Whodunnit?! The Westing Game

Raskin, Ellen. The Westing Game. Puffin Books, 1978. 182 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-525-47137-0; 1997 Tr. $6.50, ISBN 978-0-14-038664-6; 2004 Tr. $5.19, ISBN 978-0-14-240120-0; 1997 PLB $14.61; 2004 PLB $13.01, ISBN 978-1-41552-763-4


TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes!


Genre: Mystery


Part of a series? No.


Plot Summary:

Sixteen people are called to the Westing House when millionaire Sam Westing dies on Halloween. In order to determine who inherits the fortune, the sixteen people (heirs) must find out who killed Westing. Clues are given out piecemeal, and everyone is a suspect! Bombs, getting snowed in, and theft heighten the tension.


Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

I’ve heard from many people that this is their favorite book. I had to give it a shot, especially since the third grade boys are working on a mystery novel unit. The plot is intricate; I found myself needing to flip back and forth to make sure I had remembered a clue correctly, and I was focusing so hard on the threads of the story that I almost missed my bus stop! It’s an engaging story with some real twists and great red herrings.


Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

At the school where I work, third grade does a mystery unit. I’m so glad that we have this book in the collection; this is a great fit for a mystery project. I would hold a murder mystery party in class or in book club as an activity. (Idea from myself; how to hold a murder mystery party information here; for an academic library, but could be usable/scalable for an elementary school library.)


Grade Level: 5-8


Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred

Newbery Medal, 1979


Reviews referenced:

Jackson, K. (n. d.). The Westing game (Review of the book The Westing Game). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from

Kirkus Reviews. (1978, May 1st). The Westing game (Review of the book The Westing Game). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from


Murder Mystery information:

Kirby, M. (2003, Aug. 4). How to host a murder mystery in your library. Retrieved from  



Imaginary Friends: Crenshaw

Applegate, Katherine. Crenshaw. Feiwel and Friends, 2015. 245 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-1-25004-323-8; PLB $18.51, ISBN 978-1-51810-864-8


TL;DR: Do I recommend this? YES!


Genre: Fantasy


Part of a series? No.


Plot Summary:

Jackson and his family do what they can to make ends meet. They were homeless once, living in a van when they lost their house. Jackson is afraid that they are approaching another homeless period. To compound his fears, a gigantic cat that eats grape jellybeans, wears snazzy tee-shirts, and takes bubble baths keeps appearing … but only he can see it. Crenshaw is this cat’s name, and the last time he saw Crenshaw was when he was homeless (and a little kid!). Jackson is all about the facts — science, chemistry, things that you can prove. So why does Crenshaw keep appearing? Is Jackson crazy, or does he just need to accept the magic?


Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Once again, Applegate takes a difficult subject and infuses it with magic and care. Jackson’s homelessness is discussed in a frank tone; Applegate does not use those moments to condescend to her readers. Jackson also reflects on how compared to other children who have been homeless, he had it easy as his period of homelessness was shorter than those he has met with similar stories. Crenshaw himself is fascinating; he combines the sweetness of an imaginary friend with the attitude (Cattitude?) that a talking giant cat would likely have.


This story also made me cry in public, which I am usually unhappy about. This story was just so sweet, however, that I did not mind. Jackson’s little sister (amongst others) work to help him accept magic in the world, and while readers will have to check out the book to find out if he does, I guarantee that it will give them something to think about.


Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a great book for reading circles to inspire the discussion of imagination. A fun activity would be to snack on jellybeans and make care packages for local shelters. (Idea from myself)


Grade Level: 3-6


Awards and Starred Reviews:

Horn Book Guide starred 4/1/16

Horn Book Magazine starred 9/1/15

Library Media Connection starred 1/1/16

Publishers Weekly starred 6/22/15

School Library Journal starred 8/1/15


Reviews referenced:

Carr, J. (n. d.). Crenshaw (Review of the book Crenshaw). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from

Kirkus Reviews. (2015, June 29). Crenshaw (Review of the book Crenshaw). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from


Seafaring sorts: Compass South

Larson, Hope. Four Points Book One: Compass South. Illustrated by Rebecca Mock. Margaret Ferguson Books/Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016. 224 pages. Hardcover $15.34, ISBN 978-0-374-30043-2


TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes


Genre: Historical Fiction/Adventure Story (Graphic Novel)


Part of a series? Yes — the Four Points series


Plot Summary:

Cleopatra and Alexander are twins living in New York in the 1800s. Their father, a jack-of-all-trades who takes work whenever and wherever he can find it, has disappeared. When it looks like they are on their own, they join the Black Hook Gang, only to find themselves forced to turn them in when police catch Alex and Cleo. After some double-dealing adults and an assisted escape, the twins decide to impersonate a rich San Franciscan’s missing twin boys so that they can win the reward money. Cleo shears her hair, and they set off for San Francisco. In New Orleans, they meet another pair of red-headed twins bound for the same man. After a scuffle, one twin from each pair ends up together and on two separate boats headed round the Cape for San Francisco. Can Alex and Cleo (“Pat”) escape Luther of the Black Hook Gang? Will they find their father?


Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This was a solid historical fiction/adventure graphic novel. The period felt very well-researched but not dry, and the moments on the sea were exciting. It was sometimes tough to know which set of twins was being featured, but it could be figured out as the chapters went on.


Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This book would be a great recommendation for kids looking for a solid adventure story. This is also a fun book to hand to kids who are twins; while it is true that it can be tough to tell which set of twins is talking when, each twin is also very different, and their personalities set them apart clearly. This could also be a solid book club choice, but be prepared for readers to want to know what happens after this volume! (Ideas from myself)


Grade Level: 4-8 (Titlewave says 5-8, but I agree with SLJ’s assessment that 4th and up are a good fit)


Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 5/15/16

School Library Journal starred 6/1/16


Reviews referenced:

Kirkus Reviews. (2016, March 30). Compass south (Review of the book Compass South). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from

Publishers Weekly. (2016, April 25). Compass south (Review of the book Compass South). Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from

Trischitti, J. (2016, June 28). Compass south by Hope Larson  |  SLJ review (Review of the book Compass South). School Library Journal. Retrieved from




Magazine! New Moon

New Moon. Location. Duluth, MN: New Moon Girl Media. 6 issues yearly. $40.95 per year


TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

Publication: Magazine

Brief Description:

New Moon is a magazine for and by girls ages 8 and up. It features “Herstory” (history) sections, health topics, fiction with girl protagonists, letters to the editor, “How Aggravating!” (a complaints-about-life Dear Abby type section), “Howling At the Moon!” (for things girls want to celebrate), poetry, art, and articles. The magazine focuses on imparting on girls the importance of “girl power” and feminism.

Genres/Subjects: History, current events, health, fiction, poetry, art

Reading Level: ages 8-16

Programming/Lesson Ideas:

Since I currently work in two single-sex schools that share a campus, I would love to highlight this magazine with girls. It’s a great alternative to the Teen Vogues and others of that ilk that girls start picking up young. We do not carry those magazines, but by offering these patrons a magazine that focuses on their strengths and women’s history, I can help them work on their confidence and awareness of women in the world.

Personal Thoughts:

I was a New Moon Girl way back when, so I have some intense nostalgia for this magazine. When I came across one a few months ago, I was transported back to waiting eagerly for my bimonthly magazine. Flipping through, submitting work for publication, and rereading favorite articles was how I spent a lot of time as a tween. I would love to inspire more girls to check out this awesome magazine! Having it in the library would be a great way for me to help more girls discover this empowering publication.

Review read:

Parents’ Choice. (n. d.). New Moon: The magazine for girls and their dreams (Review of the magazine New Moon). Parents’ Choice. Retrieved from