle Bunny: A StoryPlay book. Scholastic, Inc. (Cartwheel Books). 40pp. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-54-581536-9. Illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld.



Mitton, Tony. 2017 (2002). Dinosaurumpus! A StoryPlay Book. Scholastic, Inc. (Cartwheel Books). 30pp. $5.99. ISBN 978-1-33-811536-9. Illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees.

The StoryPlay books are designed for young readers, ages 3–6, and their caregivers/readers. The first page is designed for children to identify themselves “This book belongs to ___________ ,” and for readers to fill in the blank “This book was read by on _________________.” Three of the four stories listed above were published earlier than 2017, but without the activities suggested throughout the book and on the end pages. For example, when the dinosaurs in Mitton’s book “zing,” and “sing,” a white bubble presents the prompt, “The words SING and ZING rhyme. Can you think of other words that rhyme with them?” The intent of the format of the books is to encourage young and old to read together and to promote language, cognitive, and social development. (DLN)


Creekfinding: a True Story

Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. 2017. Creekfinding: A True Story. University of Minnesota Press. 36pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-0-81-669802-8. Illustrated by Claudia McGehee.

Except for the full page spread of the flowing, energetic, swirling gray lines representing the memory of water moving back to the restored place called Brook Creek, the illustrating lines of the earth, water, and sky are in bold black scratchboard, with watercolors and dyes filling in the realistic spaces and images, e.g., green prairies, a blue creek, striped cement trucks in white and blue; black and white, and white and red. The tale of the restoration of Brook Creek in northeast Iowa is a true story of the passion, vision, and commitment of Michael Osterholm, an expert on infectious diseases and a fervent advocate of the environment, including creeks and prairies. Readers of all ages will appreciate the sequence of events in restoring the creek and the anecdotal comments about frogs, and the life cycle of Brook Trout. (DLN)



Harris, Teresa E. 2017. Gabriela. Scholastic, Inc. 208pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-1-33-813698-2.

Gabriela McBride, also known as Gabby, is the 2017 American Girl® of the year with multiple challenges and opportunities. With her cousin Red and friend Teagan, the three discover ways to save their beloved Liberty, an old Arts Center housing groups and events such as a poetry club, dance school, and Rhythm and Views shows. Gabby also learns to overcome her stutter, a speech condition most obvious when she is out of her comfort zone. While the plot with conflicts and resolutions are somewhat unrealistic, young female readers, ages 8–10, will enthusiastically cheer Gabby, her friends and relatives on as they raise the funds needed to save and rebuild Liberty. (DLN)


Sunrise, Moonrise

Thompson, Betsy. 2016. Sunrise, Moonrise. Simon & Schuster (Little Simon). 32pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-1-48-147142-8.

Reading this story about the passing of time, the mixed media of colors and bold lines outlining objects will appeal to children, ages 0–4. Children are introduced to the rising sun with singing birds and follow the activities of the day as it passes from morning to evening. The rhyming text will capture readers’ attention and contribute to their language development, e.g., fox prances, mouse dances. (DLN)


Carve the Mark

Roth, Veronica. 2017. Carve the Mark. HarperCollins Publishers (Katherine Tegen Books). 480pp. $22.99. ISBN 978-0-06-234863-0.

Good v. evil is once again the dominant theme in Roth’s latest science fiction novel. Multiple conflicts propel a plot where gifts may also be curses. Told in the alternate voices of Akos and Cyra, readers will feel the violence and the struggles of the protagonists and their primary nemeses, Cyra’s brother, Ryzek. The characterizations of the rival groups, the brutal Shotet and the peace loving Thuvhe, are detailed and teenage males and females can easily follow the growth and development of Akos and Cyra. (DLN)


The Worst Night Ever

Barry, Dave. 2016. The Worst Night Ever. Disney Book Group (Disney-Hyperion). 256pp. $13.99. ISBN 978-1-48-470850-7. Illustrated by Jon Cannell.

Wyatt Palmer, the hero in The Worst Class Trip Ever, is now a freshman in high school and one of the smaller students in his class. When his best friend, Matt Diaz, brings his pet ferret, Frank, to school, events turn from bad to worse, especially when the bullying, but popular Bevin brothers grab Frank. Readers, ages 10 and up, can follow the suspenseful events as Wyatt and Frank try to rescue Frank, and in the process uncover a nefarious operation run by the Bevin family. (DLN)


The Scourge

Nielson, Jennifer A. 2016. The Scourge. Scholastic Press (Scholastic). 353 pgs. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545—68245-9.

