Reviews for month


SPIRIT'S PRINCESS
SCHWARTZ & WADE [RANDOM HOUSE]
FRIESNER, ESTHER
Additional -- Satisfactory book but is or will be excelled in its field by other books.
6th grade to 12th grade
August 06, 2013
Amster-Burton, Laurie
Readers who have enjoyed Friesner's previous Princesses of Myth titles (Nobody's Prize, Sphinx's Princess) may take an interest in Spirit's Princess and its sequel, Spirit's Chosen (4/2013). Only hardcore historical fiction enthusiasts are likely to finish this plodding 443-page novel, however. Himiko, a clan leader's daughter in third century Japan, longs to break free from her family's expectations and prove herself as a hunter like her brothers. Her adventurous spirit leads her to contact with neighboring clans, and to training in the magical powers of a shaman. Mystical connections with nature figure importantly in the story, which is somewhat repetitious in detailing the ups and downs of Himiko's life.
SEARCH FOR SAFETY
SCHOLASTIC [SCHOLASTIC]
LANGAN, JOHN
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
6th grade to 12th grade
August 08, 2013
Amster-Burton, Laurie
When Ben's mother suddenly decides to marry her boyfriend, Ben hopes for the best with his new home, new school, and new stepfather. To Ben's horror his stepfather turns out to be a controlling drinker who physically abuses both Ben and his mother. With the support of new friends and concerned staff at Bluford High, Ben takes steps to protect his mother and turn his own life around. Like the other titles in the Bluford series, Search for Safety is a short, fast-paced book that appeals to reluctant readers. The importance of self determination and hard work is emphasized without moralizing. Search for Safety works as a stand-alone book or part of the Bluford series; include this title on thematic lists about domestic violence and dealing with family problems.
Margaret and the Moth Tree
ORCA BOOK PUBLISHERS [ORCA BOOK PUBLISHERS]
Trogen, Kari
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
3rd grade to 5th grade
August 09, 2013
Stein, Valerie
Margaret is trapped in a terrible orphanage by its deceitful director, who dupes the Trustees into believing that everything is sweetness and light. As a result of being left in silence by an early caregiver, Margaret develops a strange gift: she can hear things most of us can’t. One of the things she discovers she can hear is moths. Talking. Her astonishing relationship with the moths in the woods near the orphanage results in some astonishing events, and things turn out much better than we have been allowed to hope throughout much of the book.This is an odd and lovely story. It will never fly off the library shelves, but I already know which student I would hand it to, and I know it will start an interesting conversation.
CRACKED
UNKNOWN [UNKNOWN]
WALTON, K M
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
9th grade to 12th grade/Young Adult
August 09, 2013
Stein, Valerie
Bullying can take so many forms. This book takes it on in ways we need to notice. This book, though it holds much in the way of convenient rescues and outcomes which could be seen as serendipitous, is still very important for teens. It is told with two very teen powerful voices, both of which convey experiences we’d rather flinch from. There is the grandfather who beats Bull. The parents who are disappointed in Victor because he only got a perfect SAT score in math, and who punish him with words instead of fists. We don’t always know who the bullies in our lives might be, but it is a mistake to dismiss this book, as some have, for not addressing the issue of school bullies (Bull is one, and has targeted Victor since 2nd grade) more directly, focusing instead on the bullies at home. That, for me, was the difference in this book, since our focus as educators is often only on the bullies we can see. Each young man’s voice speaks out from home and heart and a deep sense of loss. Though the problems seem to resolve themselves quickly, the reality is that the storytelling technique used to convey deep hurt and a move toward healing works - at least it did for me, and likely will for students I know who might need this book.
BELL BANDIT
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY [HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY]
DAVIES, JACQUELINE
Additional -- Satisfactory book but is or will be excelled in its field by other books.
