Reviews for month


Playing With Fire
HYPERION PRESS [HYPERION PRESS]
Hale, Bruce
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
5th grade to 8th grade
July 02, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
Max Segredo's 13th birthday involves a house fire that gets him removed from yet another foster home. As an orphan, his life has been chaotic, but his new placement is different. He's put into an orphanage--one that trains spies. When your classes consist of lock-picking, code-breaking, and various stealth techniques you can pretty much bet that "field trips" are going to be unusual. And is it really true that all the good bad guys have a shark tank? Max is unsure who to trust. Then he finds out that his father may still be alive and it becomes his goal to reunite with him and have a genuine family. Max needs to decide just what "family" is, and which side he's on. This is a high action first book in the "School for S.P.I.E.S." series. Max is a fun character with a mouth that is only going to get him into trouble, and a confidence in his own abilities that is sure to lead to disaster...unless he really is that good. I have a high demand for spy literature, and this certainly fits the bill.
Battling Boy
FIRST SECOND [FIRST SECOND]
Pope, Paul
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
4th grade to 6th grade
July 05, 2014
Seasholes, Craig L
Sent to a monster-besieged Earth by his heavenly parents as part of his coming-of-age quest, Battling Boy has to find a way to become a hero. He's got his own super powers all right, and they are somehow linked to the characteristics of the creatures that adorn a dozen t-shirts his parents have packed for his journey. His first attempt to use his T-Rex powers to defeat the metal munching, car-nivorous Humbaba falls short however and he has to call Dad to send down a lightening bolt to help him out. Within a day there's scads more strange, snarling, tooth-gnashing beasts with bad intentions united to get Battling Boy by the end of this first installment. By the book's end, Battling Boy finds himself with an ally; Aurora West, the determined daughter of recently-deceased superhero whose prequel is due out September 2014. Book length, full color comics from FirstSecond are generally a cut above the rest of the genre, and Paul Pope's three previous Eisner awards attest to his established reputation as a high-energy, action packed skill as a graphic artist. It should be popular with action-comics fans, earning an AD+ based on readership and not its literary merit.
Five Lives Of Our Cat Zook
Amulet Books [ALBERT WHITMAN & COMPANY]
Rocklin, Joanne
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
3rd grade to 5th grade
July 05, 2014
Seasholes, Craig L
In describing her "Rainbow Whopper Theory" author Joanne Rocklin's ten year old narrator Oona sets the tone for this heartwarming story of a family and their cat, Zook. "I tell whoppers. Whoppers are lies, plain and simple. Some whoppers are worse than other whoppers, and those are nothing to be proud of. But some whoppers are stories. Those are the good kind." And this is one of those. Oona's storytelling helps keep her memory of her father alive, but after Zook takes sick and her mom's hours get cut back at work, Oona's feelings of guilt over her two-and-a-half-year-old yellow whopper (hiding an important truth through omission) surface and look to make family troubles even worse. Life's ups and downs are gently treated in this chapter book likely to appeal to cat lovers and fans of Sharon Creech's similarily poignant novels for intermediate readers.
Crush Control
RAZORBILL [PENGUIN]
Jabaley, Jennifer
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
7th grade to 9th grade
July 09, 2014
Turpin, Sharon
Willow has been best friends with Max since birth, and though she’s been in Vegas for eight years, they’ve maintained daily contact. When she was nine she hypnotized him to be her best friend always, but now that she’s returned to Georgia for her senior year she feels more than friendship for him. She sees this move as an opportunity to reinvent herself, and not be just her mother, the real hypnotist’s sidekick or the responsible one. Unexpectedly she uses her mother’s hypnotist act to gain friends and make Max jealous. Cheerleader Mia needs Willow to help her overcome her fear of trying dangerous stunts. Willow hypnotizes cool Quinton to help him stop sleepwalking, but includes having him adore her. Both have disastrous results—Mia with broken bones, and Quinton with suffocating adoration to the detriment of his grades and football. Willow, unable to admit her deeds to her mother, teams with new friend Georgia to try a cleansing potion, voodoo, banishment and a Cut the Mojo love charm, all to no avail. Despite these last acts being over the top and predictably unsuccessful, the story keeps moving with a satisfactory ending—accepting oneself for who you are, and not holding perceived perfection as the goal.
Oh Dear, Geoffrey!
TEMPLAR [TEMPLAR]
O'neill, Gemma
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
Kindergarten to 3rd grade
July 11, 2014
Turpin, Sharon
The great, brilliant artwork will draw readers to this picture book about a young giraffe that is very TALL, has a very LONG neck and is very, very CLUMSY. With his wibbly-wobbly legs, bendy-bucky knees, he often tangles, trips, skips, and flips…scaring away the land creatures he is trying to befriend. After disasters with the meerkats, elephants, zebras, warthogs, rhinos and flamingos he seeks refuge eating the leaves of his favorite tree. At this more appropriate height he encounters creatures that appreciate how tall he is and soon makes friends with the monkeys and birds. The artwork surpasses the story, but children will enjoy both plus understand the message about friendship. This is a well bound, well made, sturdy production, and is the author/illustrator’s first picture book.