Teachers looking to teach the evils caused by prejudice and intolerance can use this book as a teaching aid. When a plague called the Scourge rips through the country of Keldan, everybody goes into quarantine. Protagonist Ani and her best friend Weevil, being typical kids, grow restless over the prolonged directive to stay indoors. While out and about, they are captured by the government’s warden, who bring them in to be tested for the dangerous and highly contagious disease. Ani is shocked when she tests positive for the sickness. She is ordered onto a ship, with other infected people, and boated far away so as not to spread the infection. Ani finds herself on Attic Island where she is to work while the painful disease runs its course, which ends in death. Unbeknownst to Ani, Weevil follows her and proves to be a great friend. In the process of saving and being saved, Ani and Weevil uncover the horrid secrets behind not only the Scourge itself, but also behind the government and its decisions. It seems that in medieval times governments were corrupt, and the rich were above the law as they can both be in current, contemporary times. A fantasy set in medieval times – this book is a winner. Grades 5-8. (ADA)


Dog Man

Pilkey, Dav. 2016. Dog Man. Scholastic, Inc. (Graphix). 231 pgs. $9.99. ISBN 978-0-545-58160-8.

A book that starts off with a Bang! The result is a part dog, part policeman protagonist referred to as Dog Man. Once students grip this book, they’re going to rip through it with voracity. The plot includes all sorts of fun comic book frames which include evil robots, gangster cats, and a sinister hotdog army. Young kids are going to love the comic-book style, the crude potty humor, and the cleverly unorthodox solutions of Dog Man. On a scale of one to three barks, three barks being the best: Bark! Bark! Bark! Recommended. Grades 1-3. (ADA)


Dog Man Unleased

Pilkey, Dav. 2017. Dog Man Unleashed. Scholastic, Inc. (Graphix). 220pgs. $9.99. ISBN 978-0-545-93520-3.

Another three barks (three being the best) goes out to Dog Man Unleashed! The greatness of the book and the greatness of a “chief” character calls for a party. A party is exactly what happens. Dog Man is unleashed to get a birthday gift for the chief of police. While at the store to purchase a birthday fish, Dog Man digs himself in a hole – he would have been fine had there been no bones and balls in the pet shop. A perturbed shop keeper gets even by selling the unsuspecting Dog Man a fish with attitude. Dog Man’s problems grow exponentially when Petey the cat escapes from prison and creates a flat, skeletal doppelganger from paper. Dog Man’s instinct is to sniff out and fight crime. Young students are going to love to read how Dog Man resists his canine urges and uses his keen senses to flush out and fetch a solution to all his problems. Excessive celebrations go out to Dog Man and his creator (author Dav Pilkey) for the “How to Draws,” the “Ha ha’s,” and the “Flip-o-Rama’s.” Note to teachers: Teach it, encourage it, or give a copy of it—kids are sure to love it! Recommended. Grades 1-3. (ADA)


Wing and Claw

Park, Linda Sue. 2017. Wing and Claw: Cavern of Secrets. HarperCollins Publishers (Harpers Children). 309pgs. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-232738-3.

Twelve year old Raffia is a determined apothecary with a conscience, and he’s hiding from Obsident’s deceptive chancellor. Fortunately he’s got a few friends on his side: a cousin, a friend, a bear, and a bat. Despite a small alliance, Raffia still must hide. He seeks refuge in the Sudden Mountains with some of his buddies, but he parts ways with them so he could go home. En route to home and en swim in cavern, Raffia finds a helpful, mysterious plant—an antidote for injured animals perhaps? A failed plan turns a normally determined Raffia alone and destitute. He plods on trying to solve his problem by turning to his cousin Garrith and his friend Kuma and her bear. These friends may prove friendly and trustworthy, but there is some suspense when it comes to the strength of their friendship. Readers will enjoy the steady pace and smooth transition from the events of the 1st book in the series to this 2nd book in the series. If students like action and adventure books, this book has them. If parents want a book that teaches morals and values, this book includes them. If teachers need examples of problems/solutions, this book offers them. Fans, parents, and teachers will find teachable moments in the storyline. Recommended. Grades 5-8. (ADA)


Platypus Police Squad

Krosoczka, Jarrett J. 2016. Platypus Police Squad: Never Say Narwhal. HarperCollins Publishers (Walden Pond Books). 225pgs. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-06-207170-5.

