Saturday, July 4, 2015

Rebels of the Lamp by Michael Galvin and Peter Speakman –ADVISABLE

Galvin, Michael and Speakman, Peter Bursting at the Seams (Sew Zoey #10) 151 pgs, Disney/Hyperion, 2015. $16.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: PG13
In the distant past a heartbroken magician discovers access to a new level of power, a power that once created, can’t be controlled. After some intervention, the world is safe, but a new group in modern times, is seeking to discover a way to bring the power back.  Parker is a pre-teen that doesn’t have a great home life, and so he likes to exaggerate. This doesn’t go over so well when he has to move in with his cousin Theo in a small town. When chance leads him to discovering a Genie, he couldn’t be happier. Wish after wish soon follow, with fun that is sometimes too extreme for the more mellow Theo and their new friend. But there isn’t just one Genie, and the others are not quiet as nice. Parker and his friends are taken on a harrowing journey that will require bravery and smarts to survive.
Well this is a Disney book and looks very cute, but it is seriously violent. At least for a school library. There is a family that burns alive, numerous and creatively violent deaths throughout the entire book, and tons of gun violence. Elementary school parents would have me out on the street for this book, so I am rating it for Middle School and higher. That being said, this was a fun to read book that was action packed and fast-paced. Students will love to imagine what they would do if they found a genie. The magicians journal from the past, shown in different paper with a different font, are very interesting. Overall the book reads like an entertaining movie.  

MS – ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Srsly Hamlet adaption by Courtney Carbone –ESSENTIAL

Carbone, Courtney (adaptor) Srsly Hamlet 101 pages, Random House, 2015. $9.99 Content: Language: PG (0 technical swears, lots of emoticon versions); Mature Content: PG Violence: PG
Hamlet had already suspected that his father, the king, was killed by his Uncle. The Uncle who is now King and married his mother. Come to that, he is quite upset with his mother as well, how could she marry so early. Things start to spiral out of control when he meets his father’s ghost has confirmation of his suspicions, now he has an unusual path to revenge, that doesn’t turn out quite as he hoped.
My dream versions of Shakespeare are now come to life thanks to this talented author. Told in text message and note format this re-telling, like those in the series, are hilarious, interesting and best of all, easy for this current generation to relate to. While educators will see this as a sort of cliffs notes variation, I think it’s a great introduction to a complex piece of challenging text. I would use this as a fun opener and refer to it when students find themselves confused. I had so much fun reading this, and who knows it might just be a great gateway for teens to really exploring the full works of Shakespeare and becoming lifelong fans. Due to the excessive use of the “poo/shit” emoticon, I would probably restrict this to 6th grade and higher, though admittedly there is no explicit swearing, I worry about the maturity level in regards to that. Buy the whole series, srsly.

MS, HS  –ESSENTIAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Circus Mirandus by Cassis Beasley –ADVISABLE

Beasley, Cassie  Circus Mirandus 292 pgs, Dial (Penguin); 2015. $18.00 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G
Micah is being raised by his grandpa Ephraim, and thanks to this has always believed in magic. Grandpa has stories of a magical circus and the adventures he had there as a child. Now that Grandpa is maybe dying, things for Micah have changed, and his dreaded Aunt Gertrudis is “taking care” of them. Grandpa tells Micah that he is owed a favor by one of the circus performers, the Lightbender, and that it has come time to collect on it. Micah pins his hopes that this will be what it takes to keep his beloved Grandpa alive and return to their joyous life together. With the help of a new friend, Micah tries to find the circus and make sure that promise is kept.
Ok, I am going to admit straight off. This book made me cry, in a good way, it’s a wonderful book. Its utterly enchanting and charming. The magical element is approached in a very believable way, and you find yourself as desperate as the main character to find magical help. I love the character development and the natural friendship between Micah and his new friend. The illustrations are fascinating. Why then, did I not rate it as Essential? I find myself questioning whether elementary students will find common ground with the main characters situation and the longer length of the book.

EL -ADVISABLE  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill by Megan Frazer Blakemore - OPTIONAL

Blakemore, Megan Frazer, The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill, 312 pgs. Bloomsbury, 2015. $16.99.  Language: G: (0 swears) Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG. 

12-year-old Hazel Kaplansky is the smartest kid in the class, until Samuel Butler moves in.  Samuel’s grandmother owns the safe making factory in town, and during the cold war and McCarthyism, there’s no end to the speculation about who might be spying for Russia.  Hazel is convinced that their new hired hand, Mr. Jones, is certainly the head of the spy ring, and that he’s getting information from the spies in the factory.  But a sleuth needs a partner, and Samuel fits the bill. But Samuel has a few secrets of his own, secrets everyone in town seems to know except Hazel.  

This historical fiction is delightful.  Full of references to the 50’s (Nancy Drew, TV shows and good old small town USA library and gas station) the characters are real, and the mystery is intriguing with a couple of red herrings. Historically, I loved the nostalgia, but I don’t know if the cold war is interesting enough to capture today’s young readers.  

EL MS - OPTIONAL Lisa Librarian

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tommy Can’t Stop by Tim Federle –NO

Federle, Tim and illustrated by Fearing, Mark Tommy Can’t Stop Disney Hyperion, 2015. $16.99 PICTURE BOOK
Tommy is a little boy with a lot of energy. His family tries everything to tire him out. When he is enrolled in tap class, the solution is found, and so is his talent.
I really like this illustrator! I didn’t enjoy the cadence of the story and the word choices were just awful, vocab too challenging. I feel that this was more like a biography for the author and his fans to enjoy than a story that children can relate to, for example Pogo sticks were referred to and kids today don't know what that is. Don’t get me wrong, so many children have unstoppable energy levels, but this story was a bit confusing because of the wording. I didn’t even realize that the boy was enrolled in tap, I thought it was just PE or something, and the vocabulary in that section would only be understandable by those in dance. I feel like the story could have been told quite a bit better and could have functioned as a really great lesson that dance is great outlet for both boys and girls.

PRE-K, EL  –NOT RECOMMENDED  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones –ADVISABLE

Lloyd-Jones, Emily Illusive 406 pgs, Little, Brown; 2015. $18.00  Content: Language: PG (0 swears); Mature Content: PG13 Violence: PG13
In a future where a virus had everyone scrambling for a treatment, there was one medication which worked, but had a side effect for a small portion of those who took it. They result was some extra-normal abilities. These people were not only shunned, but often jailed, or recruited to work as forced agents for a variety of government and criminal agencies. Ciere, a girl with the ability to create illusions, was able to get into a better situation, a thief with a decent boss.  Things in her life start to unravel when she robs a bank, setting off a series of events and unforeseen circumstances that lead her into the very heart of the formula that created her abilities, and more danger than she could have imagined.
This story has so many great components, especially the ending. I think teens will really like this dystopian crime magical thriller. Even though I didn’t care for the main character and thought she was really dull, I found some of the sub characters very interesting, but the action was so continuous that it pulled me along. There is still plenty more to explore and though the ending didn’t preclude a sequel I think the author could drum up any number of continuations, for example, getting to know people with some of the other “side effects”. Violence and references to a career as an escort make this better for High School. 
HS-ADVISABLE  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Seeker by Arwen Dayton - ADVISABLE

Dayton, Arwen Elys Seeker, 435 pgs. Delacorte Press, 2015. $18.99. Language: PG (0 swears); Mature Content: R (drug use, prostitution); Violence: PG-13 (battles, graphic deaths). 

Tonight is the night. Quin, Shibonu and John have been training for years with Chin’s father, Briac, and Shibonu’s father, Alistair, to become Seekers, protectors of good people from harm. Generations of their families had taken the Seeker oath and now is their time. Once sworn, Quin and Shibonu realize that Briac has evilly twisted the purpose of Seekers. The keys to the Seekers’ power to travel through time and space are two tools: an athame and a lightning rod. John demands it to restore his family’s power, Briac will kill for it to use for evil and Quin has it. Can Quin and Shibonu restore the Seeker’s noble purpose and not be killed?

Gripping writing opens this book and the pace does not slow down. The book’s three main settings evokes three different sub-genres of fantasy: the training in Scotland – medieval/historical; Singapore – gritty realism; and London – Steam Punk with blimps. The weapons are futuristic and the fighting is graphic. A well done fantasy with a sequel, Traveler, due in spring of 2016.

HS – ADVISABLE. SGH – Librarian