Baby Elephant In The Wild
Hmh Books For Young Readers [Hmh Books For Young Readers]
O'connell, Caitlin
O'connell, Caitlin & Timothy Rodwell
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
Kindergarten to 3rd grade
July 11, 2014
Turpin, Sharon
This husband and wife duo have documented Liza the elephant’s first year of life while they studied the elephants on a wild reserve in Namibia. The color photos are close-up and the details specific such as weighing 250 pounds at birth with more hair and having 40,000 muscles in her trunk that take time to perfect movement. Liza’s role in the family, her activities including mud baths, playing, being protected and that she will live with her mother her whole life prove interesting information for the primary readers. The text is of nonthreatening, medium size making it appropriate for read alone or read aloud. The author has studied these elephants for 20 years and is the co-author of The Elephant Scientist.
Octopuses
Heinemann Raintree Library [Heinemann Raintree Library]
Claybourne, Anna
Highly Recommended -- Superior book everyone should buy.
All ages
July 11, 2014
Turpin, Sharon
What an amazing, intelligent creature is introduced in this Raintree Perspectives Animal Abilities title! The 32 pages are chock full of intriguing facts, photos and diagrams that document the octopus’s special attributes such as its ink, three hearts, beak, suckers, nine brains, eight arms, forms of camouflage and mimicry. Its ability to solve problems, learn mazes, play with toys, escape, and regenerate arms prove fascinating to adults and young audiences alike. The writing is so clear and straight forward first grade listeners were captivated. This is an outstanding example of what nonfiction can be with all of the desired features from table of contents through detailed glossary, bibliography and index. Others in this series include Bats, Dogs, Elephants, Orcas and Rats.
Not My Girl
ANNICK PRESS [ANNICK PRESS]
Jordan-Fenton, Christy
Grimard, Gabrielle
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
Kindergarten to 3rd grade
July 11, 2014
Turpin, Sharon
This is the picture book sequel to Fatty Legs and follows the story this mother and daughter-in-law team originally told in A Stranger at Home. Margaret’s memoir follows her return home after two difficult years at the “outsider’s” school on the mainland of the Northwest Territories in the 1940s. Now age 10 she encounters difficulties relearning her native language, how to eat the foods, and find a way to contribute. Her mother’s original reaction upon seeing her is, “Not my daughter,” since she looks and smells differently. Fortunately she is soon embraced by her family, but struggles to reclaim her place. When she shows promise driving the dogsled team she is then entrusted with more responsibility. The artwork befits the time and place. If important memoirs are needed for the biography or social studies sections this and When I was Eight (Fatty Legs retold in picture book form) are well worth adding and sharing with primary students. Third graders studying Native Americans found these circumstances eye-opening and lead right into the chapter books relating similar true stories.
Spring Break
Simon Pulse [SIMON & SCHUSTER]
Applegate, Katherine
Additional -- Satisfactory book but is or will be excelled in its field by other books.
7th grade to 9th grade
July 12, 2014
Turpin, Sharon
Originally published in 1996 this title in the middle of the Summer series was reissued in 2010. As a result a few things are dated i.e. limited access to cell phones, using pay phones, and MTV. This is fun, entertaining popcorn chic lit involving good hearted Summer, who lives in Minnesota, but meets up with her rich, fashionista cousin Diana and a Cuban friend Marquez on spring break along with Summer’s Wisconsin boyfriend of nine months, Seth. On the plane to their spring break in Florida Summer meets Austin, but when he suddenly exits she tracks him down to return the journal he forgot. They spend the day at Disney World where she learns he’s very taken with her, has a possible gene for Huntington’s disease, and is on his way to visit his estranged father, who is in its last stages. This mini-romance complicates her spring break on an expensive yacht moored in the marina especially trying to explain Austin to Seth. Subterfuge does not succeed, so Summer has to confront her feelings for both guys. Add in a subplot where her long lost kidnapped brother has left Minnesota to return to Florida and her friend Marquez, who’s running away from her life, unexpectedly finds him at a bird sanctuary, more romance blooms.
Balanced Meals
CHILDS WORLD [CHILDS WORLD]
Clark, Katie
Additional -- Satisfactory book but is or will be excelled in its field by other books.
Kindergarten to 3rd grade
July 13, 2014
Sepessy, Lona
Child’s World’s Healthy Eating with MYPLATE series explains the basics of the newest government sponsored nutrition model and is designed to support First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. The 24-page library bound books each contain 3 - 4 chapters, a hands on activity, glossary, To Learn More and index. Balanced Meals provides an overview of the five food groups, mentioning reasons why each group is necessary, how much is needed daily, different foods in each group and a size equivalency. Well-labeled photographs add a splash of color, but the text could use some additional editing as it becomes repetitive.The brightly colored My Plate graphic shows how the foods are apportioned and readers are told to have all 5 food groups at each meal. An example of a day's menu is included with an activity to arrange a plate of food using the model graphic. Some families and nutritionists disagree with specifics in the government plan so librarians might want to be prepared for some dissent. With today's emphasis on health and fitness, this is an adequate series for an elementary library collection but Balanced Meals is overly general and may not be missed.
