"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 December 2013

Curtsies and Conspiracies

Carriger, Gail. Curtsies and Conspiracies. Little, Brown BFYR, 2013.

Sophronia is back at her finishing school in the sky, and another mystery is at hand. Her school is traveling to London to witness the first dirigible flight by aether, but something is not quite right. She has to uncover the conspiracy against both humans and supernaturals before anyone else is hurt.

I enjoyed this book almost as much as I enjoyed the first in the series, although it took me a while to find the time needed to sit and read the book. I am glad that Carriger has a series for young adults, and I hope this will lead more people to enjoy the steampunk genre. I already have students who loved the first book, and I'm sure this one will be an easy sell, too.

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

27 December 2013

The Eye of Minds

Dashner, James. The Eye of Minds. Delacorte BFYR, 2013.

Michael is a gamer who spends most of his free time in his "coffin," a pod that allows him to experience near-reality in his gaming. But something is wrong with the game. People are dying, not only in the game but also in real life, and someone is behind the deaths. When the government asks Michael and his friends to use their programming expertise to catch the killer, they can hardly refuse. But will they be able to catch the killer without themselves being killed?

This was an interesting, fast-paced futuristic mystery. My patrons who spend their entire free time on Minecraft or other online games would love this series, as would fans of the recent rash of serial killer stories. I know this particular book will be an easy sell, and its fast pace will keep my readers interested.

Recommended for: teens, fans of MMORPGs, fans of mysteries or dystopia
Red Flags: video game violence
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

25 December 2013

Out of Nowhere

Padian, Maria. Out of Nowhere. Knopf BFYR, 2013.

Tom is a soccer star at his school, but soon he is overshadowed by a group of boys from Somalia. They are part of a "secondary immigration," a group of people who immigrated to the United States and then moved again when they wanted to live near better schools and neighborhoods. Tom's community is divided; some want to help the new neighbors, and some would rather they went somewhere else. Tom soon realizes that it's hard to hate someone once you know their story, and he fights for his friends' rights to play on the soccer team.

I have far too few sports books in my library, especially sports-themed books that also tell a second story, so I was glad to see this one in my collection. I am also glad for the immigrant story told here, and for the way readers can watch Tom and his family react to the immigrant situation. In spite of not generally enjoying sports books, I found it difficult to put this particular book down.

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

23 December 2013

The Good Neighbors: Kith, Kin, and Kind

Black, Holly. Kin (also Kith and Kind). GRAPHIX, 2008.

Rue's mother has disappeared and her father just sits in his chair and doesn't respond to her anymore. Rue soon discovers that she can see things that others can't, and in fact she is half fairy. Her mother, a full fairy, has returned to her people because of Rue's father's unfaithfulness. This trilogy follows Rue as she interacts with the fae, discovers her heritage, and determines that she alone must save humanity.

I liked this trilogy and the books were a fast read. The story was easy to follow, and even though I guessed at the ending of Kind before it appeared, I was still satisfied with the resolution. This was a great vacation read, and it would be an easy sell for my graphic novel and paranormal patrons.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: One of Rue's friends spends time with water fairies who bite him and suck his blood - the pictures make it clear that he's naked, but nothing is shown. Also language
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

20 December 2013

Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust

Lieberman, Leanne. Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust. Orca Book Publishers, 2013.

Lauren Yanofsky has decided not to be Jewish anymore. She does not want to participate in any religious activities with her family, does not attend the Jewish youth group with her friends, and especially doesn't want to hear any more about the Holocaust. Lauren has decided to ignore her Jewish heritage and try to be normal, when one day some of her friends decide to play a war game involving water guns and swastika armbands, and suddenly Lauren has to decide what really matters to her.

I didn't like this book particularly, but I didn't think it would be my kind of book from the beginning. Lauren is a pretty typical mixed-up teenager who questions her heritage and also defends it from her peers. Not much changes by the end of the book, although Lauren does decide that it's okay to question her beliefs and decide what's important to her. I could definitely see this book being popular with my patrons who are fans of chick lit.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: underage drinking, language, Lauren has several panic attacks due to her excessive study of the Holocaust
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

18 December 2013

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah

Freedman, Paula. My Basmati Bat Mitzvah. 2013.

Tara Feinstein is preparing for her bat mitzvah.  She's trying to decide what she believes, in addition to trying to honor both her Jewish and her Indian heritage.  Meanwhile, she's not sure if her best friend Ben likes her as a friend or is interested in something more.

This was a typical chick-lit story, focusing on a lot of small struggles instead of some major plot point. Tara isn't sure what all she believes, and she's concerned about making promises through her bat mitzvah or committing to a belief system that she doesn't ascribe to.  She gets in trouble with her friends, watches her family interact and react to each other, and in the end decides that it's okay to live with the questions she has about her faith and her heritage. I enjoyed reading about both the Jewish and Indian cultures through this book, and I know it will be popular in my library.

Recommended for: tweens, especially girls
Red Flags: the girls get arrested for shoplifting; one of Tara's friends has a disorder where she pulls out her hair
Overall Rating:3/5 stars

16 December 2013

The Book Whisperer

Miller, Donalyn. The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child. 2009.

