Monday, March 25, 2019

Spring Reading 2019 Truth or Lie: Sharks!


With the emphasis on helping students to learn how to read critically, a series such as this approaches the skill in a fun and challenging way. Four statements are given and the reader is asked to be a “truth sleuth” and find the lie in the group. After making their choice, readers turn the page and discover if they were right. An explanation of the correct answer is given.

Color photos of various types of sharks fill many of the pages, with captions to identify the species shown. Some photos are labeled to show types of fins, location of gills, ears, or spiracles and other details. On other pages there are illustrations of sharks in humorous poses - holding a coffee pot and mug, covered in bandaids, etc. A rubber stamp serves as narrator, introducing each set of statements and making funny comments.

For newly independent readers interested in science topics, this could be a new favorite series.

Spring Reading 2019 30-Minute Rainy Day Science Projects


No more fussing about boredom on rainy days with these fun projects. Readers will learn how to conduct experiments in cryptography, music, optical illusions and other entertaining subjects. The book begins with a reminder to collect all materials beforehand and to ask for adult help when needed, and there is also a note about cleaning up when the fun is over. Back matter includes a glossary and a list of books and websites for further information. There is also a QR code to scan for more rainy dark projects.

This is one of a set from Lerner, 30-Minute Makers. Other titles cover chemistry, robotics, edible science, outdoor science, and sustainable science projects.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Spring Reading 2019 Let 'Er Buck!


George Fletcher was an incredibly talented cowboy and rider, yet he was only given second place at the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up. The author traces George's early life as his family took the Oregon Trail to the Northwest, his friendship with the children on the Umatilla Reservation, his lifelong love of horses, and the story of that historic rodeo. The illustrations capture the spirit of the horses and riders. The sense of movement comes across clearly in images of George "riding a make-believe bronco" or riding back to back on the same bucking horse with cowboy Jesse Stahl. But  George's love of horses is also shown, especially in an image of young George blowing lightly into a horse's face.

Stories of individuals who persevere and follow their passion despite prejudice are always a welcome addition to classroom and library collections. It is also good to have a wider variety of individuals to read about during Black History Month than the few Civil Rights figures that most lessons focus on. Authors such as Vaunda, who research stories that have been left out of the history books, help to fill gaps in our understanding and collective knowledge.

I read a review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Spring Reading 2019 Little Monsters of the Ocean: Metamorphosis under the Waves


"Bizarre creatures are floating around in our oceans - squishy, slimy spiky-headed monsters. And they're not even grown up yet!" Once young readers look at the incredible cover image and then read that statement on the back, they will be hooked. The author shares amazing details of how various forms of sea life progress through the stages of metamorphosis until they finally reach their adult forms. Some float along at the whim of the currents, some propel themselves with cilia, others hitch a ride. Why? Because they are all in search of the perfect spot to settle down and reproduce. But between their birth and that moment when they carry on the species, there are plenty of dangers and challenges.

Along with the explanations and descriptions of all the assorted tricks of the trade that these small monsters employ to survive, there are also text boxes that pop out facts sure to grab attention. Did you know that crabs can self-amputate to escape a predator? And what youngster interested in animals wouldn't be curious about a creature like the hermit crab that eats its own exoskeleton after molting? (Talk about recycling!) The images show transparent nistos, salamanders with feathery gills, and luminous moon jellyfish, as well as many other denizens of the deep.

Montgomery quite truthfully states, "Scientists are still swimming in a sea of questions about metamorphosis." And as she says in her author's note, "maybe those unanswered questions were the most exciting part of it all." Sometimes we adults forget that youngsters don't realize there are still questions to explore that no one knows the answers to. Perhaps, if we are lucky, some of those young people in our lives will be inspired by books like this one to go out and find those answers.

I read an advance copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley. Any quotes came from that ARC and may differ slightly from the final text.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Spring reading 2019 Nixie Ness: Cooking Star

When Nixie's mom gets a new job and doesn't work from home anymore, Nixie and her best friend are separated after school. Grace's mother makes arrangements for Grace to go home with Elyse in the afternoons, while Nixie's parents sign her up for a cooking club that meets in the school cafeteria. The problem is that Nixie doesn't want to have fun and make new friends in the cooking club - she wants to be with Grace!

Dealing with changes in routine and the fear of losing your best friend are something that all kids deal with at some time. Nixie's reactions and her grudging involvement and affection for the other cooking club members all ring true, as do the actions of Grace, Elyse, and Nixie's parents. 

Good for fans of realistic fiction series such as Katie Woo or  Jasmine Toguchi. 

I read an ARC provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Spring Reading 2019 Sumokitty


Fans of fat cats everywhere, rejoice! Sumokitty is here and ready for action. A skinny stray cat sneaks into a sumo training center looking for food. When he makes himself useful by getting rid of all the mice, he earns himself a place with the sumo wrestlers and the name of Sumokitty. But too much of the good life may make him so complacent that he could lose everything. Can Sumokitty and his sumo friend Kuma both learn from their mistakes?

The illustrations show the progress from hungry stray to fat and contented house cat. Images also provide readers with a glimpse of how sumo wrestlers train. Captions name the moves, offer a pronunciation, and a definition. (For example, "shiko (shee-koh): leg stomp.) And readers may be amused to see the sumo group singing karaoke and  playing video games in their spare time.

A wonderful story about persistence, as well as finding a home and fighting to save it. Highly recommended for primary grades.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher for review copies.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Giveaway: The Chestnut Challenge

This delightful leveled reader series has a new title coming out next month. I have an advance copy for a lucky winner.

In The Chestnut Challenge, Tobin, a sweet pangolin, Bismark, a loud-mouthed sugar glider, and Dawn, a serious fox, are playing a game of Chestnuts when Chandler, a conniving chinchilla, challenges Tobin for the title of Chestnut Champion. However, after a series of strange distractions occur, the Brigade begins to suspect that something is not quite right. Chandler is a competitive chinchilla...but could he also be a cheater?

(from back cover)

Giveaway: Inventing Victoria

I have a signed advance copy of this new historical novel from Tonya Bolden for one lucky winner.

As a young black woman in 1880s Savannah, Essie's dreams are very much at odds with her reality. Ashamed of her beginnings, but unwilling to accept the path currently available to her, Essie is trapped between the life she has and the life she wants.
Until she meets a lady named Dorcas Vashon, the richest and most cultured black woman she's ever encountered. When Dorcas makes Essie an offer she can't refuse, she becomes Victoria. Transformed by a fine wardrobe, a classic education, and the rules of etiquette, Victoria is soon welcomed in the upper echelons of black society in Washington, D. C. But when the life she desires is finally within her grasp, Victoria must decide how much of herself she is truly willing to surrender.

In a searing historical novel, Tonya Bolden illuminates post-Reconstruction America in an intimate portrait of a determined young woman who dares to seize the opportunity of a lifetime.

(from back cover)

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Spring Reading 2019 The Witching Hours: The Vampire Knife


Anna and Max are dragged by their father to a remote inn in Transylvania where he leaves them in the care of the innkeeper while he works on his research. Despite their bickering while stuck in the backseat of the car (and what siblings don't bicker on a long trip?), the kids do love each other. When Max goes missing in the middle of the night, Anna sets off on a rescue mission with the innkeeper's granddaughter and a strange knife from under the floorboards of the inn.

Luckily, Anna has read a lot of fairy tales and has memorized some of the behaviors to avoid when dealing with creatures from the other realm. Max knows a bit about fantastic creatures, too. He even wonders about the wardrobe in their room at the inn. "Sometimes they have magical worlds inside them," he tells Anna. But she and Isabella must go into a dark forest to find him, not into the wardrobe. Will they be able to reach Max in time to save him from the dark figure that carried him off? And will the odd knife they found be any use against something out of legend? 

This story would be a good recommendation for readers who enjoy The Spiderwick Chronicles. It  is similar in the way the siblings face off against forces the adults don't seem to notice, as well as using knowledge from books they have read and objects they find. There is humor to lighten the scary atmosphere (but not scary enough to keep you up at night). For instance, Anna and Max tell their father that they believe the innkeeper is a witch. He assures them she is not, but then jokes, "And if she is a witch...just push her into the oven."

Recommended for ages 8 - 12. This is the first in a 5-book series.

Spring Reading 2019 Teeny Weenies: Freestyle Frenzy and Teeny Weenies: The Intergalactic Petting zoo

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I picked up ARCs of these books at ALA Midwinter and you should know that they are just as funny as the original series. Author David Lubar says that he wrote these shorter collections after a librarian mentioned that younger readers would also enjoy stories like those in the Weenies books, and he listened to her. (Hooray for that!)

These stories are just as silly or strange as the originals with plenty of surprise twists and belly laughs, but not quite as scary. Readers find out about what aliens do when they kidnap humans. Bullies become "beanie weenies" at a cookout. There's the "Left Hand of Dorkiness" where the kids learn not to call the lunch lady a witch (and the author riffs on an Ursula K. LeGuin title). In case anyone didn't know, "The best way to  get a Weenie to do something is to make him think it's a prank." Map reading skills from a video game save the day for a Weenie on vacation. And a couple of carnival Weenies encounter a horde of zombies.

Scheduled for release in April, these anthologies are great for fans of the "Diary of Wimpy Kid" movies who still want a shorter read, or who enjoy short stories for the ease of dipping in and out of a book. Bill Mayer, who has done the cover art for the original series, has created wonderful illustrations for the interiors of these new titles - including a full-page with multiple panels (like a comic book) for the beginning of each story.

If you have chapter book readers who still want some illustrations mixed in and prefer a book under 150 pages, then hand them this series. They will thank you.

Spring Reading 2019 Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians


People keep recommending Brandon Sanderson's books to me, and I really enjoyed The Rithmatist, so when I saw he had a series featuring evil librarians I added it to the school library. But I still didn't bring one home to read until this week over spring break.

This is a great read for middle grades (and up), who enjoy lots of humor mixed in with action and adventure. Just imagine a group whose first names are all the same as famous prisons - Alcatraz, Leavenworth, Sing Sing, Quentin, Bastille, etc. And their foes have names that also belong to famous mountains, like Shasta. Next, imagine that some of them have Talents that help them with their ongoing struggle to save the world; Talents like always being late, or breaking things, or tripping.

So, funny names, funny talents, funny premise (librarians don't really want to rule the world...well...then again), and all told from the POV of Alcatraz. Since Al has been raised in lands controlled by the Librarians, he is learning his family history and the reasons behind the conflict just as the readers are. It takes him a while to get into the swing of things, but he does eventually display some of the family spirit as they storm the enemy stronghold - the library. Something everyone should know "is that all libraries are far more dangerous than you've always assumed." The ending leaves plenty of room for the later volumes in the series.

Alcatraz warns readers that in books adults think are "meaningful" and should be given to young people to read, the main character's "dog will die. Or in some cases, his mother will die...(Apparently, most writers have something against dogs and mothers.)" Immediately, a list of books that fall into those categories begins to appear in the reader's mind. But Al also assures readers that his book is nonfiction and much better to read than those other books one might receive as a gift from some well-meaning person.

Some of my favorite parts reminded me of other stories, which I am sure the author intended in a story about librarians. His explanation of how time moves in books is shown by this example, "And I spent fourteen years in prison, where I obtained the learning of a gentleman and discovered the location of a buried treasure." (Any guesses on a title for that book?) Quentin uses his talent for speaking nonsense and says, "Churches. Lead, very small rocks, and ducks." (Movie quote from?) And when the author apologizes for the narrative becoming too deep, he says that "it won't be long before this story...turns into a terribly boring tale about a lawyer who defends unjustly accused field hands." (Last chance to show your amazing powers of book identification.)

All of this is just a roundabout way to say that the book was very enjoyable and sets things up nicely for readers to continue on with the series, and so avoid books where meaningful deaths of pets and parents occur. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Winter Reading 2019 Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden Samovar


Shona McMonagle is a librarian and a proud graduate of Miss Blaine's School for Girls. When she is recruited to go on a mission for Miss Blaine, she is thrilled at the chance. Time travel. 19th century Russia. She has mastered the language, studied the history and social customs...what could go wrong? As she scopes out the scene, she is convinced that she must help young Lidia meet up with the handsome Sasha and find true love. But mysterious deaths keep occurring around them, and Lidia seems more interested in her woodworking than the dashing young man. Can Shona help Lidia find happiness and figure out who the murderer is before tragedy strikes too close to home?

Despite the deaths and the pressure of limited time to complete her mission, Shona also manages to share her views on the ownership of serfs, feminism, and other more modern social concepts with those she meets. The horror of her carriage driver when she offers to emancipate him is comical to modern readers, and that is just one instance of the humor woven into the story. 

This is the first book by Olga Wojtas, but I hope another is coming soon because I love the character of Shona and the writing style of the book. 

Winter Reading 2019 Marcy and the Riddle of the Sphinx (Brownstone's Mythical Collection #2)


Marcy's father Arthur is a famous adventurer (see Arthur and the Golden Rope for details of one of his many outings). Marcy loves to hear his stories, even though she doesn't believe they are true. When her father sets off for Egypt to find Thoth's book of knowledge, Marcy is convinced he needs help. After all, she thinks, "Her father had trouble just bending over when he dropped his glasses." Marcy journeys to the Great Sphinx to rescue Arthur, but she will have to overcome her fear of the dark and enlist the aid of some ancient deities to succeed. 

The artwork is especially good at showing motion with large illustrations that depict the characters in various locations along their route. For instance, when Marcy is trying to get aboard the sun boat of Ra, readers see her standing on the sand, running toward the boat, balanced on top of a stone arch, dangling from the hand of a giant statue...each instance moves her closer to her goal and shows her progress across the obstacles. There is also humor in the images, such as Bast the goddess of cats stretched out catlike in a hammock for a nap.

Besides being an adventure story and an introduction to some of the Egyptian pantheon, this is also the story of discovering a sense of self. Marcy doubts she is "even a real Brownstone" because of her fear of the dark. But in finding her father, she outgrows her fear and her doubts, finding the adventurous spirit within herself.

Recommended for readers of HildaZita the Space Girl, and other awesome girls having their own adventures. I read an e-book provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Winter Reading 2019 Hicotea (Nightlights Book 2)


On a class field trip to a nearby wetland area Sandy is exploring by herself and finds an empty turtle shell.  She falls into another dimension when she peeks inside the shell and meets Hicotea, a turtle who has created a museum-like collection of scenes from nature. During her visit Sandy also meets other inhabitants who once lived in the wetland. They tell her that there used to be much more of the wetland, but it is shrinking smaller all the time. There is also a frightening character named Livion (perhaps short for Oblivion?), that looks like a menacing black bird and is intent on destroying everything inside the shell. Livion tells Sandy, "'ll never be able to understand the universe." Sandy points out that she can always start small and build on what there is. She follows through with that idea once she returns home.

The colors in this book have been described as polychromatic, which is a good fit for the way they seem to radiate off the page. Everything is deep and rich and vibrant until Livion comes along, and with the destruction comes black and washed out grays and purples. Creator Lorena Alvarez infuses the richness of Latin American artwork into a school trip that becomes an adventure into a new and wondrous place like something from the wildest anime story. The combination obviously works, based on her 2018 Eisner nomination for the first book in the series.

Recommended for readers of Telgemeier and Kibuishi, or fans of Miyazaki's movies. I read an e-book provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Winter Reading 2019 Mac B. Kid Spy: The Impossible Crime


Leave it to Mac Barnett to create this zany series about his childhood adventures as a spy. (You read that right. Whether you believe it is up to you.)  In this second book he describes the case of stolen Crown Jewels. Imagine being a kid and having the Queen of England send for you to help her out. Of course, it is a bummer that the summons came just as Mac was about to win at a nearly impossible video game. Instead, "The screen flashed the saddest two words in the English language: Game Over."

But there is plenty of humor to offset such sad scenes. Readers will learn that in British English pants = underwear, so don't ever say that you will beat the pants off someone. Besides tracking down the missing jewels and dodging assassination attempts, Mac also gives the Queen some advice about gifts. "The best gifts are those you can read -" he explains.

Combine a young Mac with a Queen who thinks the nest gifts are wearable, a Corgi named Freddie (along with quite a few other Corgis), a beefeater named Holcroft, and the odd cobra or so ... and you get a rollicking adventure with illustrations designed to make you laugh your pants, uhm, trousers off.

As Mac says, "This message will now self-destruct, unless the publisher decided we didn't have the budget for that."

Hand this to fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and other heavily illustrated stories of childhood exploits.

I read an advance copy provided by the publisher for review purposes. Any quotes may change in wording in the finished edition of the text.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Giveaway: The Girl from Rawblood

Do you know that wonderful feeling when you come home from a conference and have all those ARCs in your bag? And you know how it can turn to frustration as you realize you have no room left on your bookcase or your desk? That's the problem in my life right now, so I'm once again trying to find homes for some of the books I have already finished. I came across a paperback advance copy of The Girl from Rawblood and thought someone who likes creepy gothic stories might take it in and care for it.

Winter Reading 2019 Maybe Tomorrow?


Elba has a sad face and a black block that she drags around with her. Norris is always in a good mood and surrounded by butterflies. When they meet in the park, Norris invites Elba to go on a picnic. She declines and says that she just wants to sit with her block. Norris doesn't give up and over time he and Elba talk about the sadness that Norris senses in the block. She tells him that she will always have her block, but Norris says, "But I will help you carry it sometimes."

The illustrations capture the personalities of the characters perfectly. Elba always has her umbrella, just in case. Norris always has his picnic basket and is ready to share a picnic with someone. The big black block pops out in contrast to all the bright flowers, butterflies, and beautiful ocean waves. The change in its size from the beginning of the story to the final scene clearly shows that Elba's sadness had lifted a bit even though it is not gone.

This is the perfect book to share with a child who is feeling sorrow over losing a loved one. It gently shows that over time and with the help of others, the load of sorrow can become a little lighter. It may always be there, but it will not always be the weight holding back the enjoyment of everything else in life.

I read a review copy provided by the publisher. Release date is March 26, 2019.

Winter Reading 2019 Recess at 20 Below: Revised Edition


Originally released in 2005, this description of what going to school in Alaska is like may already be on your shelves. The author, the 2004 Disney Teacher of the Year, has updated the book with answers to some of the questions kids generally ask. This new edition with a fresh design and the author Q&A was just released January 29, 2019.

If you know kids who complain about having to go to school in the snow, whether they are you own children or your students, read this with them and then see if they change their minds. Just imagine sledding at recess, or digging snow tunnels to play in. (We won't even talk about going to school and coming home in the dark because of those short winter days up north.)

For those who don't have this book yet, add it to your winter/snow/cold weather collection and then fix yourself a cup of hot cocoa. Looking at all that snow will give you a chill!

Winter Reading 2019 Brother, Sister, Me and You


Rhyming text is paired with beautiful photos of animal siblings as they wrestle, swim, and nap. "Beavers build a lodge with sticks. Guppies flash with finny flicks." There are a variety of animals (mammals, reptiles, fish, insects, and birds) from a wide range of habitats. Young readers will laugh at bear cubs climbing on their mother's back, otters splashing each other, and children having a pillow fight.

The photos and descriptions capture the fun of playing with a sibling - and the examples from the animal kingdom lead to a double spread showing diverse human siblings enjoying activities together. Back matter includes animal facts about each of those in the book along with a thumbnail of the image in which they were shown. There is also a letter to parents about the sibling bond.

Recommended for primary or preK ages, especially animal lovers or those children expecting a new sibling. 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Winter Reading 2019 Sam Wu Is Not Afraid of Sharks


Sam Wu has already proved that he is not afraid of ghosts in his first book, but now there is a new danger - sharks! When Sam's class goes to the aquarium he is startled when a shark seems intent on ramming its way through the glass. His flinching reaction is noted by some classmates who take delight in teasing him about it and reminding him about a regrettable incident on a past field trip.

The illustrations are hilarious and capture every expression and quiver. For instance, when the docent urges Sam to pet a stingray we can see his mouth open in a protesting gasp, his elbows shaking, and his wide-eyed stare at the tank. We also have the inner monologue of Sam's thoughts. "Who would want to touch a stingray? That's like asking, "Who wants to pet this spiky porcupine?" Sam thinks.  

Lucky for Sam, he has friends to help him deal with the teasing. There is Bernard who "loves to look things up.It is kind of his superpower." And his friend "Zoe's superpower is being super fast." But of course, Sam's superpower "is being SUPER BRAVE, obviously." 

This series is a good match for beginning chapter book readers who enjoy the heavily illustrated style that also gives them support with the text. Recommend it to readers who enjoy series like Katie Woo and Kylie Jean.

I read an advance review copy provided by the publisher. Release date is March 12.

Winter Reading 2019 Maya Lin: Thinking with Her Hands


I love the organization of this biography. Each chapter is named after a material that Maya has used in her work, and they trace her journey through her development as an artist as well as visiting many of her most famous works. The fact that she is able to work with so many different media (granite, water, celadon, etc.) is just one indication of her versatility as an artist.

The chapters, along with discussing her childhood and student years also talk about the various groups she has worked with to create museums, outdoor displays, and memorials. Most people know her as the designer behind the Vietnam Memorial Wall, but she has done much more than that. The large, full-page photos show details up close as well as the full view of each creation. 

Any readers interested in art and architecture should pick up a copy of this book. The text is engaging and descriptive and the images are equally alluring. I would love to take my students on a field trip to the Langston Hughes Library and Riggio-Lynch Chapel, since they are within easy driving distance of our school.

I was lucky enough to meet the author at NCTE last fall and get her to autograph a copy for our school library.

Winter Reading 2019 Dreaming in Code: Ada Byron Lovelace, Computer Pioneer


This well researched biography tells about the first computer programmer in the world, Ada Byron Lovelace. Ada was the daughter of Lord Byron, the famous poet, but her mother chose to raise her on science and mathematics to combat the influence of her father's heritage. The details of her course of study and relationship with her mother are covered, as well as her meeting with Charles Babbage and his ideas about a Difference Engine and an Analytical Engine. Combining the creativity of her father and her logical training, Ada developed the idea of cards to program the engines - even to do sequences and loops. 

Photos of the Difference Engine, portraits of Ada and her parents, even copies of pages from her school exercise books all add to the text. An appendix includes the notes Ada made as she translated the original article about Babbage's Difference Engine. A second appendix includes the notes from the British Association for the Advancement of Science as they debated whether to fund the construction of the Analytical Engine. There are also extensive source notes for all the quotes within the text, a glossary, and bibliography.

This is recommended for ages 10 -14. Details about Lovelace's gambling and laudanum use, among other facts, will be better understood by readers beyond the elementary grades. Publication date is set for March 12, 2019. I read an advance review copy provided by the publisher.

Winter Reading 2019 Check Out the Library and Strikeout of the Bleacher Weenies

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Today only - a Weenies double feature! Check Out the Library Weenies was released September 4, 2018 and Strikeout of the Bleacher Weenies in 2016, but I only picked up copies of them at a recent conference. David Lubar has a very vivid imagination and uses it to conjure up a wide variety of scenarios and characters. Whether it is vampire slaying, time machines, mummies, or nightmares coming to life, each story builds up the tension quickly and generally has a surprising ending.

These anthologies are perfect for reluctant readers, or those who prefer to read in short bursts rather then extended periods of time. Most of the stories are only a few pages long and have horror, humor, and plot twists to keep even the shortest attention spans entertained. The title stories are good examples of the wide range within the pages. The library weenies learn a valuable lesson about judging a book (or anyone else) by its cover, while the bleacher weenies get a quick trip to a Mayan ballgame to put Little League in perspective.

If you have enjoy unexpected developments and don't mind a bit of bathroom humor now and again, then you should try out this series.

Winter Reading 2019 The Beat on Ruby's Street


For fans of historical fiction, the Beat Street Series is an option to explore for the scene in Greenwich Village in the late 1950s. Ruby's parents are Beat artists. Her father is a musician,  while her mother is a painter. Ruby and her brother Ray are home schooled along with some friends by another couple in the neighborhood. Ruby's greatest problems seem to be saving the money for a new leotard and a pair of earrings, and getting the chance to meet Jack Kerouac. But when she gets into a disagreement with a local shop owner, the police and social services get involved and it may be the end of Ruby's time in the Village.

Readers will be amazed at the details packed into the story - the sights, sounds, and even smells of the Village in 1958 fill Ruby's life and her poetry. From the carefully balanced apples and oranges on a fruit cart to the Italian restaurant that hosts Ruby's birthday party, the author carefully constructs the setting. The social worker who creates tension and change in Ruby's home life seems to be clueless about what her interference means to those involved, so bent on doing her job that she is blind to the chaos and potential heartache she creates. 

For teachers looking for books where the characters are creative and respond to what is happening in their lives through their art, Ruby and her poetry offer another possibility to share in class. Recommended for ages 10+. I read an e-book provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Winter Reading 2019 The Library of Ever

What is a girl to do when her parents are off on a trip to Europe and have left her in the care of a nanny who spends all her time visiting her own friends and dragging her charge along like excess luggage? Well, Lenora waits for the right moment and then makes a break for it. Being a smart girl our protagonist makes her move while they are at the library (so the nanny can check out a book to show off to her friends). As she searches for the children's section, Lenora encounters a strange arch that leads her to the ultimate library. When she is made the "fourth assistant apprentice librarian," her adventures really begin.

Between helping patrons from the future, rescuing stranded penguins, finding lost kittens, and other amazing help desk assignments, Lenora encounters menacing figures in bowler hats who seem intent on preventing patrons from using the library. The head librarian, Malachi, tells her these characters are the "Forces of Darkness" and have always been around. Holding to the belief that "Knowledge is Light," Lenora does her best to fight the insidious actions of the dark. As she tells two of the figures when they point out she is just a child, "I'm also a librarian. And I'm not going to hide the truth from anyone."  

Lenora's research into patron queries will have readers learning about Leap Day and Leap Years, the tallest mountain in the world, the ancient Egyptian goddess Bast, and tardigrades. They will also encounter robots, beluga whales, ant colonies, and various other wonders that will spark interest in new and exciting subjects to research for themselves.

This middle grade tale is a good match for fans of The Ninja Librarians by Jen Swann Downey, or readers who enjoy books about books such as Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library or The Book Scavenger.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Winter Reading 2019 The Last Second (A Brit in the FBI, #6)

Even when the members of the Covert Eyes group are on vacation, they can't seem to avoid trouble. Nicholas and Mike are supposed to be enjoying some time off and the beautiful Mediterranean area - but they hear about a downed yacht and spring into action. It is understandable that they would rush to the assistance of the yacht when one of their friends was known to be on board. But things are not as simple as a sinking ship, and would readers really expect anything so uncomplicated from these agents? 

As usual in the cases that the team takes on, there are multiple lines to follow and complicated plots to unravel. This time there are ancient shipwrecks, legends of the Holy Grail, satellite launches, stolen nuclear material, an EMP bomb, telescopes, the International Space Station, and aliens. So ... just an average day for the Covert Eyes. The search for answers has Adam hacking into networks best left unnamed, while Nicholas and Mike travel from Italy to Malaysia, Lyon, and Sri Lanka. Along the way there are shootouts, crashes, ambushes, and even an encounter with Al Qaeda and the CIA. Between Nicholas and his skills on the computer and Mike's weapons and hand-to-hand proficiency, they make a great field team even when the rest of their group is halfway around the globe. The continuous countdown shown at the beginning of each chapter heading increases the tension as readers wonder if it truly will take until the last second to find those responsible and stop them.

This series continues to deliver fast-paced action, humor to break the tension, intricate plots, and the sizzling attraction between the team's leaders. The relationship highlights the mutual respect for their abilities and the story line takes advantage of their faith in each other as well as their desire to keep each other safe. Highly recommended for fans of suspense thrillers.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.