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Staff Reviews by Sharyn Heili

Cover: 'Hero'

"Hero" by Sarah Lean

★★★★★ Leo has a great imagination. He dreams and playacts at being a brave, heroic gladiator; he even has a homemade gladiator’s hat. In real life it appears that everyone else has something to be proud of except him. When Leo does something he knows is wrong to impress some kids at school, lies about it and is called a hero for saving a neighbor's dog, he...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'One Witch at a Time'

"One Witch at a Time" by Stacy DeKeyser

★★★★ Loosely based on the fairytale “Jack and the Beanstalk”, the trouble begins when 13 year old Rudi is sent to market with Susanna to trade dairy products for meat and grain and possibly sell a cow. Susanna, in an effort to help him, sells one of his cows for some allegedly magic beans. It turns out that the beans were stolen from a witch in the neighboring...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'Wish Girl'

"Wish Girl" by Nikki Loftin

★★★★★ Unlike his boisterous, quarreling family, 12-year-old Peter Stone is quiet, thoughtful, sensitive, artistic and misunderstood. After his father loses his job and they move from the city to remote Texas Hill Country, he escapes daily to a magic lonely valley where he can be at one with nature, away from the crying and yelling.  On one of his trips to...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Absolutely Truly'

"Absolutely Truly" by Heather Vogel Frederick

★★★★ Who wants to move from sunny Austin, Texas to the small, boring town of Pumpkin Falls, New Hampshire where winter lasts at least 6 months of the year and there’s no mall or movie theater? Middle school student Truly Lovejoy has no choice when her family decides to move to her father’s hometown after “Black Monday,” or the day her father lost his arm in a...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, mystery

Cover: 'Dear Hank Williams'

"Dear Hank Williams" by Kimberly Willis Holt

★★★★★ It’s the first day of school in September 1948 and Tate Ellerbee from Rippling Creek, Louisiana already has a school assignment—to find a pen pal and practice writing letters to a real person. She picks a relatively unknown country singer who she admires on the Louisiana Hayride radio show—Hank Williams. Through her wonderful letters to him we discover a...

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

Cover: 'The Question of Miracles'

"The Question of Miracles" by Elana K. Arnold

★★★★ Still mourning the recent accidental death of Sarah, her best friend, Iris and her family move from sunny California to nearly always rainy Corvallis, Oregon for a “fresh start.”  She hates the rain, hates her new school, hates her new house, but mostly hates life without her best friend. During lunch a loud burrito-chewing, doglike boy from one of her...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Wolfie the Bunny'

"Wolfie the Bunny" by Ame Dyckman, Zachariah O'Hora

★★★★★ Wolfie is a baby wolf, not a baby bunny, but Mama and Papa bunny don’t seem to care when they adopt him after finding him in a basket on their doorstep. Their daughter Dot tries to warn them, “he’s going to eat us all up.” Her parents are already smitten but Dot is cautious and maintains her distance. When Wolfie grows bigger and a big bear tries to grab...

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

Cover: 'The Honest Truth'

"The Honest Truth" by Dan Gemeinhart

★★★★★ Sick of being sick, Mark runs away from home with his dog Beau, his camera, and a bag of supplies to fulfill a dream to climb to the top of Mt Rainer while he still can. His cancer’s back, but at least he won’t have to endure yet another treatment. The novel alternates between Mark’s minute-by-minute account of his adventurous journey and the intense...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans'

"A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans" by Laurence Yep

★★★★ Just two days after the funeral of her pet human, Fluffy (a.k.a. Amelia), a young girl named Winnie bursts into mournful Miss Drakes’s secret door in the basement proclaiming that she has been sent by her great-aunt Amelia so Miss Drake won't be lonely. Almost immediately, Miss Drake, who happens to be a dragon, theorizes that this seemingly obnoxious small...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'The Witch's Boy'

"The Witch's Boy" by Kelly Barnhill

★★★★★ Ned’s father could only save one of his identical twin sons from drowning, but the people in the village agree that he saved the wrong boy. Ned is unsure of himself and stammers, yet when the Bandit King threatens to steal the magic his mother, Sister Witch, has spent her life protecting, he finds a courage he didn’t know he had.  Crossing the...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy, paranormal

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: 'Blue on Blue'

"Blue on Blue" by Dianne White, Beth Krommes

★★★★★ This beautifully illustrated picture book portrays an ordinary stormy, rainy day in the country that looks wonderfully extraordinary. The scratchboard illustrations with added watercolor paint by 2009 Caldecott Medal winner, Beth Krommes, are the real stars here. With repetitive, spare, dreamy words and illustrations we see a day unfolding--wash being hung...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress'

"Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress" by Christine Baldacchino, Isabelle Malenfant