This book is definitely geared toward English/Language Arts teachers, but I still appreciated what the author had to say about connecting kids to books.  I am definitely going to take some of her information and present it to my students, things such as how to choose a book, when is it okay to stop reading a book, how to decide what genre a book belongs to, etc.  The biggest takeaway from this book is that kids need to see adults expressing enthusiasm for reading.  Having real conversations about books they've read will do more for kids than any worksheet they may be required to complete during a class-novel lesson. I will definitely be passing this information on to the teachers at my school, but I will also do what I can to encourage the kids in the library and continue to develop their lifetime love of reading.

13 December 2013


Wells, Dan. Partials. 2012.

The human race has been all but eradicated by the disease RM, a disease which appeared during the war with the Partials, genetically engineered super humans who were designed as soldiers. The remaining humans live on Long Island, but there is a problem: every child born since the war has died within days because it becomes infected with RM. The humans need to find a way to save their race by saving their children, but even with every woman of child-bearing age giving birth as often as possible, they are no closer to a cure.  Will they ever find a way for the babies to survive while there's still people around to care for them?

This was an interesting and fast-paced science fiction read, very similar to Divergent, Inhuman, and other post-apocalyptic literature. I enjoyed the twists in the story, although I am content to be finished with this story line now that I've read the first book (there are at least three others in the series). This book would be very popular among my students who enjoy dystopian lit.

Recommended for: teens, tweens
Red Flags: violence, similar to the levels found in Divergent
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

11 December 2013


Roth, Veronica. Allegiant. 2013.

Tris's life has changed dramatically since her society broke apart. She and her friends escape their town and find the people responsible for creating their society, learn more about the divergent and the factions, and then try to overthrow everything and save the world.

I guessed at the ending of this book long before it happened, so I wasn't surprised, and I do think it was an appropriate ending to this story. This book was good, although I enjoyed Divergent much better. To be fair, I enjoyed The Hunger Games better than Mockingjay, too. I have a copy of this book in my library, and while it is popular with the students who have already read the rest of the series, it doesn't have as long a wait list as the latest Rick Riordan or Jeff Kinney book.

Recommended for: teens, fans of dystopian lit

Red Flags: lots of violence

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

09 December 2013

The Gardener

Bodeen, S.A. The Gardener. 2010.

Mason visits his mom at work and finds that she's caring for four comatose teens rather than the elderly persons he expected to find. When one of the teens wakes up from her coma, Mason escapes with her and learns the truth about his father and an experiment to create self-sustaining humans.

This book was okay. I can see how my tweens, especially those who are fans of science fiction, would enjoy this book. I didn't find it as engrossing as other books, but it wasn't a horrible book. The idea of growing humans was intriguing, and the scenes in the greenhouse were appropriately creepy, but I finished the book wanting more information.  This story has the potential to be a great one, but as it is, it's just okay.

Recommended for: tweens, fans of science fiction

Red Flags: none

Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

06 December 2013

All Our Yesterdays

Terrill, Cristin. All Our Yesterdays. 2013.

This book opens with Em being trapped in a prison cell. She finds a note from herself, a note that has been changed and added to at least a dozen times. She is going to travel back in time and try to stop the events that lead to her imprisonment. Her previous selves have left her clues as to what she should do, and this time the note says, "You have to kill him."

This book was really intense. I enjoyed reading about Em's life before the time travel occurred, especially as this story was spliced between updates on her current trip back in time to stop whatever bad thing is going to happen. It isn't until the end of the story that the reader has the full picture, and it's amazing how the author weaves it all together. I couldn't put this one down, and now I can't keep it on my shelves.

Recommended for: teens, tweens, fans of sci-fi and suspenseful books
Red Flags: lots of violence and near-death experiences; characters are tortured in prison; mild profanity
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

04 December 2013


Mannering, G.R. Roses. Sky Pony Press, 2013.

The strange girl with the silver skin and white hair, a ward of a wealthy house, is hidden away and unnamed until she escapes her captors and is named Beauty by a passing stranger. Soon after, Beauty and other people of magic are forced to flee the city in order to escape execution. She lives with a horseman in his rustic village, until he steals a rose and angers a horrid beast. In exchange for the horseman's life, Beauty offers to stay with the beast. Will she ever be free again?

I enjoyed this book, not only as a retelling of a common fairy tale, but also as a great fantasy story with an interesting world to explore. The traditional beauty and the beast story doesn't show up until much later in the book (past page 170), but I was so interested in the first part that I didn't mind at all. Unlike the traditional stories, in this book Beauty is considered to be a freak, and her name is meant to be ironic. She is a curiosity in the city where she grows up, and an outcast in the small village she escapes to. This book will hook stronger readers with the lyrical writing and world-building, and even less-strong readers will be drawn to the story because of the fairy-tale tie-in. There is already a waiting list at my library just from this book sitting on my desk for the past week. I will be recommending it to fans of Beastly and Of Beast and Beauty, as well as my kids who can't get enough fantasy.

Recommended for: tweens, teens, fans of fantasy and fairy tale retellings
Red Flags: Beauty "accidentally" shoots her cousin, but the scene isn't graphic
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Goodreads' FirstReads program for the purposes of review.

02 December 2013

Of Beast and Beauty

Jay, Stacey. Of Beast and Beauty. Delacorte Press, 2013.

