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Staff Reviews by Sharyn Heili

Cover: 'Flora and the Peacocks'

"Flora and the Peacocks" by Molly Idle

★★★★★ I loved this gorgeous lift-the-flap, wordless picture book and you will too. Flora from “Flora and the Penguin” and “Flora and the Flamingo” is back, this time making friends and fan-dancing with penguins. Not all goes well, however, in this give and take dance of friendship, but the stunning, surprise fold-out ending will leave you smiling. This beautiful...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book, read-alouds

Cover: 'The Door By the Staircase'

"The Door By the Staircase" by Katherine Marsh, Kelly Murphy

★★★★★ Twelve-year-old Mary Hayes is miserable. She is so miserable that she attempts an escape up the small, sooty stovepipe from the Buffalo Asylum for Young Ladies, where, as an older child, there’s literally no chance of getting adopted, especially when the head mistress dislikes you. So when an old woman with a big nose, Madame Z, shows up to adopt her, she’s...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'The Girl in the Well Is Me'

"The Girl in the Well Is Me" by Karen Rivers

★★★★ Being the new kid in town, eleven-year-old Kammie Summer is perhaps just trying to impress the popular girls at her new school when she accepts their dare and ends up in a deep abandoned well. It’s wet, smelly, cold, dark and scary and it hurts being cramped in there with her arms and body wedged against the sides of the well. Where are her so called new "...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: realistic

Cover: 'Hour of the Bees'

"Hour of the Bees" by Lindsay Eagar

★★★★★ A whole summer stuck in the intensely hot New Mexican desert helping her parents clear out her grandparents' sheep ranch and move her ailing, dementia-ridden, temperamental grandfather, who she has never even met before, is not even remotely what twelve-year-old Carol (Carolina) expected or wanted to be doing with her summer. Then she meets her grandfather...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Wild Robot'

"The Wild Robot" by Peter Brown

★★★★★ Roz’s life begins in a peculiar way. Washed ashore in a crate on what appears to be a deserted island, she is the lone intact survivor of a sunken cargo ship. Charged by the island sun and literally jolted to life when a sea otter reaches through her crate and accidentally pushes a button on the back of her head, Roz, a robot, opens her eyes and introduces...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Maybe a Fox'

"Maybe a Fox" by Kathi Appelt, Alison McGhee

★★★★★ On an ordinary wintry school day like so many others, while sisters twelve-year-old Sylvie and eleven-year-old Jules are waiting for the school bus, Sylvie runs into the woods and disappears. Why would she go? They were forbidden to go on this path leading to the Slip, a small geological formation in which the river bed disappears into an open cavern and...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land'

"Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land" by John Coy

★★★★★ This beautiful, heart-warming children’s book gave me goosebumps. The photographs portray a multitude of immigrants who came to America from many different countries. In simple, almost lyrical text it imparts the great sacrifices that the previous generation made, not only to bring their family to a new country, but to survive and provide new opportunities...

Audience: children | Genre: nonfiction, history

Cover: 'The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle'

"The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle" by Janet Fox

★★★★★ Amid warnings from the train stationmaster about Rookskill Castle in Scotland being peculiar, haunted, with grinding and screeching noises and rumors of kids disappearing, the Bateson children, Katherine (Kat), Robbie, Amelie, and Peter, an American boy, proceed to the castle anyway. Actually, what choice do they have? They’re kids who are sent to this...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'The Land of Forgotten Girls'

"The Land of Forgotten Girls" by Erin Entrada Kelly

★★★★★ Living in the shadow of her sister Amelia’s ghost, and carefully trying not to destroy the spirit of her younger sister, ever-resourceful Soledad tries desperately to give her something to believe in, even though it may be untrue. Living in almost unbearable conditions in Louisiana with their new, evil stepmother after their father deserts them soon after...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Withering-by-Sea'

"Withering-by-Sea" by Judith Rossell

★★★★★ Stella is an eleven-year-old orphan living with her three aunts in a boring, seaside mansion, the Hotel Majestic, where elderly people come to partake of the healthful waters. Her life suddenly becomes way too interesting when she witnesses a murder and finds herself on the run from the evil professor/magician Starke and his gang of men who desperately want...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Dogtag Summer'

"Dogtag Summer" by Elizabeth Partridge

★★★★ Tracey (Tuyet) is “con lai”, half breed; she has been told that she has the face of the enemy. Half Vietnamese and half American, her father was an American soldier serving in Vietnam. Adopted by an American family in California, she is not sure where or how she fits in. With the help of her best friend Stargazer she begins searching. When they discover an...

Audience: children, teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'A Night Divided'

"A Night Divided" by Jennifer A. Nielsen

★★★★ Overnight, twelve-year-old Gerta’s world changed and her family was divided, forever it seemed. She woke up one August Sunday morning to a barbed-wire wall dividing East and West Berlin. Just a few days earlier, her father, a member of the Resistance movement, and brother Dominic became trapped on the other side of the wall after traveling to West Berlin a...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'The Wrinkled Crown'

"The Wrinkled Crown" by Anne Nesbet

★★★★ Linny’s twelfth birthday is fast approaching and she’s being watched and protected even more than usual, lest she fall victim to an ancient curse. She is forbidden to touch a lourka instrument, but the call of music and the lourka is so irresistible that she secretly builds one. When she is compelled to play it on the eve of her birthday, her best friend...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'The Lightning Queen'

"The Lightning Queen" by Laura Resau

★★★★★ Surprising, haunting, almost magical, this tween novel is unusual in that it spans generations. At the beginning of the story, eleven-year old Teo is suffering from the recent loss of his mother and sister Lucita on the Hill of Dust in Mexico, where hardly anything exciting ever happens. But when the gypsies roll in and he meets Esma, the self-proclaimed...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Rosemary Spell'

"The Rosemary Spell" by Virginia Zimmerman

★★★★★ Books and words have always been important to Rosemary and her best friend Adam, so when they discover an extremely old book in a locked cabinet in her father’s old study, they are excited beyond words. Is it perhaps a secret, magical, ancient book? Did it once belong to Shakespeare or perhaps to Constance Brooke, an elderly poet suffering from Alzheimer’s...

Audience: children, teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Paper Wishes'

"Paper Wishes" by Lois Sepahban

★★★★ Ten-year-old Manami lives a carefree life combing Bainbridge Island, Washington with her beloved grandfather and dog Yujiin. But it’s 1942, and after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor they are forced by the U.S. government, along with other Japanese Americans, to live in a one room prison camp in the California desert. Worse yet, Yujiin is forced out of...

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

Cover: 'Pax'

"Pax" by Sara Pennypacker

★★★★★ Forced by his father to return his beloved pet fox, Pax, to the wild and move three hundred miles away to live with his grandfather, twelve-year old Peter is devastated. Still grieving his mother’s recent death, losing his father to the war effort (again) and being forced to give up Pax, his friend and soul-mate, is too much. Unconcerned with his own safety...

Audience: children, teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Connect the Stars'

"Connect the Stars" by Marisa de los Santos, David Teague

★★★★ You could say that thirteen-year-old Audrey Alcott is obsessed with lying. She can’t help it. She instinctively knows when people are lying and it’s making her life so miserable that her parents send her to a six-week summer wilderness camp that promises attendees a “journey to confidence.” There she meets Aaron Archer, a kid with a brain like a walking...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, action adventure

Cover: 'Mother Bruce'

"Mother Bruce" by Ryan T. Higgins

★★★★★ Bruce is a grumpy bear who lives alone and has one passion—eggs. He loves making fancy egg recipes that he finds on the Internet, but one day he gets a big surprise. Before he gets his goose eggs cooked, they hatch and call him “Mama.” He tries repeatedly to get rid of the goslings, even by being extra grumpy and roaring, but they won’t leave, not even when...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'The Girl Who Could Not Dream'

"The Girl Who Could Not Dream" by Sarah Beth Durst

★★★★ Imagine catching dreams, distilling them, pouring them into bottles and selling them to people searching for certain types of dreams. This is what Sophie’s parents do somewhat secretly in the lower level of their bookstore. Sophie, however, is not allowed to dream because when she does her dreams become real. Her octopus-like pet, Monster, came into her...

Audience: children, teens | Genre: fiction, action adventure

Cover: 'You Can't See the Elephants'

"You Can't See the Elephants" by Susan Kreller, Elizabeth Gaffney

★★★★★ Since her mother died, her grief-stricken father has been sending thirteen-year-old Mascha to her grandparent’s house for the summer in Clinton, a small town where nothing exciting ever happens. She wanders around town with her earbuds in, lonely and bored, until she meets Julia and Max who are the only kids who seem to want to talk to her. As she gets to...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'A Nearer Moon'

"A Nearer Moon" by Melanie Crowder

★★★★ Luna and Willow live in a village where houses are raised on stilts. They have heard stories about creatures living under the water and the time before the river had a dam, when the clean water flowed freely, and the mucky, slick swamp didn’t exist. When Luna and Willow venture out in their flat boat, and Luna ignores her mother’s silly rules and goes below...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Wolf Wilder'

"The Wolf Wilder" by Katherine Rundell

★★★★★ Feodora and her mother, Marina live in the bitterly cold Russian wilderness with wolves. They are known as wolf wilders, whose job it is to teach “domesticated” wolves, formerly kept as pets by the rich, how to be wild again. When the mean, wolf-hating General Rakov burns their house and captures her mother, Feo sets off with her three half-wild wolves and...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'My Diary from the Edge of the World'

"My Diary from the Edge of the World" by Jodi Lynn Anderson

★★★★★ Gracie Lockwood lives in Cliffden, Maine, an ordinary enough sounding city, but it is anything but ordinary. Her world is populated with flying dragons, sasquatches, giants, mermaids, witches and angels. Gracie loves her home, but when the dreaded Dark Cloud begins hanging around, apparently in search of her sickly brother Sam, her family flees in a...

Audience: children, teens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'Listen to the Moon'

"Listen to the Moon" by Michael Morpurgo

★★★★★ Skipping school while out fishing with his father near the island of St. Helen's, Alfie and his father discover a half-starved, injured young girl who is barely alive on the small uninhabited island. Where she came from is a mystery since she is not speaking. His family cares for her, names her Lucy, and as their relationship grows and she becomes a part of...

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

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