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Staff Reviews by Sharyn Heili

Cover: 'The Blackthorn Key'

"The Blackthorn Key" by Kevin Sands

★★★★★ An orphan, Christopher Rowe feels lucky to be chosen as an apprentice to Master Benedict Blackthorn, a great and kind apothecary. In order to keep recipes for his medicines and potions secret, his master uses complex codes and puzzles which Christopher is being taught to decipher. But when his master is brutally killed and a strange cult appears to be...

Audience: children, teens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'The Thing About Jellyfish'

"The Thing About Jellyfish" by Ali Benjamin

★★★★★ It doesn’t make sense. How could it happen? She’s sick of hearing people say “some things just happen.” It isn’t really a reason. For a scientific thinker like seventh-grader Suzy Swanson, there has to be an explanation. Franny Jackson, her twelve year-old best friend, was an excellent swimmer, so how could she have just drowned? Bit by bit, through many...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'A Curious Tale of the In-Between'

"A Curious Tale of the In-Between" by Lauren DeStefano

★★★★ Pram Bellamy lives with her two aunts in a home for the elderly which they manage. Her mother died under strange circumstances in childbirth, and all she was told about her father is that he was a sailor. She’s been homeschooled and has no friends except for a ghost named Felix near the pond. As far as she knows she has always been able to see and talk to...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Nonsense Show'

"The Nonsense Show" by Eric Carle

★★★★ It’s a fun, upside-down world in this new picture book that's full of nonsense by Eric Carle. A boy is pulled from a hat by a rabbit magician, a bird is living in an aquarium and a fish in a cage, a human baby is in a kangaroo's pouch, mice are catching cats, a man is living in a dog house and more. It’s all of course in good fun. With classic, colorful,...

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

Cover: 'Seven Dead Pirates'

"Seven Dead Pirates" by Linda Bailey

★★★★ “Libertalia. You!” Lewis can’t stop thinking about the two words that his dying Great-Granddad, whispered urgently into his ear. What do they mean? What’s even stranger is that his parents don’t even know. He guesses it may be connected somehow to Shornoway, his Great-Grandad’s sea-side, historic home. To honor the requirements of his Great-Grandad’s will,...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Fog Diver'

"The Fog Diver" by Joel N. Ross

★★★★ Thirteen-year-old Chess lives with his fellow crewmates and friends in the lower mountain slums above the deadly gray fog that has surrounded earth for hundreds of years. He is a tether boy on a raft used for diving into the fog and scavenging in the ruins below for items they can sell or eat. Chess is one of the few people who appears to suffer no ill...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Thank You and Good Night'

"Thank You and Good Night" by Patrick McDonnell

★★★★ In this sleepy-time picture book, Maggie and her rabbit, Clement are getting ready for bed when Jean and his friend Alan arrive in pajamas. And of course it’s time for a wonderful, surprise pajama party complete with bed jumping, chicken dancing, funny-face contest, hide-and-seek, yoga, food and finally sleep. Maggie reads everyone bed-time stories for...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'Crenshaw'

"Crenshaw" by Katherine Applegate

★★★★★ Crenshaw is a humongous, black and white cat who surfs, does tricks, takes bubble baths, speaks words of wisdom and appears when Jackson needs him most. Crenshaw is also imaginary. Jackson, who is almost in fifth grade, is beginning to see all the signs, even though his parents don’t really talk about it. Often there is no food, his parents aren’t able to...

Audience: children, teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'How to Speak Dolphin'

"How to Speak Dolphin" by Ginny Rorby

★★★★ Lily and her busy stepfather are mourning the recent death of Lily’s mother, leaving Lily with most of the responsibility for caring for her severely autistic 4-year-old stepbrother Adam. Through a visit to Dolphin Inlet, they discover Adam’s affinity and seeming ability to communicate with dolphins and hear about a dolphin therapy program for disabled...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, differing abilities

Cover: 'Fuzzy Mud'

"Fuzzy Mud" by Louis Sachar

★★★★ Walking to and from school together for fifth-grader Tamaya and seventh-grader Marshall is a normal occurrence; walking through the woods is not. No one is supposed to walk through the woods, so when Marshall claims it’s a shortcut and the school bully, Chad shows up, hits Marshall and threatens Tamaya, she throws some of the unnatural, weird-looking fuzzy...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Little Author in the Big Woods'

"Little Author in the Big Woods" by Yona Zeldis McDonough, Jennifer Thermes

★★★★★ This new children's biography of perhaps Wisconsin’s most well known and loved author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, is a great addition for all her fans. Written in a plain, simple style it includes most of the facts we know about her and her family. The illustrations by Yona Zeldis McDonough are simple, warm and homey, reminiscent of the illustrations by Garth...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: nonfiction, biography

Cover: 'The Disappearance of Emily H.'

"The Disappearance of Emily H." by Barrie Summy

★★★★ Attending her fifth new school in yet another new town, after yet another of her mother’s failed relationships, Raine, an eighth-grader, desperately hopes that this school will be her last. Raine possesses a unique gift--she feels and sees sparkles around people that allow her to see their memories. When she discovers that a fellow student named Emily Huvar...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'What Pet Should I Get?'

"What Pet Should I Get?" by Dr. Seuss

★★★★★ In this newly discovered book by Dr. Seuss, a brother and sister are at the pet store trying to decide what pet to get. Of course they can only have one, but all the pets look like so much fun it’s hard to choose just one. The other problem they face is they have a deadline; Mother and Dad said to be home by noon. This may be a “new” Dr. Seuss book, but...

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

Cover: 'The Sign of the Cat'

"The Sign of the Cat" by Lynne Jonell

★★★★★ Duncan McKay lives with his mother on the island of Arvidia and knows how to speak and understand the language of cats. His fearful mother is full of secrets, including information about his deceased father and mysteriously does not want him to excel at anything. In addition to Duncan’s questions about his identity, kittens on the island are disappearing,...

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

Cover: 'Woundabout'

"Woundabout" by Lev A. C. Rosen, Ellis Rosen

★★★★ After their parents’ deaths from an explosion at their ranch, Connor, Cordelia and Kip, their pet capybara, are sent to live with their aunt Marigold in the town of Woundabout. They discover that it is an odd city where routine and conformity rule and nothing ever changes. To maintain the status quo the mayor allows very few children to live there since...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Beastkeeper'

"Beastkeeper" by Cat Hellisen

★★★★★ Snow is predicted and her mother is freezing, so Sarah immediately looks for signs that they’re moving as they always do when it turns cold. But this time her mother walks out without Sarah and her dad. As she’s struggling to cope without her mother, her grieving father starts changing into a hairy, wild creature. Before he transforms completely, he drops...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'Return to Augie Hobble'

"Return to Augie Hobble" by Lane Smith

★★★★★ Augie’s life is like a strange, really bad fairy tale—literally. His parents own an amusement park he works at called Fairy Tale Place which they are struggling to keep going. He is bullied at school, has failed Creative Arts and needs to redo his final project, and the girl he likes barely knows he’s alive. On top of all this, his best friend Britt dies...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'A Handful of Stars'

"A Handful of Stars" by Cynthia Lord

★★★★★ Lily’s dog, Lucky is blind, so when he slips out of his collar and runs across the blueberry barrens in Maine she’s desperately afraid he might get hurt or lost.  That’s how she meets Salma Santiago, daughter of a seasonal migrant worker helping harvest blueberries, who entices Lucky with a peanut butter sandwich and some chips.  They become real...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Lost in the Sun'

"Lost in the Sun" by Lisa Graff

★★★★★ Fifth grade was the worst. Sixth grade could be a fresh start but Trent is sure everyone hates him for what he did—accidentally hit Jared Richards in the chest with a hockey puck and killed him. Trent is having trouble forgiving himself and remains mired in guilt. Things slowly begin to change after he meets Fallon Little, an odd girl with a scar across her...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Castle Hangnail'

"Castle Hangnail" by Ursula Vernon

★★★★ The minions at Castle Hangnail are desperate. In order to keep the castle they love they need a new master for magic and evil responsibilities or the Board of Magic will force closure. But when Molly, who is short and barely 12-years-old, shows up on their doorstep and claims to be a wicked witch, they are doubtful she’s the real thing. While she’s trying...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'When Fraser Met Billy'

"When Fraser Met Billy" by Louise Booth

★★★★ This is a true story about a struggling family, their autistic son, Fraser and a special gray shelter cat named Billy who brought them love, happiness and hope. With Billy in his life, gradually Fraser had less tantrums, was less anxious about changes, and less moody. Also diagnosed with hypotonia, a muscle condition, Billy also helped him learn to climb...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, memoir, differing abilities, animals

Cover: 'The Truth About Twinkie Pie'

"The Truth About Twinkie Pie" by The Truth About Twinkie Pie

★★★★★ 12-year–old Gigi lives with her sister Didi who is a hairstylist in a trailer park. When Didi wins one million dollars in a cooking contest she is able to help realize the big dreams she has for Gigi by moving to Long Island and enrolling her in an upscale high school. Gigi, who hates her name and asks the new kids at school to call her Leia, becomes...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The League of Beastly Dreadfuls'

"The League of Beastly Dreadfuls" by Holly Grant

★★★★ Eleven-year-old Anastasia McCrumpet is snatched from her school library by two tiny “ancient” ladies claiming to be her great aunties; only she doesn’t have any great aunts. She is told that her parents have suffered an unfortunate vacuum cleaner accident. They take her, not to a hospital, but to a dreary Victorian home in the middle of nowhere that used to...

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

Cover: 'Ms. Rapscott's Girls'

"Ms. Rapscott's Girls" by Elise Primavera

★★★★ There are a lot of extraordinary things about the Great Rapscott School for Girls. The students arrive by air in E-Z open tab boxes, they are hand-picked from homes where the girls' parents are so busy they scarcely notice they’re gone, the school is located in a lighthouse in the middle of nowhere, and the curriculum focuses on getting lost on purpose. The...

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

Cover: 'Moonpenny Island'

"Moonpenny Island" by Tricia Springstubb, Gilbert Ford

★★★★ The only eleven year-olds on the small island, Flor and her best friend and soulmate, Sylvie, share everything and lead an idyllic life. At the end of the summer, however, suddenly everything changes. Sylvie is mysteriously sent to the mainland to school, Flor’s mother disappears supposedly to take care of her mother, her sister Cecilia is harboring what...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

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