Princess Isra lives in one of the domed cities on her planet. She is the latest in a long line of female rulers who will one day give her life for her people, because the roses that protect the domed city need human blood to survive. Gem, one of the Monstrous who lives outside the city, is captured within the city and piques the interest of the princess. They soon realize that neither is truly a monster, and together they plan to save their planet from destruction.

This was an interesting twist on the Beauty and the Beast story. I enjoyed the science fiction elements, along with the Shirley Jackson-esque "lottery" situation where a female in the ruling family (married in or born to it; doesn't matter which) voluntarily sacrifices herself for the good of the city. It was fun to watch Isra's eyes open as she learned more about what was really happening in her city. This book has been very popular with the girls in my library who like fairy tale rewrites like Beastly.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: some violence; people are said to swear (but no words are listed)
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

29 November 2013

Model Misfit

Smale, Holly. Model Misfit. Harper Collins, 2013.

Harriet is a geek and also a model, so she is glad for the break from her normal life when she is sent to Japan for a modeling job. But when every one of her shoots is sabotaged, her boss begins to wonder if Harriet is the right girl for her campaign. Harriet has to try to navigate a culture unfamiliar to her while rescuing herself and her job from forces unknown.

This book was hilarious in spite of the fact that it's clearly a chick lit book. Harriet's grandmother is absolutely ridiculous, and between her and Harriet's agent there are enough humorous moments to offset the tension from all the modeling mishaps. I could definitely sell my 7th/8th grade girls on this book.

Recommended for: tweens and teens; fans of chick lit
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

27 November 2013

If You Could Be Mine

Farizan, Sara. If You Could Be Mine. Algonquin Young Readers, 2013.

Sahar and Nasrin have been in love since they were in elementary school, but homosexuality is punishable by death in Iran, so they have to keep their feelings secret. When Nasrin's parents arrange her marriage to a wealthy doctor, Sahar begins to consider sex-reassignment surgery in order to marry Nasrin. This takes Sahar deep into the world of transgender persons in Iran, where being transgender is considered a medical condition which the government will surgically repair at no cost. But is the price of love too high for Sahar?

This is an excellent book in that it looks into a little-explored culture. I enjoyed learning about life in Iran as I watched Sahar struggle with her love for Nasrin and her desire to do whatever is necessary to be with her. I found Nasrin to be an irritating character, though, because she clearly didn't return Sahar's affections and was willing to settle for her life with her doctor. She seemed very silly and shallow, and often I wanted to slap her. This story is not fast paced or filled with adventure, but the plot and the issues involved will still draw the reader in to a world very different from his/her own.

Recommended for: teens, fans of multicultural literature
Red Flags: Sahar visits a doctor who describes in detail the surgery she would go through to transition to being a man; Sahar's uncle is beaten nearly to death
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

25 November 2013

Under Shifting Glass

Singer, Nicky. Under Shifting Glass. Chronicle Books, 2013.

Jess's twin brothers are very ill, and she thinks the key to their survival is in the flask she found hidden in a desk in her bedroom. She is still grieving the loss of her beloved aunt, and now she has to protect the glass flask in order to ensure her brothers' survival.

I barely finished this one. The writing style is much too descriptive and literary for my tastes, much less for the middle school students who are supposed to check it out of my library. It's probably a good Newbery contender - one of those books that will get a gold seal and sit on my shelf, untouched, for decades. I really don't see any of my students, even my strongest readers, getting interested in this particular book.

Recommended for: tweens and teens, strong readers
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

22 November 2013

Picture Me

Weber, Lori. Picture Me. James Lorimer & Company, 2013.

This book starts with a fairly typical school scenario: a popular girl teases an unpopular girl, which causes one of the unpopular girl's friends to snap and start a fight. All three miss school for a week or more. What's different is that this book switches between the different viewpoints: the bully, the victim, and the bystander. The reader is shown the back story of each character and how they react to the bullying incident and the ensuing fight. It's an interesting take on an old story, and one that probably needs to be told.

It took me a while to get into this story. The characters' viewpoints switch fairly often, and while I am used to reading books with two narrators, three is a bit of a stretch for me. Fortunately, each character's name is listed at the beginning of her section, so it's easier to figure out who's talking. It also took me a long time to feel any sympathy for the bully in the story, even though it was obvious I was supposed to pity her from the beginning. I was more concerned with the victim in this situation; she seemed to be in need of some very serious assistance, help that she was not getting at home. This is obviously a very timely topic, and it is good to be reminded that even bullies might have other issues they're dealing with. I would probably purchase a copy of this book for my library.

Recommended for: tween and teen girls

Red flags: one of the characters becomes anorexic and takes diet pills to lose weight, almost killing herself; one of the characters (age 14) starts dating an older (20s) boy who delivers pizzas and deals drugs - she goes to a party where there's alcohol, and it's hinted that she's raped, although it's not explicitly stated

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

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

20 November 2013

A Tangle of Knots

Graff, Lisa. A Tangle of Knots. Philomel, 2013.

Everyone in Cady's world has a Talent. Cady can always figure out the perfect cake for any person she meets. Unfortunately, Cady is an orphan and hasn't been able to find her perfect family yet. In an interesting twist, the lives of different people intertwine in a plot involving a baking contest, a displaced family, and a missing peanut butter recipe.

This is a fun fantasy story and would be popular with kids who have enjoyed other magical stories like the Charlie Bone series or the Narnia books. It is interesting to see how the different parts of the story mesh together toward the end.

Recommended for: middle grade, tweens, fans of fantasy
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

18 November 2013

The Owner's Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain

Deak, JoAnn. The Owner's Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain. Little Pickle Press, 2013.

This book is written to adolescents with information about how their brain works as well as tips for keeping it healthy and surviving adolescence.

The ebook version of this particular book was difficult to navigate, probably because there are lots of illustrations and charts throughout the book, but the writing style was spot-on, and the information is current and would appeal to tweens and teens. If I can find a print version of this book, I might purchase it for my middle school library.

Recommended for: tweens, teens, and those who work with them
Red Flags: N/A
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

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

15 November 2013

The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett

Angleberger, Tom. The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett. Amulet Books, 2013.

Dwight is back at McQuarrie Middle School, but things are not well. In an effort to raise standardized test scores, the school has decided to do away with all electives and extra-curriculars and to replace them with "fun" time where the kids learn the FUNdamentals of passing the tests. The kids are not happy, the teachers are not happy, and no one knows what to do, until they ask for some help from Origami Yoda. The kids begin to fight back against the tests, but it isn't until Jabba the Puppett makes an appearance that they are able to truly battle "fun" time!

This book is a great next installment in the Origami Yoda series. Like the rest of the series, I can't keep it on my shelf. My only complaint is that it has a cliffhanger ending, and I don't like cliffhangers when I don't know when I'll be able to find out the rest of the story. Other than that, this is an excellent book.

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

13 November 2013

The Silver Six

Lieberman, A.J. The Silver Six. Graphix, 2013.

Six orphans discover they have something in common: their parents left them a moon. When they attempt to move to their moon and live out their lives in peace, the corporation their late parents worked for attempts to steal it from them. The kids band together and fight back against the monstrous machines sent to take their moon from them.

The illustrations in this book are really engaging, and kids love stories about orphans. The adventure is nonstop, and the futuristic setting is a lot of fun. There's also an element of mystery as the kids try to figure out the messages their parents have left for them. This book is very popular with my graphic novel fans as well as my fans of adventure books.

Recommended for: middle grade, tweens
Red Flags: some fantasy violence
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

11 November 2013

Doll Bones

Black, Holly. Doll Bones. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013.

Zach, Poppy, and Alice are friends who still like to play even though they are on the cusp of adolescence. But when Zach's father takes away all his toys, their friendship is nearly shattered. They agree to take one last adventure to reunite a doll with its long-dead owner. On the way, the doll seems much more real and alive than any of them could have imagined.

I definitely enjoyed the spookiness of this story, and it's been very popular in my library during Halloween season. I also was glad that the protagonists were willing to keep playing, even though their classmates seemed to have outgrown it. However, I kept wondering why Zach didn't just tell his friends that his dad threw away all his toys (which, by the way, was a very jerkweasel-y thing to do). That would have solved their whole disagreement from the beginning, and then the girls wouldn't have thought that Zach was hating on them. Overall, though, it's a cute story, even if it is a tad unrealistic.

Recommended for: tweens, teens
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

08 November 2013

School Spirits

Hawkins, Rachel. School Spirits. Disney-Hyperion, 2013.

Izzy is a monster fighter a la Buffy, but when her sister disappears, her mom decides the family needs to take a break and settle down. For the first time in her life, Izzy is going to attend a normal high school and try to live a normal life. Or so she thinks. Izzy soon discovers that her new school is haunted, and she has to solve the mystery of the haunting before her new friends are all killed. Can Izzy hunt down the ghosts before it's too late?

This book was mildly suspenseful and enjoyable. Fans of paranormal books will undoubtedly enjoy it, and I've had difficulty keeping it on my shelves once my Twlight groupies come in the library.

Recommended for: teens, especially fans of paranormal books
Red Flags: lots of violence
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

06 November 2013

The Weight of Water

Crossan, Sarah. The Weight of Water. Bloomsbury, 2012.

Kasienka and her mom move to England with just a suitcase and the clothes on their backs. They are struggling to survive in a new culture, and Kasienka finds that her swim time at the local pool is one of the few things that helps her to survive. When she's swimming, her language doesn't matter, the money her family has doesn't matter, the fact that her mother is still searching for her absent father doesn't matter. Kasienka learns to deal with her difficult life through her time in the pool.

I am not a big fan of books in verse, so I didn't enjoy this book as much as my Hopkins fans will. I am glad for a book that describes the immigrant experience and gives a picture into the life some teens deal with at home, but this one will be a hard sell with all but my strong readers. Most of my kids won't have the patience for a barely discernible plot.

Recommended for: teens, fans of books in verse
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

04 November 2013

Zero Tolerance

Mills, Claudia. Zero Tolerance. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2013.

Sierra is the quintessential good student who always follows the rules, so when she opens her lunch bag and discovers that she accidentally grabbed her mother's lunch, which included a small knife to cut an apple, she promptly turns herself in to the lunch lady, thinking that the matter can be quickly and easily resolved. She is shocked to discover that her school's "zero tolerance" policy dictates that she be placed in in-school suspension pending a hearing about her expulsion from school. Sierra has an opportunity to meet some of the "bad kids" at her school and discovers that most issues are not as black and white as they may seem.