Who? Frank Pandini Jr. What? A boomerang, an attack, and an upset Mayor. Where? Kalamazoo City. Why? To protest the inauguration of the new city mayor When? After the Platypus Police Squad’s 1st, 2nd, and 3rd book installments. A group of platy-cops known as the Platypus Police Squad have yet another weird case on their bills. Mayoral candidate Frank Pandini Jr. has been held up with a boomerang. He wants his assailants captured and thrown in jail to pay for their actions. In order to solve the case, detective Corey O’Malley and his cocky upstart partner Rick Zengo must contest masked squirrels, awkward dress, factory tours, and a dark object in the bay. There are some long lapses of uneventfulness, but the plot is a smooth read. With a somewhat engaging hero, talking animals, and a good moral, this book will resonate with fans of the first three books in the series. Recommended. Grades 3-8. (ADA)


Stick Cat: Cats in the City

Watson, Tom. 2017. Stick Cat: Cats in the City. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 219pgs. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-06-241102-0.

Back in the day curiosity may have killed the cat, but in this cat adventure story two cats’ curiosity saves the day. It was Stick Cat’s favorite time of day: morning. He waited for his neighbor cat Edith to squeeze through a hole in the bathroom to his apartment, but things were different today. This time Stick Cat was invited to Edith’s apartment. While there, Edith shared her daily routines with Stick Cat and gave him a tour of her “castle.” Eating donut crumbs for breakfast, curling up on an elegant pillow for napping, and watching baker Hazel from afar for entertainment. Today, however, rather than watching Hazel make donuts, Edith and Stick Cat witness her falling into a bakery machine. Stick Cat and Edith must act quickly if they’re going to help. Readers are going to laugh out loud as Edith and Stick Cat accept or reject napkins, window ledges, and ziplines as possible solutions. A great book for language arts teachers to identify problems/solutions, science teachers to discuss engineering tactics, and social workers to learn about reverse psychology. Cat-paw high fives and a long, loud Me-Wow! goes out to author Tom Watson on his whisker-licking-good cat adventure story. Recommended. Grades 3-7. (ADA)


The Mesmerist

Smith, Ronald L. 2016. The Mesmerist. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion). 257pgs. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-44528-4.

The time is 1864, and the place is England. Thirteen year old Jess and her mother pass themselves off as spiritualists and make a living off scamming other people. A routine séance goes awry for once. While trying to communicate with a grieving client’s deceased love, an ominous and threatening message goes out to Jess’s mother. Mostly to seek sanctuary, but partly to get answers, Jess and her mother go to the omniscient and confidante Lord Balthazer. During their visit, Jess learns about her parent’s past as members of the League of Ravens, a group of people that use their occult powers for good. She also learns she has inherited her own occult powers. Now deemed a mesmerist, Jess has the ability to enter people’s minds. When it is discovered that the threatening message came from the evil Mephisto, Jess is inducted into the League of Ravens, along with the light conjuring Emily and the magically musical Gabriel. Now the new and young League of Ravens must join forces to stop a rapidly spreading disease unleashed by Mephisto. The good versus evil theme could be studied in literature classes, but it’s creepy and gory setting would make for a better study of the element of fiction called mood. Recommended. Grades 5-8. (ADA)


Hamster-Saurus Rex

O’Donnell, Tom. 2016. Hamstersauras Rex. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper Children). 257pgs. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-06-237754-8.

Birds of a feather flock together, and 6th grader Sam Gibbs and his pet hamster are two of those metaphorical birds. Sam is a bit of an outcast thanks to his drawing of an anatomically incorrect picture he drew of a classmate. The hamster that suddenly showed up in Mr. Copeland’s science class looks strange thanks to its overconsumption of a bodybuilding supplement that resulted in its short arms and stout, pointy teeth. When Sam provides the class-hamster winning name (Hamstersauras Rex), an innate bond forms between the two. Sam proves his loyalty to Hamstersauras Rex when the animal escapes from its cage. Class bully Beefer Vanderkoft is on a mission to find Hammie, so he can feed it to his pet boa constrictor. Sam is determined to find Hammie and provide him a safe refuge (even if it makes his mom’s allergies flare). It takes some superhuman to save the inhuman in this science fiction animal novel. A smooth, quick read with plenty of humor. Teachers will be quick to assess the book as extremely satisfying. Parents looking to engage their reluctant reader can turn to this book to engage. Highly recommended. Grades 3-8. (ADA)


The Bolds

Clary, Julian. 2015. The Bolds. Lerner Publishing Group (Carolrhoda Books). 266pgs. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-5124-0440-1. Illustrated by David Roberts.

Taking a wild romp through the African plains doesn’t turn out well for English husband and wife tourists with the last name Bold. When Spot and Sue, two hyenas living near an African safari camp, witness the real Bolds eaten by crocodiles, they see and opportunity. Spot and Sue grab the leftover identities—names, passports, and plane tickets—and start a new life. Together Spot and Sue morph into Fred and Amelia, move to their new (stolen) suburban home, and proceed to live like humans. They eat, they laugh, and they have children/pups. They soon discover that in order to live, they need food. Fred solves the problem by getting a job writing comics for a paper, but more problems arise. Their pups misbehave at school, tails are tough to hide, and old friends are due to be honorably “discharged.” Every working solution to their problems evokes suspicion. Their suburban neighbor Mr. McNumpty keeps an especially keen eye on the odd activities of Fred and Amelia. But in the end, Mr. McNumpty lays off the new Bold family, because he’s got a secret of his own he wants to keep hidden. Excellent, awesome, best, great…this book is all of them. Social studies teachers can use this book as a study on human behavior, creative writing teachers can use this book to teach their students that fiction is writing that comes from the author’s imagination, which is why anything can happen in the plot. Anything. Like hyenas stealing identities and living among the high class. Hilarious! Highly, highly recommended. Grades 3 +. (ADA)


Heroes and Villains

Scieszka, Jon (Editor). 2016. Guys Read, Volume 7: Heroes and villains. HarperCollins Publishers (Walden Pond Press). 263pgs. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-238561-1.

A compilation of determination and perseverance, heroism and ingenuity, and bravery and courageousness. Determination and Perseverance: In one story a young immigrant boy must follow his father’s beliefs and teachings if he wants to ever be reunited with him. In another story, a young boy needs to make a difficult decision. Will he decide to preserve the security of having a job, or will he choose to preserve the good health of his family, neighbors, and the world? Heroism and Ingenuity: A thirteen year old must keep his wits, thwart drably dressed officers, defy his own family, and prove himself and the family name as worthy. Bravery and Courageousness: A young boy frightened by having nowhere to live, nothing to eat, and being coatless on cold nights has to make a difficult decision involving a tiny baby. And, a mother will do anything to protect her own child from an evil that goes against the rules of blood ties. There are more stories to read, if readers have the time—stories for the committed and the non-committed, the decisive and the indecisive, and the sure and unsure. This Guys Read book can be read for fun, or for answers. It’s a book full of stories about 20-30 pages long and organized on the theme of right and wrong. It will not disappoint. Highly recommended. Grades 5-12. (ADA)


Nancy Drew Clue Book: Movie Madness

Keene, Caroline. 2016. Nancy Drew Clue Book: Movie Madness. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing (Aladdin). 90pgs. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-5821-4. Illustrated by Peter Francis.

There are exciting times happening in River Heights. The playground is going to be the set for a new movie. The star of the show is the famous Glam Girl, but the show can’t go on without her extraordinary boots. Nancy and her friends Bess and George need some help. Glam Girl’s attractive and powerful (literally) boots go missing. The amorous, envious, and desirous are among the suspects. There is no Nancy Drew mystery that should be left unread, whether it’s original or modernized. The overall problem and the problem’s 3-5 simple solutions can be taught in any classroom—as a study of the 4th stage of plot called falling action to elementary students to the study of possible suspects to college law students. The verdict is in! This book comes highly recommended. Grades K-3, 4-12, and even college undergrads. (ADA)


Bridget Wilder: Spy-in-Training

Bernstein, Jonathan. 2015. Bridget Wilder: Spy in Training. HarperCollins Publishing (Katherine Tegen Books). 304pgs. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-238266-5.