Protein Group
CHILDS WORLD [CHILDS WORLD]
Kennington, Tammy
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
Kindergarten to 3rd grade
July 14, 2014
Sepessy, Lona
Child’s World’s Healthy Eating with MYPLATE series explains the basics of the newest government sponsored nutrition model and is designed to support First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. The three chapters define and describe what protein is (an essential nutrient), how it helps our body and good sources of it. Vocabulary words including amino acids, nutrients, minerals and vegetarians, are bold orange and defined in context as well as in the glossary. While the intended audience may not be reading at this level, basic information about protein's role in good nutrition is adequate for the K-3 grades and will most likely be read with adults. Colorful photographs illustrate various forms of protein and vegetarianism is explained as well as ways to access non-animal based protein. A recipe for egg drop soup appears fool proof and simple enough for the youngest readers to do with an adult watching. With the emphasis on healthy eating and healthy lifestyles, elementary libraries might want to include a basic series of good nutrition and health and this is one that will meet that need.
Finding Somewhere
DELACORTE PRESS [RANDOM HOUSE]
Monninger, Joseph
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
7th grade to 9th grade
July 15, 2014
Turpin, Sharon
Speed, an old horse rescued from the Humane Society after years of being treated like a slave for fairs and pony rides, is slated to be put down the next day. Sixteen-year-old Hattie, one of the Fergusons' stable hands, cannot let this horse that's touched her heart not experience what it is to be a true horse. Thus she and her 18-year-old bipolaral friend Delores kidnap him from the Fergusons and drive cross-country with a trailer stolen from a relative. Though their intent is to get Speed to a rangeland in the West they don't get past Minnesota where Speed takes a downturn. Through the help of some cute, teenage rodeo cowboys they find an appropriate final home for Speed in Minnesota. The people they meet along the way are mostly good, and the lessons they take from this experience make them stronger despite initially upsetting their parents. This tale is a bit of adventure, philosophy, wrangling with ideas and where the girls fit in this world that makes for a satisfying story. Due to mention of a suicide attempt, this would be for Gr. 7+.
Dairy Group
CHILDS WORLD [CHILDS WORLD]
Clark, Katie
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
Kindergarten to 3rd grade
July 15, 2014
Sepessy, Lona
From the cover photograph of a young boy with a “got milk” mustache, to the idyllic description of a dairy farm on “rolling hills dotted with cows,” dairy is promoted as one of the 5 necessary food groups and available in many forms such as cheese, yogurt and ice cream. The vocabulary words including pasteurization, calories, bacteria and fortified are described in text and dairy’s importance as a source of calcium, potassium and protein are emphasized. MyPlate guidelines say that children from 4-8 need 2 1/2 cups of dairy daily and 9-13 need 3 cups daily. There is controversy though about dairy’s inclusion in the My Plate design, as many people live quite healthily without dairy, obtaining the same vitamins and minerals from other sources. While lactose intolerance is not mentioned, fortified soy milk is twice mentioned as a way to get needed calcium and brief mention is given to other milking animals such as goats, sheep, reindeer, buffalo and camels. The series provides basic descriptive information with colorful photographs and is adequate for an elementary library serving primary grade students.
Vegetables Group
CHILDS WORLD [CHILDS WORLD]
Tometich, Annabelle
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
Kindergarten to 3rd grade
July 17, 2014
Sepessy, Lona
Eyecatching photographs of colorful baskets of assorted vegetables are interspersed with basic information about the importance of the vegetable group in the newest government nutritional program, MyPlate. A brief overview of the program is followed by descriptions of plant nutrients, parts of plants that are commonly eaten and legumes that are an important source of protein for vegetarian diets. Vitamins, minerals and fiber’s importance as well as vegetables eaten around the world are explained at a primary grade level. The final chapter gives suggestions for ways to incorporate vegetables at meals and snacks as well as an activity making “celery cars” stuffed with peanut butter or cream cheese. Glossary, read more, moderated websites and index also included. This is an adequate primary series to meet the need for nutritional information with the emphasis on health.
Sugars And Fats
CHILDS WORLD [CHILDS WORLD]
Reinke, Beth Bence
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
Kindergarten to 3rd grade
July 17, 2014
Sepessy, Lona
Young readers will learn much about sugars and fats and their harmful effects in a typical American diet and why they are excluded from the MyPlate guidelines. Natural sugar found in milk and fruits is compared to sugar added to most of our manufactured food products and a full paragraph plus a list is dedicated to giving all the different names for sweeteners. Six common foods with the quantity of sugar found in a serving are also listed. Fats are divided into solid and liquid, saturated, trans fats and unsaturated and recommendations are given for what to avoid as well as nutritious foods such as avocado and nuts. Substitutes for not-so-good fats are given as well. The Hands-on-Activity instructs readers to read labels of breakfast cereal looking for sugars under all aliases and comparing the quantities. This book would be useful in school wide health programs. Glossary, index, read more and monitored websites are included.
Thicker Than Water
Disney-Hyperion [Disney-Hyperion]
Hale, Bruce
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
5th grade to 8th grade
July 20, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
In this second book in the “School for S.P.I.E.S.” series, young Max Segredo is establishing his creds as a teen spy. However, his new home and school are under siege. A government official is investigating the orphanage. Their evil opponents L.O.T.U.S. are trying to reduce their money stream, thus making them go out of business, and there is obviously a leak of some kind giving information to their enemies. What’s a spy to do? Well, you could try stealing a secret mind control device for a multi-billionaire, of course. This is another fast-paced spy novel designed for the middle school crowd with nothing that would preclude elementary students from enjoying it. Bad metaphors, plenty of slang, fun characters, and enough tension to keep you on the edge of your seat make this series a winner.