★★★★★ Morris Micklewhite loves painting, dreaming of great adventures and wearing the tangerine dress in the dress-up center at school. He loves the way it crinkles and swishes when he walks and the color reminds him of tigers, the sun and his mother's hair. But the other boys and some of the girls tell him "boys don't wear dresses" and exclude him from their...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'My Cousin's Keeper'

"My Cousin's Keeper" by Simon French

★★★★ At his dad’s birthday party nine-year old Kieran meets his cousin Bon whom he has never even heard of before. Bon appears to be very different from him and he doesn’t really like him.  Bon wears his blond hair in a long ponytail, wears old, tattered clothes and touches all of Kieran’s things without asking.   Two years later, Kieran sees Bon at...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Stella by Starlight'

"Stella by Starlight" by Sharon M. Draper

★★★★ It is midnight when 11 year-old Stella Mills and her eight year-old brother Jojo witness the burning of a cross by members of the Ku Klux Klan not far from their house. It’s 1932 in Bumblebee, North Carolina and news of the active Klan so close by means their parents need to alert all their African-American neighbors. Stella is practicing to be a good...

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

Cover: 'Big Bad Detective Agency'

"Big Bad Detective Agency" by Bruce Hale

★★★★ Things were going well in Fairylandia for a reformed Wolfgang, a.k.a. the “Big Bad Wolf”, until the Three Little Pigs’ houses were vandalized and he is accused.  Arrested and released, he reluctantly teams up with Ferkel, the fourth little pig, and as the new “Big Bad Detective Agency” they set off to find the perpetrator. Things get really funny when...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, humor

Cover: 'Absolutely Almost'

"Absolutely Almost" by Lisa Graff

★★★★ Ten-year-old Albie’s life is a tangled one and the short, episodic chapters in this tween book mimic this.  He is adjusting to a new public school and a new nanny, Calista (whom he’s certain he does not need). Private prep school did not work out and his dad is not happy about it. Albie’s life is full of “almosts”—he almost passes his spelling tests,...

Audience: children, teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Beyond the Laughing Sky'

"Beyond the Laughing Sky" by Michelle Cuevas

★★★★ In this rather unusual tale a young couple, whose house is perched in a large pecan tree, discover a baby in a cracked egg from a bird’s nest on the sidewalk.  This human-looking baby has feathers for hair and no mouth or nose but in its place a beak. His adopted parents, sister, and the small community of Goosepimple adapt to life with him, but as he...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

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: 'Greenglass House'

"Greenglass House" by Kate Milford

★★★★ The old historic, creaky smugglers’ inn called Greenglass House sits high on a hill requiring guests to take a trolley type of car that gets pulled to the top. It is winter, close to the holidays, and usually free of guests so Milo, the adopted son of the innkeepers, is looking forward to a relaxing vacation. But unexpectedly the buzzer for the trolley car...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'Snowman's Story'

"Snowman's Story" by Will Hillenbrand

★★★★ Your preschool child can tell the story to you with this wordless picture book featuring a sweet snowman, cute bunny and a wandering top hat.  Bunny finds a hat and crawls inside but when bear finds it and uses it to top the snowman that he is building, he is unaware that a bunny is inside. Apparently bunny likes stories too so after the snowman reads...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'A Snicker of Magic'

"A Snicker of Magic" by Natalie Lloyd

★★★★★ Natalie Lloyd's book is one of those rare, special books that grab you from the beginning and you don’t want to be released because the journey is quite simply, “splendiferous.” Our extremely likable narrator is Felicity Juniper Pickle, a 6th-grade girl as unique as her mother’s hometown, Midnight Gulch, where she, her mother, little sister Frannie Jo and...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Nightmares!'

"Nightmares!" by Jason Segel

★★★★ Twelve-year-old Charlie Laird has big problems. His mom died, his dad remarried, and now together with his younger brother Jack they must move into his new "stepmonster’s" (that’s what he calls her) odd-looking purple mansion with a tower. Positive that his new "stepmonster" is a witch, he barricades himself inside his new bedroom where he can’t sleep...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'The Boundless'

"The Boundless" by Kenneth Oppel

★★★★★ After three long years, teen-aged William Everett is dropped off at the train tracks in a town without a name to meet up with his father who is helping build the Canadian Pacific Railway.  The train they will be boarding is called "The Boundless" because of its size and magnificence.  After accidentally witnessing a murder and finding a train car...

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

Cover: 'A Gift From Bob'

"A Gift From Bob" by James Bowen

★★★ A continuation of James Bowen’s memoir that began in his popular book “A Street Cat Named Bob", this book focuses on the last year that James spent as a recovering person trying to make a living on the bitterly cold, frozen streets of London selling the magazine “The Big Issue” and playing guitar with his adopted cat Bob. It depicts the hand-to-mouth...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, holiday, animals

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