"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

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