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Staff Reviews by Sharyn Heili

Cover: 'Fly Away'

"Fly Away" by Patricia MacLachlan

★★★★★ Newbery award-winning author Patricia MacLachlan has done it again. She has written an easy-to-read story for children with sparse, well-chosen words and conversation that eloquently speaks volumes on what it means to be a family. Lucy is traveling with her mother, father, sister Gracie and her little brother Teddy in a beat-up Volkswagen bus to her Aunt...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms'

"Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms" by Katherine Rundell

★★★★★ Will (Wihelmina) loves her wonderful, wild life on the hot, dusty African farm where she is free to roam, climb trees and play with her best friend Simon and numerous animals all day long. Unfortunately her idyllic life comes to an abrupt halt after her father dies from malaria and her father’s friend and new guardian Captain Browne marries a heartless...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Lots of Dots'

"Lots of Dots" by Craig Frazier

★★★★ Author and illustrator Craig Frazier creates dots of all colors and dimensions that young readers can discover around them. There are brightly-colored floating balloon dots, big drum stick dots, oranges (dots) falling from a tree, traffic light dots, ice cream dots, pea dots, heavy dumbbell dots, light bubble dots and more. This fun “I Spy” read-alike with...

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

Cover: 'Rain Reign'

"Rain Reign" by Ann M. Martin

★★★★★ The likable narrator of this book, fifth-grader Rose Howard, sees homonyms everywhere and obsessively collects them. Her mother is gone (she doesn't know exactly where) so she lives with her impatient father, is strict about her own (and everyone’s) rules, and has a diagnosis: high functioning autism or Aspergers. When her beloved adopted dog, Rain,...

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

Cover: 'The Thickety: A Path Begins'

"The Thickety: A Path Begins" by J. A. White, Andrea Offermann

★★★★★ Witchcraft and magic are denounced as evil, feared and banned on this island colony that is surrounded by a strange forbidden forest with feared creatures known as the Dark Wood or Thickety.  At only 5 years old Kara along with her newborn brother Taff witness the hanging death of their mother who was proclaimed a witch and their lives radically change...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'The Missing Pieces of Me'

"The Missing Pieces of Me" by Jean Van Leeuwen

★★★★★ Weezie (Grace Louise) lives with her mother and step brother Jackson and step sister Ruth Ann in a trailer court and dreams of finding a father she knows nothing about. Still grieving after the recent death of her grandmother who loved and understood her, she desperately tries to please her overworked mother who often calls her a bad girl and whom it seems...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Forbidden Library'

"The Forbidden Library" by Django Wexler

★★★★★ After overhearing an insect-like black fairy in the kitchen arguing with her father, Alice is informed that her father is dead and she is ordered to go and live with Geryon, an unknown uncle who has a massive library which she is forbidden to enter and also not to read any books inside it. Ashes, a talking cat who admits to being only half a cat, sneaks her...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'Hook's Revenge'

"Hook's Revenge" by Heidi Schulz

★★★★★ Jocelyn has piracy and adventure in her blood so why did her grandfather send her to an all-too-pink finishing school for girls? Because she is the daughter of the notorious pirate Captain James Hook, that’s why. After receiving a posthumous letter from her father requesting her to avenge his death and destroy the infamous crocodile that took his life,...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'Ten Eggs in a Nest'

"Ten Eggs in a Nest" by Marilyn Sadler, Michael Fleming

★★★★★ Gwen, the hen, has laid her eggs but tells the soon-to-be father, Red Rooster, that it is bad luck to count your eggs before they hatch. Soon one egg hatches and proud Red Rooster goes to Worm World to buy a worm for his new chick. When he gets back, however, more chicks hatch requiring Red Rooster to make several trips back and forth to Worm World to buy...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, easy reader, read-alouds

Cover: 'Naked!'

"Naked!" by Michael Ian Black

★★★★★ This wonderful, enjoyable read-aloud celebrates the joys of being naked—naked, naked, naked. The wide-mouthed boy in this picture book eats (several) cookies-naked, slides down the stairs-naked, and dreams of going to school, doing the hokey pokey, and playing on the playground-naked. Children will easily identify with this sometimes-caped crusader and his...

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

Cover: 'My Brother's Shadow'

"My Brother's Shadow" by Tom Avery

★★★★ Eleven-year-old Kaia is frozen in time, a horrendous, unimaginable time; the day she found her brother Moses in his bloody bed, dead.  Her mother, who has lost her job, numbs herself with booze, Kaia with not talking, withdrawing from everyone at school where she’s known as "the freak", not even daring to read any books at a higher reading level than...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Dragon on Trial'

"Dragon on Trial" by Tui T. Sutherland, Kari Sutherland

★★★ After rescuing a griffin in the first book, ”The Menagerie”, Logan is officially accepted as a member of the secret menagerie that cares for mythical creatures. This time the crisis involves the disappearance and presumed murder of Pelly, the goose who lays the golden eggs. Snatch, a dragon in the menagerie, is blamed, but Logan and his friend Zoe are sure...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'The Midnight Library'

"The Midnight Library" by Kazuno Kohara

★★★★ Imagine a library open only at night, frequented by owls, tortoises, wolves, squirrels and other animals and you have the premise for this simple picture book. Because the tortoise is slowly reading his book at the library, the little girl librarian suggests that he get a library card to check out his book and continue reading it at home. The woodcut...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Chu's First Day of School'

"Chu's First Day of School" by Neil Gaiman, Adam Rex

★★★★ Like many children, Chu is nervous about his first day of school. He has the usual concerns and questions; what will happen in school, will they like him. Once he gets there, he discovers that he has to introduce himself to the other children by saying his name and one thing that he loves to do. That’s when he becomes very quiet and is reluctant to share,...

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

Cover: 'My Teacher Is a Monster!'

"My Teacher Is a Monster!" by Peter Brown

★★★★★ Author and illustrator Peter Brown gives us another humorous read-aloud with “My Teacher Is a MONSTER!”. Bobby has a familiar problem: a teacher, Ms. Kirby, who is the bane of his existence. She reminds him to follow school rules by saying things like “no recess for children who throw paper airplanes in class”. In short, he thinks she is a monster.  ...

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

Cover: 'A Horse Called Hero'

"A Horse Called Hero" by Sam Angus

★★★★ It’s wartime and London is no longer safe so Dodo and Wolfie, along with many other children, are forced to go and live with a family in the country. Their mother is dead and their father is off fighting in the war.  Wolfie, who has dreamed of owning a horse, finds an abandoned, orphaned silver foal who is near death, names him Hero, and nurses him...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Boy on the Wooden Box'

"The Boy on the Wooden Box" by Leon Leyson

★★★★★ Ten-year-old Leon Leyson’s idyllic days playing on the streets and streetcars of Krakow, Poland quickly changed to a life of fear, degradation, humiliation and a day-to-day struggle to stay alive. Why? He was Jewish. His detailed memoir recounts these horrific days when the Third Reich invaded their town and began their increasingly brutal effort to...

Audience: teens | Genre: nonfiction, history, holocaust

Cover: 'The Castle Behind Thorns'

"The Castle Behind Thorns" by Merrie Haskell

★★★★★ Waking up in the fireplace ashes of an unfamiliar and very broken castle, Sand discovers that nothing lives here, except the huge, dense thorny brambles that enclose the whole exterior, making it impossible to leave. He begins mending broken objects and soon discovers Perrotte, a girl his age and heir to the castle who has awakened from the dead. They...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'Goodnight Darth Vader'

"Goodnight Darth Vader" by Jeffrey Brown

★★★ Darth Vader is trying to put his twins Luke and Leia to sleep but they have the usual questions and demands of most kids at bedtime. He tells them rhyming stories about droids, wookies, Han Solo, Boba Fett and other familiar Star Wars characters. While this is not great literature, this cute book will be devoured by Star Wars fans, old and young alike, who...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book, science fiction

Cover: 'Ferry Tail'

"Ferry Tail" by Katharine Kenah

★★★★ Walter, the ferry dog loves his perfect job. He greets ferry-goers, fetches the captain’s morning newspaper, tastes the cook’s food, watches babies and barks at seagulls. The captain’s cat is the only one aboard he does not like. One day he doesn’t feel needed and decides to leave and try life on the island. This sweet, simple picture book will appeal to...

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

Cover: 'The Girl with the Silver Eyes'

"The Girl with the Silver Eyes" by Willo Davis Roberts

★★★★★ Ten-year-old Katie Welker knows that she’s different in more ways than just having those unusual silver eyes which freak other people out. She can move things just by thinking about them and read the minds of cats, but what else might she be capable of.  After she discovers that her mother took a drug while she was pregnant that was later removed from...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'Lizzy Bennet's Diary'

"Lizzy Bennet's Diary" by

★★★★★ Inspired by Jane Austen’s classic novel, “Pride and Prejudice”, we can easily believe that Elizabeth Bennet just might have written this diary.  It is a fun re-imagining of Lizzy Bennet’s world through her eyes with realistic journal entries and cute drawings and captions filling each page. But it’s the realistic invitations, notes, and letters glued...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, classics

Cover: 'The Art of Secrets'

"The Art of Secrets" by James Klise

★★★★ Left homeless after a fire of unknown origin destroys their apartment, Saba Khan and her family’s lives are changed forever. Fellow students at Highsmith School decide to collect items for an auction to be held at school with the proceeds to be donated to Saba’s family. But when a rare and valuable painting worth hundreds of thousands of dollars gets...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'A Dog Called Homeless'

"A Dog Called Homeless" by Sarah Lean

★★★★★ A year after her mother’s death, Cally sees her mother at the cemetery but no one will believe her. Worse yet, no one wants her to talk about her mother. She continues to see her mother often along with a friendly wolfhound and an elderly homeless man. She volunteers to not talk for a day at school to help raise money for a children’s hospice home and...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The World According to Bob'

"The World According to Bob" by James Bowen

★★★★★ A continuation of his first book, "A Street Cat Named Bob," Bowen details more adventures with his beloved and extraordinary cat, Bob, and provides further insights into his own life. It is heart-warming once again to witness the transformative power of the human/animal bond and the lessons that can be learned if one's heart is open to them. I freely admit...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

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