Monthly Archives: March 2015


Picture of the Cover of Dodger  by Terry Pratchett

Picture of the Cover of Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Title: Dodger
Author: Terry Pratchett
Series: N/A
Recommended for: Older readers 9th grade+
Pages: 360


Dodger is a tosher, a 17 year old street urchin, who plumbs the depths of London’s Storm Sewers for washed away valuables. His life is forever changed when he rescues a woman from a gang of ruffians intent on murder. Helped by notable author Charles Dickens and many others, Dodger seeks to help the young lady and deliver her from those who would do her harm.

Set in set broadly in the first quarter of Queen Victoria’s reign, this is a love letter to Dickens and the entire Victorian literary genre as a whole.  A virtual who’s who of the 19th century British elite drift through the chapters, Queen Victoria, Robert Peel, Angela Burdett-Coutts, Benjamin Disraeli, and even the murderous Sweeny Todd.

It moves at a decent clip and had a solid ending, but could be a bit tighter in the editing. There’s a bit of repetition, that could have been pulled. My other critique is that the female love interest is more MacGuffin than person. The sad part of this is Terry Pratchett can write women quite well and this poor use of a character with an interesting backstory is a real waste.

The other main concern in recommending the book is that it is a bit earthy. While not directly vulgar, the book doesn’t bowdlerize away some of the rougher elements of Victorian life–the exploitation of minors, the cruelty, and casual familiarity of death. Prostitution, while not explicitly mentioned, per say, is referenced in the book.  It is a part of the ‘Facts of Life’ for someone in Dodger’s world. I would not recommend it for middle school grades and below.

Oddly enough, even with all the Victorian-style penny dreadfulness, the book is upbeat.  Dodger’s life is such that the doesn’t have time to sit and lament the woes and unfairness of the poor.

The book won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, Honor.

Who would I recommend this title for?  I definitely would not go lower than 9th grade for the book; while this features a youthful protagonist, I would not call it a YA novel.  Fan of Terry Pratchett will devour this, as might fans of Jane Austin or other Victorian literary genre fans–such as Sherlock Holmes. People interesting in headstrong male protagonists will enjoy this.  As mentioned, the book suffers from a lack of strong female characters save for perhaps for Lady Angela Burdett-Coutts and thus has a narrower appeal. In some ways I found it similar to Patricia Wrede’s Dealing with Dragons

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Posted by on March 31, 2015 in Adventure, Historical, Romance, Teen


Leroy Ninker Saddles Up

leroyTitle: Leroy Ninker Saddles Up

Author: Kate DiCamillo
Series: First in an expected series Tales from Deckawoo Drive
Recommended for: Beginning Chapter book readers, 1st-3rd grade
Pages: 87
Call Number/Link:  J FICTION DiCamillo, K 

Synopsis: Saddle up for this first volume in a spin-off series starring favorite characters from DiCamillo’s “New York Times”-bestselling Mercy Watson books. LeroyNinker has a hat, a lasso, and boots. What he doesn’t have is a horse–until he meets Maybelline, and then it’s love at first sight.

I love recommending the Mercy Watson books as great readalouds for families who want something longer, but still want pictures.  I also recommend them to kids who are just getting into chapter books.  They have short, action packed chapters, lots of illustrations to keep the interest of kids who might have trouble with reading endurance.

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up brings a small character from a Mercy Watson book and tells a goofy story about a horse who only moves if someone is sweet-talking her.  Mercy makes a brief appearance, but the focus is on Leroy.  This book is slightly longer and more difficult than Mercy Watson, with silly cowboy terms and illustrations on most, but not all pages.  The illustrations are also in black and white, indicating it is for slightly older readers than Mercy Watson.  It is still a great readaloud; my family listened to audiobook, which the library owns.  I would recommend it to any fan of Mercy Watson, of course, but also anyone who likes silly stories with a big dose of whimsy and anyone looking to very gradually move into chapter books.

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Posted by on March 31, 2015 in Funny, Juv



Ivy + Bean


Title:  Ivy + Bean                                                                                                                                                                            
Author: Annie Barrows
Series: Ivy + Bean
Recommended for: 1st thru 3rd grade
Pages: 113
Call Number/Link:  J BAR 

Synopsis:  The moment they saw each other, Bean and Ivy knew they wouldn’t be friends. But when Bean plays a joke on her sister, Nancy, and has to hide quickly, Ivy comes to the rescue, proving that sometimes the best of friends are people never meant to like each other. Vibrant characters and lots of humor make this a charming and addictive introduction to Ivy and Bean.

