Monthly Archives: February 2015

Laughing at My Nightmare

20518842Title: Laughing at My Nightmare
Author: Shane Burcaw
Series: N/A
Recommended for: High school
Pages: 256
Call Number/Link:  Teen 617.482044 BUR

Synopsis: With acerbic wit and a hilarious voice, Shane Burcaw’s Laughing at My Nightmare describes the challenges he faces as a twenty-one-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy. From awkward handshakes to having a girlfriend and everything in between, Shane handles his situation with humor and a “you-only-live-once” perspective on life. While he does talk about everyday issues that are relatable to teens, he also offers an eye-opening perspective on what it is like to have a life threatening disease.

I didn’t particularly like this one because of how he acts towards those with disabilities. He spent the whole book trying to get the reader to not judge him because of his own,but then went and bashed almost every disabled kid he mentioned. At one point, he describes two of his classmates in gym as smelling like they had “atomic bowel movements simmering in their pants”. I know it’s suppose to be “funny”, but I hate that type of humor & makes me a bit hesitant to recommend it. Although, it was a Non-Fiction Honor award book, so mileage will vary. I also would have loved to hear so much more about his parents/brother as they’re the reason he can even function day to day. However, there are some good points, especially his childhood memories w/friends and his outlook on problems/tackling life. There is a lot of swearing and a bit TMI, but nothing a high school-er couldn’t handle. Also, for what it’s worth, my book group teens loved it. (Although, they did agree w/me that he was a massive jerk.)

How to Sell it/Quick Spiel: Quick, funny, & often entertaining read about a kid surviving spinal muscular atrophy. His various hijinks, such as using his wheelchair and rope to lift his younger brother up to dunk, often get him in trouble.

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Posted by on February 28, 2015 in Non-Fiction, Teen


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Alex as Well

21469086Title: Alex as Well
Author: Alyssa Brugman
Series: N/A
Recommended for: 8th grade & up
Pages: 224
Call Number/Link:  Teen Fiction Brugman, A

Synopsis: Alex is ready for things to change, in a big way. Everyone seems to think she’s a boy, but for Alex the whole boy/girl thing isn’t as simple as either/or, and when she decides girl is closer to the truth, no one knows how to react, least of all her parents. Undeterred, Alex begins to create a new identity for herself: ditching one school, enrolling in another, and throwing out most of her clothes. But the other Alex—the boy Alex—has a lot to say about that.

So, this is one I’m actually not recommending because of how problematic is is. I was super excited to read it, especially since it dealt with an intersex teen, but it did not live up to expectations. Alex splits her personality into girl-Alex and boy-Alex and they’re very gender stereotypical. For example, boy-Alex disrupts the class and makes lewd comments/actions to girls while girl-Alex likes all things sparkly and is inept at tools. Her parents are a problem as well. Even though Alex had ambiguous genitalia, chose to raise her as a boy, & documented all her actions to make sure they made the right choice, they still acted as if her decision to be a girl was from left field. They call her “weirdo” & “pervert” & her mother refuses to call Alex her. In fact, when her mother discovers Alex has stopped her testosterone medication, she starts to hid it in Alex’s food without her knowledge. Even worse, her mom has a “mental breakdown” at the end of the book, almost as if that excuses away how she treated Alex.There is a lot more I could complain about but won’t. (Though you can check out my post if you want to know it all).

All in all, this is one of those books where I’ll let it do it’s thing on the shelf. I’m sure some teens will discover it, but it won’t be one I’ll be hand selling at all.


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Posted by on February 28, 2015 in Realistic, Teen


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Impossible Knife of Memory

impossibleknifeTitle: The Impossible Knife of Memory
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Recommended for: High School
Pages: 391

Hayley and her dad move back to his home town ostensibly because he wants her to have a normal senior year of high school after years of traveling with him as a trucker–but really because the demons of his past in the military have started to take over and he is unable to hold down a job.  They muddle along together as his PTSD worsens and she covers for him more and more.  In the process, she has to stop living day to day and start remembering things from her past and planning for the future.

I picked up this book because of the army angle–after all, military service is a part of life for many families.  I was filled with sympathy for her father, even when he was a horrible dad.  But the book covers more life tragedies beyond PTSD and neglect without feeling like it is too crammed with issues.  Hayley slowly makes friends, and their seemingly perfect lives are also being torn apart by trauma–pill addictions, divorce, alcoholism, poverty, and probably more that I can’t remember.  But what unfolds is ultimately the message that everyone is messed up, but you can rise above.  Despite the subject matter, this book is actually really funny.  Hayley has a lot of sass and attitude and her friend Finn is a wise-cracking nerdy love interest that injects a great note of levity to the book.  I would recommend this book to people who like realistic fiction that are a cut above the “teen issues” books, but still want a book with emotional resonance.  I recommend this for high school, not because of bad content, but because the issues are a little more mature.  If I were booktalking the book, I would say, “This is about a girl who not only has to deal with all the junk that comes with high school (teachers on power trips, pressure to join clubs, trying to read into possible relationships), she also has to figure out how to deal with her dad who is slowly losing it from PTSD.  She finds the funny in the hard stuff.”

