"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

31 January 2014

Donner Dinner Party

Hale, Nathan. Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party. Henry N. Abrams, 2013.

This graphic novel depicts the events that led up to and the aftermath of the Donner party's emigration to California. Told by Nathan Hale (along with side comments by his two buddies from previous books in this series), this book makes the story come alive without being overly graphic and disgusting about the whole cannibalism thing. The interjections by the narrator are interesting and entertaining, and there are lots of graphs and charts and maps throughout the book as well.  This is a nonfiction title that will make my students actually want to read nonfiction.

Recommended for: teens, tweens
Red Flags: some violence (people shot off stage, etc.), mentions of cannibalism
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

30 January 2014

Being Henry David

Armistead, Carl. Being Henry David. Albert Whitman Teen, 2013.

"Hank" wakes up at a train station with no memories.  All he has is a copy of Thoreau's "Walden," so he heads to Walden Pond in hopes of finding answers. As he gradually regains his memories, he has to choose whether he wants to continue in the life he is now living, or go home and face the consequences of his earlier choices.

Initially I found this story to be a bit annoying, but I enjoyed it much more once Hank began regaining his memories.  I enjoyed the mystery of discovering what he had left behind as well as watching him wrestle with the decision to go home or to stay where he was.

Recommended for: teens, tweens
Red Flags: alcohol use, some graphic car-crash scenes
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

29 January 2014

Jane, the Fox, and Me

Britt, Fanny. Jane, the Fox, and Me. Groundwood Books, 2013.

Helene is an outcast at her school.  The other kids pick on her and call her fat, and she's beginning to believe these lies.  She is definitely not looking forward to the class camping trip, until she ends up meeting a new friend who helps her see past everyone's teasing.

This book is adorable.  The illustrations are perfect, and the story itself is interspersed with bits of Jane Eyre, which gives it a great classroom tie-in. It also addresses the body image issues many people struggle with, by depicting a girl who is clearly not overweight, but is still teased by her classmates.  This one will be a quick favorite among my patrons.

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

28 January 2014

Earth Girl

Edwards, Janet. Earth Girl. Harper Voyager, 2012. 

The year is 2788.  Humanity has expanded to many planets, but some humans are born with an inability to survive anywhere besides Earth.  These people, the handicapped, are often abandoned as infants and are raised exclusively on Earth. Jarra is one of the handicapped, but she wants to interact with "exos" (those who grow up off-planet), so she enrolls in an off-planet university whose courses are held on Earth.  She creates a fake identity for herself, until a tragedy causes her to mistake her fantasy for reality, with near-tragic consequences.

I liked the concept behind this book, and I liked getting to know Jarra and her classmates, especially since each planet/sector had its own personality quirks.  I was a bit confused about Jarra's confusion, because it wasn't clear to me that she was hallucinating until she decided to travel off-planet (which would have been a death sentence for her), but all was eventually explained.  I also enjoyed the excavation perspective, where people were digging up the ruins of New York City in hopes of shedding light on lost history.  There's a lot to like in this book, and it should be popular with my patrons who are fans of science fiction as well as those who like dystopia (and don't want to be reminded that dystopia is a subset of science fiction).

Recommended for: teens, tweens
Red Flags: none; there is some mild "cussing," but their swear words are different from those currently in use
Overall Rating: 4/5

27 January 2014

Mouse, Bird, Snake, Wolf

Almond, David. Mouse, Bird, Snake, Wolf. Candlewick Press, 2013.

The gods created the world, but then they got lazy and spent their days napping.  Meanwhile, three humans find some missing pieces to the gods' creation, and they decide to get creative themselves.  Some of the results are fantastic, while others are nearly disastrous.  This adorable illustrated book will be a favorite among fans of mythology as well as reluctant readers.

Recommended for: middle grade, tweens
Red Flags: a couple of the pictures of the gods show them mostly unclothed; some of them are very clearly female
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

24 January 2014

Dogs of War

Keenan, Sheila. Dogs of War. GRAPHIX, 2013.