Thirteen year old Bridget Wilder is not only an adopted middle child, but she is also a secret spy. She thinks it would be nice to be remembered, but she’s indifferent when it comes to what she actually wants. So when a package and an invitation addressed to Bridget shows up on her doorstep, she’s both excited and confused with the delivery. Unsure if it’s a joke or a for-real, Bridget accepts the invitation. The invitation interestingly leads her to a tracksuit and a pair of sneakers, neither of which sounds too exciting. It isn’t until later that the intrigue knows no bounds. The suit and shoes reveal Bridget’s super-spy abilities and eventually send her leaping in her biological father’s direction. It’s a good action adventure spy book, but it’s not great. The book is subtitled Spy-in-Training, but Bridget is assigned a monstrous mission. A mission way too big for a trainee. Recommended to read, but not recommended to teach. Grades 4-8. (ADA)


Stick Dog: Slurps Spaghetti

Watson, Tom. 2016. Stick Dog Slurps Spaghetti. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper Children). $12.99. ISBN 978-0-06-234322-2.

A juvenile animal fiction story that would best be served up restaurant style to its readers. Stick Dog leads his gang of mongrels to a dumpster, up a hill, and to a restaurant in order to fill their bellies. The five pup characters use lassos, teamwork, rocks, and reverse psychology to solve their problems and put themselves in a good position. It takes some planning, but they will all be slurping some meatballs with white-rope slop by book’s end. Young readers will yelp with glee and find their tummies full of flare and excitement after this page-turning animal romp. Bon Appetite young readers! Recommended. Grades 3-7. (ADA)


Blue Voyage

Renn, Diana. 2015. Blue Voyage. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 445pgs. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-670-01559-7.

A banquet of indiscretions set sail when teenager Zan gets caught shoplifting as a defiant gesture toward her father’s recent philandering. Zan’s distrusting mother demands her daughter go overseas with her—that way she can keep a watchful eye on Zan’s potentially unsavory behavior. The book now sets itself in Turkey, on a cruise, on the Turkish Riviera with Zan and Zan’s mom and aunt. It’s on this voyage that Zan meets an American exchange student named Sage Powell. Sage baits and hooks Zan into risky adventures then skedaddles without saying goodbye. Zan knows she herself is no longer a thief, but she somehow ends up prosecuted for the theft of several antique artifacts. Zan now must angle for a new plan and go on her own voyage. While docked, Zan finds herself on the wharf of a smuggling scandal, a missing urn, and a deeply-rooted family mystery. Bon Voyage to readers who enjoy detective mysteries on the high seas! Geography, history, and social studies teachers will surely find something to teach in this read, whether it be assigned as an in-class or an out-of-class read. Recommended. Grades 8-12. (ADA)


The Boomerang Effect

Jack, Gordon. 2016. The Boomerang Effect. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperTeen). 336pgs. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-239939-7.

Imagine this: Someone you know thinks that smoking weed and drinking alcohol is good, but then gets caught and ends up thinking differently. Now, that someone you know, must avoid military reform school and tries to convince someone else that smoking and drinking is bad. This is an example of The Boomerang Effect: when one’s original/first stance is rethought and turns into the complete opposite stance. High schooler Lawrence Barry is trying to reform his bad self. Redemption doesn’t come easily for him, when he suddenly finds himself accused of destroying the high school homecoming float. By walking, assessing, realizing, and observing, Lawrence is able to see his answer. A geeky “acquaintance,” a fence leap (or was it a fence “loop?”), and an ex-girlfriend friend all help to make the suspected Lawrence unsuspected. Literature teachers can use this whole book as a lesson on the figure of speech called antithesis, which means one part of the whole. A boomerang of a book best slung at readers who will not know at the beginning and figure it out in the end. Recommended. Grades 9-12. (ADA)


The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennet

Farrant, Natasha. 2016. The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennet. Scholastic Books (Chicken House). 320pgs. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-94031-3.

Fifteen year old Lydia Bennet is able to tell her Victorian-Age tale of love. She is a sharp shooting, horse riding, tomboy of a girl to the medi-o-cre. On the other hand, she is perfectly capable of initiating conversations and wearing dresses with and for the elite-o-cre. Lydia finds herself semi-smitten with the schmoozing whiles of a man named Mr. Darcy, after making a visit to the local library. Culturally and historically reporting, Lydia is no different from the females in contemporary, modern-day times. She grows weary of the selfish, male mentality of the past and the selfish, male expectations of the foreseen future. Feminists will agree and enjoy the book, Pride and Prejudice fans will love this read, and young females will realize that times change for the better. Teach it, read it, recommend it. Bottom line: This is a very good read. Recommended. Grades 7 +. (ADA)