3rd grade to 5th grade
August 09, 2013
Stein, Valerie
Sometimes it’s hard to rate #3 in a series, but I didn't have any trouble understanding the characters or where they’d been. This is a fine realistic fiction and will fill the bill for many students. Jessie, her brother Evan and their Mom are visiting Grandma for the New Year. But everything is different this year. There was a fire. And now Grandma sometimes forgets who Evan is. And worst of all, someone has stolen the bell from Lovell’s Hill, which is rung each year on New Year’s Eve by the oldest and youngest members of the community. Things just won’t be right if the bell doesn't ring out at midnight. The kids work to preserve tradition - and their family - in this heartwarming story. There is better characterization in fiction for this age group, but for those students who are looking for series fiction about kids that's not too challenging, this is a good choice.
CASE OF THE SINKING CIRCUS
PRICE STERN SLOAN [PRICE STERN SLOAN]
ROSENBERG, AARON
Harrington, David
Additional -- Satisfactory book but is or will be excelled in its field by other books.
Kindergarten to 3rd grade
August 22, 2013
Stein, Valerie
This duo certainly knows how to solve mysteries in their free time off from helping Mom and Dad in the family pizza joint. Sister and brother Pete and Penny love puzzles and math, and they love to help out! They each have different gifts for solving problems, Pete with his love of math and codes, and Penny with some spy techniques. The simple storytelling provides the reader with lots of clues and (rather awful, "punny") names that help illustrate who’s who. Text is accessible to struggling readers, with good word choice and comfortable font size, but it's got the feel of a chapter book. This is #4 in a series. Others are Case of the Secret Sauce, Case of the Topsy-Turvy Toy, and Case of the Bookstore Burglar. The book got an AD rather than an AD+ because it has actual graphics pages for solving the puzzles; its suitability for general circulation is marginal, though teachers or library staff could provide paper for solving the clues if so desired.
CIRCLE OF CRANES
DIAL [DIAL]
LEBOX, ANNETTE
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
6th grade to 12th grade
August 25, 2013
Garrard, Thom
The elders of a poor Chinese village invest their scarce resources to enable the orphan Suyin travel to "Gold Mountain" to earn riches for them all. The trip is horrific, and the reality of New York City is quite different from what she expected. The crooks who have brought her there are running a sweatshop where she is mistreated and must work for mere pennies. Surprisingly, the reader finds that the setting is contemporary, not historical, and that there is a fantasy component to this story. Suyin learns that her mother was queen of the Crane Sisterhood, and that she is not dead, but trapped in-between in the Grey World. Suyin must figure out how to save her mother from that existence and preserve the sisterhood, as well as how to save her friends from the abuse by the sweatshop bosses. In order to succeed, she prove herself worthy by risking her life and the lives of loved ones. Blending elements from the Asian folk tale "The Crane Wife" with the hardships experienced by undocumented sweatshop workers results in a complex and intriguing novel.
FERAL NIGHTS
CANDLEWICK PRESS [CANDLEWICK PRESS]
SMITH, CYNTHIA LEITICH
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
9th grade to 12th grade/Young Adult
August 28, 2013
Datisman, Eve
Fans of the Tantalize series will be happy to see the crew from Sanguini’s get their own stories. While Quincie P. Morris is on vacation, Clyde the werepossum has his own mystery to solve, the death of his best friend the werearamadillo Travis who is haunting him. No, really, follows him around, gives him clues. Clyde is also worried about Aimee, Travis’ girlfriend. Is it okay, if you like maybe really like, like your best friend’s girl even or especially if he’s dead. Then in saunters in Yoshi, a werecat trying to find out what happened to his sister and who is also a key suspect in Travis’ death. After all three are kidnapped by an underground hunting club where shifters are the prey, and the rich and bored, and rich and living, and rich and undead are the hunters. (“The Most Dangerous Game,” anyone?). There are still surprises on the island, not the least of which are Yeti and an interesting alliance of suspects and investigators. Action, favorite side-kicks getting their spotlight, and new characters are on tap in this new series.