Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer - OPTIONAL

Bauer, Marion Dane  Winter Dance Illustrated by Richard Jones  PICTURE BOOK  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.  $16.99  Content: G.  

A fox feels winter coming on, but isn’t sure what he should do.  The other forest animals tell him what they do for the winter, such as hibernate, but the red fox knows that’s not what he wants to do.  Soon another red fox comes along and teaches him to dance and have fun in the winter snow.   The two fox play until the sun goes down and then hide in a tree trunk.  

This is a fun look at what different forest animals do to prepare for the winter.  The illustrations are simple and well done.  There is a question/ answer format throughout but it is a fast read.  Great addition to books about the seasons.

EL (K-3) – OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Sail Away Dragon by Barbara Joosse - OPTIONAL

Joosse, Barbara  Sail Away Dragon  Illustrated by Randy Cecil  PICTURE BOOK  Candlewick Press, 2017.  $15.99  Content: G.  

A girl and her pet dragon want to find the far-est Far Away that they can.  They go on an adventure for a year and a day and finally find a small island that conveniently has a brown sign that says “Far-est Far Away”.  They rest and then both decide they want to go home.  They travel for another year and a day and get home where they enjoy the comfort of their own beds.  

This wasn’t my favorite book.  The text is disjointed and hard to read.  It’s supposed to be poetic and I’m not sure what the moral of the story is-I guess that they are good friends (which they were before the adventure started).  The illustrations are dark and blurry.  I would pass on this book.  

EL (K-3) – OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

The Case from Outer Space by James Preller - ADVISABLE

Preller, James. The Case from Outer Space, illustrated by R. W. Alley.  85 pages.  Feiwel and Friends, 2017.  $15.99.  Language: G.  Violence: G.  Sexual Content: G.
Jigsaw Jones is back!  And for a dollar a day, Jigsaw Jones can make your problems go away.  Danika and Joey find a note from outer space in a book called Messages from Mars.  They got the book from a Little Free Library, where you take and book and leave a book.  At school, their teacher, Ms. Gleason, announces that they are going to have a surprise visitor from far, far away.  Three different clues lead them to Ms. Gleason.  She fesses up to writing the note from outer space, but won’t tell them who the special visitor is until tomorrow when they come to school. 

The mystery guest is the perfect ending to this light Jigsaw Jones Mystery book.  Young readers will enjoy following the clues and trying to figure out who wrote the mysterious message and whether or not they were from outer space.  The illustrations are fun and frequent, and out of this world.    
EL-ADVISABLE.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS. 

The Case of the Bicycle Bandit by James Preller - ADVISABLE

Preller, James. The Case of the Bicycle Bandit, illustrated by Jamie Smith.  74 pages.  Feiwel and Friends, 2001 (reprint).  $4.99.  Sexual Content: G.  Language: G.  Violence: G.
In this Jigsaw Jones Mystery, Ralphie Jordan’s bike, Old Rusty, is stolen.  Don’t worry, Jigsaw Jones and Mila are on the case.  The inspect the scene of the crime (the library) and interview witnesses.  They ask Geetha to help with the case, she draws a picture of the suspect.  They make posters and offer a reward.  Jigsaw Jones receives a phone call, someone has identified the suspect.  Jigsaw spies on Snarky Smithers and learns the truth about who really took Ralphie’s bike. 

This is a clever, age-appropriate mystery with several plot twists.  The illustrations help tell the story and the facial features on the characters are very expressive.   This book is a perfect introduction to the mystery genre for elementary school readers.  Recommend to fans of "A to Z Mysteries" and "Calendar Mysteries."
EL-ADVISABLE.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS. 

Kissing Max Holden by Katy Upperman - ADVISABLE

Upperman, Katy.  Kissing Max Holden.  294 pages.  Swoon Reads (Feiwel and Friends), 2017.  $17.99.  Violence: G.  Sexual Content: PG (kissing and touching). Language: R (13 Fs, 176 swears). 
Jillian knows she shouldn’t be kissing Max Holden.  He’s still dealing with his dad’s stroke.  He’s drunk.  And he already has a girlfriend named Becky.  But when he shows up in her room one night and kisses her, she kisses him back.  Her dad walks in and catches every dirty detail.  He wants her to stay away from Max, but that’s hard when he lives across the street.  When he gives her rides to school.  And when he comes to their Christmas party and she still wants to kiss him.  Meanwhile, her dad and pregnant stepmother are fighting all of the time and Jillian learns that her dad used her culinary college money for fertility treatments for her stepmother.  Jillian sees her father with another woman at a restaurant and realizes exactly why she shouldn’t be kissing Max Holden.

Jillian’s romance with Max patterns her parent’s relationship as she creates her own moral and ethical compass.  Jillian’s character development rings with authenticity as she copes with changes in her family life, lost dreams, and romantic entanglements.  The supporting characters shine in the story from her best friend Kyle to her surprisingly supportive stepmother Meredith.  The pacing of the story is steady with one shocking plot twist that the reader won’t see coming.  Recommend to romance readers looking for a cozy romance with surprising depth.   
HS-ADVISABLE.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS. 

I Like the Farm by Shelley Rotner- OPTIONAL

Rotner, Shelley. I Like the Farm, PICTURE BOOK. Holiday House, 2016. $14.95. Five farm animals are mentioned in this early reader book. There are real photographs of each animal, as well as those animals as babies being held by children. There isn’t much text in the book and it is meant to be an introduction to reading for those children just beginning to read on their own. The pictures are engaging enough because they are photographs, but as a group read it will be fairly boring. PRE-K, EL (K-3)- OPTIONAL. Reviewed by Shay, School Librarian

Oh, Bartleby! by Julia Patton- OPTIONAL

Patton, Julia. Oh, Bartelby!, PICTURE BOOK. Sourcebooks, 2017. $17.99. Bartelby is a very long sausage dog. He lives at a bookstore and has some very good friends that he spends time with each day. The problem is that when they go for their walk around town every morning, Bartelby’s behind causes all sorts of problems. It’s so long, he is never aware of it and it is always getting into trouble. Cars crash and construction sites crumble. Luckily, his very good friends are always there to clean up after him and make things better. When one incident is too awful to apologize their way out of however, Bartelby is devastated to find out he creates so much destruction. His friends work together to make his rump much more obvious and no one will get hurt by it anymore. I really like the premise of this book. It’s really original and the illustrations are unique, but it feels like something is missing. Nothing really pops out and grabs me about the book. Kids will like all the bum references though. PRE-K, EL (K-3)- OPTIONAL. Reviewed by Shay, School Librarian

Stickmens Guide to your Mighty Muscles and Bones by John Farndon –OPTIONAL

Farndon, John Stickmens Guide to your Mighty Muscles and Bones 32 pgs. Hungry Tomatoes (Lerner), 2017.  $20.
This book features short informational chapters on human muscles, how they work, how to strengthen them, bones, and connective tissue. Lots of illustrations, fun facts, and photographs are included.
In lieu of my favorite non-fiction books, DK, this one will work. Its short, well explained(though some of the analogies are a bit odd –like a current loaf!?), and there are lots of interesting facts to hold readers interest. I don’t get the inclusion of the stickman at all, it’s a highly ignorable addition. In the past I have no cared for any of the stickman series, but this one is actually pretty good.

EL -OPTIONAL.  Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author

Be a King by Carole Boston Weatherford -- ADVISABLE

Weatherford, Carole Boston Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream and You, illustrated by James E. Ransome. NONFICTION. Bloomsbury, 2018. 

Be a King encourages students to stand up to bullies, admit when they've done wrong, bring down walls that divide people from each other, oppose bigotry, and commit many other nonviolent acts of empathy in order to help the world become a better, more tolerant place. An author's note at the end explains more about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his belief in nonviolent protests against inequality.

The message in this one will likely inspire many a student. Because of the advanced vocabulary and ideas, and the lack of clarity in some of the illustrations, this one would be best read with an adult who can explain and elicit ideas from the child/children. That said, Be a King would be a terrific discussion-starter about how children can work to change the world, as an introduction to a Civil Rights unit, or, of course, in honor of Martin Luther King Day.

EL -- ADVISABLE. Reviewed by Sydney G., K-6 Library Media Specialist

Kiss Cam by Kiara London - ADVISABLE

London, Kiara.  Kiss Cam.  243 pages.  Swoon Reads (Feiwel and Friends), 2017.  $9.99.  Violence: G.  Sexual Content: PG (kissing, discussion about sex with parent).  Language: PG (24 swears).
Juniper runs a vlog with her friends Jasper and Lenny.  Their fans always ask if Juniper is dating either Jasper and Lenny, Juniper always says no.  One day they receive a Truth or Dare request for Jasper and Juniper to kiss—they do a light peck for the vlog and it goes viral.  They decide to do a Kiss Cam and the twelve days of Kissmas.  What starts out as light kissing, becomes a contest for the most surprising kisses.  Juniper keeps telling herself that it’s just a little kissing, but then feelings get involved friendships are on the line.  And both Juniper and Jasper realize that it’s more than just kissing. 

Author Kiara London’s story presents an important and timely reminder to young readers about the difference between what’s real and what’s online.  Juniper is a delightful heroine that the reader will enjoy following her ups and downs and her ultimate realization of what she truly wants.  Lenny steals the show as a charming supporting character with the perfect amount of quirkiness.  The ending is a little predictable, but the reader won’t mind because there’s just the right amount of romance and a whole lot of kissing. 

HS-ADVISABLE.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS. 

Monkey Brother by Adam Auerbach- OPTIONAL

Auerbach, Adam. Monkey Brother, PICTURE BOOK. Henry Holt and Company, 2017. $17.99. One little boy complains about his younger brother, who actually is a monkey. His monkey brother is always copying him, making messes, and teasing the dog. But he is fun sometimes. Now, his little sister is an even bigger nuisance… because she’s an elephant. I feel like an opportunity to capitalize on a surprise ending about how little brothers can be just like monkeys, rather than they actually are monkeys, was lost in this book. The author attempted a surprise with the elephant sister, but it falls fairly flat. PRE-K, EL (K-3)- OPTIONAL. Reviewed by Shay, School Librarian

This Beautiful Day by Richard Jackson- ADVISABLE

Jackson, Richard. This Beautiful Day, PICTURE BOOK. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017. $15.99. It’s a rainy day outside, but a group of siblings aren’t going to let that stop them from having a good time. They decide to dance to some music, do some spins in the air. They take their party outside with some umbrellas and stomp and swing and sing. They gather a crowd together until the clouds start to fade and everyone is enjoying a different kind of brilliant, beautiful day. The artwork in this book transitions from grays, blacks, and whites to brighter vivid colors as the children have fun and the sun comes out. The transfer in colors is very striking and well done. It’s even included on the jacket art. The book is cute and the text and illustrations match well, but the text isn’t as exciting as the pictures are. PRE-K, EL (K-3)- ADVISABLE. Reviewed by Shay, School Librarian

Finding Christmas by Lezlie Evans –OPTIONAL

Evans, Lezlie Finding Christmas 32 pgs. Albert Whitman, 2017.  $17. PICTURE BOOK
This is the story of three animal friends getting ready for Christmas. One of them discovers an injured and freezing bird in the woods and the trio bring it home. They will have to give up their Christmas presents to each other in order to help the bird recover. There are sweet illustrations with harmonious colors.
Overall I liked this story, but the writing was short of off for me, kind of awkward. I am not sure younger readers will understand a gift exchange. Additionally there is an illustration of two birds outside in the cold, while they are trying to heal the bird inside, which will be confusing to younger readers as well. I like the message of helping others but I can honestly image a child hearing this story then feeling extra horrible as their family walks past a homeless person without dragging them home, giving them all their presents, and having a party together. At least that is how I would have felt as a child.

EL(K-3) -OPTIONAL.  Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author

Jammie Day! by Carrie Snyder- ADVISABLE

Snyder, Carrie. Jammie Day!, PICTURE BOOK. Owlkids Books, Inc., 2017. $18.95. Cliffy has a big brother and a big sister. He has a little brother and a little sister. He is smack dab in the middle. Cliffy knows what he knows and likes what he likes and one morning he decides that it is going to be Jammie Day. So, he wears his nice, fuzzy footie jammies to school and all the other kids think it’s awesome. Cliffy does too. They’re so cozy and soft, and they slide so well on the footies. He enjoys it so much that he decides the next day is Jammie Day too (so do a lot of the other kids at school). Then he decides it’s Jammie Week. Jammie Month. Jammie Year. This book is a great representation of how kids often get stuck on one piece of clothing and wear it down to nothing. There is a cute illustration toward the end of the book that labels how Cliffy’s jammies have been worn out. Readers will relate to Cliffy’s Jammie Day desires. PRE-K, EL (K-3)- ADVISABLE. Reviewed by Shay, School Librarian

Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson- OPTIONAL

Jackson, Linda Williams. Midnight Without a Moon, 312 pgs. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. $16.99. Language: PG-13 (4 swears, crude language, racial slurs); Mature Content: PG-13. Rose is thirteen years old and living in Mississippi in 1955. It’s a hard, cruel, difficult time to be African American. She is contemplating her life and her place in it as she hears about more and more violence and murders that are being committed against her people. She is frightened and confused. Emmett Till is one of the young people in the book who is murdered and real life mirrors fiction as the people in Rose’s community grapple with the idea of change and the rights they should or shouldn’t have. Rose’s struggle is within her family and how she is treated. She is raised by her extremely tough and frightening grandmother, but yearns to leave Mississippi and live with her aunt in St. Louis. In the end, she has to decide where her presence can have the most impact on her family and her racial community.

This is one heavy book for young adults. I kept waiting to get to the point where there was some hope or light for Rose and just when there was a small glimmer (moving to St. Louis), she makes the much more adult choice of staying in Mississippi than I can imagine any thirteen year old actually being mature enough to make. There are a lot of racial slurs in the book and a lot of violence (particularly from the grandmother). I could barely make it through. I kept at it only so that I could finally get to end. I will say, that there is likely very much that is historically accurate in terms of some of the events that are portrayed and many of the behaviors are likely very true to life as well, which is good for young adults to experience. The age of the main character just doesn’t mesh well with the age of the readers that can handle this book. It would be very difficult for me to recommend to any of my students. HS- OPTIONAL. Reviewed by Shay, School Librarian

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tell Us Something True by Dana Reinhardt - ESSENTIAL

Reinhardt, Dana Tell Us Something True, 202 pages.  Wendy Lamb Books (Random House) 2016. $17.99. Language: PG-13 (52 swears, 0 "f"); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG.

River Dean's heart has been shattered.   At seventeen, River's life has revolved around Penny, his longtime girlfriend. When a romantic boat ride turns into his worst nightmare, River is set adrift, on his own, with no idea of what to do next.  In his despair, River sees a sign "A Second Chance", and decides to walk into the building.  He finds himself in a circle with a group of teens with whom he instantly connects.  River quickly realizes he has inadvertently joined an addiction recovery meeting.  River's lack of any addiction does not deter him.  Instead he does the unthinkable.  He pretends to have an addiction so he can continue coming to the meetings.  Meetings where he starts to feel whole again and where the spark of a connection with a girl named Daphne gives him hope and a renewed sense of purpose. 

Every once in awhile you find a gem of a book that resonates on so many levels.  This book has amazing insights into understanding human relationships with quotes that beg to be shared.  "Don't let perfect be the enemy of good." This was one of my favorite books this year.  It delved into serious situations with humor and compassion. 

HS -ESSENTIAL (note content ratings). Gina, Media Specialist

Wee Sister Strange by Holly Grant - ADVISABLE

Grant, Holly Wee Sister Strange, Illustrated by K.G. Campbell.  PICTURE BOOK.  Schwartz & Wade Books, 2017.  

Wee Sister Strange contentedly lives in the woods by herself, wandering around in a gorgeous dreamy land where she talks to owls, tames and rides and bears, but yet she’s searching for something.  She finally happens upon a house, listens to a bedtime story through the window and curls up happily to sleep in a pile of leaves.  

While it could be kind of a dark story, the lyrical text and glowing warm gorgeous illustrations make the forest and Wee Sister Strange’s habit magical.  Wee Sister Strange will leave you wanting to live in the forest too. 

PRE-K, EL (K-3) - ADVISABLE.  Reviewer: JQ

This is Our Constitution by Khizr Khan - OPTIONAL

Khan, Khizr This is Our Constitution, 210 pages.  NON-FICTION. Knopf (Random), 2017.  $17.  Content: G.

Khizr Khan, the man who called out Trump at the Democratic National Convention , has put together a book about the Constitution – its origin, its components, and Khan’s personal notes and explanations.

I don’t know if Khan had extensive writings about the Constitution before the DNC, or if Knopf had a book about the Constitution in the pipeline before the DNC, but there has been more than a year since Khan’s appearance and this feels like a rush job.  Students will find it confusing, especially when it separates the actual words of the Constitution from the plain language explanation of each part.  Some kind of two-column format would have been much better for that part.  There are more problems that I won’t get into.  I feel bad, but this is just not well thought out.

MS – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher