Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Abby in Wonderland: A Wherever After Special Edition Novel, written by Sarah Mylnowski, reviewed by Terry Wahrman

Frankie chases after a card and falls down a golf course hole. Abby, Robin, and Penny go down after her and land in Wonderland. Abby is no stranger to falling into fairy tales and she knows you are not supposed to change the endings or bad things can happen. Abby does not want the others to know she leads a life of popping in and out of fairytales. That secret is only shared with her brother, Jonah. While chasing after Frankie, the girls get into trouble tasting the Queen of heart’s tarts. They were told to help themselves by a rabbit, but this rabbit doesn’t belong in Wonderland. This is an imposter rabbit causing problems for them. He is feeding them false information. They need to keep their heads and work together to get out of Wonderland. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: Another lighthearted twisted fairytale by Sarah Mlynowski. Abby tackles getting along with the new girl. She doesn’t like Penny because Penny has been monopolizing Robin’s time. Abby feels left out. The three girls have to come together to save Frankie. It is a current day story about girl heroes meeting fairytale villains and crazy characters. Working together is the only way they are going to leave with their heads still attached. Great for fairytale readers and elementary bookclub starts. 

Lola Knows A Lot, written by Jenna McCarthy, reviewed by Terry Wahrman

Lola knows a lot and precedes to tell us all she knows in a cute and funny way. Her sister, Charlotte, tells her she is going to meet people at school who know more than she does. That worries Lola. Her mother tells her to make a list of all she knows to share with the people at school. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: A very upbeat and color filled world of Lola is what you will find. Lola knows what she likes and does not like, broccoli. She learns by imitating her sister, father or mother, which can be annoying. She tells it like it is whether good or bad. It is a lesson on being yourself and telling the truth though people might not agree with you. It could be used as a read aloud or read alone. The illustrations are big, bright, beautiful, and can be seen from a far. 

Good Night, Little Blue Truck, written by Alice Schertle, reviewed by Terry Wahrman

Little Blue Truck and Toad decide to take cover in the garage during a lightning storm. One by one, their friends come to ask if they can come inside because they are afraid of the storm. Goat and Chicken arrive first. Cow and Goose arrive next, then Duck and Pig. Little Blue Truck and Toad teach their friends about how the rainwater is good and the clouds just make noise. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: Little Blue Truck and Toad teach their friends all about rain and thunderstorms. Plants need to drink the water and thunder is just the noise clouds make when bumping into each other. Their friends become less fearful and scoff at the noise. After the storm ends, Little Blue Truck gives each of his friends a ride back to their home and wishes them all a good night. This story is all about friendship and overcoming fear. By understanding, how the noise is made and that we all need to drink the water, all the fear goes away. Waiting out a storm with friends can be a lot of fun too. This is a well-written story in prose. This feel good story with a hero would work great for story time or a read alone. 

Bark In The Park! Poems For Dog Lovers; written by Avery Corman, reviewed by Judy Hauser

Young children of preschool through kindergarten ages should enjoy this book of poetry. Each of the short poems is about a specific breed of dog. Several breeds are covered in the poems and the illustrations by Hyewon Yum are cute but realistic in that the depictions are true to life. The poems are entertaining and describe real attributes about that breed of dog. For example, "The Bulldog is lumpy and always looks grumpy. He's sweet, though, not cruel. He does like to drool." Young children, especially those who love animals, will find the whimsical poems fun and entertaining. And they may learn some fun facts about different breeds of dog. Recommended as an additional selection. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: This would work for a read aloud on the topics of dogs and poetry. 

D-Day: The World War II Invasion That Changed History, written by Deborah Hopkinson, reviewed by Stephanie Wilson

D-Day code named Operation Overload was one of the most daring invasions ever launched. The operation took years to plan and involved the precise coordination of soldiers by land, air and sea. Nothing was left to chance. The one thing planners of the invasion could not control was the weather. Once the invasion began, there would be no way to scrap it. Everything hinged on picking the day with optimal weather and the right tides. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: Hopkinson uses tons of historical photographs, first person eyewitness accounts and extensive source documents to paint a detailed picture of D-Day. Her dedication to research is unparalleled. As she has in her previous books about World War II, she gives readers multiple perspectives on the invasion. The battle stories by the soldiers on the ground are particularly powerful. Events are presented in chronological order. The book contains numerous websites and an extensive bibliography for readers who are interested in learning more about D-Day. Hopkinson gives the African American soldiers the respect they were denied both during and after the war. The contributions and bravery of the African American soldiers are presented throughout the book. Years of discrimination have kept African American soldiers from receiving the medals, recognition and respect they deserved. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Outwalkers, written by Fiona Shaw, reviewed by Anneliese White

In a future world where a virus threatens the world, twelve year old Jake is trapped in an orphanage after his parents died in an automobile accident. Living under horrible conditions, he escapes to the outside world running from the government and those who run the orphanage, as every person living in England is implanted with a chip to track and monitor them. Jake finds a group of teens like him called the Outwalkers, who take him in as part of their group, as they try and make their way to freedom at the Scottish border. “Outwalkers” is full of suspense, twists and turns, and adventure, as the group encounters many dangers along their journey including finding shelter, being trapped in an underground subway, running from the Coalition who is trying to capture them, and a government conspiracy. Along the way Jake has his trusty sidekick, his loveable dog Jet, and their main goal is to get to Jake’s grandparents who live in Scotland. A page turner from start to finish, “Outwalkers” is a great science fiction pick for young readers set in a dystopian future. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: This is a must pick for libraries’ science fiction collections, and it is sure to hold reader’s interest through the adventure and suspenseful chapters. Librarians should note there are references to drinking and drug use, which may be a concern as this is marketed to upper elementary grades. It also is a large read for this age group, but manageable for those who have enjoyment in this genre. “Outwalkers” would be a great pick for discussions on government control, a sort of younger reader’s version of “1984” or “The Handmaid's Tale.” These teenagers are also able to solve the majority of their problems with minimal help from adults, which would appeal to younger readers as well. This book is not for everyone, but would definitely be predicted to be a popular pick in school libraries.

Dinosaurs in Disguise, written by Stephen Krensky, reviewed by Judy Hauser

This is a very cute, fun book for young children. A young boy decides that dinosaurs did not die out. If they survived for millions of years they could survive the big bang! So, he imagines dinosaurs hiding in plain sight. They survived but they are masters of disguise. Since the topic is colorful dinosaurs it will be a hit with young children. The illustrations by Lynn Munsinger are big, bold and fun. The dinosaurs are disguised as Santa Claus, the Sphinx, pilgrims, dragons and even the Statue of Liberty. The story and the illustrations are fun and imaginative. This book should be a hit with the young crowd! 

Straight Talk for Librarians: The lively, fun illustrations along with the creative story would be great for a read aloud. 

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Only Ashes Remain, written by Rebecca Schaeffer, reviewed by Anneliese White

The fast paced and action-packed adventures of Nita and Kovit continue in this second book of the Market of Monsters series. This time the story takes readers from a black market in Latin America to Toronto, Canada, where Nita is still trying to locate and exact revenge on Fabricio, the boy who sold her out to the black market. With proof of her supernatural abilities out there, Nita must be super careful not to be caught herself in order to escape death, which proves to be a difficult challenge. Her friend and crush Kovit, the zannie who feeds off of other people’s pain, is alongside her the whole time, and together they will escape death, deal with unsavory unnatural characters, try to outsmart enemies, all while trying to find and kill Fabricio. Without stopping for a minute, "Only Ashes Remain" is a thrilling read and commendable sequel to "Not Even Bones." 

Straight Talk for Librarians: Readers who loved "Not Even Bones" will also love "Only Ashes Remain." The plot, characters, and thrill seeking chapters read quickly and keep the reader guessing. Librarians should know there is a good amount of profanity used in the book, and many of the killing/torture scenes are graphic. This is not a recommended book for all readers, but those who like dark thrillers will enjoy this pick. Schaeffer has created a fantastic world of unnatural characters such as ghouls, kelpies, and unicorns, that fantasy fans would also enjoy. Also, the two main protagonists are teenagers, but there are times where they reach out to adults for help, which sends a good message to young readers. There is allusion to a third book in this series that will definitely be added to reading lists.

Tell Me Everything, written by Sarah Enni, reviewed by Anneliese White

Ivy is your typical high school sophomore, trying to figure out the social scene and school life, while exploring a new social media app. VEIL allows users to post art images anonymously, only to be seen within a short radius based on users’ locations, and disappearing from the app every Sunday evening. Ivy is a budding artist herself with a talent and interest in photography, and loves VEIL, but is afraid to post anything because she has low self confidence in her work. She appreciates the posts she sees so much, that she starts figuring out who some of the anonymous users are, and wants to show them random acts of kindness to let them know how much she values them. This starts getting her into trouble, as many users want to stay anonymous, and Ivy makes incorrect assumptions about some users. She is also trying to figure out the rift between her and her best friend, Harold, who seems to be distant and too busy since he got back from college camp this summer. A great read exploring social media and teens, the balance of life in high school, and examining the world of LGBQT+ teens, “Tell Me Everything,” is a highly recommended debut novel. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book is a highly recommended choice for the school library shelves. It does such a great job of exploring the First Amendment rights of teenagers when it comes to social media, and countering when anonymity and freedom of speech can become hate speech and needs to be shut down. “Tell Me Everything” explores the weight of emotions that teenagers carry, and how they can work through them in a safe manner. It also does a great job of supporting LGBQT+ rights, as hate speech on the VEIL app features homophobia in the story, opening up lots of discussions with readers. A character then forms a Gay Pride Club, and shows the support the school has for the LGBQT+ community, which would also be a great discussion point with students. This story is written with humor, with a superb protagonist whose story you are sucked into from page one. 

Zoogie Boogie Fever!, written by Sujean Rim, reviewed by Judy Hauser

: This colorful, lively book should be a hit with the preschool and kindergarten set. The story of zoo animals starting out their days in quiet and relaxation and then turning them into a dancing frenzy is cute and fun. The illustrations are big and bold and colorful. The animals dance the polka, foxtrot, cha cha and other dances and wear tutus, leg warmers, sashes and vests. They are a lively bunch at the zoo! The book is about fantasy at the zoo and fun. There is no big underlying, deep-meaning theme. Young children will enjoy the wild story and illustrations. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: This is just a fun, colorful book to read to very young children. 

Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice, written by Lawrence Goldstone, reviewed by Anneliese White

A rather summative history of racism in the United States, “Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice,” is a well researched and thorough book for history lovers. Beginning with the foundations of our government and the three branches, it spans to the Reconstruction period, and the horrors and racism black Americans experienced throughout this time period. The focus of the title refers to a little known massacre in the city of Colfax, where 150 black men were murdered; the white men responsible got off without serving any jail time due to racism in our legal system and country’s inhabitants. Goldstone explores many important people during the Reconstruction time period including judges, senators, Democrats, and Republicans; he has created an exhaustive history for readers to fully understand this time period. He also explores the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, and how they were rendered useless by the court system in the South at that time. This book is quite heavy to get through, but is relevant more than ever for today’s readers. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: Mixed feelings come with this book; it is so well researched and put together, and has a plethora of information readers will be exposed to for the first time. It is, however, very difficult to get through because its reading level is extremely high, and it is so fact driven, that at times it reads like a very boring textbook. As a lover of history and an adult, even I had a difficult time pushing through reading this as I found myself getting bored with information that did not seem relevant and got to be overwhelming. It also, based on title and book jacket summation, implies to be a book solely about the Colfax Massacre. Instead, it is really a history of racism and discrimination from the beginning of our country’s founding until the Reconstruction period. It still is a fantastically researched and written book, just not what is advertised, which is confusing. Librarians will appreciate the rigorous bibliography, index, glossary, and notes at the end of the novel. They will also love the numerous primary sources included that help with the comprehension of the historical events and people. Overall, it could be a good purchase but needs to be advertised to students and would be for more mature, advanced readers. 

Archie and the Bear, written by Zanni Louise and David Mackintosh, reviewed by Judy Hauser

This story about a bear and a boy and how they see one another is a great story for young children. Archie, a boy, was often told by others that he was only wearing a bear suit. Yet he insisted that he was a bear. Then Archie met a bear, wearing a sweater, and Archie liked the bear's "boy suit." But the bear insisted that he was a boy. Archie and the bear is a very nice story about how we treat one another and accept one another for what we are. The dramatic illustrations enhance the story with the representation of the bear as huge and the boy as tiny in comparison. Young children will, hopefully, find the story interesting in how Archie and the bear see one another as they see themselves. It could provoke some good discussions even with the young crowd. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: This would be a great story to discuss as to how people see one another and how not to judge. 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

I am Goose! written by Dorothia Rohner, reviewed by Judy Hauser

This is a cute book about a variety of animals playing Duck, Duck, Goose and the misunderstandings, arguments and fun that ensue. Rabbit is starting a game with other animals and Goose shows up. Goose is asked to play the game but then does not understand why others are being called Goose! Rabbit tries to explain many times to no avail. A group of squirrels give commentary on the situation every once in a while and they are very funny. Young children will enjoy their banter on the situation. The story is a nicely illustrated and the story is fun. The story demonstrates sportsmanship, misunderstandings, collaboration, friendship and fun. Highly recommended. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book covers very good subjects in a fun way for young children.