This graphic novel follows three different dogs who were heroes in their own right during three different major wars. Fans of historical fiction will enjoy these stories, as well as those who like stories about animals.

Recommended for: teens, tweens
Red Flags: all three stories happen during wars, so there's lots of violence, death, etc.  Nothing very graphic.
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

23 January 2014

Nowhere to Run

Griffin, Claire. Nowhere to Run. Namelos, 2013.

Calvin likes to run, and he's staying in school so he can keep a promise he made to his mom.  After school he works at a repair shop and dates Junior when he's able.  But he lives in a tough neighborhood and has a lot of pressure from a local gang.  Can Calvin escape his destiny, or will he be drawn into the violence around him?

I don't like urban fiction, probably because 1) it's not a setting I'm personally familiar with, and 2) it's not a setting I want to be familiar with.  Urban stories aren't always pretty and they don't always have happy endings.  I can see this book being very popular with my patrons, though, some of whom live in neighborhoods much like Calvin's, and many of whom will choose not to finish high school.

Recommended for: teens, tweens
Red Flags: drug use, language, threats of violence
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

22 January 2014


Wooding, Chris. Pandemonium. GRAPHIX, 2012.

This is a prince-and-the-pauper-style story about a boy who must take the place of the prince when the prince has been abducted. The beautiful illustrations and action-packed story will make this a favorite of many patrons.

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

21 January 2014

Somebody Up There Hates You

Seamon, Hollis. Somebody Up There Hates You. Algonquin Young Readers, 2013.

Richard is a typical teenager - he's snarky, sarcastic, hates having people tell him what to do, and imagines his girlfriend naked approximately once every 2.4 seconds. Oh, and he's dying. Richard is in hospice care, which means he's got less than one month to live.  This story follows Richard's antics on the hospice floor where he's spending his last days.

I enjoyed the fact that Richard was pictured as a normal teenager - he played tricks on Halloween, he wanted to clean up before a "date" with his girlfriend, he worried about his mom. I was also glad that the book did not end with Richard's death, which would have been unbelievably depressing,  This was just a story of a kid who doesn't want to die but realizes that he probably will soon, and until then he's going to enjoy his life as much as he can.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: language, some fairly graphic descriptions of sex between Richard and his hospice girlfriend
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

20 January 2014

The Inventor: The Story of Tesla

Mehta, Rave. The Inventor: The Story of Tesla. Arcana Studio, 2012.

This is a graphic novel biography of Nikola Tesla, an often-overlooked inventor whose genius has recently become popular. This book details Tesla's childhood, his work with Edison, as well as his eventual death. This book is a great way to get students interested in science, invention, or even biographies.

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

17 January 2014

Uglies: Shay's Story

Westerfeld, Scott. Uglies: Shay's Story. Del Rey, 2012.

This is the story of Shay, a character in Scott Westerfeld's original Uglies series. While the original story is told from Tally's point of view, this version follows Shay, one of Tally's friends. I didn't like Shay much in the original story, but seeing the events from her point of view in this book helped me to like her a bit more. I am certain this book will be popular with my patrons who are fans of dypstopian lit, as well as those who can't get enough of graphic novels.

Recommended for: teens, tweens, fans of Westerfeld's original Uglies series.
Red Flags: None
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

16 January 2014

Belle Epoque

Ross, Elizabeth. Belle Epoque. Delacorte BFYR, 2013.

Maude overhears her father arranging her marriage and decides to run away to Paris.  There, the only job she can find is as a "foil," a plain or ugly girl hired by a rich person to make the rich person look better by comparison.  Maude is hired out to a woman who wants her daughter to find a man to marry, but Maude must keep her position a secret from the girl.  But will Maude be able to complete her mission while also remaining true to herself and to her new friend?

I did not like this book at the beginning, but it definitely grew on me. I was interested to see what would happen with Maude and Isabelle when Isabelle found out that Maude was hired to be her friend. I was glad that Isabelle was a strong, intelligent character instead of being a stereotypical stuck-up entitled rich girl.  And the ending was satisfying as well.  I know I can book talk this book to my students.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: some alcohol use
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

15 January 2014


Jablonski, Carla. Resistance. First Second, 2010.

This story takes place in Vichy France, the "free" part of France that was initially unoccupied during WWII. The main characters take part in a resistance effort in order to rescue their family from the Germans.

My students are very interested in WWII, so this book will be a popular one. The illustrations are well done, and this book would be a great supplement to a unit on WWII.

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

14 January 2014

Counting by 7s

Sloan, Holly. Counting by 7s. Dial, 2013.

Willow Chance is twelve years old, a genius, adopted, and a bit odd.  She has adjusted to her new school in spite of some rough patches, until one day when she comes home to discover that both of her parents were killed in a car accident.  Now Willow is afloat, with no family, only a few friends, and nothing to hold on to.  Willow is taken in by her friend's family, and eventually everyone lives happily ever after.

This book had me with its characters.  Willow is a lot of fun (what kindergardener tells her teacher that the storytime book's pictures are "not very interesting"?), and I got to know her well enough that I wept when her parents died and she was left afloat.  I was glad her friend's family took her in. Was the ending a bit too neat and Disney-esque?  Probably, but so much had happened to Willow by that time that I think she (and the reader) needed a happy ending.  This book will definitely be added to my library's collection. I have a group of patrons who like reading books about "kids with lots of problems," so this one will be quite popular.

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

13 January 2014

The Lost Boy

Ruth, Greg. The Lost Boy. Graphix, 2013.

Nate moves to a new house and finds an old tape recorder under the floorboards of his bedroom.  The tapes describe a mystery that another boy was trying to solve, as well as a fantasy world filled with mythical creatures. Together with a neighbor girl, Nate tries to solve the mystery in the message of the tapes.

The art in this book is quite striking, and the story line is intriguing and fascinating. I purchased this book for my library, and I know I'll have difficulty keeping it on the shelves.  This will be a big hit with fantasy and graphic novel fans alike.

Recommended for: teens, tweens, fantasy fans, mystery fans, graphic novel fans
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

10 January 2014

More Than This

Ness, Patrick. More Than This. Candlewick Press, 2013.

Seth drowns, but then he wakes up in a new world.  How did he get here? Is this world real, or was the other one?  How will he find his way?

The narrative style of this book is very difficult to get into. I don't think many teens would get into this book, as a limited 3rd person narration when there's one main character is a bit odd. I disliked not knowing what was going on in Seth's head space, and I found the beginning of the book to be very boring; I read it because I wanted to review it, not because I enjoyed the story.

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

09 January 2014

The President Has Been Shot!

Swanson, James. The President Has Been Shot!: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy. Scholastic Press, 2013.

This book details the presidency of John F. Kennedy as well as the events that led up to and followed his assassination.

While I do not share the rest of my country's obsession with JFK, this book was quite interesting.  I enjoyed reading the details of the assassination, and I could see this book being popular with patrons who enjoy reading about history or those who are interested in assassinations and serial killers.

Recommended for: teens, tweens,
Red Flags: lots of graphic details involving the bullet's trajectory and brain matter exploding, etc., when the assassination happens
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

08 January 2014

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children [Graphic Novel Version]

Riggs, Ransom. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Yen Press, 2013.

Jacob travels with his family to a remote island where he explores an abandoned house that was once Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  Soon, though, he discovers that the house might not be haunted after all; perhaps the children are still alive.

This graphic interpretation of the original book includes the photographs from the novel and is engaging and entertaining.  I can see this book being very popular among my patrons, whose two favorite types of books are graphic novels and paranormal stories.

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

07 January 2014

In the Shadow of Blackbirds

Winters, Cat. In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Amulet Books, 2013.

The Spanish flu has taken the lives of countless numbers of people, and the Great War in Europe is taking the lives of many as well.  People hurry about wearing masks to prevent the spread of the flu, and fear is rampant. Mary Shelley Black is sent to live with an aunt while her father is on trial for treason. While there, Mary tries to solve the mystery of the "ghost photographs," as well as the disappearance of a boy she loved, a boy she was told died in battle but whose spirit has been haunting her.  Will she be able to solve the mystery before it kills her?

I enjoyed this book more than I expected.  The "ghost photographs" thing didn't interest me, but the setting and the flu epidemic definitely did.  The ending of this book was satisfying, although it seemed to take a long time to get there.  As paranormal fiction is very popular in my library at the moment, this one will be hard to keep on the shelves.

Recommended for: teens, fans of paranormal fiction and/or historical fiction
Red Flags: some mild violence
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

06 January 2014

The Supernaturalist

Colfer, Eoin. The Supernaturalist. Disney-Hyperion, 2012. 

This is a graphic novel version of a novel by the same name. Cosmo Hill is an orphan and he lives in an orphanage that makes ends meet by using the orphans as test subjects for various products. When he finally escapes the orphanage, Cosmo meets up with a group called the Supernaturalists, people who also see the parasites that feed on human beings. Soon the mystery deepens, however, and Cosmo has to race to save his own skin and that of his friends.

My students enjoy this book along with the other "novels made into graphic novels" that I have in our library's collection. I think this particular version is especially well done and does justice to the story told.

Recommended for: teens, tweens
Red Flags: violence
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

03 January 2014

Picture Me Gone

Rosoff, Meg. Picture Me Gone. Putnam Juvenile, 2013. 

Mila is really good at solving mysteries and noticing details that others don't. When her dad's friend disappears, she accompanies her dad to the United States to help find his friend. Along the way, Mila picks up on a lot of clues that others would miss, but she misses the most important clue of all. When that information is uncovered, Mila has to decide whom she should trust.

This book sounds a lot more thrilling than it actually is. The story isn't bad, although Mila, being British, notices and reacts to American culture differently than an American teenager would. The story is fairly slow paced in spite of the mystery involved, and I didn't feel like it was resolved at the end. My biggest question was never answered: Why did anyone involve Mila in this whole mess in the first place?

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

02 January 2014

Charm & Strange

Kuehn, Stephanie. Charm & Strange. 2013

Andrew Winston Winters is at a boarding school, and he's terrified of the wolf that lives inside of him. He is sure that one day soon that wolf will come out of him and destroy someone.

Andrew was molested by his father, who also molested his brother and his sister. In turn, Andrew also molested his sister. The boys decided that they didn't want to grow up to hurt others, so they took their sister for a walk in the woods, knowing the walk would end with the three of them jumping off a train trestle.

Andrew chickened out and didn't jump, and now he's haunted by his past, by his cowardice, by the ghosts of his brother and sister. And he's terrified that because he was molested, he himself will molest others.

This was a strange book. It required a lot of attention, even though I guessed Andrew's "secret" at the beginning of the story. The chapters alternate between present reality and Andrew's memories of being molested. The details are not graphic, but they do tell the story of what happened. I can see why this book is on the Morris shortlist.

Recommended for: teens, adults, abuse survivors
Red Flags: abuse (not detailed), alcohol and drug use, cutting, eating disorders, mental illness - all of these could be triggering to a person who has dealt with them before.
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

01 January 2014

Leap of Faith

Blair, Jamie. Leap of Faith. Simon and Schuster BFYR, 2013.

Faith's mother is an addict, neglecting her family in search of the next hit. Faith and her older sister, Hope, have clung to each other for support, but Hope is going to be leaving for college soon, and Faith will be left alone. When Faith discovers that her mother is going to have a baby and sell it for more drug money, she kidnaps the baby, steals her mother's car, and escapes across state lines. Now she truly is alone, with a baby to care for. Will Faith be able to survive on her own and keep the truth about Addy to herself?

Faith belongs in the category of "characters who have had too much bad thrown at them." She is dealing with enough trouble on her own, but when she takes the baby and moves away, then her troubles only multiply. I was glad to see Faith make a wise decision at the end of the book, but I was surprised that the author didn't spell out the ending more clearly. I could see this book being popular with my students who enjoy "problem novels."

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: language, drug use, alcohol use, child abuse
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars