"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

28 February 2014

Genrefied, Part 2

My library has been divided by genre for most of this school year. We spent two months without genres, and now we have had four months with the fiction section divided by genre. Not only that, but three of those months (November, December, February) had at least five school holidays, which makes these statistics even more telling.  The blue bars represent last year's circulation, and the red bars are for this year:

I have noticed that my strong readers are thriving in this genre-fied library.  They know how to find what they like, and they notice when we get new books in a particular genre. They also have discovered that some of the genres are fairly similar, so that if they like mythology, for example, they may also like fantasy or paranormal books, or if they like romance, they may also like realistic fiction.

Some of my weaker readers, though, are still lost. They know what books they can tolerate, but they don't understand how to find them without my assistance, so I am constantly reminding a small group of students that Diary of a Wimpy Kid is in the humor section, and that the humor section has a yellow stripe.  Even then, these students will only read Wimpy Kid and won't touch other funny books, like Patterson's Middle School series or Angleberger's Origami Yoda series.  So while I would call my genre-fying successful, I still need to do more work to catch the non-readers in my library.

Thus I created an interactive infographic entitled "What's Your Genre?"  This display is on a large brown cabinet near my fiction section. I combined what I knew about the various genres in our library with my students' demonstrated love for quizzes and gave them a way to choose a genre to read.  It is not perfect by any means, but it is a start.  Already I have noticed students starting at the top of the graphic and following a line to the end, then going to the top and changing their answers to see if they get a different result.  I am hoping this will result in students trying a new genre as well as being better able to identify which genre a particular book belongs to.

In the future, I am planning to tailor my book talks to a particular genre for each class visit so that all classes are exposed to all different genres early on. I also make sure to include a variety of genres in my displays and booklists so that students are encouraged to explore the different sections of my library.

If anyone is interested in borrowing this idea, you can access the slides I printed/laminated to make the display here.

If you haven't read the first part, here's a link to the original Genrefied post. 

Sex & Violence

Mesrobian, Carrie. Sex & Violence. Carolrhoda 2013.

Evan's dad's job requires him to move a lot, so Evan's always been the new guy at school. When he's sent to a boarding school in North Carolina, however, he is attacked in the shower and nearly dies. Later, he and his dad move to the middle of nowhere, Minnesota, so that Evan can heal.

I didn't really like this book. First, there wasn't much of a plot. Second, the ending wasn't really an ending. Third, too much of the book was ambiguous. For example, it's hinted at that Evan's ... girlfriend is probably too strong a word ... is gang-raped right after he's beaten nearly to death, but it's never stated specifically. And the reader never finds out what Evan's planning to do after the end of the story, either. And he doesn't realize much about himself while he's in Minnesota, so there's not much resolution to this story. Add that to the graphic violence, prodigious profanity, numerous instances of teen drug and alcohol use, and the graphic sex scenes, and I just don't see what the fuss is all about. This book will NOT be added to my middle school library's collection, and I will be recommending other books to my students.

Recommended for: older young adults
Red Flags: sex, violence, lots of profanity (on practically every page), drug use, alcohol use
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

27 February 2014

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

Foxlee, Karen. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy. Knopf BFYR, 2014.

Ophelia's mother died three months ago, and Ophelia and her sister have accompanied their father to a museum where he's setting up an exhibit of swords. Ophelia, always rational and scientific, is looking for a dinosaur exhibit when she stumbles upon a mural with a hidden door. When she looks into the keyhole of that door she sees the Marvelous Boy. He begins to tell her his story and Ophelia traverses the museum in search of keys to let him out of his room. She's not sure if she believes his story about a magic sword and a snow queen, until her mother's voice in her head reminds her to use her heart and not just her brain.

This book is amazingly well done. Ophelia is a very believable and lovable character, and her adventures in the museum, combined with the tales from the Marvelous Boy, make a great story that kept me turning the pages. This book would be easy to recommend to fans of The Chronicles of Narnia or fans of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The fantasy elements also would resound with fans of Roald Dahl or Jenny Nimmo. I can't wait to add this one to my library's collections!

Recommended for: tweens, middle grade, fantasy fans, fans of Harry Potter, Narnia, Roald Dahl
Red Flags: mild sword-fighting, one character has his finger eaten by an owl
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

26 February 2014

A Corner of White

Moriarty, Jaclyn. A Corner of White. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2013.

