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Staff Reviews by Elizabeth Lutz

Cover: 'Temple Alley Summer'

"Temple Alley Summer" by Sachiko Kashiwaba, Avery Fischer Udagawa

★★★★ A complex and satisfying mystery story set in Masuda City, Japan, Temple Alley Summer is part ghost story, part folk tale.Kazuhiro Sada lives at the site of an ancient temple. A long time ago, a small Buddha statue was shared among the houses on his street. People prayed to the statue to bring back those who had died, and their loved ones would return, but...

Audience: tweens | Genre: fiction, tweens

Cover: 'The Caiman'

"The Caiman" by María Eugenia Manrique, Ramón París, Amy Brill

★★★★★ People usually tell touching stories about dogs and cats or even birds—but an alligator?A caiman is a species of Central and South American reptile similar to an alligator. In Venezuela, José Faoro adopts an abandoned baby caiman, whose mother was probably taken by poachers. The little alligator grows up following Faoro around his jewelry and watch repair...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Night Walk'

"The Night Walk" by Marie Dorleans, Polly Lawson

★★★★★ A delightful picture book translated from French, The Night Walk is about a family that rises early to go on a long walk. They walk away from their town past fields, through the woods, by a lake, and up some rocky hills. Finally, we see what they walked all that way for: the sunrise.On the journey, descriptive words awaken all the senses—a shrieking train,...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey'

"Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey" by Erin Entrada Kelly

★★★★★ Dadhead. Buster Keaton. Betty Bigmouth. Peppina. These words will have more meaning once you have read Marisol Rainey’s story. Marisol is a girl who likes to name things like trees and refrigerators. She has a best friend named Jada and an older brother named Oz. Jada, Oz, and practically everyone else are super good at climbing trees—like the one in the...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math'

"Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math" by Jeannine Atkins

★★★★★ Jeannine Atkins has another excellent book to follow Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science. The women she focuses on this time include Katherine Johnson and Vera Rubin. Each poem is a small moment in the girls’ lives. I especially love the last lines of so many of the poems. They feel hopeful and end on an upward note. “She charts what’s known in...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: historical fiction, poetry

Cover: 'Little Wise Wolf'

"Little Wise Wolf" by Gijs van der Hammen, Hanneke Siemensma, Laura Watkinson

★★★★★ This is a beautiful story with a gentle lesson about friendship and learning. One day, Little Wise Wolf, who is deeply ensconced in his books and research, receives a summons from the king. He sets off on a long journey to the other side of the mountains, perhaps not as prepared as he should be. The hard day’s journey makes him lose confidence in his...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Allergic'

"Allergic" by Megan Wagner Lloyd, Michelle Mee Nutter

★★★★ Allergic is a sweet, funny story about friendship and pets. Maggie has always wanted a pet and her parents have agreed that she can have a puppy, even with their fourth child on the way. But imagine Maggie’s disappointment when she finds out that she is severely allergic to anything with fur or feathers! She bravely tries out a fish, reptiles, and...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Dear Edward'

"Dear Edward" by Ann Napolitano

★★★★ Readers find out early on in this book (about 20 pages in) that the plane that 12 year-old Eddie Adler is riding on will crash. He is the only survivor. The crash receives a huge amount of publicity and thousands of people respond through social media. Edward (as Eddie is known after the crash) goes to live with his aunt and uncle, who try to shield him...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson'

"On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson" by Jennifer Berne, Becca Stadtlander

★★★★★ Beautifully illustrated with just the right amount of text to a page, this picture book biography is great to share with young poets. It tells how Emily lived a secluded life enjoying her family, close friends, and the natural world. In books and in her mind she experienced much that she described in her poems. Though she published few in her lifetime, her...

Audience: children | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Norse Mythology'

"Norse Mythology" by Neil Gaiman

★★★★★ Neil Gaiman’s excellent retelling of the chief stories of Norse mythology is perfect as a first introduction to the material and well worth reading for those familiar with other versions of these tales.  The setting remains the ancient time of the gods, so in that respect it is not a modern retelling. Gaiman does, however, significantly develop the...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Howards End'

"Howards End" by E.M. Forster

★★★★★ Howards End is set in the early Edwardian era in England. The plot centers around two middle-class families: the Wilcoxes and the Schlegels. After the death of his first wife, Henry Wilcox marries Margaret Schlegel to the amazement of both their families. The two seem unsuited in age and interests. Margaret, an independent-minded woman, wants to help Henry...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Glass Town'

"Glass Town" by Isabel Greenberg

★★★★ This graphic novel of historical fiction is an excellent blend of fantasy and reality. In the prologue, readers meet Charlotte Brontë in 1849. As the only survivor of her siblings, she is haunted by memories of their make-believe kingdoms Glass Town and Gondal. These memories come in the form of a conversation between Charlotte and her character Charles...

Audience: adults, teens | Genre: graphic novel

Cover: 'The Nest That Wren Built'

"The Nest That Wren Built" by Randi Sonenshine, Anne Hunter

★★★★★ In imitation of the classic poem “The House That Jack Built” this book’s text begins: “These are the twigs, dried in the sun,/that papa collected one by one/to cradle the nest that Wren built.” The rhythmic tone continues in the text while on each page a different natural scene unfolds. More and more elements are added to the nest—even a snakeskin and...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts'

"Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts" by Esta Spalding

★★★★★ Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts is a book you feel like you’ve dreamed up. Its realistic elements are: the four Fitzgerald-Trout children need to go to school, they need to eat, they need to do laundry and - most importantly - they need a better place to live. Its fantastical twist is: they have two terrible mothers and two (or three) awful fathers...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: '101 Ways To Go Zero Waste'

"101 Ways To Go Zero Waste" by Kathryn Kellogg

★★★★★ Are you tired of taking out the trash? Does it bother you that only nine percent of plastic is actually recycled? That it takes three liters of water to produce once liter of bottled water? Everyone is familiar with the saying: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. What Kathryn Kellogg emphasizes in this guide is that recycle comes last. First, what can you do...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'The Cook and the King'

"The Cook and the King" by Julia Donaldson, David Roberts

★★★★ In this new fairy tale, a hungry king needs to find a cook. After trying many cooks and rejecting them all, he ends up with Wobbly Bob. The king then asks for his favorite dish—fish and chips—but Wobbly Bob is “terribly scared” about every aspect of food preparation. The king looks sympathetically on the shaking cook and helps him to prepare the meal....

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Faithful Spy'

"The Faithful Spy" by John Hendrix

★★★★★ This creative, colorful, biography tells the life story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor, a member of the German Resistance, and double agent working for the Abwehr during World War II. Bonhoeffer opposed Hitler’s ideology of Aryan supremacy early on in his rise to power, long before the outbreak of the second world war. He watched with...

Audience: children, teens, tweens | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'My Struggle, Book 1'

"My Struggle, Book 1" by Karl Ove Knausgaard

★★★★ My Struggle is a very serious book; if you couldn’t guess as much from the title, you will find out from the first pages of book one, which are a reflection on death. The author returns to this theme of death—specifically the death of his father—throughout the book in seamless passages, recollections that touch on his childhood, his adolescence, and his...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Snow Lane'

"Snow Lane" by Josie Angelini

★★★★ Annie Bianchi is a fifth-grader with dyslexia. This disability makes life difficult for her in many ways. She struggles to read and dress herself. She is teased when she smiles and laughs for no apparent reason. Annie has a habit of counting things and arranging numbers into organized groups. It is a coping mechanism for when she doesn’t know how to handle...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Third Mushroom'

"The Third Mushroom" by Jennifer L. Holm

★★★★★ Ellie and her grandfather have become better friends since last year when her grandfather turned himself young again through a science experiment and attended Ellie’s middle school. In this sequel to The Fourteenth Goldfish, crusty teenage scientist (with two PhDs) Melvin Sagarsky returns. Having her grandfather around has encouraged in Ellie a love for...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)'

"She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)" by Ann Hood

★★★★★ Trudy Mixer feels like she has lost control of her young life. She has been ostracized by her classmates ever since the new substitute teacher called her by her real name—Gertrude—and her best friend has left her for the future cheerleaders group. Practically the most important job of her life is running The Robert E. Quinn Junior High Beatles Fan Club (the...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Be Prepared'

"Be Prepared" by Vera Brosgol

★★★★ Vera is ashamed of her Russian heritage in front of her American girlfriends. She just wants to be as American as they are with their perfectly planned birthday parties and summer camp culture. When she tries to imitate them and utterly fails, she turns to an alternative—Russian camp. At ORRA, maybe she will meet better friends who are like she is for...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: graphic novel

Cover: 'The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden'

"The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden" by Kevin DeYoung, Don Clark

★★★★ This brilliantly illustrated book covers the Bible’s central message in just 10 chapters using simple, casually styled language. It describes the Bible story of the snake crusher (that’s Jesus), defeating death forever so that we can live with God in the garden as the biggest story the world has ever known. DeYoung’s writing makes the Bible accessible to...

Audience: children | Genre: nonfiction

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