I'll be the first to admit it: Sierra annoyed me. Her friends could have solved her whole problem from the start; they recommended that she hide the knife in her lunch bag and just bring it home. And I did not enjoy watching the school politics hyper-inflate the situation, although I am sure the descriptions were closer to reality than anyone would care to admit. This was a good story about a good kid who ends up getting to know some of the "bad kids," and who grows a bit of a backbone, but it didn't keep my attention as much as I'd hoped it would.

Recommended for: tweens
Red Flags: mild profanity from Sierra's ISS buddies
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

01 November 2013

What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World

Clark, Henry. What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World. Little, Brown, 2013.

River, Freak, and Fiona are sitting on an apparently abandoned sofa, waiting for their school bus, when they discover a zucchini colored crayon wedged between the cushions. When they learn that this is a very rare crayon color and that it would fetch a price of thousands of dollars on eBay, they decide to return it to its owner in the mysterious house behind the gate. Thus ensues all sorts of adventures involving space travel, living sofas, and a talking domino.

This book was amazing, fast-paced, and very entertaining. I would love to use this book as a read-aloud with middle grade students or tweens, as I'm sure even the reluctant readers would be eager to find out what happens. The three protagonists have very distinct personalities, and the plot runs along with just enough suspense and humor to keep the pages turning. If you don't have this one in your library, get a copy today.

Recommended for: middle grade, tweens, reluctant readers, fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society
Red Flags: minor violence and impending death during the course of the adventure
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

30 October 2013

Little White Duck: A Childhood in China

Liu, Na. Little White Duck: a Childhood in China. Graphic Universe, 2012.

This GN details the lives of two girls growing up in 1970s China, so it is a great peek into both another time period and another culture. The illustrations make the story much more engaging and inviting, and the fact that this is a graphic novel is probably the reason many of my students check it out in the first place.

Recommended for: tweens, teens, fans of historical fiction and/or memoirs
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

29 October 2013


"Mrs. F, where are the scary books?"
"Miss Libarry Teacher, where's the Percy Jackson books?"
"I read all the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books; what should I read next?"
"Where are the love stories?"

For the first two months of school, I fielded these types of questions all day long.  For the kids looking for a specific title, I was able to point them in the right direction.  But when a kid wants a genre of book or a book similar to his/her favorite series, I had more difficulty.  It wasn't hard to come up with a read-alike, but it was hard to point the student to the shelf containing all the read-alikes.

Thus I decided that the fiction section in my middle school library needed to be divided by genre.  I started by reading everything Mrs. Readerpants had to say on the subject. And I paid close attention to both my collection and my students.  After I finished planning, it was time to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

I decided to divide our fiction into eleven genres plus one section for the graphic novels/manga. I have approximately 2,000 titles in the fiction section, so this was going to be a large task, but not an impossible one.  I created genre categories as well as color codes for each genre:

  • Historical Fiction (Dark Green)
  • Fantasy (White)
  • Mystery (Purple)
  • Realistic Fiction (Orange)
  • Humor (Yellow)
  • Romance/Chick Lit (Pink)
  • Adventure (Red)
  • Science Fiction (Light Blue)
  • Paranormal (Dark Blue)
  • Mythology (Light Green)
  • Horror/Scary (Black)
  • Graphic Novels/Manga (Bright Pink)

Then I took the books to my desk, one cart-full at a time.  Each book had to be individually scanned, changed in the computer, and tagged with a color-coding sticker on the spine.  I changed the call numbers to reflect the new genres; for example, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was changed from F ROW to F FAN ROWLING.  Keeping the fiction designation allows all the fiction to still be grouped together in my catalog, but the genre classification allows my patrons to find the books in the correct location. This was a long process, and I have a small library, so I can imagine it would be a much bigger task in a larger library. 

Most of the books were easy to genre-fy.  Some books I had to look up on Goodreads to see other people's categories and get an idea of where they should go.  If a book fit in multiple genres, I put it where I thought my students would be most likely to look for it.  As I completed each cart, I adjusted the shelves so that the genres were placed together.  This meant I shifted books a lot, but it was good for me to be able to see how the genres would all fit on my shelves.

I have wooden bookshelves and they are attached to my walls, so I couldn't rearrange the shelving itself, but I was able to dedicate a certain number of shelves to each genre.  I ended up giving each genre its own vertical bookshelf, except that Mystery shares with Scary books and Mythology and Paranormal share a shelf.  This is because of my two biggest genres: historical fiction and fantasy both needed two vertical shelves each to fit all the books.  I am now considering dividing both of those sections into subsections.  I would split fantasy into high/low fantasy (because kids who like Harry Potter will not necessarily gravitate toward Redwall), and I am considering dividing the historical fiction by broad time periods or just pulling particular topics into their own area (World War II and the colonial period, for example, have a lot of books each).

It took me approximately one week, working on my own, to genrify all of my fiction and graphic novels.  I still have to genrify any books that have been checked out during this process, but that is a much smaller project that can be completed as the books are returned to the library.  I have signage up in each section that identifies the genre (in English and Spanish).  The signs contain pictures that represent that genre, and the lettering on each sign matches the color codes for that particular genre.  Already I have noticed a difference in the way my students look for books, and many books that have not moved at all this year are now circulating. It's too soon to tell what difference this will make in my circulation statistics, but the comments from students and teachers alike make the hard work worthwhile.

"Wow, the library is so much nicer this year."
"I can actually find the books I like to read."
"It's so much more organized; I like our library."

If you are considering dividing your fiction section by genre and you have questions for me, feel free to comment on this post and I can reply to you via email.  I am also willing to share the signage I created; I can send you a PDF copy of that document upon request.

28 October 2013

The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee

Angleberger, Tom. The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee. Amulet Books, 2012.

Dwight has been suspended, so the kids are struggling to survive without Origami Yoda's advice. Fortunately, they are rescued by the Fortune Wookiee, who is able to help them come up with a plan to rescue Dwight from his new school and bring him back!

This book is just as adorable and delightful as the previous two in the series. This series is very, very popular in my library, not only with my Star Wars fans, but also with kids who have enjoyed the Wimpy Kid series.

Recommended for: middle grade, tweens, fans of humorous books like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

25 October 2013


McKinlay, Meg. Below. Candlewick, 2013.

Cassie was born eight weeks premature, so her family missed the drowning of their town while they were driving to the hospital to welcome her into the world.  Their town was intentionally drowned when a new dam was built, and the town moved a few miles away to higher ground.  Now Cassie spends every day swimming to strengthen her lungs, but when she decides to swim in the lake that covers the old town, she finds secrets that some preferred to keep hidden.

I was initially intrigued by the plot of this story, but it takes a significant amount of pages for the plot to be revealed and for the tension to build.  Even though this book is short, I don't think many of my weaker readers would stay interested long enough to find out that there's a mystery involved.  The book sounded like it should be intense and mysterious, but it sort of fell flat in that area.  Nonetheless, I am sure some of my students will enjoy this book.

Recommended for: tweens, middle grade

Red Flags: None

Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

23 October 2013


Crowder, Melanie. Parched. Houghton Mifflin, 2013.

Musa knows how to find water with divining rods.  He is being held captive by a gang.  Sarel just watched her parents get killed and her family's home burn to the ground, but she is kept alive by a secret cache of water. Nandi is the leader of Sarel's family's dog pack.  The three unlikely companions meet and must work together to survive and to find the water everyone needs.

First off, there are not enough books about other cultures, especially places like Africa, so I am glad that this book exists.  I think it would be a great companion novel to A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park.  This book is written in a very poetic style and it's beautiful to read, even as it is painful to think of living that close to daily dehydration.   However, the first chapter is told from the perspective of the dog, and each successive chapter is told from either Musa's or Nandi's point of view, so it takes a while to get into the story.  I did enjoy this one, but I think it will be a harder sell for all but my strongest readers.

Recommended for: teens, tweens

Red flags: Sarel watches her family die, the bandits/gang members threaten violence when they find Musa

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

21 October 2013


Ottaviani, Jim. Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas. First Second, 2013.

As its title indicates, this is a nonfiction graphic novel focusing on the the study of primates and describing the careers of three notable female primatologists. The illustrations are engaging and the information is enlightening.  Even though I'm not very interested in primatology, I was interested in reading this particular graphic novel, and I could see this book as a good stepping stone to get students interested in other books in our nonfiction collection.

Recommended for: tweens, middle grade, teens

Red flags: none

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

18 October 2013

The 14 Fibs of Gregory K

Pincus, Gregory. The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2013.

Greg is surrounded by math-aholics.  His father and his brother both have won the annual City Math competition, and his mother and his younger sister also enjoy math.  Greg has feigned enthusiasm for math his entire life when really he would rather be a writer.  He has hidden notebooks filled with stories and poems.  But when Greg chooses to enter the City Math competition in order to save his math grade and possibly convince his parents to let him go to Author Camp, he soon finds that he'll have to learn to combine his greatest talent with his secret weakness.

This book was just adorable.  The family was very believable (if weird), Greg sounded exactly like a middle school student, and the trauma of math class plus his friend moving made for a great plot. Also, I love the title of the book; it's clever enough to hook readers in, but also becomes a major part of the story's resolution. This would be a fun book for math whizzes and mathophobes alike, and it has definitely earned its place on the shelves of my middle school library.

Recommended for: middle grade, tweens, reluctant readers, fans of math

Red flags: none

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

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

16 October 2013

Sky Jumpers

Eddleman, Peggy. Sky Jumpers. Random House, 2013.

After the green bombs of World War III killed most of earth's population and rendered many places uninhabitable due to the "bomb's breath," a gas that settled in the air and kills instantly, settlements of survivors have sprung up.  Hope and her family live in White Rock, where everyone focuses on inventing new things that can help the community to recover in the wake of the war.  But when a group of bandits attack in the middle of winter and threaten to take the settlement's supply of medicine, it is up to Hope to sneak out and bring help.  Will Hope be able to save her family and community?

This book is a much more upbeat take on the typical dystopian novel.  Even though the world has changed and most of the population has died, the focus is on the community that has been rebuilt and the progress they have made in spite of their lack of resources.  Hope isn't a perfect character, but she is one worth applauding, and I enjoyed following her and her gang of friends as they tried to save their community from the bandits. I think this one would be popular in my library, and the short length combined with the action would guarantee that I could convince reluctant readers to give it a try, too.

Recommended for: tweens, middle grade

Red flags: minor violence when the bandits invade the town

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

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

14 October 2013

The Waiting Tree

Moynihan, Lindsay. The Waiting Tree. Amazon Children's, 2013.

