Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Divided by Elsie Chapman - OPTIONAL

Chapman, Elsie  Divided (Dualed, #2), 309 pgs.  Random House, 2014.  $17.99  Content: Language: PG-13 (23 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

West is struggling with the deaths that she instigated while being a hired assassin.  She is in love with her boyfriend Chord and they are happy that they are Completes (meaning their twin self has been killed and they have won the right to live).  When the board corners West and gives her an assignment to kill three people, she is hesitant but the reward is too great so she agrees.  She uncovers the history behind her walled in city and a dark secret among the government’s elite.  

The first half of this book was frustrating because West kept contradicting what she said she believed in.  I enjoyed the second half because she finally started to communicate with her friends and boyfriend and a plan started to develop.  Overall, it was entertaining, and if you liked the first book in this series and the setting was interesting to you, then you will like this one as well. 

MS, HS-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

How to Make a Planet by Scott Forbes –ESSENTIAL

Forbes, Scott and Illustrated by Camden, Jean  How to Make a Planet 64 pgs. Kids Can Press, 2014. $17.95. Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G.
This  ‘story’ takes elementary aged readers through all the steps it took to create our planet, as if they are creating their own planet. The science component is very comprehensive and covers a wide range of concepts from the water cycles to chemistry to physics and of course astronomy. Its heavily illustrated including photographs, as well as just so bright and colorful. It makes use of analogies that children will relate to and fun facts.
Students in my school would love this book! There is a certain time of year, curriculum spurred, where I am cleaned out of astronomy books. This one is a bit technical for the 2-3 graders, but I think they will devour it none the less. The way that the reader is carried through the science, through the idea of creating their own planet, overcomes any complexities of the content. The illustrations are top notch and really add to the ability to comprehend the text. It has cover appeal and will no doubt fly off your shelf.

EL(K-3), EL –ESSENTIAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Bedtime Math2: This time its personal by Laura Overdeck –ADVISABLE

Overdeck, Laura Bedtime Math2: This time its personal 96 pgs. Feiwel & Friends, 2014. $15.99. Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G.
Created for a parent and their child as a bedtime ‘story’, this book features short funny informational blurbs about a wide range of topics such as underwear and teeth, and toenails. The companion page are short math riddles created for different levels of difficulty  titled: Wee ones, Little kids, and Big kids.
This is a fun way for parents to make math a part of the daily normal routine, not something to be dreaded or feared. The illustrations are bright, color, and modern. The little topical blurbs are often silly and interesting at the same time. The questions seem right on the money for the most part, as far as differentiating for different skills levels. The questions for the WEE one, the least challenging were sometimes a bit difficult for supposing to be the easiest. I think this would be a fun book for a parent to own and could be used by all the children in the family. I think students just have fun reading through and trying to answer all the questions on their own as well.

EL(K-3), EL – ADVISABLE  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

The Witch's Curse by Jordan Quinn -- ESSENTIAL

Quinn, Jordan The Witch's Curse (The Kingdom of Wrenly #4), illustrated by Robert McPhillips. 120 pgs. Little Simon, 2014. $15.99. Content: G.

The Kingdom of Wrenly is soaking wet! It has been raining for days, and everything is flooded. Such abnormal weather can only be the result of a curse -- and Prince Lucas is sure he knows who's responsible. With the help of his friend Clara, the two set off to stop the rain.

I love how strong, brave and clever both Lucas and Clara are, while still making some understandably childlike mistakes. Their initiative is admirable as well, and the mystery of who is at fault and how to stop them adds suspense. The plentiful illustrations, large font, and fairly simple sentences make this one good for early chapter book readers. At first I was a little annoyed at the way Lucas rushed to accuse without much proof, but when I discovered that that was the point of the book, I loved it. Not jumping to conclusions is a lesson everyone needs to learn sometime, and this was a good way to show it without seeming preachy.

EL (K-3) -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Caryn

The Mystery in the Forbidden City by Harper Paris -- ESSENTIAL

Paris, Harper The Mystery in the Forbidden City (Greetings from Somewhere #4), illustrated by Marcos Calo. 122 pgs. Little Simon, 2014. #15.99. Content: G.

After their adventures in Venice and Paris, Ella and Ethan have now traveled to Beijing with their travel-writer mother and homeschooling father. But when they discover an ancient map, they are so engrossed in interpreting it that they lose their tour group. Can the twins find both the tour group and the purpose of the map before their parents discover they've gone missing?

This is another wonderful installment in the Greetings from Somewhere series. Like the books that came before, the twins work well together and are clever without seeming too adult. The entwined mysteries provide enough suspense to keep young readers guessing, and the details of the setting will likely make many readers want to visit Beijing while also teaching them a little something about the area. The large font, plentiful illustrations, and fairly simple wording make this good for those who are new to chapter books. Ella and Ethan do refer to previous adventures, which makes it more difficult -- though not impossible -- to read the books out of order. Includes a glossary with several words in Chinese; this is an interesting addition, although a pronunciation guide would have been helpful.

EL (K-3) -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Caryn

The Ability by M. M. Vaughan - - OPTIONAL

Vaughan, M.M. The Ability, 330 pgs. McElderry Books (Simon and Schuster). 2014. $6.99. Language: G (0 swears); Violence: PG; Mature Content: G. 

12-year-old Christopher Lane gets in trouble at school.  The teachers and the headmaster hate him, and his home life is terrible.  His father is dead and his mother has been grieving for several years, won’t leave the house, and Chris is trying to keep it together. So, when the offer comes to go to a full tuition scholarship, special school to hone and train his “ability”, Chris accepts! It’s a small school, with only a few other students, and they receive the royal treatment, but can the children learn to control their abilities in time to save the Prime Minister?  

The first book in The Ability series, I’d hoped it would be more interesting, that the premise would develop better, that it would be better written.  

EL MS -- OPTIONAL Lisa Librarian

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale - - ESSENTIAL

Hale, Nathan, Donner Dinner Party, 125 pgs. Abrams, 2013. $12.95. Language: G (0 swears) Violence: PG (murders, cannibalism-offpage) Mature Content: G.  

The tragic story of the ill-fated Donner-Reed Party who left Springfield, Illinois heading for California in 1846. Due to some terrible decisions, some very bad luck and an early snowstorm, they become stranded less than 100 miles from their destination and faced starvation, exposure and death. 

Illustrator Nathan Hale, tells the story through American Spy Nathan Hale (who is stalling his execution on the gallows by telling historical tales). This graphic novel is remarkably funny, considering the subject matter.  The gruesome content is kept off page and is treated delicately.  Book 3 in the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series is a fun way to get reluctant readers interested in history. 

EL MS - - ESSENTIAL  Lisa Librarian