Thursday, August 8, 2019

Agony House. written by Cheri Priest, reviewed by Amanda Davies

Summary​:  After losing her dad and her grandmother in Hurricane Katrina, Denise and her mom built a new life in Texas.  But when Denise's mom and stepdad decide to move back to New Orleans and buy a run-down house to restore it and turn it into a bed-and-breakfast, Denise has no choice but to follow along and try to make the best of it.  As Denise's family begins to refurbish the house, strange (and dangerous) things start happening.  Her stepdad falls through the front porch, a secure window slams down on her mom's hand, nails appear in strange places.  And then Denise finds an old comic book wrapped in plastic and hidden in an old chimney.  With help from new friends, her sluething abilities, and clues in the comic book, Denise is determined to figure out the mystery of her house before it kills someone. 
 Straight Talk for Librarians​:  Like Priest's book Princess X, Agony House incorporates graphic elements into a prose story.  As the main character reads the newly discovered comic book, readers get to follow along and try to unravel the mystery.  The retro style and black and blue color scheme of Tara O'Connor's illustrations parallel and compliment the text.  While the ending was predictable, this is still an important book to hand-sell to kids.  Priest tells the story of the impact of Hurricane Katrina and its devastation of the New Orleans community without beating the reader over the head with it.  Even more significantly, Priest addresses the issue of white "saviors" returning to the city to renovate homes with little concern for or help from the remaining black neighbors and neighborhoods.  For kids who aren't aware of the the racial tensions surrounding the
 rebuilding of New Orleans or who don't have vivid memories of the people trapped in the Superdome, this book is an important and engaging read.

Amulet: Firelight (Book 7), written by Kibuishi, Kazu, reviewed by Amanda Davies

Summary​:  In the seventh book in the Amulet series, the main character, Emily, travels with her friends on adventures to attempt to figure out how to stop the Elf King.  Together they explore an underwater world where memories, stolen from others, have been locked away and hidden.  Emily struggles to decide who to trust, how to protect herself, and whether or not she's strong enough to manage the increasing power her amulet holds over her. 
Straight Talk for Librarians​:  Kids LOVE the Amulet series and it's not hard to see why.  The books include exciting adventures, science fiction and fantasy elements, beautiful illustrations, and engaging plot lines.  One of the biggest advantages of this series is the wide appeal across age ranges.  My third grader has devoured the whole series for the action and adventure.   My high school students are able to pick out themes and and infer meaning from both the text and the illustrations.  Because of the nature of the story, there are some illustrations that show explosions or battles, but there's nothing that's gory or hard to handle.  This series is a must-have for elementary, middle, and high schools. 

Ranger in Time: Journey through Ash and Smoke, written my Kate Messner, reviewed by Amanda Davies

Summary​:  As part of Messner's 11-book Ranger in Time series, Journey through Ash and Smoke follows the time-traveling golden retriever Ranger to Iceland during the time of the Vikings.  When the first aid kit that Ranger dug up from the garden starts humming, he knows that he's about to experience an adventure and hopefully save someone who needs help.  After looping the strap of the first aid kit over his head, Ranger found himself transported to a small, dark home where a woman was calling for someone named Helga.  Ranger quickly realizes that Helga shouldn't be out in the storm raging outside, so he sets off to rescue her.  In addition to the battling the storm, Ranger also discovers that the increasingly shaky ground indicates a volcano is about to erupt and that he needs to help Helga find her father before her new sibling is born.  Ranger and Helga work together while facing incredible odds.

Straight Talk for Librarians​:  Messner has a knack for writing historically accurate tales that seamlessly incorporate her extensive research while maintaining a fast and engaging pace. Journey through Ash and Smoke is no different.  At the end of the book, Messner includes a thorough Author's Note that includes a description the process of her research, photos of her trip to Iceland, and explanations for the inspiration for parts of the story.  While the time-travel elements mean that the book is a work of historical fiction, she also provides suggestions for further reading and a source list of her research.  This would be a great book for young people who love non-fiction but who are looking to branch out and explore other genres, who love history and learning about other cultures, or who just love a good adventure. 

Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring written by Angela Cervantes, reviewed by Amanda Davies

Straight Talk for Librarians​:  Cervantes' book is lovely.  The main character has a strong and sarcastic voice.  Paloma's interactions with her mom felt especially realistic; she loves her mom but is also super annoyed by her.  She wants her mom's help and love, but also wants to keep some things to herself.  The plot is fast-paced and the descriptions of Frida Kahlo's art and museum add to the appeal of the book. I found the ending predictable, but I don't think this will be a problem for young readers exploring their first mysteries. Upper elementary and middle grade students looking for a great mystery and a strong main character and who are interested in art and culture will love this book.

Summary​:  The main character, Paloma, is traveling to Mexico for the first time.  Her dad, who has passed away, was originally from Mexico.  While she's skeptical about the trip and leaving her friends and home in Kansas City.  Not long after she arrives, though, she meets two young people, Gael and Lizzie, who quickly become friends.  Gael and Lizzie are convinced that someone has stolen an important ring that belonged to artist Frida Kahlo.  The three friends start investigating at the nearby Frida Kahlo museum and quickly learn that they're involved in something serious.  The three face adventures and ups and downs as they try to solve the mystery and find the ring.