This book has two stories in it.  The first is Madeleine's.  She and her mother ran off to London, leaving a life of luxury to live in a small apartment where her mother sews for a living and they eat nothing but beans. Madeleine is having trouble adjusting to her new life and doesn't understand why they don't just go back to her father.

Contrasted with that is the story of Eliot, who lives in the Kingdom of Cello.  His father has disappeared, and Eliot is convinced that he can find his lost father.  When his mother leases his father's store to a strange couple that moves into town, and the Butterfly Child appears, Eliot has more on his plate than he can handle.

These two stories collide via a "crack" that connects the two worlds.  Eliot and Madeleine exchange letters through this crack, and their friendship develops as they help each other with their various problems and try to make the best choices with limited information.

This book started a bit slow for me.  I just didn't understand why I had both stories, when either one would have made a perfectly acceptable book.  Eventually, the story grew on me, and things made much more sense near the end.  I'm not certain whether I'll read the sequel; I'm not invested enough in the story at this point, but it was a fun book and I know I could recommend it to my stronger readers.

Recommended for: teens, tweens, strong readers who can stick with a story "until it gets good"
Red Flags: minor mentions of Madeleine's father's alcoholism
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

25 February 2014

Hostage Three

Lake, Nick. Hostage Three. Bloomsbury USA Children's, 2013. 

Amy's father and stepmother drag her onto her father's yacht for a summer trip.  Then the yacht is overtaken by Somali pirates off the coast of Africa and Amy is renamed Hostage Three. The pirates only want money, but the deadline is drawing near, and they're getting impatient.  How will Amy and her family survive?

This was actually a fairly interesting story, if it weren't for the insta-love between Amy and one of the pirates. I'm not sure if she was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome or what the deal was, but that part of the story seemed a bit ridiculous to me.  I enjoyed the rest of the story, though, including the increasing tensions between the hostages, who just want to be released, and the pirates, who want/need money. I can definitely see this book being popular in my library, and it would be easy to booktalk even to my reluctant readers.

Recommended for: teens, tweens
Red Flags: language, minor violence, Amy is almost raped at one point
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

24 February 2014

The Infinite Moment of Us

Myracle, Lauren. The Infinite Moment of Us. Amulet Books, 2013.

Wren's parents are living their dreams through her.  She has early acceptance to a pre-med program and is on track to fulfill their wildest dreams as she becomes a doctor.  But she wants to go to Guatemala for a year and help people, building houses and educating people, etc. Once she finally gets up the courage to tell them, her parents can't understand why she'd want to do that.

Charlie is a foster kid.  His younger foster "brother" is in a wheelchair and gets bullied at school.  Charlie isn't in Wren's league, but he loves her from afar.  Then Wren and Charlie fall in love, and the rest of the book follows their romance as they decide what they'll do with the rest of their lives.

I'm not exactly the best person to review a romance, since I don't like romance novels.  They're just not my thing.  But I can drag myself through a romance if there's enough other things going on.  And this book had a lot of potential - the protagonist with no backbone who realizes what she wants to do, the bullying and foster kid issues, etc. But none of that was really touched on.  The whole story was Wren and Charlie in love, Wren being mad because Charlie was taking care of his foster brother (did I mention the kid's in a WHEELCHAIR???), Wren and Charlie in love again, Wren and Charlie having sex for the first time, Wren and Charlie in love... you get the picture.

I agree with other reviewers who say that this is a great, healthy example of teen sex.  Charlie gets tested, Wren goes on the pill, they actually talk about it and wait until they're both ready and they do it safely.  I like that. And I'm sure this book would be popular with the kids at my school who love romantic stories, but I wanted more depth and more discussion of all the issues that just seemed to disappear because they're too busy making goo-goo eyes at each other.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: Charlie's foster brother gets burned with a lighter, Charlie mentions his birth mom's abuse of him, Charlie and Wren have sex - at least two fairly graphic scenes
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

21 February 2014

The Nazi Hunters

Bascomb, Neal. The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2013.

This book details the search for and arrest of Adolf Eichmann, the man who was responsible for creating the Nazi's "final solution" and sending millions to extermination camps. The narrative follows Eichmann as he escapes to Argentina under an assumed name and as Mossad officers form a team, capture him, and bring him to justice.

I enjoy reading about WWII, but I was not as interested in the details about chasing down Eichmann.  I don't remember hearing anything about him in history class, so it may have been different if I had grown up knowing him as one of the big names of WWII.  But this book has lots of good details and includes photographs of Eichmann as well as the men who eventually caught him, and I believe this book would be very popular among teens who enjoy reading about WWII.

Recommended for: teens, adults
Red Flags: brief discussion of the Holocaust
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

20 February 2014

Reality Boy

King, A.S. Reality Boy. Little, Brown BFYR, 2013.

Gerald was one of the kids featured on a "Nanny 9-1-1" style television show when he was in kindergarten.  His mother loved her first child, Gerald's oldest sister, but she did not love Gerald or his other sister.  His mother constantly spoiled her firstborn and ignored the cries for help from her other children.  Her obliviousness led to the other children fearing for their lives.  Now Gerald is in high school and his oldest sister is living in the basement of their house, mooching off of her parents and inviting her boyfriend in for some very loud activities.  Gerald's other sister has escaped to college in Europe.  And Gerald is trying to deal with a lot of pent-up anger while he tries to outgrow his time on reality TV.

I actually really liked this particular story, even though I don't particularly like reality TV.  Gerald's family members seemed very real to me, as did the knuckleheads from his school who continued to call him Crapper even though he had obviously outgrown his kindergarten issues.  I could feel his frustration at his mother's obliviousness and his father's impotence in the face of his oldest sister. This is a neat look at what happens after the Supernanny leaves, as well as what happens when an entire family refuses to fix what is broken.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: language, some violence (older sister likes to choke/hit people, including her mom), kindergarten Gerald vents his frustration by pooping in unexpected places
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

19 February 2014

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets

Roskos, Evan. Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

James Whitman is depressed. His sister has been kicked out of school and out of the house, so he is left to deal with his abusive parents by himself.  He is obsessed with Walt Whitman and often imagines himself talking to a pigeon who is his therapist (since he can't afford a real one).  He gets a job so he can be away from the house more often, and he tries to uncover what really happened the day his sister was kicked out of school.

This book has been compared to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and I can definitely see the comparison. This book seems very random, probably because the reader spends the entire time in the head space of a teenage boy. His obsession with Walt Whitman is a bit weird, to be sure, but it felt like I barely knew this character by the time I finished the book, and I certainly didn't sympathize with him. I didn't enjoy Wallflower much, so that might explain why this book didn't speak to me, either.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: teen violence, mentions of cutting, alcohol use
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

18 February 2014

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

Medina, Meg. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Candlewick, 2013.

Piddy isn't Latina enough for Yaqui Delgado.  Also, she's in honors classes, and she's new, so she's highly suspect.  Thus follows a year of school where Yaqui torments Piddy for no reason other than that she doesn't like her.  Piddy is trying to balance her classes, her job, and avoiding Yaqui and her thugs.  When the bullying escalates to a group assault outside Piddy's house, an assault which was recorded and posted online, Piddy finally realizes something has to give.

This was an okay book.  It's a very real story, and the resolution - Piddy going to a new school, and Yaqui and her gang being sort-of punished because the principal isn't sure how to deal with all of them - is quite realistic.  I am glad for the emphasis on Latino/a culture in this book, and I'm sure it would be popular at my library, but I just didn't enjoy the story.  I strongly dislike the fact that Piddy had to leave her school in order to solve this problem, although I can see that this was the easiest solution.  The only part I liked was that Piddy tried to clean graffiti off of another kid's locker, and that kid, in turn, was the one who reported the bullying situation.  Other than that, there's not much good in here to provide kids with hope against bullying.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: lots of bullying, language
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

17 February 2014


Strasser, Todd.  Fallout. Candlewick Press, 2013.

What if the cold war had turned hot?  This book is an alternate history which follows Scott's family in 1962 as his dad builds a fallout shelter below their home, a bomb is dropped, and Scott's family and a few other people are inside the shelter and must try to survive until it's save to go above ground again.

What I liked: the 1960s setting was appropriate, and I could see this book being a good read-alike to The Wednesday Wars and other books about this era of history. The details as the characters ran out of food and had to deal with a lack of personal space and a possible lack of water as they were underground for two weeks.  Also, the "chapter in the present, then chapter in the past leading up to the present" format worked well for this story.

What I didn't like: The dad collected supplies for himself and his family, but when the bomb happened somehow other people made it out of their own houses, into Scott's house, into the room where the shelter door was, and they managed to get inside without getting hit by radiation.  Those same people - a dad and his daughter and another family of three - joined Scott, his brother, his parents, and their babysitter - in a shelter built for four people.  One of the men - who left his wife and his other child outside - was a jerk and I wanted to punch his face all the time.  He complained about there not being enough food, even though this wasn't his shelter.  He suggested killing Scott's mom, who was injured, and the babysitter, who was Black, so that there would be more food/water/air for the rest of them.  But unlike other characters I've hated (Professor Umbridge, anyone?), he didn't get his comeuppance at the end, and he didn't change.  If this character had been deleted, I probably would have really enjoyed this book.

Recommended for: teens, tweens
Red Flags: nudity (when they're in the shelter they start using their clothes for rags and TP), some mild language
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

14 February 2014

When She Woke

Jordan, Hillary. When She Woke. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2011.

In this dystopian retelling of The Scarlet Letter, criminals are chromed instead of being imprisoned. The color is based on the type of crime a person has committed. Hannah Payne, convicted of murder for aborting her baby, has been sentenced to spend the next sixteen years of her life as a red. Not only will she face public scorn, but it will be difficult for her to find housing and a job with her obvious conviction. Furthermore, Hannah refuses to name the father, knowing that this man who was once her pastor and is now the Minister of Religion, would not be able to stand up to public scrutiny for having an affair with one of his parishioners.

Wow.  I really, really enjoyed this book, and I have said that about maybe five books in my entire life. I loved the parallels between this book and The Scarlet Letter, especially since I used to teach Hawthorne's classic and recognized many of the symbols used, like when Hannah sees the roses after leaving prison and is reminded of her chroming instead of comforted by their beauty. It was frightening to see what could happen if the U.S. became a theocracy instead of a democracy.  I sympathized with Hannah growing up in a fundamentalist world, escaping a fundamentalist "halfway house," and trying to make it on her own.  I was glad that she did decide at the end to do what was best for her, instead of following the lead of her pastor.  This book was engaging, fast-paced, and believable.

Recommended for: fans of dystopian lit, fans of The Scarlet Letter, cult survivors
Red Flags: Hannah and one of her friends are kidnapped and nearly sold as sex slaves, at one point during the kidnapping one of the men squeezes Hannah's nipple; Hannah has sex with a woman who rescues her, but it isn't described in detail
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

13 February 2014

Darius & Twig

Myers, Walter Dean. Darius & Twig. Amistad, 2013.

Darius is a writer; Twig is a runner.  They live in Harlem, and they are trying to find their way out of their urban destiny. As is typical in urban fiction, there are threats of gangs, bullying by some other kids, an abusive family member, etc. etc. Through it all, Darius and Twig maintain their friendship.

As I've mentioned before, I am not a fan of urban fiction.  It's not a world I understand or am interested in, so this book was a bit less enjoyable for me than it would be for the kids in my library who are obsessed with the Bluford series. This book would be a great read-alike for Nowhere to Run, and is a must-read for fans of urban fiction.

Recommended for: teens, fans of urban fiction
Red Flags: violence, drug use, abuse, language
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

12 February 2014

Courage Has No Color

Stone, Tanya. Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickels, America's First Black Paratroopers. Candlewick Press, 2013.

This book describes the formation, training, and work of the first group of African-American paratroopers in the U.S. Army. In addition to detailing the training and missions of this group, the book also focuses on the discrimination faced by the paratroopers in spite of their status as servicemen.

I think this is an excellent book to round out a library's collection of WWII materials, as it tells a story that not many people know. I know the students at my school would be very interested to read about this particular group of paratroopers, as well as the discrimination they dealt with even after returning from the war as decorated veterans.

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

11 February 2014

Golden Boy

Sullivan, Tara. Golden Boy. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2013.

Habo is an albino, and Habo lives in Tanzania, a very dangerous place for a person whose limbs and hair are thought to bring good luck.  When Habo's family loses their land and has to travel north to live with relatives, Habo soon realizes that he is a danger to all those around him, and sets off, Frodo-style, to solve his problems on his own.  He evades a kidnapper/murderer, befriends a blind sculptor, and eventually must decide whether he should contact his family.  Do they even want him around anymore?

This is a great book that explores an little-known aspect of superstitions: the idea that an albino's body parts are lucky is indeed a dangerous one, especially for albino children born in Africa.  I appreciated the author's choice to bring this topic to light and to do so in the form of a coming-of-age story with interesting and relatable characters that my patrons can easily identify with. I will definitely be getting a copy of this book to add to my library's collection.

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

10 February 2014


Sandler, Martin. Imprisoned: the Betrayal of Japanese Americans during WWII. Walker Childrens, 2013.

This book details the U.S. internment of its Japanese citizens after the bombing of Pearl Harbor during the second world war. The narrative is accompanied by numerous photographs and interviews with detainees who describe leaving all of their belongings behind and having to start over again after being released.

This isn't a topic that is often covered in history classes or lessons on WWII, so I am glad that such a detailed book exists and that it paints a picture, albeit not a pretty one, of the actions of the U.S. during the war. The photographs and factual information, as well as numerous maps, make this book interesting and eye-catching.  I would love to have a copy in my library, as I'm sure it would be popular among my patrons, both those who enjoy nonfiction and those who enjoy reading about war.

Recommended for: teens, tweens, adults
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

07 February 2014

A Bag of Marbles

Joffo, Joseph.  A Bag of Marbles. Graphic Universe, 2013.

Maurice and Joseph live in WWII France (the occupied portion), and throughout this book they must travel to other locations to escape the Nazies, each time being reunited with their family and then being forced to separate again. This is a great book to balance the myriad books about the Holocaust, as it tells the story of a family that hid and ran and hid again and managed to avoid being sent to the concentration camps. The artwork is appropriate for the story and I'm certain this book will be popular with my students.

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

06 February 2014

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Quick, Matthew. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. Little, Brown BFYR, 2013.

Leonard Peacock is celebrating his birthday today by giving gifts to the four people he loves most, after which he plans to kill his former best friend and then kill himself. This story follows Leonard as he interacts with his four favorite people and heads to his former friend's house.

So, Leonard's friend was molested, and he in turn molested Leonard, which is why Leonard wants to kill him.  He figures he'll kill himself after that, since he doesn't matter to most people, anyway, but in the end he makes the choice to call someone and that person manages to talk him out of killing himself. As an educator, I enjoyed this book as a reminder that students are more than just numbers, they are people with struggles and stories and issues and sometimes their cries for help are not very loud at all.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: mentions of molestation, language,
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

05 February 2014


Sweetin, Jodi. unSweetined. Gallery Books, 2009.

This is Jodie Sweetin's memoir of growing up on Full House and the life she led afterward.

I'm not impressed.

I could sum up this book in just a paragraph: "I was a cute kid on Full House, but then I lost my way and did drugs. I sobered up, then I did drugs again. I sobered up, then I did drugs again. I got pregnant and had a cute baby, but then I drank again. Now I'm not drinking or doing drugs. Maybe."

Seriously, the entire book was about her addiction, and there isn't really any recovery going on, because she always goes back to the drugs. The book was actually pretty depressing and repetitive, except for the first couple of chapters where she talks about her time on Full House.

Recommended for: fans of celebrity memoirs
Red Flags: language, drugs, drinking, - this is not a book for children
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

04 February 2014

Some Quiet Place

Sutton, Kelsey. Some Quiet Place. Flux, 2013.

Elizabeth doesn't feel emotions. Instead, they show up as ghosts/spectors that speak with her and interact with those around her.  Fear, especially, is very interested in Elizabeth and wants to know why she doesn't feel anything.  And Elizabeth needs to find this out, because that knowledge stands between life and death.

I just couldn't get into this particular story.  As much as I was intrigued by the idea of personified emotions, the writing style just could not hold my interest.  I did not understand why Elizabeth was talking to these emotion creatures, why she didn't feel anything, or why any of it mattered.  This book didn't hook me like others have.  However, the kids at my library who love ghost stories, scary stories, and anything paranormal will probably really enjoy this one.

Recommended for: teens, fans of paranormal fiction
Red flags: none
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

03 February 2014

Cut to the Bone

Bass, Jefferson. Cut to the Bone. William Morrow, 2013.

This is a prequel to the rest of Jefferson Bass's Body Farm novels, telling of Bill Brockton's original battle with a serial killer and the events which led to the creation of the body farm.  Brockton's arch-nemesis is coming after him because Brockton's work on a case led to this man's dismissal from the navy SEALs. But this time, Brockton's not the only one who's in danger.

I didn't enjoy this book nearly as much as the previous installments in the Body Farm series. The story was peppered with statements like, "I wish I could tell you the time of death more specifically, but no one has studied the way a body decomposes enough to narrow it down."  Obvious pulls at the creation of the Body Farm were distracting and silly. Also, the final serial killer scene was not scary or suspenseful at all, possibly because I've read the rest of the Body Farm books and knew who lived and who died; nonetheless, this book wasn't on of those "un-put-downable" ones that I've read before.

Recommended for: fans of Jefferson Bass
Red Flags: language, violence, several attempted rape scenes or descriptions of past rapes
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars