"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

30 May 2014

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue

Angleberger, Tom. Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue: An Origami Yoda Book. Harry N. Abrams, 2014.

The gang at McQuarrie Middle School is still fighting FunTime, the standardized test prep that all students are forced to endure instead of going to elective classes. They aren't having much success, until they are rescued by a very unusual hero.

This is a great addition to the Origami Yoda series. These books continue to be popular among my students, especially those who are fans of the Dork Diaries and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

Recommended for: middle grade, tweens
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

29 May 2014

The Lives of Tao

Chu, Wesley. The Lives of Tao. Angry Robot, 2013.

Tao is from a race of aliens that crash-landed on Earth millions of years ago. His race can't survive in our atmosphere, but they can inhabit the bodies of other creatures, so the aliens have been "possessing" creatures from the time of the dinosaurs. Now they inhabit humans, for the most part, in an attempt to bring technology up to a level where they can repair their ship and return home. But there's a feud of sorts going on among the aliens, which plays out in political battles among humans.

Enter Roen. Roen is a white, middle-aged, out of shape man who works in a cubicle for a random IT company. Roen becomes inhabited by Tao after Tao's previous host dies. Now Tao has to convince Roen that 1) Tao is real and 2) Roen is not crazy. And Roen needs to be trained. Soon. Because the battle is still waging around him and Roen is not ready to fight.

This book was a lot more entertaining than the cover or title made it seem to be. I only picked it up because it was part of YALSA's Hub Challenge, and I actually had to purchase a copy of this book since none of my local libraries carried it. But I'm glad I did. This book was a lot of fun, and I could see it being entertaining for adults and older teens. It doesn't fit the demographic of my middle school library, though, so I will be keeping this copy for myself.

Recommended for: older teens, adults

Red Flags: language, violence

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

28 May 2014

This Star Won't Go Out

Earl, Esther. This Star Won't Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl. Dutton Juvenile, 2014.

With the movie based on John Green's novel The Fault in Our Stars coming out this year, it's appropriate that a collection of the writings of the girl to whom the book was dedicated would be published.  This book would be very popular among my students if I were able to purchase a copy.

Unlike other memoirs of terminally ill children, I didn't actually enjoy this book much. The book truly is a scrapbook collection of photos and writings by Esther, rather than a memoir by her parents or loved ones of her progression through the disease.  It's a good book, but it didn't hold my attention the way other memoirs have.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

27 May 2014

The Forbidden Stone

Abbot, Tony. The Forbidden Stone. Katherine Tegan Books, 2014. 

Wade receives a coded message from his uncle shortly before his uncle dies. Wade is determined to solve the mystery of this message, so he, his sister, and three of his friends embark on a globe-crossing journey to find the answers.

What I liked: the mystery element, the anagrams and puzzles that make this read like the daVinci Code for kids, the way the four kids worked together, the absence of red flags that would make this book an easy one to recommend for a variety of kids

I was SO EXCITED to find out that part of the story would take place on Guam, an island where I taught for six years.


But apparently the author did not do much research on Guam, or perhaps thought that knowledge of Hawaii = knowledge of Guam. For the parts of the story that occurred on Guam, instead of being excited, I was just frustrated. Here is a not-exhaustive list of errors:

1. The group leaves the airport and heads down the "south east side of the island" to get to a person's home. The only road from the airport that heads down the island is down the south west side, near all the hotels and shops that are placed there to attract tourists.

2. The person they are visiting lives in a bungalow. That may be the correct term for her home, but no one on Guam refers to their home as "my bungalow." No one.

3. The group is warned to beware of large wild boar that will attack them in the jungle. There are no native mammals on Guam, so unless this person confused the boonie dogs with boar, this is false.

4. The group is warned about a typhoon, the arrival of which is heralded by "dark blue clouds." The sky is actually deceptively clear right before a typhoon. Also, the "typhoon" in this story sounds more like a typical rainstorm, as it is over after just an hour or so and the island residents felt safe enough to let the characters run out into the jungle searching for an artifact during this storm. Real typhoons are scary - they're hurricanes in the Pacific - and no one on Guam would be caught dead outside during such a storm. Also, a real typhoon would have caused lots of damage and power outages.

5. The group's injuries are treated at the hospital on the (presumably) navy base. This is not likely, as security is tight and people, even US citizens, do not get to waltz onto the base at random. The group would have had to go to Guam Memorial Hospital (which I would NOT recommend, even if your arm were severed from your body).

6. The sun is described as burning off the humidity. HAH! There is never a day on Guam that is not humid. The sun coming out after a rainstorm (which occur several times a day on Guam) would have drastically increased the humidity as the water from the storm evaporated. 

Sigh. I was so excited about the Guam locale, but so disappointed. Nonetheless, this book is one my students would probably enjoy.

Recommended for: tweens, middle grade

Red Flags: if "impending death and doom" counts, then that's a definite red flag

Overall Rating: 2.5/5 stars

26 May 2014

Between Shades of Gray

Sepetys, Ruta. Between Shades of Gray. Philomel Books, 2011.

Lina and her family are torn from their home in Lithuania one night and sent to an internment camp in Siberia where they are being punished for unnamed crimes against the Soviet government. Lina and her fellow prisoners must work together to survive in this harsh environment.

This was a very sad and slow read. It's a sad story along the lines of Holocaust stories, and there isn't the same level of action that many teens have come to expect in other novels. But it's a good story, and it's one that needs to be told. Historical fiction doesn't circulate much in my library, but I am making sure to book talk this particular book so that the students will have a better chance of picking it up.

Recommended for: teens, fans of Holocaust literature

Red Flags: lots of violence

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

23 May 2014

The Testing

Charbonneau, Joelle. The Testing. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013.

The planet has been ravaged by war; the survivors are huddled in small communities throughout the North American continent. As in other dystopian novels, there is a strict government in control and lots of rules everyone must follow. A few people are allowed to be highly educated in university, but to do so they must be chosen for, and then pass, the testing. Cia is chosen, and her father warns her to be careful. She goes through lots of trials and passes the testing, then a la Westerfeld's Uglies series, she has to remember what has been erased from her memory and why it's important.

This book is very, very similar to other dystopian novels. That doesn't make it a bad book; in fact, it's quite popular in my library because of its similarities. However, it doesn't bring anything new to the dystopian genre. I read this book, and we have it in our collection, but I am not going to rush out to read the rest of the series. This story has been told before.

Recommended for: teens

Red Flags: lots and lots of violence a la Hunger Games

Overall Rating: 3.5 stars

22 May 2014


Meyer, Marissa. Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3). Feiwel & Friends, 2014.

In this much-anticipated third installment of the Lunar Chronicles series, we meet Cress, a talented computer hacker who has been trapped on a satellite and spends her time spying on Earth for Queen Levana. Scarlet and Cinder attempt to rescue Cress, but things go horribly awry and the group spends the rest of the book a la the Two Towers separated and trying desperately to survive and to find each other. The ending of the book leads perfectly into a teaser for the final installment, Winter.

My students were lining up to read this book before it was even published. I purchased a copy for myself, read it in one day, and then added it to our library's collection so the students could read it, too. Some of my students have been turned off by the rather feminine-looking covers, but once I explain the plot (or better yet, have another student explain it), they are on board to try the first book. Definitely worth having in the collection.

Recommended for: teens

Red Flags: violence

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

21 May 2014

Five, Six, Seven, Nate!

Federle, Tim. Five, Six, Seven, Nate! Simon and Schuster BFYR, 2014.

This sequel to Better Nate than Ever follows Nate as he prepares for and performs in ET: The Musical. As per usual, Nate's inexperience in all things Broadway as well as his Disney-esque luck play a major role in plot development. This story is entertaining and adorable. The fact that Nate is gay doesn't really play into the plot that much; this is not a coming-out story, but rather a story with a character who happens to be gay, which makes it a welcome addition to the LGBT YA cannon.

Recommended for: middle grade, tweens

Red Flags: none

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

20 May 2014

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

McBride, Lish. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. Henry Holt and Company, 2010.

Sam is working another boring shift as a fast food employee when he is attacked and nearly killed. It turns out that Sam is a necromancer, and since his parents kept his, ahem, talent hidden, the local necromancer boss is very angry and is thirsting for Sam's blood. Thus Sam's life goes from ordinary to very extraordinary in a matter of hours. He is fighting for his life and the lives of those he loves.

This book reminded me a lot of the Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher. Sam has lots of serious, intense moments in this book, but they are broken up by entertaining and humorous bits as well. Once I began book talking this book, it became much more popular in my library.

Recommended for: teens

Red Flags: violence, some language, Sam's friend is killed and her head is re-animated and sent back to him, so he spends a lot of the book toting around her talking head

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

19 May 2014

Strobe Edge

Sakisaka, Io. Strobe Edge. VIZ Media, 2013.

Ninako is in love with Ren, but he's already dating someone. And another boy likes Ninako, but she's only interested in Ren and continually turns down Boy #2. This is the entire plot for at least the first six of these books. Ninako is obsessed with Ren, who thinks she's nice and all but is already dating and isn't looking for someone new.

This book irritated the fire out of me. The first volume was bad enough with this, "I love Ren!! He's so cute! I want to date him! But he's not interested. But he's so cute!" line repeated ad nauseum. But when I discovered that this. same. storyline continues in all six of the books, I about died. I had to allow myself breaks between volumes so I could clean out my head with something enjoyable, something that contained a plot.

The only interesting things in these books were the scattered side panels the author threw in with information about herself - her chinchillas, how she learned to drive, the fact that mints make her sneeze, etc.

The art in these books is okay. Not awesome. The main character very often looks drugged and spacey (see the cover of Vol. 4 for proof), and the rest of the art is average for a manga, but didn't stand out to me at all. I just cannot understand why these books won a YMA from ALA this year, unless they decided they had to include a manga in the graphic novel awards.

All of that being said, my students who love manga will eat this up. I'm glad they will, because these books are certainly not staying in my house.

Recommended for: tweens and teens, probably mostly girls due to subject matter
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

16 May 2014

Beyond Magenta

Kuklin, Susan. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out. Candlewick Press, 2014. 

The author interviews five transgender teens and details their coming-out experiences, how they define themselves, how they have dealt with bullying, etc.

The first 90% of this book is amazing. I love the photographs and the stories of transgender teens. I think this part of the book should be in every library to help raise awareness of issues facing the trans* community.

HOWEVER, the resources list in the back is sadly lacking. First, there are only two fiction titles listed, when I can name at least ten good trans* titles without even consulting my Goodreads shelves. The websites, videos, nonfiction suggestions are similarly lacking. If the author and publisher would do a better job with the research and get more information in a much-needed resource list for trans* teens and their parents, then this book would be excellent. Here's hoping the next edition has these errors corrected.

15 May 2014

Boy Nobody

Zadoff, Allen. Boy Nobody. Little, Brown BFYR, 2013.

Boy Nobody was taken from his family when he was young. He has been trained in the art of blending in and the art of killing. His mission is simple: arrive at a new school, blend in with the other students, and then accomplish the objective of killing whomever his mark is. After he's done, he is sent to his next location and someone else cleans up after his mess. But when Boy Nobody actually befriends and begins to care for one of his marks, things become complicated. Will he be able to save himself and finally discover the truth?

This book was a fast-paced and compelling read. I neglected the dishes, the laundry, my cat, and everything else as I focused on this story and what would happen to Boy Nobody at the end. It was that good. I could easily booktalk this book or get some of my reluctant readers to try it out. The fast pace and mysterious plot would definitely appeal to my patrons.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: language, alcohol use, violence
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

14 May 2014

Swim the Fly

Calame, Don. Swim the Fly. Candlewick, 2009.

Matt and his buddies have a goal each summer. This summer their goal is to see a naked woman. In addition, Matt wants to impress Kelly, a new girl on his swim team, so he's volunteered to swim the butterfly, a feat he's never imagined he could do (and still doesn't). Will the boys accomplish their goal by the end of the summer?

I didn't think I would like this book, but it ended up being fairly entertaining. The boys have all kinds of crazy hijinx in their attempt to see a naked girl, and Matt's classes with Ulf - a man who survived a boating accident by treading water for seven days - are hilarious. I would have loved to learn more about Ulf and to have him appear more often in the story, but the story was still much better than I expected from a summer tale of horny boys.

Recommended for: young adults
Red Flags: bathroom humor, language, alcohol, drug use, and the fact that three horny boys are trying to see a naked woman
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

13 May 2014

Killer of Enemies

Bruchac, Joseph. Killer of Enemies. Tu Books, 2013.

Lozen and her family have been taken in by the Ones, four superhumans who have created a sort of fort after the Silver Cloud came and wiped out all electronics. Many people died when electronics died, especially those rich enough to have cyber implants, but Lozen and her family have been accepted by the Ones because Lozen is a great hunter and the Ones keep her family hostage as she kills their enemies. Lozen ventures out where none else dare and kills all kinds of monsters, until one day when she decides she must rescue her family and escape the clutches of the Ones.

I enjoyed this story. There is great dystopian world building, including the four very different characters of the Ones who rule the fort. Lozen embraces her Native American heritage throughout the book, and it's nice to see a nonwhite protagonist in a book that's not being preachy. Also, the Bigfoot character was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the fact that he called her Little Food when they spoke.

Recommended for: young adults, fans of Hunger Games
Red Flags: lots of violence
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

12 May 2014

Audrey, Wait!

Benway, Robin. Audrey, Wait! Razorbill, 2008.

Audrey breaks up with her conceited boyfriend Evan on the night his band is giving a concert. He writes a song about their breakup, and the song goes viral. Audrey now has to deal with the backlash and the papparazzi who are following her everywhere.

I didn't think I would like this book, but Audrey was a likable character and it was fun to watch the hijinx she dealt with as Evan's band goes on tour and reporters twist her words and take very unflattering pictures of her. This book would be very popular with my patrons, between Audrey and the brouhaha surrounding Evan and the other people in her life - both friends and frenemies - who make having a normal life a bit more ... complicated.

Recommended for: young adults
Red Flags: alcohol use, language
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

09 May 2014


London, Alex. Proxy. Philomel, 2013.

Syd is a proxy. He is an orphan, so the government took care of him as a child but also placed him in debt for their services. He must serve as a proxy - a whipping boy - for a wealthy patron. His patron Knox has never seen Syd in person, but he is forced to watch each time Syd is punished for something Knox has done. Syd is trying to keep under the radar and just survive until his debt is paid, but then Knox does something that causes Syd to be brutally beaten, branded, and sentenced to another lifetime's worth of years in a prison. Syd can't imagine surviving this, so he attempts an escape that brings consequences no one could have imagined.

I really, really liked this book. First, Syd is gay, but this book is not about his coming out. Second, the Allegiant-esque ending was well done. Also, the dystopian world with a The Whipping Boy-style of punishment is interesting. I loved the world-building and enjoyed seeing both Syd's and Knox's perspectives on the various situations they found themselves in. I was surprised this book did not win a Stonewall award this year. This book would be very popular in my library if we had a copy.

Recommended for: teens, fans of Divergent,
Red Flags: drug/alcohol use, lots of violence
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

08 May 2014

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

Shen, Prudence. Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong. First Seconds, 2013.

Nate and Charlie have been friends for a long time, so when geeky Nate is pitted against athletic Charlie in the campaign for student body president, the boys are torn between doing what their other friends want and maintaining their lifelong friendship with each other. The art and the humor in this book are spot-on, and I wish I had a copy in my library, as I know it would fly off the shelves very quickly.

Recommended for: tweens, teens
Red Flags: robot violence
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

07 May 2014

Carter Finally Gets It

Crawford, Brent. Carter Finally Gets It. Disney-Hyperion, 2009.

Carter has ADD and he stutters. He's a freshman in high school and still a virgin. This book follows Carter throughout his classes and his interactions with the fair sex.

I didn't really enjoy this book much. I was glad for a book about a student with ADD and with a speech impairment, but I found it dizzying to be inside Carter's ADD-addled brain. He seemed like the kind of goofball kid I would have enjoyed teaching even though he drove me nuts. As such, there isn't a ton of plot in this story.

Recommended for: young adults
Red Flags: Carter is a teen boy, and we're inside his brain, so lots of imagined sex.
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

06 May 2014


Rowell, Rainbow. Fangirl. St. Martin's Griffin, 2013.

Cath and Wren are heading off to college. Wren wants to be independent and live her own life, but Cath is not quite ready to let go and is surprised when she has a roommate who is not her twin. An avid Simon Snow fan, Cath writes fanfiction that is widely popular. As the final Simon Snow book's release looms, Cath has to balance her college classes, relationships, and her life within the fandom.

This book was a lot of fun to read. Rowell has a very approachable style of writing, and even though I am not a fan of romance books, I truly enjoyed the journey through this book and was disappointed when it was finished. An added bones are the excerpts from Simon Snow stories and fanfic that preface each chapter. I would quite easily and willingly add this book to my library's collection, as I could see it being very popular among my fans of romances.

Recommended for: young adults
Red Flags: alcohol use and abuse
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

05 May 2014

Rust, V. 2: Secrets of the Cell

Lepp, Royden. Secrets of the Cell. Archaia Entertainment, 2012.

Jet is pretty clearly some sort of robot, but he's a hard worker and the other people on the farm like having him around. This book continues where volume 1 left off, describing the dystopian world left over after a war involving robot soldiers.

I probably would have enjoyed this book even more if I had read the first one beforehand. Nonetheless, the art work was beautiful and appropriate and I did enjoy the story, even though there were some gaps in my understanding. I think this book would be very popular in my library as well.

Recommended for: tweens, young adults
Red Flags: cartoon violence
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

02 May 2014

Escape to Gold Mountain

Wong, David H.T. Escape to Gold Mountain: A Graphic History of the Chinese in North America. Arsenal Pulp Press, 2012. 

This book details the experience of Chinese-Americans who emigrated and then worked to build the railroads both in the United States and in Canada. The historical events surrounding this time period - including the 1906 San Francisco earthquake - are included. The artwork is well done and appropriate to telling the story. I do not have a copy of this book in my library, but I wish I did. My students would enjoy the graphic format, and the book would inform them about a time period that is often glossed over in American history textbooks.

Recommended for: tweens, teens
Red Flags: violence, racial slurs
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

01 May 2014

The Adventures of Superhero Girl

Hicks, Faith Erin. The Adventures of Superhero Girl. Dark Horse, 2013.

Who knew that being a superhero was such hard work? It's even harder when you have to live up to your superhero brother's reputation. Superhero girl battles enemies while trying to live well with her roommate and make enough money to pay her bills. This book is adorable and laugh-out-loud funny.

Recommended for: tweens, young adults, adults
Red Flags: minor cartoon violence
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars