Nonreview

Happy New Year!

I wanted to make sure I slip this post in among my reviews in the queue. Happy New Year, everyone! Wishing all a fantastic 2017. 🙂

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Reviews

Coraline the graphic novel adaptation by P. Craig Russell

Gaiman, Neil. Coraline. Adapted and Illustrated by P. Craig Russell. HarperCollins, 2008. 186 pages. Hardcover $16.19, ISBN 978-0-06-082543-0; Tr. $6.48, ISBN 978-0-06-082545-4; PLB $15.51, ISBN 978-0-329-69109-7

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Horror (Graphic Novel)

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

This graphic novel is an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s delightfully creepy novel. Readers who are familiar with the novel will recognize the elements that come straight from Gaiman. The story itself is scary and wonderful to read, so this review will focus on the illustrations.

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

As other commenters have noted, P. Craig Russell’s style is not entirely compatible with the “feel” of Gaiman’s story. It looked too realistic for Coraline; I supposed I’ve been spoiled by Selick’s interpretation in the film. Russell’s Coraline looked older (as commenters have noted), and she did not look like the girl I imagined. Furthermore, the Other Mother was clearly evil from the start in this adaptation. She is drawn in much sharper lines than Coraline’s mother, and her face is clearly predatory from Coraline’s first moment in the Other flat. I like how the film (and, arguably, Gaiman’s text) only hint at some creepiness (i.e, another Mother? What the what?) but doesn’t spoil that she truly is an evil creature. She looks wholesome (save her button eyes). While the film does open with the Other Mother remaking the doll into a Coraline doll, this is not a major spoiler of the terrifying beast that she is (the transformation in the film from humanoid Other Mother to arachnid made out of sewing needles is truly frightening!) Russell’s Other Mother was scary early on, her sharp teeth spoiling the evil reveal from her very first smile.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

A cool activity for a book club reading this graphic novel would be a scavenger hunt. It would not be quite so high stakes as Coraline’s search for the children’s souls and her parents, but it could still be fun! Items could be hidden throughout the school, and teams will be timed to find them. An alternate possibility would be to turn part of the library into an “escape room.” Kids will have to solve the puzzle and escape before the Other Mother takes their eyes! (Gruesome, but potentially fun)! I would have a box of buttons and a spool of thread handy just to creep out the kids if my group skews towards older tweens. (Ideas from myself; how to do an escape room here; I will refer to this activity several times in this document.)

 

Grade Level: 5-8

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 3/15/08

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred 9/1/08

Kirkus Reviews starred 6/15/08

Kliatt starred 9/1/08

Library Journal starred 1/1/09

School Library Journal starred 7/1/08

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) starred 6/1/08

 

Does the Cat Die?: (Highlight this whole line for the answer) >>> NO! 🙂

 

Review referenced:

John (screen name). (2009, Feb. 22). Comics: John reviews “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell (Review of the book Coraline). Wit War. Retrieved from https://witwar.wordpress.com/2009/02/22/comics-john-reviews-coraline-by-neil-gaiman-and-p-craig-russell/

 

Escape Room:

Booth, H. (2016, July 14). TPiB: Locked in the library! Hosting an escape room program at your library (blog post). Teen Librarian Toolbox. Retrieved from http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2016/07/tpib-locked-in-the-library/

 

Reviews

George by Alex Gino

Gino, Alex. George. Scholastic Press, 2015. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-545-81254-2; PLB $18.51, ISBN 978-1-51811-632-2

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? YES!!!

 

Genre: Realistic Contemporary Fiction/LGBTQIA Fiction

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

George has a big secret — she’s a girl. She wishes that she could ask people to call her Melissa; she wants to wear makeup and dresses and perfume. How to tell her family? She doesn’t know what to do. She does know that she wants to be Charlotte in the class play of Charlotte’s Web. She confides this dream to her best friend Kelly, and Kelly encourages her to go for it. Auditions don’t go as planned, however, and when George’s mom finds and confiscates her secret stash of girls’ magazines, it looks like nothing will go George’s way. Will anyone ever accept George for who she is? Or will all of them — bullies like Jeff who beat her up, well-meaning adults like Ms. Udell who refer to her bright future as a wonderful young man, or her mother who refers to George’s interest in girls’ things as “not cute anymore” — crush her spirit and force her to live a life that isn’t right for her?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

George is a fantastic protagonist. Her voice is so clear that it is almost as though readers are reading the actual diary of a middle school girl. Gino’s writing shines, and their narration never sounds like an adult pretending to be a kid speaking. This book is a must-read for all middle graders (and teachers … and parents … and people in general)! The drama-nerd life is also clearly expressed, and as a drama enthusiast myself, I loved that plotline.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

I’d love to feature this as a book club book or reading circle choice. A potential activity would be for kids to design the set for a play if we were to stage George as a drama; this would allow for a discussion of what it takes to design a simple set, and we could talk about what the most important places were in the novel so that we can focus on those locations. (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 3-6

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 8/1/15

Kirkus Reviews starred 6/1/15

Publishers Weekly starred 5/11/15

School Library Journal starred 7/1/15

Stonewall Book Award 2016

 

Reviews referenced:

Kirkus Reviews. (2015, May 6). George (Review of the book George). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/alex-gino/george/

Pavao, K. (n. d.). George (Review of the book George). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/george

Reviews

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garica

Williams-Garcia, Rita. One Crazy Summer. Amistad, 2010. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-06-076088-5; Tr. $4.54, ISBN 978-0-06-076090-8; PLB 1 $12.81, ISBN 978-0-329-96783-3; PLB 2 $16.89, ISBN 978-0-06-076089-2

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? YES! Absolutely.

 

Genre: Historical Fiction

 

Part of a series? Yes — Gaither Sisters series.

 

Plot Summary:

Delphine Gaither and her sisters Vonetta and Fern are in for a rough summer. Their father has decided it’s time they got to know their mother who left the family seven years before. In order to get to know her, they have to fly cross-country by themselves to Oakland where she now lives. It’s 1968, and their grandmother, Big Ma, is not thrilled about sending her granddaughters to “a pot of trouble boiling.” Even so, they go. Cecile — called Sister Nzila by the members of the Black Panther Party who visit her home and run the People’s Center — wants nothing to do with her daughters’ visit. She sends them to Black Panther summer camp a few blocks away. Will Delphine be able to protect her sisters from the trouble around them? Will she become part of the revolution?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This story is completely engaging. Delphine is a fantastic narrator, utterly relatable and forced to be wise beyond her eleven years. She doesn’t take trouble from other people, and she is a wonderful filter for the events of the summer of 1968. I really enjoyed reading this book

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

It would make a strong book club choice or reading to go along with a unit in American History or literature. Activities for this book could include ones that were listed in the “Extras and Activities” section at the back of the copy I received from the library. Each of the activities looks interesting, but I would perhaps choose the first activity in which students would put together a playlist of songs from the 1960s that reflect the era as well as scenes from One Crazy Summer. As the activity directs, I would have students play a minute of their songs and explain A) what moment it’s for, B) what aspect of the era it is meant to convey, and C) anything else about the music they like. I might also try activity two in which kids “adopt” a poet of the sixties and read their poetry as well as writing poetry themselves. I would skip the last performative prompt, however, as I am not comfortable directing kids to do that one their own (even asking for parental permission).

 

Grade Level: 5-8

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2011

Booklist starred 2/1/10

Christian Library Journal starred 11/1/14

Horn Book Magazine starred 3/1/10

Library Media Connection starred 3/1/10

Parents’ Choice Gold Award 2010

Newbery Honor, 2011

School Library Journal starred 3/1/10

 

Program Ideas from:

Williams-Garcia, R. (2010). One crazy summer. New York: HarperCollins Children’s.

 

Reviews referenced:

Breck, K. (n. d.). One crazy summer (Review of the book One Crazy Summer). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/one-crazy-summer

Bird, E. (2010, Feb. 2). Review of the day: One crazy summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Review of the book One Crazy Summer). School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2010/02/02/review-of-the-day-one-crazy-summer-by-rita-williams-garcia/

Kirkus Reviews. (2010, Dec. 22). One crazy summer (Review of the book One Crazy Summer). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/rita-williams-garcia/one-crazy-summer/

 

Reviews

Heat by Mike Lupica

Lupica, Mike. Heat. Puffin Books, c2006/p2007. 220 pages. Hardcover $15.34, ISBN 978-0-399-24301-1; Tr. $5.19, ISBN 978-0-14-240757-8; PLB $13.01, ISBN 978-1-42872-024-4

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Sports novel

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

This book is a glimpse into the life of a boy who is hiding something … but not the secret that everyone expects. In all honesty, this is one that was better to read than listen to. While the narrator’s voice was great for Michael’s stream-of-consciousness moments, the speaker could not make conversations clear and smooth, so I had to switch to reading it myself. Michael is a typical kid dealing with things no twelve-year-old should have to. Fortunately, he has his love of baseball to help him get by.

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Featuring a wise-talking best friend, a grandmotherly neighbor, and plenty of well-meaning adults, this novel explores what it means to be a kid with a secret…a dangerous secret, one that could ruin his life if it got out. Michael’s anxieties are very real, and while his best friend Manny injects humor into these serious situations, they are also handled sensitively by Lupica. Allowing for real stress and some sitcom-esque hijinks is a delicate blend, but Lupica pulls it off. While many of the baseball terms go over the head of a reader who doesn’t watch the game, it was still an immersive read.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

Book clubs could use this book and create vision boards (much like how Mrs. C plays a game with Michael where they envision his dreams coming true). They can either opt to discuss their vision boards or keep them secret, but they will spend “club” time making their boards. (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 5-8

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2007

Booklist starred 4/1/06

 

Reviews referenced:

Berman, M. (n. d.). Heat (Review of the book Heat). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/heat

Kirkus Reviews. (2006, March 1). Heat (Review of the book Heat). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/mike-lupica/heat-5/

 

Reviews

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Mullaly Hunt, Lynda. Fish in a Tree. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015. 276 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-399-16259-6; Tr. $7.69, ISBN 978-0-14-242642-5; PLB $18.51, ISBN 978-1-5811-637-7

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

This book is a deep dive into Ally Nickerson’s experience with her dyslexia. Unable to read and convinced that she is just stupid, Ally has worked very hard to prevent anyone from knowing just how much trouble she has with homework. She would rather get sent to the office for misbehavior than have her secret found out. Unfortunately, at her teacher’s baby shower, the principal pulls Ally into the hall to chastise her for the card she gave Mrs. Hall. Ally is perplexed — it had been a card with beautiful flowers on it. To her horror, she learns it was a sympathy card. Now everyone thinks she’s a monster for giving a sympathy card to her teacher who was leaving for maternity leave … hopefully, her substitute teacher won’t judge her too harshly for this mistake. Will Mr. Daniels catch on to her secret? Will anyone be able to help?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book is not only a gripping book about dyslexia, but it also explores middle school awkwardness, bullies, and friendships. Ally bonds with Keisha, a girl who is very outspoken, and Albert, a science-obsessed classmate who cuts the backs off of his shoes when they get too small for him because he cannot afford a new pair. The class bully zeroes in on the trio, but Ally’s friendships help her to keep her head high. Teachers are presented as human figures — capable of mistakes but trying to do their best.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a fantastic book club book or read aloud. Perhaps this would be a good reading circle book. Students should lead this discussion, as it is the kids in the novel who band together to carve out a place for themselves in the school’s hierarchy. Having students lead discussion and take charge of the topics and activities for this unit would be interesting. (Idea from myself)

 

 

Grade Level: 5-8

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 12/15/14

Library Media Connection starred 9/1/15

School Library Journal starred 1/1/15

 

Reviews referenced:
Kirkus Reviews. (2014, Nov. 18). Fish in a tree (Review of the book Fish in a Tree). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/lynda-mullaly-hunt/fish-in-a-tree/

Moore, T. (n. d.). Fish in a tree (Review of the book Fish in a Tree). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/fish-in-a-tree

Publishers Weekly. (2014, Dec. 1). Fish in a tree (Review of the book Fish in a Tree). Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-399-16259-6

 

Reviews

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff

Graff, Lisa. Lost in the Sun. Philomel Books, 2015. 304 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-399-16406-4; Tr. $7.69, ISBN 978-0-14-750858-4; PLB $13.81, ISBN 978-1-51810-658-7

 

TL;DR: Do I Recommend This? Yes

 

Genre: Realistic Contemporary Fiction

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

Trent Zimmerman has a lot on his mind. His dad has started a new family with his second wife Kari, and they are expecting a baby almost any day now. Meanwhile, it feels like Mr. Zimmerman is doing his best to tick Trent off. Trent’s fuse is shorter than usual, too, due to the fact that no one wants to talk to him anymore. After a tragic accident the school year before, Trent finds himself overwhelmed with guilt over the death of a peer, and it appears that the town agrees with him that he is at fault for the boy’s death. To make matters worse, Trent can’t try to play sports again to mend those friendships because any athletic activity makes him go clammy, remembering that February hockey game. Friendless and feeling attacked at home (first by his father’s attitude, then by his siblings’ insistence that Trent visit his dad anyway), Trent begins acting out. Fallon Little doesn’t seem to mind, but she’s weird. Could they become friends?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

 

This book is fantastic. Graff does a fabulous job describing Trent’s “fire” that erupts in his chest and forces him to blow up when he is angry. Trent does his best to control his impulses, but sometimes (often, early on, he cannot control them at all) they get the better of him, costing even more trust in the community.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This book would be a great book for a student dealing with anger management issues or who is interested in reading about this topic. It could also be a great book club book — there is a great deal of potential discussion that could be had when considering Trent, Fallon, and their classmates. A fun club activity would be to watch one of Fallon’s movies and look for the continuity errors. (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 3-6

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 3/15/15

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred 9/1/15

Kirkus Reviews starred 3/1/15

Publishers Weekly starred 3/16/15

School Library Journal starred 4/1/15

 

Reviews Referenced:

Eisenhart, M. (n. d.). Lost in the sun (Review of the book Lost in the Sun). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/lost-in-the-sun

Publishers Weekly. (2015, March 16). Lost in the sun (Review of the book Lost in the Sun). Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-399-16406-4

 

Reviews

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Hale, Shannon. Princess Academy. Bloomsbury Press, 2005. 314 pages. Hardcover $15.34, ISBN 978-1-58234-993-0; Tr. $6.84, ISBN 978-1-61963-613-2; PLB $13.71, ISBN 978-1-48986-273-0

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Part of a series? Yes — Princess Academy series

 

Genre: Fantasy

 

Plot Summary:

Miri is nervous. Will her Pa just let her work in the linder quarry? She feels useless and knows her town agrees with her — she’s too small to mine linder, so what’s the point of her? When it’s announced that the prince’s bride will come from remote Mount Eskel and that the girls must attend a Princess Academy in preparation, Miri’s world is opened. Learning to read gives Miri pathways to a new world and new understandings. Will she gain confidence and learn that she is not useless?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

I thought this was a really sweet fantasy novel about confidence, empathy, bravery, and even prejudice. As “lowlander” after lowlander assumes the Mount Eskel girls to be stupid (and the Mount Eskel girls assume the lowlanders are weak), each group gets to know the other and realize that they are not as different as they seem.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This novel really packages discussions about empathy and bravery well, too, so this would be a great book club pick or reading circle choice. Readers could discuss different ways that parents or other adults show that they care for others. They can talk about what it’s like to feel different. Perhaps I could steer the conversation eventually towards a conversation of what it means to have different abilities and strengths, and then I could give the kids time to discuss their own cool skills. (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 5-9

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

n/a

 

Review referenced:

Plevak, L. L. (2005). Princess academy (Review of the book Princess Academy). School Library Journal, 51(10), p. 161.

 

Reviews

Booked by Kwame Alexander

Alexander, Kwame. Booked. Puffin Books, 2016. 336 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-544-57098-6; PLB $18.51, ISBN 978-1-51817-158-1

 

TL;DR: Do I Recommend This? YES

 

Genre: Novel in Verse

 

Part of a series? No, but very similar to another Alexander novel, The Crossover.

 

Plot Summary:

Nick has a lot on his plate — he’s a superstar soccer player in his club, he wants desperately to ask out April from his etiquette class (which will be difficult, since all he has managed is a strangled “hello”), and he is being forced to read and memorize his father’s dictionary of obscure words. Life gets more exciting as his soccer team receives an invitation to play in a major tournament in Dallas … as does his best friend, co-captain of his rival team. Then his parents announce they are separating. Mr. Mac the librarian tries to recruit Nick for the book club, and Nick keeps getting into trouble for zoning off in English class. When a medical emergency forces Nick to stay home from the tournament, life as he knows it is over. Or is it?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This is a marvelous novel in verse about soccer, middle school life, and reading.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

The action flies — the poems capture Nick’s feelings, thoughts, and actions on the soccer field. It’s a great read for anyone — bookworms, soccer fans, and reluctant readers. This could be a fun book club book or poetry unit read. (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 6 and up

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 2/1/16

Horn Book Guide starred 10/1/16

Horn Book Magazine starred 3/1/16

Kirkus Reviews starred 1/15/16

Publishers Weekly Annex starred 3/7/16

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) starred 4/1/16

 

Review referenced:

Kitsap (WA) Regional Library YA Book Group. (2016, Apr. 12). Teens review the latest from Kwame Alexander, Deb Caletti, and more (blog post). School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2016/04/teens-ya/teens-review-the-latest-from-kwame-alexander-deb-caletti-and-more/