Magic Trap
Hmh Books For Young Readers [Hmh Books For Young Readers]
Davies, Jacqueline
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
4th grade to 6th grade
July 20, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
In this fifth book in the “Lemonade War” series, brother and sister team Jessie and Evan are back. Jessie is perfecting his magic tricks and his sister is still interested in making money. Perhaps putting on a magic show would meet both their needs? Then, when their irresponsible, usually absent father ends up caring for them while their mother is on a business trip, they get their chance. At first things seem to go fairly well, but when Dad gets called away and the children end up facing a dangerous situation on their own Evan and Jessie have to unite to stay safe and alive. This is another well-written entry in the series, and sure to appeal to fans. There are instructions for magic tricks throughout the book, that will interest and delight readers. Add this to your collection and, if you don’t have the other books in the series, buy them.
ASK AMY GREEN : LOVE AND OTHER DRAMA-RAMAS!
CANDLEWICK PRESS [WALKER & COMPANY]
WEBB, SARAH
Highly Recommended -- Superior book everyone should buy.
6th grade to 12th grade
July 20, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
This book has been sitting on the review table since 2012 so I picked it up with a certain amount of trepidation, which seemed validated by the first few chapters. Amy Green lives in Ireland and the layers of local slang, not to mention the amount of snogging, are a bit off-putting at first. HOWEVER, once you are into the book Amy Green grows on you. Her problems seem realistic, and her boy troubles, and friend troubles will resonate with middle school readers. At her core, Amy is a resourceful and dynamic character whose heart is in the right place, even if her actions might need more thought before implementation. Helping her friends expands Amy’s world and draws readers in. By the end of the book I was glad I had also taken the second book in the series to review. If you can get students past the first three chapters they will embrace this series.
HOMECOMING
STONE ARCH BOOKS [CAPSTONE PRESS INC]
GALLAGHER, DIANA G
Additional Minus -- Mediocre.
3rd grade to 5th grade
July 20, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
Claudia and Monica are Freshman girls at a high school that has combined two rival schools. Homecoming is coming up. Spirit Week is here. The big football game is approaching. The two diverse populations need to unite as one to win the big game. Told in alternating chapters from Monica’s and Claudia’s viewpoints this book follows them through the week. Part of a series, this is not worth adding to a school library. The book is shallow, reading like a Nancy Drew without the mystery. Characters are stereotypical. The girls spend their entire time thinking about boys and clothes. The boys spend their time thinking about football. Though told in two viewpoints, the voices are identical and insipid. Don't waste your money. The reading level is low, but no self-respecting high-interest/low-vocabulary high school student would embrace this book.
Cave-In
SCHOLASTIC [SCHOLASTIC]
Monninger, Joseph
Additional -- Satisfactory book but is or will be excelled in its field by other books.
9th grade to 12th grade/Young Adult
July 20, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
A group of teenagers are dropped off on an isolated island with two instructors in November. Their job is to clear off trash to encourage puffin nesting. They are exploring the powder magazine of an old fort when the earthquake hits and everything changes. The exit collapses. Death and injury result. Nobody is coming for them for days. They have to save themselves. Some rise to the occasion, while others draw into themselves. Yet it is only by working together that they can survive, if survival is even possible. All their supplies are destroyed and their hoped-for rescue is not coming. With a hint of “Lord of the Flies,” this is a grim story, with plenty of angst and teen selfishness. Clearly aimed at the YA crowd this would be a good choice for high-interest/low vocabulary collections. Still, few of the characters rise to the challenge and after a while you stop caring who survives.
War Spies
SCHOLASTIC [SCHOLASTIC]
Polansky, Daniel
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
6th grade to 12th grade
July 20, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
Throughout history spies have been used by both sides to seek an advantage. This collected biography contains brief, yet surprisingly detailed, biographies of six spies. From England’s Sir Francis Walsingham in the 1500’s to double-agent Kim Philby after WWII, readers learn a bit about spycraft, subterfuge, and the life of a spy. Benedict Arnold, Belle Boyd, and Allen Dulles are also included. The most fascinating, to this reviewer, was Virginia Hall who didn’t allow a wooden leg to stop her from doing extraordinary things during WWII, mostly in France. The book is intriguing, providing interesting insights. A thorough index, bibliography, and glossary make it useful for report-writing as well.
Colonel Theodore Roosevelt
HOLIDAY HOUSE [HOLIDAY HOUSE]
Adler, David A
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
6th grade to 12th grade
July 20, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
Theodore Roosevelt was larger than life and David Adler does him justice in this excellent biography. He follows Roosevelt from his ill-health in youth to his adventures in hunting, exploring, and politics. It is clear that the author admires his subject, and it’s hard not to feel the same way reading about TR’s exploits. Although not politically correct in today’s views, Roosevelt can be admired for his strong opinions, and even stronger moral ethics that powered much of his life. The author has done his research, and there are plenty of well-captioned photographs and artwork, black and white. One gets a real feel for the man who led the country with panache and unbridled enthusiasm. I think I finally understand why he is on Mt. Rushmore.
Too Good To Be True
DARBY CREEK PUBLISHERS [DARBY CREEK PUBLISHERS]
Friedman, Laurie
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
5th grade to 8th grade
July 20, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
April Sinclair is back with the histrionics and highs and lows that one might expect of a 13 year old girl. When April and her best friend Brynn try out for the dance team only one of them makes it—April. This results in a split in their friendship. Then there’s the whole issue of April’s boyfriend, Billy, and the neighbor boy, Matt, who kisses her. When April trusts a new friend with this secret her world falls down around her. Now everyone’s talking about her, she has no friends, and life is miserable. How is she going to get over this and move on? Friedman captures 13 perfectly, and the challenges April faces are realistic. Learning to handle these sorts of situations is part of growing up and the author shows solutions that are practical even if they're often hard and don’t seem exactly fair. But hey, life isn’t fair. (Wait, I hear my mother's voice...) Body issues, boyfriend issues, growing up…girls are going to love April’s take on life.
Can You Say Catastrophe?
DARBY CREEK PUBLISHERS [DARBY CREEK PUBLISHERS]
Friedman, Laurie
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
5th grade to 8th grade
July 20, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
Do you remember 13? The high highs? The low lows? Meet April Sinclair. Thirteenis a big year for her. A first kiss…from two different boys, friend trouble, embarrassing parents and siblings. Life is a catastrophe and she acts out as only a 13-year-old can. This results in the vacation from heck with her family as she is denied her chance to attend camp with her friends. Nobody seems to recognize the trials she is going through, and her parents keep talking about “responsibility.” Things, however, turn around, and life isn’t so bad after all. Told in a journal format, this captures beautifully the trials and tribulations of a 13-year-old girl—not enough “booty” in her backside, mismatched boobs, tampon troubles and all. While perfect for middle school, this is exactly the sort of book my more mature 5th grade girls are looking for.
GEOMANCER'S COMPASS
TUNDRA BOOKS [TUNDRA BOOKS]
HARDY, MELISSA
Highly Recommended -- Superior book everyone should buy.
6th grade to 12th grade
July 20, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
Combine an ancient Chinese curse with modern virtual reality tech, and throw in the subjugation of Chinese workers at the turn of the century in Canada, and you get a sharp, well-written fantasy/sci-fi book with sparkling characters, a delightful sense of whimsy, and scary bits that will make your skin crawl. Miranda Liu discovers her Chinese-Canadian family is cursed because an ancestor’s bones lie buried incorrectly and his ghost is literally sucking the life out of them. She and her ADHD cousin, Brian, are off to find the bones, save the family, and try to keep from being arrested in the process. It is refreshing to read a YA book without romance as the cousins—Miranda with her germaphobe rigidness, and Brian with his gregarious nature and bottomless stomach, (and let’s not forget an ancestor’s ghost, appearing in avatar form) take readers on a wild ride. The plot is great, and you end up learning a lot about the history of the Chinese in Canada, without even realizing that you're being educated. Crisp, compelling, hilarious—this is a fabulous book that is hard to put down.
SAILING TO FREEDOM
HENRY HOLT & COMPANY (BYR) [MACMILLAN]
STILES, MARTHA BENNETT
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
4th grade to 6th grade
July 20, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
It’s 1839 and Ray Ingle wants nothing more than to follow his father and uncle and go to sea. Deemed too small, he’s forced to stay on land—a dreary fate indeed. Then a series of events, and a mischievous pet monkey, give him the chance he wanted. He’s on board his uncle’s ship helping the cook. The monkey, however, is still a problem. The danger of his new occupation is quite real. More dangerous, however, is what Ray discovers they’re carrying. The Fugitive Slave Act is in force, and Ray finds himself having to decide where he stands on the subject of slavery. The story is mostly told from Ray’s point of view, with short chapters in between chronicling a slave boy’s journey to, hopefully, freedom. The writing is rich with detail, drawing the reader in. The characters are well-drawn and the book goes from humorous to dangerous in the flick of a page. This would be a good addition to your historical fiction collections.
Sultan's Tigers
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY [HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY]
Lacey, Josh
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
5th grade to 8th grade
July 20, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
In this sequel to “Island of Thieves” Tom is back with his ethically-challenged uncle who is always looking for a quick score and a pretty girl. Tom’s grandfather is dead, and now someone is after some letters he had in his care. They tell the tale of an ancestor who stole a jewel-encrusted tiger in India two hundred years before. That tiger might be the answer to Tom’s uncle’s money troubles that resulted from previous bad decisions. Of course there are others after the tiger who are even more amoral than his uncle so it’s off to India to find the tiger and make the most money possible out of it. Tom is not that different from his uncle--he doesn't think things through and tends to trend toward the expedient rather than the morally correct action. Still, this is another fast-paced adventure that boys will enjoy, and the author brings the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of India to life for the reader.
Squeeze Play
HYPERION PRESS [HYPERION PRESS]
Ripken, Cal, Jr
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
5th grade to 8th grade
July 20, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
Corey Maduro loves baseball, or at least he did until problems started mounting. He’s in a hitting slump. Katelyn, the only girl on his team, is constantly on his case trying to take away his plays and bad-mouthing him both in public and private. Then, of course, there’s the loss of his mother a year ago. His biggest problem right now, however, is his father. His father never misses a game, and is one of those overly-involved parents with a short fuse who finds fault with his son’s plays, the coach’s choices, the other team, and the umpire’s calls. Worse, he voices his displeasure loudly and at times physically. When Corey’s team heads to a tournament he hopes that by keeping his head down he can avoid trouble, but his luck doesn't hold. This is a well-written, fast-paced sports book with great game scenes, but equally vivid depictions of friendships, rivalries, and home life. Readers feel Corey’s pain, and rejoice in his triumphs. If the other books by this author team are as good they should all be in both elementary and middle school libraries.
Ghost In The Glass House
CLARION [CLARION]
Wallace, Carey
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
5th grade to 8th grade
July 20, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
It’s the 1920’s and twelve-year-old Clare’s mother is part of the well-to-do crowd who travel around the world, living superficial lives. She has been dragging her daughter along with her. Their vagabond existence is due less to shallowness than a desire to escape the sorrow of Clare’s father’s death. Now in a summer home with a glass house in the gardens, Clare discovers a ghost—a boy near her age. Her friends in the land of the living are in much the same situation she is, and their outward problems mask deeper issues. But who is the ghost, and why is he still there? This is a gentle, evocative tale. What is extraordinary is the writing. The author uses finely crafted similes and descriptions to create a three-dimensional world around her equally well-defined characters. Sometimes you get engrossed by the sheer beauty of her word choice. While the ghost story doesn’t have enough action to draw in those readers looking for "something scary," thoughtful readers will revel in the exquisite language and beautifully-crafted presentation of a sincere and heart-touching story.
Twelve Minutes To Midnight
ALBERT WHITMAN & COMPANY [ALBERT WHITMAN & COMPANY]
Edge, Christopher
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
5th grade to 8th grade
July 20, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
It is the turn of the twentieth century in England and 13-year-old Penelope is a famous author, though nobody knows it. She writes macabre stories under a pseudonym, Montgomery Flitch, and hires an actor to be her stand-in for public appearances. When Flitch is called on to investigate weird happenings at Bedlam Hospital, however, Penelope finds herself thrust into a bizarre mystery involving spiders, prophetic dreams, and the fate of the world. This is a taut, well-written narrative that provides a fine sense of place, and good character development. The plot races along at a brisk clip, and is intriguing. But how does the villain know the years the prophecy refers to and why would anyone believe her? That hole in the plot requires a real leap of faith. And the end of the book seems to have been added on hastily, lacking the cogency of the beginning. Still, as I said this is generally extremely well-written and is a new an interesting book in this age of dystopian fiction.
Switched At Birthday
SCHOLASTIC [SCHOLASTIC]
Standiford, Natalie
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
5th grade to 8th grade
July 20, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
It’s odd that Lavender and Scarlet share the same birthday. They are in no way alike. Lavender is dumpy, clumsy, and comes from a poor but loving family. Scarlet is polished, stylish, rich, and popular. They both want the same part in the school play, but only one has the talent for it. A candle, a cake, a wish and each wakes up the next morning in the other’s body. Having to live someone else’s life is hard, and each discovers that the other’s life is not at all what they expected. Only by working together might they be able to get things back to normal. While the premise is hardly new, the author approaches it in a fresh way and creates interesting and believable characters. Sure there are some stereotypes—the mean girls, the nerds… but those stereotypes are there to make a point. Nobody is completely what you think and nobody is so easily labeled. This was a fun, satisfying quick read. Hey, even my Mom liked it!
Worlds We Make
HYPERION PRESS [HYPERION PRESS]
Crewe, Megan
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
7th grade to 9th grade
July 20, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
In this, the third and final book in “The Fallen World” series, our teen heroes are desperately trying to make their way to the CDC in Atlanta with the vaccine for the plague that has killed much of the world’s population. Kaelyn and her friends have made it out of Canada, but they are being tracked by a warlord who has his own plans for the vaccine. Still, as she contacts the CDC Kaelyn begins to worry about exactly who would be a good steward of this life-saving serum. Everyone wanting the vaccine seems to have an agenda for its use—power, revenge, control. As things come down to the wire Kaelyn must make a choice that will help determined what kind of new world will be born from the seeds of the plague. Will she have the courage to do what is best for others, despite the risk? This ends the series well, although readers will (spoiler alert) mourn the passing of several key characters. Dystopia fans will doubtless find this a compelling teen series.
Feral Curse
CANDLEWICK PRESS [CANDLEWICK PRESS]
Smith, Cynthia Leitich
Additional -- Satisfactory book but is or will be excelled in its field by other books.
9th grade to 12th grade/Young Adult
July 20, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
When Kayla comes out of the closet and tells her boyfriend, Ben, that she is actually a werecat she doesn’t expect what happens next. Soon Ben is dead, a carousel is cursed, and werepeople are being drawn to her small Texas town, and to her, each with an agenda. Since there is strong anti-wereperson sentiment in the country, this becomes very complicated. (Shades of X-men.) Readers of “Feral Nights” will recognize characters who are back for an encore performance in this YA novel that involves lots of shape-shifting, naked teenagers (see aforementioned shape-shifting), some angst, and plenty of potential romance. And, of course, the curse must be broken. Since many loose ends are left hanging one must assume this is the middle book in a trilogy, and that the battle for were-rights is about to commence.
