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Staff Reviews: Award-Winning

Check out these reviews written by the staff of the Marathon County Public Library! (For reviews in all genres, visit our main Staff Reviews webpage.) Staff book reviews are also published at Goodreads.com; follow us for the latest updates.


Cover: 'Far From the Tree'

"Far From the Tree" by Robin Benway

★★★★ What exactly is a family? Are they your biological relatives? The people who raised you? Or are they the people you choose to surround yourself with every day? Far From the Tree explores the idea of family in all its forms as it follows three siblings who reconnect as teenagers after being given up for adoption in infancy. There's 17 year-old...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult, YA Fiction With Adult Appeal, Award-Winning

Cover: 'Breaking Stalin's Nose'

"Breaking Stalin's Nose" by Eugene Yelchin

★★★★★ Ten-year-old Sasha Zaichik has prepared to become a member of the Soviet Young Pioneers since he was 6 years old.  Just as he is almost ready to realize his dream, his world and his family seemingly collapse, as he discovers that everything that he believed growing up in the Communist Soviet Union was a lie. This simply-told but powerful historical...

Audience: Children | Genre: Fiction, Newbery Award Winner, Award-Winning

Cover: 'The Girl Who Drank the Moon'

"The Girl Who Drank the Moon" by Kelly Barnhill

★★★★★  Every year a newborn baby from the Protectorate is left in the nearby forest in an effort to appease the witch. Xan, the forest witch, doesn’t understand this tradition, but in order to rescue the infants she scoops them up and delivers them to adoptive families in the town on the other side of the forest.  When she rescues one special baby and...

Audience: Children, Tweens | Genre: Fiction, Newbery Award Winner, Award-Winning

Cover: 'The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly'

"The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly" by Stephanie Oakes

★★★★★ When the reader first meets Minnow Bly, she is being arrested for beating a homeless man. From that moment on, we are swept into the world of Minnow Bly. When Minnow was young, her family joined a the Cult of Kevin. Being a Kevinian meant believing the stories that the Prophet told about God and the outside world, including the fact that the those on the...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Fiction, Award-Winning, Morris Award Winner, Realistic

Cover: 'Between the World and Me'

"Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates

★★★★★ In this letter to his adolescent son, Coates reflects upon what it means to grow up and live in the United States while inhabiting a black body. It is a combination of history, social commentary, and memoir as Coates explains to his son the complexities of his own journey to adulthood and explores the larger context of the history of race in the United...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Nonfiction, Award-Winning, Alex Award Winner

Cover: 'Stolen, Smuggled Sold: On the Hunt for Cultural Treasures'

"Stolen, Smuggled Sold: On the Hunt for Cultural Treasures" by Nancy Moses

★★★★ Moses is a woman intimately familiar with museums and the world of art. In this book she explores the rather shadowy world of art, ownership by individuals and museums, and acquisitions of spectacularly famous and valuable items under sometimes questionable methods. The book is divided into eight separate chapters covering the discovery, ownership,...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Nonfiction, Printz Award Winner, Award-Winning

Cover: 'Love Letters to the Dead'

"Love Letters to the Dead" by Ava Dellaira

★★★★★ When prompted by her English teacher to write a letter to a dead person, Laurel writes a letter to Kurt Cobain, who was her sister May’s favorite musician. It proves to be a therapeutic and deeply personal exercise, so Laurel decides not to turn in the assignment and continues to write letters to a variety of dead people (such as Amelia Earhart, John Keats...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Fiction, YALSA Top 10, Award-Winning

Cover: 'The Martian'

"The Martian" by Andy Weir

★★★★★ I just had to write a quick review of “The Martian” by Andy Weir after recently seeing that they have made it into a movie to be released soon!  The book has everything that a science fiction reader could ask for. It’s a story of a man getting stranded on Mars, which we all know is not a very human friendly place to be. He must survive for a long...

Audience: Adults, Teens | Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Award-Winning, Alex Award Winner

Cover: 'Gabi, a Girl in Pieces'

"Gabi, a Girl in Pieces" by Isabel Quintero

★★★★★ Entering her senior year of high school, Gabi, a Mexican-American girl, tries to make sense of her teenaged world. Gabi's life is not short of drama: her best friend Cindy is pregnant, her other best friend Sebastian just got kicked out of his parents house after coming out, her dad is addicted to meth, and Gabi feels shamed for being a girl by her over-...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Fiction, Award-Winning, Morris Award Winner

Cover: 'In the Shadow of Blackbirds'

"In the Shadow of Blackbirds" by Cat Winters

★★★★★ This powerful debut from Cat Winters is unforgettable! Set in 1918 during the peak of the Spanish influenza pandemic, the story follows Mary Shelley Black, who moves to San Diego after her father's arrest. Mary Shelley moves in with her widowed aunt, who is fascinated by séances and a local spirit photographer. Mary Shelley struggles with the constant fear...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Fiction, Award-Winning, Morris Award Winner, YA Fiction With Adult Appeal

Cover: 'Roller Girl'

"Roller Girl" by Victoria Jamieson

★★★★★ In this graphic novel, written by a derby girl herself, twelve-year-old Astrid discovers the world of roller derby. When Astrid's mom takes her and her best friend Nicole to a match, Astrid falls in love with the crazy outfits, eccentric nicknames, and fierceness of the sport. Astrid decides to sign-up for summer derby camp, expecting Nicole to sign-up as...

Audience: Children, Tweens | Genre: Fiction, Award-Winning, Newbery Award Winner

Cover: 'The One and Only Ivan'

"The One and Only Ivan" by Katherine Applegate

★★★★★ This Newbery Award winning book offers a beautiful story about friendship and hope. Ivan, a gorilla who lives at a shopping mall, has learned to be fairly content with his life. He sleeps, eats, watches TV, talks to his elephant friend Stella and Bob the dog. Drawing also helps Ivan pass the time. Ivan’s owner gives him crayons and paper. Sometimes he eats...

Audience: Children | Genre: Fiction, Award-Winning, Caldecott Award Winner, Newbery Award Winner

Cover: 'Sam and Dave Dig a Hole'

"Sam and Dave Dig a Hole" by Mac Barnett

★★★★★ Sam and Dave are determined to dig a hole until they find something spectacular. What unfolds in this story is a wonderful mix of what is happening in the story and what is happening in the illustrations. This book is a 2015 Caldecott Honor Book for a good reason. The book as a whole, the writing and the illustrations, play off of each other so well that...

Audience: Children | Genre: Fiction, Picture Book, Award-Winning

Cover: 'I'll Give You the Sun'

"I'll Give You the Sun" by Jandy Nelson

★★★★★ Fraternal twins Noah and Jude have always sworn loyalty to each other above anyone else, but events during the summer before they start eighth grade and the months that follow fracture their relationship. Jumping ahead three years, we see that the artistic, socially-isolated Noah, who had constantly expressed himself through drawing (whether just in his...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Fiction, YA Fiction With Adult Appeal, Award-Winning, Printz Award Winner

Cover: 'Kingdom of Little Wounds'

"Kingdom of Little Wounds" by Susann Cokal

★★★★★ Susan Cokal's "Kingdom of Little Wounds" is not for the faint of heart. Some reviewers have proclaimed that this is not a book for teens, in spite of its Printz Award. The book charts the course of the imaginary Scandinavian kingdom of Skyggehaven beginning with the oldest living daughter's wedding to seal a treaty. At the wedding feast, the queen rips the...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Fiction, Award-Winning, Printz Award Winner, YA Fiction With Adult Appeal

Cover: 'Grasshopper Jungle'

"Grasshopper Jungle" by Andrew Smith

★★★★★ Printz winners tend to be edgy and controversial. "Grasshopper Jungle" by Andrew Smith is no different. Set in a small Iowa town, "Grasshopper Jungle," at its simplest is the end of the world as we know it wrapped around a coming of age story, but that description just doesn't do it justice. Austin and his friend Robby break into the local second hand shop...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Fiction, Award-Winning, Printz Award Winner, Science Fiction, YALSA Top 10

Cover: 'Echo'

"Echo" by Pam Muñoz Ryan

★★★★★ This book is a masterpiece in its own genre—4 interconnected stories, each one masterfully told, and at alternating turns tearing at our heart and infusing us with hope. 40 years before the “war to end all wars” Otto purchases a book, stumbles into a forbidden forest and finds himself in the middle of a fairytale. He is entrusted with breaking the witch’...

Audience: Children | Genre: Fiction, Award-Winning, Newbery Award Winner

Cover: 'We Should Hang Out Sometime'

"We Should Hang Out Sometime" by Josh Sundquist

★★★★★ In his autobiography, Josh Sundquist asks each of the girls he "hung out with" since Middle School to see why they never went to the boyfriend/girlfriend stage. His background on each of the girls he liked, as well as his investigation is filled with humor and graphs.  This book, for ages 12 and up, is an engaging book that causes one to think...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Nonfiction, Award-Winning, YALSA Top 10

Cover: 'An Abundance of Katherines'

"An Abundance of Katherines" by John Green

★★★★★ Colin Singleton is a highly intelligent child prodigy who finds himself repeatedly dumped by girls named Katherine. While on a road trip with his best friend, Colin seeks to prove a theorem that will help predict the future of any relationship. A wild boar, ten thousand dollars in cash, and other escapades add to the adventure of this coming-of-age tale....

Audience: Teens | Genre: Fiction, Award-Winning, Printz Award Winner

Cover: 'The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend'

"The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend" by Dan Santat

★★★★★ On an island far away, imaginary friends are born. Beekle is one of them, waiting to be chosen by a child and transported to the real world. Rather than waiting, Beekle does the unimaginable and sets sail to the real world. He finds that the real world is strange and uncomfortable, until he meets his perfect friend. Then the world is colorful , fun, and not...

Audience: Children | Genre: Fiction, Award-Winning, Caldecott Award Winner, Picture Book

Cover: 'The War That Saved My Life'

"The War That Saved My Life" by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

★★★★★ 10-year-old Ada lives with her brother Jamie and mother in a filthy, rat infested one-room flat in London. She is often abused by her mother who does not allow her to go outside because her mother is ashamed of her clubfoot. When Jamie is being shipped off with other children to the country to avoid injury from bombings during the war, Ada escapes to join...

Audience: Children, Tweens | Genre: Fiction, Award-Winning, Newbery Award Winner

Cover: 'This One Summer'

"This One Summer" by Mariko Tamaki

★★★★★ Every summer Rose and her parents visit Awago Beach.  There are the timeless jokes (Rose's father jokes about Rose being born at the turkey farm) and the old summer only friends, in Rose's case, Windy.  This summer is different.  Rose's mom and dad aren't getting along and Rose thinks she knows why:  Rose's mom wants to have another baby...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Fiction, Graphic Novel, Realistic, Award-Winning, Printz Award Winner

Cover: 'Looking for Alaska'

"Looking for Alaska" by John Green

★★★★ This story follows the main character, Miles, a.k.a.  “Pudge “ as he leaves his public school in Florida and travels to Culver Creek, a boarding school in Alabama.  He is on a quest to seek his “Great Perhaps,” or his greatest journey that could be if only he just tries.  He is paired with the roommate, who goes by  “The Colonel,” and...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Fiction, Romance, Tragedy, Award-Winning, Printz Award Winner