I am always recommending this series to younger girls so I decided I should actually read the first book.  Novelist places the recommended ages for this book at 9-12.  I believe it should be younger since Ivy and Bean are 7 years old, and the vocabulary is not too difficult for a higher reading 1st grader.  It would work well as a read-aloud for a parent to read to kindergarteners on up.

I thought the premise in this first book of the series was cute. Ivy moves in across the street from Bean, but Bean has no interest in meeting Ivy because she seems like she would be boring.  She is always reading and wears dresses all the time.  Bean, a.k.a. Bernice, is a tomboy at heart, and only wears a dress when her mother makes her do so.  Circumstances throw them together and they find out that they make a very good team.  I appreciated the fact that Ivy came out to sit on her porch with a robe and a wand.  As an adult, I recognized the nod to Harry Potter, although the book never mentioned were she got the idea to be a witch and use a wand and cast spells.  I will continue to recommend this series for younger girls.

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Posted by on March 30, 2015 in Uncategorized


Geek Girl

22249710Title: Geek Girl
Author: Holly Smale
Series: Geek Girl
Recommended for: 6th grade and up
Pages: 384
Call Number/Link:  Teen Fiction Smale, H

Synopsis: Harriet Manners is tired of being labeled a geek. So when she’s discovered by a modeling agent, she seizes the chance to reinvent herself. There’s only one problem: Harriet is the definition of awkward. Does she have what it takes to transform from geek to chic?

So, this is one of that books that you have to suspend belief a little. I mean, really, how often does a girl who knows nothing about fashion, photography, or the like really get discovered? Not to mention, she gets discovered because she knocks over a whole aisle of booths. If you can ignore that, Geek Girl is fun book with a lot of heart. I love, love, love her relationship with her step-mom, Anabel. While she doesn’t call her mom, she’s truly the only mom she’s ever known. And I love how she discovers that one of the places she goes to feel safe started because of Anabel. It’s a sweet scene/memory and truly shows how Anabel is kind of the safety net/person who makes sure all things go okay of the family.

There are a couple of problematic things. I hate how one boy, Tobi, is called a stalker over and over again. He truly does act like one, too, making notes about Harriet, where’s she been, and watching her behind trees. I hate how these facts/actions are just brushed off as if it’s no big deal. I also didn’t like the nick name “lion boy” she gave to Nick. He’s given this exotic/fantasy feel and serves as a boy that Harriet can crush on and not much more. There’s very little page time or depth to him. I would have loved to see more done with his character. He had this charm/sense of humor/chemistry with Harriet that could have been great.

I know a 384 paged book isn’t what we’d normally consider a reluctant reader book, but I’m going to say it is anyways. It has super short chapters (usually 5 or 6 pages) that make the book fly by super fast. Plus, the short chapters make it easy to pick up and put down when needed. For those who like the geek to chic make-over stories ala Princess Diaries, this would be a great one to hand them. Also, great for those tweens who want to read YA, but aren’t ready for some of the heavier stuff.

How to sell/quick spiel/book talk: Harriet Manners is the definition of geek girl. She doesn’t care at all about fashion and instead fills her time doing math or memorizing little, annoying facts. However, when she’s spotted by a model agency during a school trip everything starts to change. Signed and booked for a big campaign shooting in Russia, it looks like things could finally be on an upward swing for Harriet as she’s transformed from geek to chic. Will this be her chance to make her dreams to come true or will she find nothing is quite what she hoped it would be?

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Posted by on March 27, 2015 in Realistic, Teen


Creature Features

creature featuresTitle: Creature Features; 25 Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do
Author: Steve Jenkins- Illustrated by Robin Page
Series: N/A
Recommended for: Preschool-3rd grade
Pages: 32
Call Number/Link:  E 571.31 JEN

Synopsis: Let’s face it. Even as babies, we humans pay close attention to faces. Observing another person’s features and expressions tells us whether they are happy, angry, excited, or sad. And when we look at an animal, it’s hard not to imagine that its face is communicating human feelings. This isn’t true, of course. Squinty eyes, an upturned mouth, or another odd expression is probably there because, in some way, it helps that animal survive.      Packed with many cool facts and visuals on where certain animals live and what they eat, this book captures twenty-five humorous—and very true—explanations of why animals look the way they do in order to exist in this world.

Review: We know how much our kids love animal books, but this book has a unique way of giving animal facts.  For the kid who ever wondered if a puffer fish could actually explode this book will answer that question in a very direct way and from the animals point of view: “No, I won’t burst, I’ve inflated my body with water to make it tougher for a big fish to swallow me.” Robin Page’s illustrations highlight the text with a cool torn paper look. This book doesn’t have enough information for a school project but will be a really fun read for our young patrons.

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Posted by on March 27, 2015 in Non-Fiction, Picture Books


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Playlist for the Dead

17838490Title: Playlist for the Dead
Author: Michelle Falkoff
Series: N/A
Recommended for: 7th grade & up
Pages: 288
Call Number/Link:  Teen Fiction Falkoff, M

Synopsis: Here’s what Sam knows: There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, his best friend, Hayden, was dead. And all he left Sam was a playlist of songs, and a suicide note: For Sam—listen and you’ll understand.

As he listens to song after song, Sam tries to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it’s only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

Okay, let me start off with saying that the playlist left behind plays very little into the actual book. It triggers memories, but no answers are offered by what songs are chosen. However, that’s not so say if someone when and listened to the songs/looked the lyrics they wouldn’t get a deeper meaner. I didn’t take the time to do that, but I could totally see that being a possibility.

That being said, the heart of this book is about dealing with a friend’s suicide and the aftermath. It’s about unraveling the questions that are left behind and realizing sometimes there is just no clear cut answer. It’s about learning no matter how close you are to someone there are still secrets left to discover. It’s about how personal perspectives shade what we think happened and how we choose to deal with that. It’s about how revenge and how getting even isn’t always the answer. There’s a lot about bullying, the aftermath of said bullying, and how (or how not) to deal with that knowledge.

There some strange parts where it makes it seem like Sam is communicating with Hayden’s ghost. There are some things that are explained, like the IMs, but the rest is kind of left up to interpretation. Was Sam simply hallucinating from lack of sleep/grief or could there have really been a bit of supernatural help going on? The uncertainty of these parts was my least favorite part, but it wasn’t anything that left me ranting.


The blurbs have been pairing this book with Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I dont’ see at all. Instead, I would pair this one with 13 Reasons Why. I think that one person can make a difference message is very strong in both books. I say 7th & grade and up, but I think 6th graders could handle it. While it’s about the suicide, it’s more about unraveling the mystery of why he did it and how bullying can affect people.

How to sell/quick spiel: Sam is left is the wake of he’s best friends death, trying to figure out what happened. A party, a fight, and the next morning Hayden was dead. Sam must now unravel the mystery and secrets that Hayden left behind to figure out what really happened. Can he discover what truly caused his friend to step off the edge, a person to point the blame at or will the truth stay buried with Hayden?

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Posted by on March 26, 2015 in Realistic, Teen


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Bad Kitty Gets a Bath

bad kittyTitle: Bad Kitty Gets a Bath
 Author: Nick Bruel
Series: Bad Kitty
Recommended for: 1st-4th grade
Pages: 125
Call Number/Link:  J BRU

Synopsis: Bad Kitty really needs a bath, and she is forced to take one in this hysterical  illustrated how-to for young readers. The following are some items you will need for Kitty’s bath: one bathtub, plenty of water, dry towels, a suit of armor, a letter to your loved ones, clean underwear (because stressful situations can cause “accidents”), an ambulance in your driveway with the engine running, and, oh, yeah, you’ll also need Kitty . . . but good luck with that! Kitty is at her worst in this riotous how-to guide filled with bad smells, cautionary tales of horror, and hopefully by the end . . . some soap.

Review:   Kids will enjoy reading about the struggle of cat vs. bath.  Good for readers  of Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid type books.  The type of humor is similar but without the potty jokes, making it more appropriate for the younger crowd. This is the first in the series of chapter books, and there are some Bad Kitty picture books as well.

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Posted by on March 26, 2015 in Funny


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Silhouetted by the Blue

19668526Title: Silhouetted by the Blue
Author: Traci Jones
Series: N/A
Recommended for: 5th grade & up
Pages: 208
Call Number/Link:  Teen Fiction Jones, T. or J Jon

Synopsis: Seventh-grader Serena Shaw is trying to keep up at school while rehearsing for the lead role in the spring musical and dealing with a father so “blue” he is nearly catatonic. With the aid of a not-so-secret admirer as well as a growing sense of self-confidence, she faces the challenges of caring for herself and her ball-of-charm younger brother, all while attempting to lead the life of a normal pre-teen. .

I picked this book up thinking it was a new title, but in reality it was once that had been reprinted/repackaged for YA. However, I’m glad it was otherwise I may not have discovered it. It’s a fast read and would be PERFECT for those tweens/younger teens looking for something that edgier/issue novels, but not ready for the YA edgy stuff. Serena has a lot on her plate. She’s trying to deal with her mother’s death & taking care of her brother as her dad falls deeper and deeper into depression. This book handles mental illness so well. It shows how medication doesn’t “numb/kill the spirit” but can help a person function as normal. There is no shame in being depressed or needing the medication. In fact, Serena begs him several times to go to the doctor so that he could return to his old self. This is a stark difference how many YA books have been handling mental illness lately (thank goodness!)

How to sell/quick spiel: Serena Shaw just wants to be a normal 7th grader. She wants her biggest worry to be about starring in her schools musical and flirting with cute boys. Instead, she has to deal with all the normal teen worries and taking care of her brother as their father feels deeper and deeper into depression over their mother’s death. Serena may be pretending that everything is okay, but she knows that the blue is desperately taking over their lives. Can she find help in time before it’s too late or will the blue destroy what little normalcy is left of her life.

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Posted by on March 26, 2015 in Juv, Realistic, Realistic, Teen


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firebirdTitle:   Firebird:  Ballerina Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance Like the Firebird
Author:   Misty Copeland                                      Illustrator:  Christopher Myers
Series:  not applicable
Recommended for:  Everyone, second grade and up.  Especially dancers and people who love dance.
Pages:   32 pages (approximate)
Call Number/Link:  E COPELAND, M.

Rating:   ****  



Winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award


American Ballet Theater soloist Misty Copeland encourages a young ballet student, with brown skin like her own, by telling her that she, too, had to learn basic steps and how to be graceful when she was starting out, and that some day, with practice and dedication, the little girl will become a firebird, too. Includes author’s note about dancers who led her to find her voice.


I recommend that all of you read this book.  Its illustrations are striking and beautiful and the message is inspiring.  Unfortunately, the text is more poetic than direct, which could be confusing to some readers (or listeners).  I’m not sure of its child appeal, especially when kids are walking through the picture book area grabbing books that attract their attention. However, dancers and and dance fans will love it.  Both protagonists are African American so it would fit in a Black History Month display.  It could also be a good choice for Children’s Lit students and teachers who teach grades 3-12.




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Posted by on March 25, 2015 in Juv, Realistic


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Rosa and the Water Pony

rosaTitle: Rosa and the Water Pony
Author: Katy Kit
Series: Mermaid Mysteries
Recommended for: 1st-3rd grade
Pages: 91
Call Number/Link:  J KIT

Synopsis:  Mermaid Bay’s annual carnival is here, and the best performance at the parade will win a pretty pearl necklace! For the mermaids’ act, Rosa plans to perform amazing tricks on the back of a magical water pony. But the pony is stolen! Is someone trying to ruin the friends’ chance of winning?

The beauty of this book is not in its writing.  It is not a feat of literary genius nor is the plot riveting for adults.  However, this book pushes all the right buttons for kids who are just starting chapter books.  It is long enough to be a chapter book without being overwhelming.  There are lots of line drawings to break up the text.  The cast of mermaids is multicultural, and the plot is easy to follow.

I wanted to add this book to the blog so that I could remember the title, as I recommend it frequently to parents and children.  This is the first short chapter book that Bethany was willing to read independently–VERY high interest.  David asked if the book was written by a 6 year old girl, because it has mermaids!  princesses! horses! jewels! adventures!  Don’t ask me why they have a pony underwater–just come along for the ride.  I recommend this for kids who are just starting chapter books and anyone looking for mermaid stories.  The only downside–no glitter on the cover.  They missed a big marketing ploy there!  🙂

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Posted by on March 24, 2015 in Juv, Mysteries, Readers


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