Reviews

The fox and his boy: Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Pennypacker, Sara. Pax. Balzer + Bray, 2016. 276 pages. Hardcover $14.59, ISBN 978-0-06-237701-2; PLB $20.46, ISBN 978-1-53792-339-0

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!

Genre: Realistic fiction

Part of a series? No.

Plot Summary:

When Peter’s father announces that he must go to war, it means that Peter must move in with his silent grandfather … and give up his beloved fox, Pax. Pax is puzzled by his boy’s sadness that day in the car, and when his boy throws the toy soldier far into the woods, Pax thinks it’s a game of fetch. Instead, both fox and boy are crushed as Peter is forced to rush into the car and leave his fox behind. After his first day with his grandfather, Peter realizes he can’t leave Pax on his own in the wild. Peter sets off on foot to cover the distance to find his fox. Pax realizes that living in the wild is much harder than living with his boy. Can Pax learn to take care of himself? Will he be alone forever? Will Peter make it to his fox?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book KILLED ME. I have a “no books with animals on the cover” rule because if the book is meant to be serious, I KNOW I’ll be ugly-sobbing by the end. Pax definitely delivers on that front! On his adventures, Peter meets Vola, a war veteran with one leg. Vola is a powerful character, and I loved her chapters. Pax’s voice as a narrator is clear and beautiful. Ultimately, this is a great book that I know I will never read again (TOO MUCH CRYING). I would absolutely hand this to a fan of wilderness, survival, and animal stories.

Grade Level: 3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred, 11/01/15

Kirkus Reviews starred, 11/01/15

Publishers Weekly starred, 11/16/15

School Library Journal starred, 12/01/15

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Reviews

Run Like the River: Gregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins

Collins, Suzanne. Gregor and the Code of Claw. Scholastic, c2007, p2008. 412 pages. PLB $13.36, ISBN 978-0-329-65712-3  ; TR $6.84, ISBN 978-0-439-79144-1

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!

Genre: Fantasy

Part of a series? Yes — the Gregor the Overlander series (The Underland Chronicles).

Plot Summary:

Gregor has returned to Regalia to claim his sword and read the Prophecy of Time, another Warrior prophecy that appears to hold the key to his –and all of the Underland’s– fate. It is up to Gregor to save the Underland, and his sister must also play an important role. The rats are marching for Regalia, and the Regalians must keep them at bay. Can the humans of the Underland win enough allies — warmblood and other — to save their homeland? Or will the rats rule all?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book is intense. Collins really delivers on the peril in this one, and there is a great deal of violence on the page. Characters we know and love are wounded (sometimes mortally), and unnamed figures are killed during the battles. Gregor struggles with the ethics of killing, so the violence (while intense) is not there simply for violence’s sake, but is instead handled thoughtfully. That said, I would still be mindful of a student’s age/sensitivities before handing this one to them. You will definitely be crying by novel’s end!!

n/a

Grade Level: 3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Horn Book Magazine starred 10/01/07

 

Reviews

New Kids on the Block: The New Olympians by Kate O’Hearn

O’Hearn, Kate. The New Olympians. Aladdin, 2014. 419 pages. Hardcover $15.44, ISBN 978-1-44244-415-7; PLB $13.86, ISBN 978-1-53797-654-9; TR $7.69, ISBN 978-1-44244-416-4

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes

Genre: Fantasy, Mythology Retelling

Part of a series? Yes — The Pegasus Series (this is book 3)

Plot Summary:

Diana and Steve, Emily’s father, return from Earth with news of home for Emily … plus newspaper headlines that make Emily and her friends’ hearts stop cold. A stallion named Tornado Warning is making a huge splash in the world of horse racing. Emily realizes that aside from being gray and wingless, Tornado Warning looks just like Pegasus. Joel points out that his racing statistics are simply impossible for racehorses, and everyone realizes the same terrifying possibility — could the CRU have cloned Pegasus? And if so, what other Olympians may have CRU-created doubles on Earth?

Emily and company return to Earth to investigate. They must sneak out of Olympus without Jupiter noticing them, for if Jupiter were to hear about the CRU’s latest deed, he would destroy Earth without a second thought. Pluto sends Alexis, a sphinx, to guard Emily as she investigates.

Can Emily and her friends save the day again, or has the CRU finally bested the Olympians?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This third novel in the series delivers on the action once again. The storyline is a bit more eccentric than in the previous two novels, but the drama of the Olympians’ fate (as well as that of the New Olympians) keeps the pages turning. More divide-and-conquer mishaps and miscommunications also keep the suspense high. That said, the violence increases a great deal more in this novel. Alexis is a killing machine when needed, and while some violence happens off the page, a lot also happens for readers to “see.”

Romance also takes a larger role in this book as Emily struggles with feeling jealousy when other characters flirt with Joel.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

I stand by my recommendation from book one: this is a great series for kids looking for more mythological retellings. Percy Jackson fans will enjoy this one.

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

n/a

Reviews

Bad News Ballerinas: Tiny Pretty Things

Charaipotra, Sona, & Clayton, Dhonielle. Tiny Pretty Things. Narrated by Imani Parks, Nora Hunter, Greta Jung. HarperTeen, 2015. 13 hours and 12 minutes. (438 pages). Hardcover $15.44, ISBN978-0-06-234239-3; PLB $15.56, ISBN 978-1-51812-929-2; TR $8.54, ISBN 978-0-06-234240-9;  Audio $26.45

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes, for older readers

Genre: YA/Realistic Fiction/Ballet!

Part of a Series? Yes — duology; Shiny Broken Pieces is the sequel

Plot Summary:

Life at the American Ballet Conservatory is cutthroat. The book opens with new girl Cassie reflecting on her good luck to be a young dancer with a solo part in the show … only to have her suffer a fall that injures her so badly that she must leave the conservatory.

The story picks up the next school year. Gigi is the new girl in school, fresh from California. Also the conservatory’s only black dancer, she immediately feels ill at ease, missing the camaraderie of her California studio. Bette Abney knows that this is her year to take all of the solo roles, and June Kim realizes that her mother’s ultimatum — a solo or she must go to public school — is for real. When Gigi earns the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Bette is left reeling, things get tense. Bette will stop at nothing to be the best … and June is finding herself more and more motivated to do just the same. Who will be the prima?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This is a lightning-fast story. Each narrator has secrets, motivations, and needs that keep the reader going. For readers who enjoy some serious drama (with startling consequences!), this book has a lot to offer.

One note: the audiobook gets tough when actors need to do accents for the Russian teachers.

Trigger Warnings:

  • eating disorders
  • violence
  • drug abuse
  • harassment

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

n/a

Grade Level: YA (9-12)

Awards and Starred Reviews: n/a

 

Reviews

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

Swanson, James L. Chasing Lincoln’s Killer. Scholastic Press, 2009. 198 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-439-90354-7; PLB $18.51, ISBN 978-0-329-87737-8

 

TL;DR: Do I Recommend This? Yes

 

Genre: Nonfiction (history)

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

Written much like a thriller, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer immerses readers in the days leading up to and immediately following the assassination of President Lincoln. Even as an adult who should remember from history class how the event turned out, I was completely absorbed and had to know what happened next. Swanson writes dramatically about Booth’s confidence, his charisma, and his Confederate sympathies as he plots the murder of the president of the United States and several important members of his administration. Action jumps from assassination to assassination attempt, leaving readers with some cliffhangers until we return to those people. The information about Booth’s hideout, trip across the river, and firestorm/shootout in the tobacco barn unfolds like the climax of an action film.

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Some of the language was a bit too dramatic, and the author takes some liberties assuming the attitudes or mindsets of different people throughout the account, but overall the book was an exciting look at this moment in American history.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

I definitely recommend this book to young history enthusiasts or someone working on a project – this could be a “fun” read that would be of assistance during a Civil War assignment. Students looking to research Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth, and the end of the Civil War will enjoy having this book on hand.

 

Grade Level: 5 and up (SLJ)

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Publishers Weekly starred 1/12/09

School Library Journal starred 1/1/09

 

Review referenced:

Owens, P. A. (2009). Chasing Lincoln’s Killer: The search for John Wilkes Booth (Review of the book Chasing Lincoln’s Killer). School Library Journal, 55(1), p. 130.