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Posted by on February 28, 2015 in Realistic, Romance, Teen


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Almost Home


almost homeTitle:  Almost Home
Author: Joan Bauer
Series: None
Recommended for: 4-7th grade
Pages: 240
Call Number/Link:  J BAU

Synopsis: When twelve-year-old Sugar’s grandfather dies and her gambling father takes off yet again, Sugar and her mother lose their home in Missouri. They head to Chicago for a fresh start, only to discover that fresh starts aren’t so easy to come by for the homeless. Nevertheless, Sugar’s mother has taught her to be grateful no matter what, so Sugar does her best. With the help of a rescue dog, Shush; a foster family; a supportive teacher; a love of poetry; and her own grace and good humor, Sugar comes to understand that while she can’t control the hand life deals her, she can control how she responds.

Review: I will admit that I wanted to read this book because of the adorable puppy on the cover but it also turned out to be one of those books about kids in sad circumstances that I love. This book is a Caudill nominee this year and also another Girls Read favorite.  I would recommend for fans of Love, Aubrey, Wonder, or Waiting for Normal.  This book is like others like it, in that the protagonist makes the best out of her circumstances and comes out all the better in the end.

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Posted by on February 27, 2015 in Realistic, Uncategorized


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The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs


Title: The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs
Author: A. Wolf (as told to Jon Scieszka)
Series: N/A
Recommended for: K thru 2nd
Call Number/Link:  E SCIES

Synopsis: Alexander T. Wolf offers his version of what really happened on that fateful day when he met up with the 3 little pigs, explaining how it was all a misunderstanding!

I was first introduced to this book while working in a first grade classroom.  Every day the teacher was reading a different version of the same story for the students to compare and contrast each book.  I really liked how she got them to think about things like that at an early age.  I thought this version, told from the wolf’s perspective, was very creative and entertaining.  If you are not familiar with this book, I recommend you take a few minutes to read it and consider things from Mr. Wolf’s perspective. Maybe it was, as he says, all a big misunderstanding.

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Posted by on February 27, 2015 in Funny, Picture Books


Fairest: The Lunar Chronicles: Levana’s Story

Jacket (1)

  Title: Fairest

  Author: Marissa Meyer

  Series: The Lunar Chronicles (3.5)

  Recommended for: 6th grade and up

  Pages: 222 (approx. 60 pages is a preview of ‘Winter’, book 4 in the series)

  Call Number/Link: TEEN FICTION MEYER

  Synopsis:  Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her      “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and    Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

I really like the Lunar Chronicles series and was looking forward to reading this.  It was a somewhat disappointing.  I was hoping for some of the action, dialog, and character development from the previous books but didn’t get it.  It did offer some insight into Queen Levana’s nature but didn’t evoke any sympathy for her.  Yes, she endured horrific treatment from her sister (she has to learn to use her ‘glamor’ to cover burns inflicted by her sister) and neglect from her parents but her reaction was equally horrible.  I would recommend the previous books in the series for younger kids with high reading levels but not this one.  Levana’s obsession with her married guard and then her use of mind control to get him into her bed is totally creepy and not for younger audiences.  This isn’t graphic or anything, just the idea is horrible.  Also, Levana uses mind control to make the nanny set fire to herself and the princess so Levana can become queen.  This woman makes serial killers look tame.

The book does offer some interesting background on the lunar characters from the other books.  We understand their back stories a little better but not a lot.  It also helps set up the next book in the series ‘Winter’ and includes a 60 page or so excerpt. All in all I would say an ok book for older fans of the series but not up to the level of the previous books and not for younger audiences.

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Posted by on February 26, 2015 in Dystopian, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Teen


The 13-story Treehouse

The 13-Story Treehouse

The 13-Story Treehouse

Title: The 13-story Treehouse
Author: Andy Griffiths ; illustrated by Terry Denton.
Series: Treehouse series (Book 1)
Recommended for: Grades 1-3
Pages: 239 (mostly Illustrations)
Call Number/Link:  J FICTION GRIFFITHS, A. / J GRI

Synopsis: Who wouldn’t want to live in a treehouse? Especially a 13-story treehouse that has a bowling alley, a see-through swimming pool, a tank full of sharks, a library full of comics, a secret underground laboratory, a games room, self-making beds, vines you can swing on, a vegetable vaporiser and a marshmallow machine that follows you around and automatically shoots your favorite flavored marshmallows into your mouth whenever it discerns you’re hungry. Life would be perfect for Andy and Terry if it wasn’t for the fact that they have to write their next book, which is almost impossible because there are just so many distractions, including thirteen flying cats, giant bananas, mermaids, a sea monsters pretending to be mermaids, enormous gorillas, and dangerous burp gas-bubblegum bubbles!

Review :I love treehouses.  Media like the Swiss Family Robinson, the Bernstein Bears, or the Ewok village resonated with me.  The idea of an elaborate tree home is something I’ve dreamed about and is on my bucket list should I ever win the lottery.

Worst Roommate Ever

Worst Roommate Ever

So After another person’s positive and gushing review, and the overall concept of the BEST TREEHOUSE EVER, I dove into reading the 13-story treehouse by Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton.  I wanted to like this book. I hoped to like this book. Ultimately, 13-story Treehouse left me cold.

Sad, oh so sad

Sad, oh so sad

Two guys live in a treehouse, and after the “tour,” It pretty much devolves into two slackers have to write a book on a deadline and keep being interrupted with ‘wacky’ adventures.  Story is not the centerpiece of this work and art repetitions abound. At 239 pages I was still able to burn through this book in about 25 minutes or so.



The book feels thrown together.  The penultimate solution to their book writing procrastinating problem to be *gasp* writing up their ‘wacky’ adventures into the book–complete with the last dozen or so page of the book being slightly smaller manuscript versions of earlier pages.  I would be appalled at the sheer laziness of this, had Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton not already set the bar so low. This book makes Big Nate look like, To Kill a Mockingbird.

I hate it. But I don’t HATE IT, hate it. My hate is reserved for those who deserve it, like Jimmy Fallon or Cory Doctorow.

You Know What You Did

You Know What You Did

For the job it does, and the market it serves, the 13-story treehouse is effective.  I would recommend it to early or reluctant male readers.  While the book does give off a very Boys Club–No Girls Allowed–vibe which limits its crossover appeal; I would say it works for its appeal demographic.  The topics of burps, monkeys, bananas, flying cats, and non sequiturs –combined with Terry Denton’s manic B/W illustrations of said madness is very appealing to the male 1st-4th grade reluctant reader.  Even the repetitious parts can work to help reinforce sight words.  I will hold my nose and recommend this book for youngsters, knowing full well, in 20 years it will be “Andy & Terry who?”

Book one in the Treehouse series.

Treehouse Series

  1. The 13-Story Treehouse
  2. The 26-Story Treehouse
  3. The 39-storey Treehouse (Forthcoming)
  4. The 52-storey Treehouse (Forthcoming)
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Posted by on February 26, 2015 in Adventure, Funny, Juv


Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey

Handle with Care jacket

Title:  Handle with Care:  An Unusual Butterfly Journey
Author:   Loree Griffin Burns
Series:  —
Recommended for:  Gr. 2 and up
Pages:   33 pages
Call Number/Link:   J 595.78 BUR

Rating:   ****

Synopsis:   Introduces readers to a butterfly farm in Costa Rica that ships pupae to museums around the world.


Comments:  I had absolutely no idea that butterfly farms existed, and found this book fascinating.  The text is written conversationally, so would read aloud well.  But it’s also great for kids who want to read some cool nonfiction.  The photographs elevate it above the more traditional juvenile nonfiction book.


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Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Juv, Non-Fiction


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Earwig and the Witch


Title:   Earwig and the Witch
Author:   Diana Wynne Jones
Series:   none
Recommended for:   grades 3-5
Pages:   115 pages
Call Number/Link:  J JON

Rating:   ****

Synopsis:   Although an orphan, Earwig has always enjoyed living at St. Morwald’s, where she manages to make everyone do her bidding, but when she is taken in by a foster parents who are actually a witch and a demon, she has a hard time trying to turn the situation to her advantage.


Comments:  I was so happy to read a quick, fun book that even kids who don’t like fantasy would enjoy.  I especially appreciate that it’s over 100 pages, but not too far over 100 pages.  I zipped through this book without noticing that any time had passed.  Both girls and boys would enjoy this book, either independently or as a readaloud.

It reminded me of light fantasy books by Cornelia Funke and Eva Ibbotson that I’ve enjoyed.

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Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Fantasy, Juv


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Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth

Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth

Title:  Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth
Author: Jane O’Connor
Series: Nancy Clancy Chapter Books
Recommended for:  Grades 1-4
Pages:  124
Call Number/Link:  J OCO

Synopsis:  Nancy Clancy has everything she needs to be a super sleuth (that’s a fancy word for detective): She has a glamorous magnifying glass complete with rhinestones, a totally professional pink trench coat, and a sleuthing partner with awesome code-breaking skills — her best friend, Bree. Now all she needs is a good mystery to solve. But when crime strikes right in the middle of her classroom, will Nancy have what it takes to crack the case?

This book is a good easy chapter book for fans of the Fancy Nancy books that are growing out of the picture books and readers.  Readers will probably appreciate that the older Nancy is still Fancy  and still gives readers fancy names for things as well as a fun secret code to solve.  Nancy is a big fan of Nancy Drew and her sleuthing skills, which could encourage kids to read the Nancy Drew series as well.

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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Uncategorized