Mousemobile
HYPERION PRESS [HYPERION PRESS]
Breitrose, Prudence
Yue, Stephanie
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
3rd grade to 5th grade
July 21, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
The highly-evolved mice from "Mousenet" are back, and trouble is brewing. Someone is onto their agenda to stop global climate change and now they, and their human companions are being chased across country in an RV. Megan is desperate to initiate her mother into the small group of humans who know about the mice, so she can stop lying, but her mother is away at a camp where she is educating Hollywood stars on climate change so they can use their considerable influence to convince the world of the truth of their cause. This is a fun, fast-paced story with lots of humor and excellent writing. Occasional black and white pictures add to the fun. Owners of the first book will want this one. However, the author beats readers over the head with her climate change stick. Those who disagree are dangerous rubes with beer bellies, greasy hair, and names like Jim-Bob. Their women are subservient, with hair in buns. Seriously? And the Hollywood stars are noble and just like the heroes that they play on film, ready to the lead the world to a better tomorrow. The bad guys are quickly convinced of the error of their ways, and all ends well. Subtle? Not a bit. And blondes probably won't appreciate the stereotyping either. Sigh.
KLIPFISH CODE
SANDPIPER [HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY]
CASANOVA, MARY
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
5th grade to 8th grade
July 22, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
Marit is twelve when the Nazis invade Norway. Her home is bombed, her parents join the resistance, and Marit and her brother, Lars, are sent to live with their grandfather and aunt on an island. There they may be slightly safer, but the Germans are everywhere and they have an agenda. Will Marit dare to risk everything to stand up for what she believes in? This book is a compelling tale of life under five years of Nazi occupation as freedoms erode, resistance rises, and threats abound. Casanova has created a gripping story that captures readers from the first page and keeps them engrossed to the end. I had never heard that one in 10 teachers in Norway were rounded up and sent to concentration camps because they refused to teach Nazi propaganda. Enlightening and thought-provoking, this is excellent historical fiction, and would make a great discussion book in middle school.
Incredible Charlotte Sycamore
HOLIDAY HOUSE [HOLIDAY HOUSE]
Maddison, Kate
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
5th grade to 8th grade
July 23, 2014
Turpin, Sharon
Charlotte, 16-year-old daughter of Queen Victoria’s personal physician, leads a charmed life in Buckingham Palace. But Charlotte, a very bright, well educated girl, yearns for more adventure than allowed such girls and opposes the arranged marriage with an older man she’s never met. When she sneaks out with palace working class friends, Jillian and her brother Peter, to fence in the factory district at midnight they are attacked by seemingly rabid dogs that turn out to be mechanical. Charlotte, though wounded, hides her more seriously injured friends and researches how to counteract the rabies symptoms without giving away herself to her father or the palace. She enlists the help of a besotted stable boy and a personal maid. While fighting her own symptoms, she helps her friends escape from their imprisoned quarantine, hides them anew, and turns detective in deducing who is behind these evil, destructive creations. This is an engaging steampunk adventure, full of court intrigue, as Charlotte and her comrades sleuth out the villains before it’s too late. Throw in a little romance, and it’s a very satisfying read by the real Katherine Haupt, historical romance writer for adults, in her first young adult novel.
FOREVER FOUR
GROSSET & DUNLAP [GROSSET & DUNLAP]
KIMMEL, ELIZABETH CODY
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
6th grade to 12th grade
July 24, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
What would happen if four middle school girls with nothing in common were forced to work together for a common goal? Paulina finds out when she (a bit of a loner) is teamed up with Ivy (the stylish new girl), Tally (often unfocussed and very talkative), and Miko (one of the popular girls) to create a girl-oriented magazine for the school. This is not a match made in heaven, or is it? Each discovers things about the others that they did not know, and greater understanding results. Of course there's also some cyberbullying, a hint of romance (does that cute boy really like her?), and plenty of information on putting out a magazine. Elizabeth Cody Kimmel does a nice job of creating fully-fleshed characters with real interests and concerns. Any who enjoy this book will be delighted to know that it's part of a series, that would fit in nicely in any middle school.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Over The Moon
CANDLEWICK PRESS [CANDLEWICK PRESS]
Boyce, Frank Cottrell
Berger, Joe
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
4th grade to 6th grade
July 26, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
In what appears to be the final book in the series begun by Ian Fleming, and continued by Frank Cottrell Boyce, the stakes have been raised. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's time-traveling abilities strand the Tootings in 1966 where they team up with the Potts family. A villain (unwittingly created in a previous adventure) is shrinking and stealing the world's landmarks, and the world's most famous vehicles. With the help of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang they chase Big Ben to the North Pole, and even travel to the moon. Danger and silliness abound, but wrongs are righted and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang says good-bye...possibly. The plot is quite convoluted and there's underlying nonsense about the roles of men and women in society which are obviously there just for fun. I enjoy this series, but have been unsuccessful in getting my students hooked.
The Exceptionals
HOLIDAY HOUSE [HOLIDAY HOUSE]
CASHMAN, ERIN
Recommended -- Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format.
7th grade to 9th grade
July 27, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
15-year-old Claire comes from an exceptional family, but she has never felt exceptional. Her family is talented in unusual ways - telekinesis, clairvoyance, the ability to see ghosts, etc. Her brother and sister go to the special Cambial Academy where they work on their "specials" where the public cannot learn about their abilities. When Claire has a minor problem at school she is transferred to Cambrial despite her lack of a "special." Truth is, however, she has one. She can talk to animals. Little does she know that this ability will force her into a key role in saving the lives of her family and friends. This is a well-written compelling novel with nicely detailed characters and plenty of action. And, of course, there's the obligatory romance. There's nothing here to preclude the book's placement in an elementary school, but it's clearly aimed at a slightly older crowd. Those who enjoy books about psi powers will embrace this one. Since it's the author's first book I'd say she has a glowing future.
Healthy Eating Choices
CHILDS WORLD [CHILDS WORLD]
Bailey, Megan
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
Kindergarten to 3rd grade
July 28, 2014
Sepessy, Lona
The Healthy Kids series addresses lifestyle choices for children and encourages healthy exercise, behavior, sports safety, eating, gardening, cleanliness and first aid awareness as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. When Allison visits her friend Chelsea's house, she is introduced to making dinner with wholesome ingredients such as whole grains and vegetables on pizza. The MyPlate graphic and program is explained, along with details about how much of each food group is recommended for children of different ages. Simple explanations about nutrients, vitamins and minerals are mixed with suggestions of food sources. The third chapter teaches readers how to read a food label and use that information to make healthy choices. A recipe for making a whole-wheat pizza is given as a hands-on activity. While health and nutrition teachers will appreciate this colorful book, not all parents and nutritionists will agree with the complete program, especially the focus on dairy as a necessary food group. Glossary, index, recommended books and publisher monitored websites are included.
Fruits Group
CHILDS WORLD [CHILDS WORLD]
Tometich, Annabelle
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
Kindergarten to 3rd grade
July 28, 2014
Sepessy, Lona
Luscious fruits garnish the pages of this Healthy Eating with MyPlate book as the text explains the benefits of eating fruit and how our body uses them to provide necessary nutrients. “Dried apricots and cantaloupe have lots of vitamin A. Vitamin A helps you see better and makes your hair shiny and your skin healthy.” The books are best used collectively as a series in health and nutrition units required to be taught in schools, as they complement each other and explain the various facets of MyPlate program. A few amazing facts such as the heaviest watermelon was grown in Arkansas and weighed 268.8 pounds spice up the straight forward text. Directions for making fruit kabobs, glossary, index, recommended books, and a publisher - monitored website are included.
Gee Whiz
KNOPF BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS [KNOPF BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS]
Smiley, Jane
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
7th grade to 9th grade
July 29, 2014
Bateman, Teresa
Part of "The Horses of Oak Valley Ranch" series, this follows Abby as she cares for the horses on the ranch. Each horse has a unique background and personality, and a unique link with Abby. Two new horses--a bucking bronco, and Gee Whiz--a former race horse, make things interesting. Gee Whiz appears to be an escape artist. In the meantime her horse, Jack, is being prepared for a racing career. There's a lot going on in this book. A brother registering for the draft. The family's involvement in their church. A beloved church member facing the end of his life. Then you add in the minutia of caring for, training, and riding horses and you end up with a pretty complex book--more complex than the previous one in the series that I reviewed. That's why I recommend this for an older audience. I don't think elementary students will have the stamina for this complex book, but middle school readers will enjoy its clear details and interesting characters.
Forest Food Webs In Action
LERNER PUBLICATIONS COMPANY [LERNER PUBLICATIONS COMPANY]
Fleisher, Paul
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
Kindergarten to 3rd grade
July 31, 2014
Turpin, Sharon
In the Searchlight Book series entitled What Is a Food Web? each title features a different environment. This one focuses on forests, specifically temperate forests according to the animals and plants included. In a methodical, straightforward manner with simple sentence structure the young reader is introduced to forests with their complex food chains that create a web of inter-related plants, animals and nature. The diagrams help clarify these relationships between energy producers, consumers and decomposers, and the captioned color photos extend the text. The six chapters include forest plants, plant eaters, meat eaters and decomposers in a clear progression. The conclusion focuses on people and forests. In 40 pages the desired nonfiction features are found including a glossary, bibliography of both books and web sites, plus a brief index. This can be used to supplement study of environments or food webs. Additional titles in the series cover deserts, grasslands, lake and ponds, oceans, and tundra.
One Word Pearl
MACKINAC ISLAND PRESS [MACKINAC ISLAND PRESS]
Groeneweg, Nicole
Mitchell, Hazel
Additional Plus -- Good solid book but has some minor flaws.
Kindergarten to 3rd grade
July 31, 2014
Turpin, Sharon
This title won the Children's Book of the Year Principal's Award from the National Association of Elementary School Principals. It features lively, curious Pearl, who collects tons of words and stores them in her word chest until the day a tornado of words causes her to rush out of her room saving the words left in her chest. So few words remain that she doles them out one spoken word at a time in order to make them last. She gets through the week with one word answers to her teacher and friends Jack and Molly's questions. The words fit a theme each day whether rhyming or whirly, poppity, flippity, frilly or dazzling until Saturday when she has no words left. The following week she becomes No Word Pearl. Saturday she finally faces her room once more and finds words plastering her walls, floor and furniture written into stories, songs and poems. From then on she can't resist sharing her exuberant love of words to answer her teacher and friends' questions. This is a playful book with important words in different colors and designs that match their meaning. As a read aloud to a group this is challenging, but would work best as a read alone or fun romp illustrating word choice.