Simon has a twin brother who is mute, two older brothers, one of whom is ridiculously self-centered, and no parents.  His oldest brother is in charge until the boys are all old enough to move out on their own, but Simon feels trapped because he can't leave his twin, Jude, to struggle alone.  Also, Simon had a brief relationship with Stephen, but Stephen's parents have shipped him off to a Christian "counseling" center to cure him of being gay. And one of Simon's older brothers is selling drugs.

This book had a lot going on, to the point where I wondered what Simon had ever done to the author to deserve all of this.  No one in this book goes to school.  No social services people ever come by to check on Jude or Simon, both of whom are minors. Stephen, who is no longer a minor, is choosing to stay at the center, because he knew his parents would hate his guts if he came home.  So when Simon's brother gets caught dealing drugs, Jude confesses and turns himself in, knowing that this will allow Simon to escape this crazy life he's dealing with.  I spent most of this book wanting to scream at all the characters and wondering where the real adults were. This one is not worth your time, folks.

Recommended for: recycling

Red flags: language, drug use, violence

Overall Rating: 1/5 stars

11 October 2013

The Obsidian Miror

Fisher, Catherine. The Obsidian Mirror. Dial, 2013.

Jake has finally gotten himself kicked out of boarding school, and he's being sent back to stay with the man he thinks murdered his father.  Jake is glad for the chance to find the truth and also seek revenge, but he gets more than he bargained for when he encounters Oberon Venn and his mirror. Venn had been working with Jake's father to use the mirror for time travel.  Will Jake be able to bring his father back from the past and destroy the dangerous mirror once and for all?

This book was really intense and interesting after a rather strange start.  The book opens with Jake getting kicked out of school, but that isn't really the focus of the story.  The story of this mirror that allows people to time travel, and of the devastation that has caused in multiple time periods, was really interesting.  I was intrigued to see how the book would end, and this book has already circulated several times in just the first couple weeks of school, so it's popular with my students, too.

Recommended for: tweens, teens, fans of adventure stories

Red flags: Some violence

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

09 October 2013

House of Secrets

Columbus, Chris. House of Secrets. Balzer + Bray, 2013.

The kids in the Walker family had a great life, that is, until their father lost his job.  Now they are downsizing, and they move into a mysterious house in the Sea Cliff area of San Francisco.  But the trio soon find that the house holds more than its share of secrets. Will the kids be able to save themselves and their parents before it's too late?

I thought this book would be amazingly fast-paced and would keep me up all night. It actually didn't.  It starts out spookily enough, with the kids moving to the new house and the creepy weeping angel statue / witch appearing outside, but once they shift to the fantasy land, I lost interest quickly.  I think there was just too much going on at once.  There are a lot of fans of "scary books" in my library, though, so some of the kids might really enjoy reading this one.  It isn't super-scary, but it is intense. [Also, a family who can still afford to buy a house in the city of San Francisco is NOT suffering financially, just sayin'.]

Recommended for: tweens, strong readers

Red flags: none

Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

07 October 2013


Phelan, Matt. Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton. Candlewick, 2013.

Vaudeville performers invade small town Michigan in the early 1900s, and a small boy spends several successive summers with the group, befriending Buster "the human mop" and getting to know the performers.  Not much else happens in this story, which has a gentle pace that matches its pastel illustrations.

I didn't like this book as much as I've liked others.  The slow pace and nostalgic feel didn't appeal to me, and I don't think it will appeal to my teen readers, but my wife loved the book, so I think I was just the wrong audience for it.  I will still book talk it to my patrons and see who will be interested.

Recommended for: fans of historical fictions, teens and tweens

Red Flags: none

Overall Rating: 3/5 stars.

04 October 2013


TenNapel, Doug. Cardboard. GRAPHIX, 2012.

Cam's father has no money, so although Cam is disappointed when he receives an empty cardboard box for his birthday, he determines to make the best of it.  Imagine his surprise when the boxer they created from the cardboard box comes to life!  But Cam's rival Marcus is determined to make his own cardboard creation, and what started as a gift soon becomes a disaster larger than either Cam or Marcus.

I enjoyed the illustrations in this story.  I enjoyed the plot.  I think this book will be very popular with my patrons.  However, when Marcus has his "great turnaround" at the end of the book, I'm a bit disturbed that the only noticeable change is that he gets a haircut.  Short hair does not a person reform. That and his friend Pink Eye's disgusting pink eyes are my only objections.  Overall, though, this is a great book.

Recommended for: teens and tweens

Red Flags: minor violence

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

02 October 2013


Krumwiede, Lana. Freakling. Candlewick, 2012.

Everyone in Taemon's world has a special power called Psi - the ability to move objects with one's mind. They are eagerly awaiting the arrival of The Chosen One, while rival factions disagree about the use of Psi and the application of this power.  When Taemon loses his Psi ability in an accident, he is terrified that he will be discovered and sent away to live with other Psi-less individuals.  All the while his brother has been accepted as The Chosen One and is gaining more and more power. Can Taemon keep his disability a secret, and what is his role in his brother's imminent reign?

This book was much better than I expected it to be. Taemon's time in the world of the Psi-less reminded me of Swans & Klons. I was happy to watch Taemon change and grow, his competition with his brother seemed very realistic to me, and I enjoyed the ending of the story very much. This one will be popular with my science fiction fans, especially those who enjoy reading about the Force in Star Wars.

Recommended for: teens, fans of science fiction

Red Flags; mild violence

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

30 September 2013

The Naturals

Barnes, Jennifer. The Naturals. Disney, 2013.

Cassie is very good at reading people.  She is chosen for an elite group that assists the FBI in solving cold cases, but soon her very life and those of her group mates are in danger, and it's hard to know whom to trust anymore.

This is yet another in a series of books about serial killers, but this one has a different twist with the group of Naturals fighting the killer. I enjoyed getting to know the different characters and watching them interact with each other.  I eagerly turned the pages to discover who the killer was, and I was genuinely surprised at the ending.  This book is excellent!

Recommended for: teens, fans of thrillers/mysteries

Red Flags: language, violence

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

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

27 September 2013


Falls, Kat. Inhuman. Scholastic, 2013.

A corporation that was attempting to create weapons accidentally unleashed a virus on the United States.  Now everything east of the Mississippi is wilderness and a great wall spans the United States from Canada to Mexico.  Lane's father is a Fetch; he ventures into the wilderness to obtain priceless paintings and other objects for people.  But when he doesn't return by his scheduled time, Lane has to venture over the wall to find him and complete his mission.

Wow.  This book is unbelievably suspenseful.  It's at least as good as The Hunger Games, and it's clearly going to require at least a sequel, if not several other books.  Kids who enjoyed The Hunger Games will love this book; I have a sneaking suspicion that I won't be able to keep this one on my shelves.

Recommended for: teens, fans of dystopian novels, fans of The Hunger Games

Red Flags: epic violence, descriptions of human/animal hybrids

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

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

25 September 2013

Asher's Fault

Wheeler, Elizabeth. Asher's Fault. Bold Strokes Books, 2013.

Asher is hiding in a bathroom, having his first kiss, when his little brother drowns.  After that, Asher has to deal with his grief, his parents' separation, and a whole lot of secrets that are being revealed.

I liked that, like Coda, this is a book about a character who happens to be LGBT, but the book isn't really about the kid coming out.  Instead, he's trying to deal with his little brother's death, his mother's grief, his jerkweasel "friend," and all the twisted secrets that come out about his family.  I liked that Asher had his old-fashioned camera and that he enjoyed using it, but didn't like taking pictures of people.  The story kept me going even though Asher's friend is irritating to the point that I wanted to punch him and Asher's dad tries to buy his love.

Recommended for: teens, fans of mysteries,

Red Flags: language

Overall Rating: 3/5

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

23 September 2013


Trevayne, Emma. Coda. Running Press Kids, 2013.

Anthem and his family live in the Corp, a society where music carries addictive powers and the government tightly controls everything, even the songs people are allowed to hear.  Anthem is trying to keep his family together, caring for his ailing father, preventing his siblings from becoming music addicts, and creating music on his own with a group working very much outside of the law. But when the government begins to tighten its grip, what will Anthem sacrifice to save himself and his family?

I didn't think I'd like this book.  The author does very little world-building, so it takes a while to understand what's going on.  The ending of the story is intense, although unsurprising. I can imagine this book being very popular with teens, especially those who have read The Hunger Games and all the other dystopian novels. Also, I really appreciated the fact that the main character is bisexual, but it's not a big deal.  The book isn't about him being bisexual; it's about other things and the reader figures out that he's bisexual.

Recommended for: fans of dystopia; young adults

Red Flags: the whole book is about drug addiction; some violence

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

20 September 2013

Cameron and the Girls

Averett, Edward. Cameron and the Girls. Clarion Books, 2013.

Cameron has schizophrenia, but he's only in junior high, so he and his family are hoping that his disorder will disappear as he grows up. Cameron decides to quit taking his medication; soon, his head is filled with various voices. He doesn't like all the voices, but he does like one of them, and he wants to know if he can keep that voice.

I do not think this is a good book for kids. Cameron and his buddy from school don't have any redeeming qualities at all. She encourages Cameron to skip school and not take his meds, which leads to him making some very dangerous choices. She also goes off of her meds, with disastrous results. The only thing I got from this book is that most 14-year olds are probably not mature enough to make their own decisions when it comes to taking medication. Cameron frequently lies about taking his meds, both to his parents and to his doctor.

I would be hesitant to put this book in my library's collection, even though it covers an illness not frequently found in YA books, because the main character goes off his meds, has some scary adventures, and comes home relatively unscathed. It's almost as if the author is encouraging children not to take medication prescribed to them, and that's. just. dangerous.

Recommended for: teens, those interested in books about mental illness

Red Flags: Cameron is 14, so his language isn't always the best and he starting to think about girls a lot.

Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

18 September 2013

The Water Castle

Blakemore, Megan. The Water Castle. Walker Children, 2013.

Ephraim's family moves to their family estate, a castle in rural Maine, and Ephraim befriends the descendant of the castle's caretakers as well as the descendant of his family's rivals.  While the trio try to discover the secrets of the fountain of youth, old rivalries are mended and relationships restored.

This book was amazing.  It's Holes meets Narnia. This story was entertaining, the ending was satisfying, and I read this entire book in one sitting.  I am so glad there's a copy of this book in my library; I plan to booktalk it this week when classes come to visit.

Recommended for: tweens, teens, reluctant readers, fans of Narnia

Red Flags: none

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars