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Staff Reviews by Sharyn Heili

Cover: 'Ugly'

"Ugly" by Robert Hoge

★★★★ Growing up fairly normal-looking is difficult enough, but when you are, well, ugly, it is almost unimaginable. Born with a tennis ball-shaped tumor in the middle of his face instead of a nose, and with short twisted, mangled legs, Robert Hoge was not the sort of baby mothers rush to take home. As a matter of fact, his mother didn’t. After knowing the facts...

Audience: children | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Scar Island'

"Scar Island" by Dan Gemeinhart

★★★★★ No one wants to end up on Scar Island, no one. Believing his crime to be so terrible, Jonathan Grimsby feels he deserves whatever punishment or bad treatment he is given at the Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys on this tiny, stony, awful spot in the black sea. Finding a crew of would-be gnarly pirates as the adults in charge, life is constant...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Race the Night'

"Race the Night" by Kirsten Hubbard

★★★★★ Has the world really ended? Is there really only pollution, drought and this desert ranch and a few chosen special kids and teachers left? Twelve-year-old Eider has nagging doubts and is plagued by memories of another world with her sister in it. At night she takes forbidden exploratory trips beyond the closely monitored fence and collects prohibitive...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Train I Ride'

"Train I Ride" by Paul Mosier

★★★★ Twelve-year-old Ryder is a wounded, but resourceful girl without a home, who is worried about her dwindling pool of relatives and looming foster care. This time she’s being sent from California by train to a relative in Chicago she doesn’t know. She was living with an uncaring grandmother after her drug-addicted mother could no longer care for her. On her...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Beautiful Blue World'

"Beautiful Blue World" by Suzanne LaFleur

★★★★ Even though Sofarende, where twelve-year-old Mathilde lives, is at war, and there are bombings and sirens and constant food shortages, she is content. After all, she has her family and her best friend Megs by her side.  But when the army offers money and safety to families whose children help in the war effort under very strict rules and secrecy, Megs...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Secret Horses of Briar Hill'

"The Secret Horses of Briar Hill" by Megan Shepherd

★★★★★ Emmaline May lives at Briar Hill, a makeshift hospital in a home that a princess used to live in. She was sent there instead of to a family living in the country during the war because she has the “stillwaters” (tuberculosis). She has a secret that she keeps from almost everyone; only she can see winged horses living in the hospital's mirrors. Entering the...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Wolf Hollow'

"Wolf Hollow" by Lauren Wolk

★★★★★ Turning twelve years old is not always the milestone that separates a person’s life between childhood and adulthood, but in the aftermath of the wars, it’s what happened to Annabelle. Her quiet, comfortable small town life is quickly changed by a nasty girl, Betty Glengary, the new girl in school who chooses to bully Annabelle. A reclusive World War I...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Before Morning'

"Before Morning" by Joyce Sidman, Beth Krommes

★★★★★ In this beautiful picture book it really is all about the stunning muted scratch-board art by Caldecott award-winning artist Beth Krommes. Spare lyrical text by Newbery Honor winner Joyce Sidman almost sings to us as we get lost in intricate pictures displaying a beautiful overnight snowfall which slowly transforms the morning into a beautiful world of...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Lucy Rescued'

"Lucy Rescued" by Harriet Ziefert

Lucy, a small white dog, is adopted from an animal shelter just in time. But adjusting to her new home and family is tough on her and her new family.  Lucy can’t seem to stop howling; she howls all day and night. In this sweet, simply but beautifully illustrated story, we follow Lucy and her family on their journey to love, understanding and acceptance...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, pets

Cover: 'No Such Thing As Dragons'

"No Such Thing As Dragons" by Philip Reeve

★★★★★ Ten-year-old Ansel, a mute boy, is sold by his father to Brock, a self-proclaimed dragon slayer who needs someone who will keep his secrets safe. They travel town to town on horseback searching for food and shelter in exchange for protecting villagers from dragons. In Drachenberg, his master accepts a quest to climb the steep mountain and rid the village...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

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: 'Furthermore'

"Furthermore" by Tahereh Mafi

★★★★★ Ferenwood is a community of sharp, bright colors, predictable, common magic, and adventure. Unfortunately Alice Alexis Queensmeadow doesn’t quite fit in. She’s stark white except for her ginger colored eyes, she doesn’t appear to be very good at magic, and her hopes for an adventurous life have been smashed by the disastrous results from her Surrender...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Foxheart'

"Foxheart" by Claire Legrand

★★★★★ Quicksilver is not your ordinary heroine. Left on the steps of Saint Martta’s convent when she was three-years-old, presumably nameless, with an unusual mane of gray hair, she is continuously taunted with names like pig and witch. Saved by a kind yellow dog she names Fox, who becomes her partner, she steals in order to survive in the dangerous Star Lands...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'A Most Magical Girl'

"A Most Magical Girl" by Karen Foxlee

★★★★★ Suddenly thrust by her mother into the care of two unknown aunts who have an old, dusty magic shop full of broomsticks, wands, and magic potions, Annabel Grey is more than a little confused. Raised in Victorian England as a prim and proper young lady with a beautiful wardrobe and set of manners, this is nothing like the life she has known. While she is...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Littlest Bigfoot'

"The Littlest Bigfoot" by Jennifer Weiner

★★★★★ Off to her eighth boarding school, this one an Experimental Center in the woods proclaiming to respect everyone’s uniqueness, twelve-year-old Alice Mayfair knows instinctively that this new school will still be like all the others. Teased and bullied at her previous seven schools about “the Mane,” her big, wild, uncontrollable hair, her large body, her...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Secret of Dreadwillow Carse'

"Secret of Dreadwillow Carse" by Brian Farrey

★★★★ Two lives, a twelve-year-old princess named Jeniah and a peasant girl named Aon, are both deeply affected by Dreadwillow Carse, a dark, foreboding bog in the center of Emberfell that is said to hold all the community’s sadness. In preparation for her new role as queen, Jeniah learns that if monarchs dare enter Dreadwillow Carse their monarchy is doomed. Aon...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Valiant'

"Valiant" by Sarah Mc Guire

★★★★★ After her mother’s death, Saville’s father, who is a tailor more in love with his precious material than his family, moves them to a small, gloomy, dirty shop in the city of Reggen. Soon after, her father suffers what appears to be a massive stroke, leaving him bedridden and Saville with the responsibility for his care as well as their livelihood. Despising...

Audience: children | Genre: fantasy

Cover: 'The Executioner's Daughter'

"The Executioner's Daughter" by Jane Hardstaff

★★★★ Moss is the executioner’s daughter. That’s right; she lives in the Tower of London in England with her father who serves King Henry VIII, and lately they are way too busy with executions. Her job is to catch the severed heads in a basket after her father chops them off, a job she detests. She longs to escape and see more of the world beyond the castle...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

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 Poet's Dog'

"The Poet's Dog" by Patricia MacLachlan

★★★★ Trapped in a bitter blizzard, two children, Flora and Nickel, are led to a safe, warm cabin by a dog named Teddy who speaks in a language they immediately understand. They find food and firewood to make a fire and share life stories while they plan how they can get word to the childrens' mother. Teddy knows instinctively how to rescue them, just like he was...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Eleven and Holding'

"Eleven and Holding" by Mary Penney

★★★★ Macy is not celebrating her upcoming birthday.  She’s determined not to turn twelve without her father.  Her father has been gone for months now and no one is telling her the truth about his disappearance.  Jack, her baby brother, is getting most of her mother’s attention, her beloved grandmother, Nana, has recently died and her shop has been...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The  Seventh Wish'

"The Seventh Wish" by Kate Messner

★★★★ Charlie Brennan reluctantly agrees to go ice fishing with a neighbor to earn money for a beautiful Irish dancing dress that she wants for an upcoming competition. The small first fish she catches is unusual with glowing green eyes, like emeralds, and it speaks and promises her a wish in exchange for its freedom. She is so shocked she doesn’t even know what...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Grayling's Song'

"Grayling's Song" by Karen Cushman

★★★★ Grayling lives with her mother in a cottage in the woods and somewhat begrudgingly helps her tend the herb garden and prepare potions, tonics and remedies. Hannah, her mother, is known as a healer, helping people in exchange for whatever they can spare. But when their cottage burns, her mother is found firmly rooted to the ground like a tree. When her...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Some Kind of Happiness'

"Some Kind of Happiness" by Claire Legrand

★★★★★ Finley Hart is sad. She is sad and downhearted about a lot of things, including the fact that she is being forced by her parents to spend the summer at Hart House, with grandparents and cousins whom she has never even met, while her parents try to “work things out”. To escape, she retreats into the Everwood, a forest kingdom fantasy world that she is...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Song Poet'

"The Song Poet" by Kao Kalia Yang

★★★★★ This is the true story of a courageous family who put family and love first. In some ways it is the continuing story of the author, Kao Kalia Yang’s family told in her first book, “The Late Homecomer”, only the focus of this book is her father, Bee Yang, who was orphaned as a young child, something that affected him his whole life. Bee Yang is a Song Poet,...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

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