Book Review: The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan



If you think you’ve read all you need to read about Grimm’s Fairy Tales, think again. Shaun Tan pairs the briefest telling of a tale with deceptively simple sculptures. The words and photographed sculptures combine to tell the darker, deeper story underlying the tales we know so well.
Reader tip: if you are unfamiliar with a particular tale their are more detailed synopses in the book’s appendix. I might have preferred reading these as I read each tale.
 Check out the author’s page for a peek at some of the sculptures.
 Source:  Public Library -I suggest NOT getting an ebook for this read.
Audience:  Grade 7 and up

Book Review: You’re Welcome Universe

You’re Welcome Universe

by Whitney Gardner


I really like a book that teaches me something new.  I love a book that teaches me something without hitting me over the head with it.  This debut novel immerses the reader in the Deaf community while exploring love, friendship and family.  Oh, and  graffiti art.  I’m completely fascinated by this and now I’m looking at trains and walls in a new way.

When Julia is expelled from her private school for vandalism/protecting a friend she is plunged into the hearing world without much preparation.  Despite her wish to stay disconnected she does make a friend and an enemy.

When her graffiti is defaced by another artist a war begins that challenges Julia to redefine herself as an artist and community member.


I read this as a digital ARC.  I’m planning to pick it up in print so that I can see the illustrations more clearly – although the final ebook copy may be better than the ARC.



Expected Publication:  March 7, 2017

Source:  ARC from publisher

Audience:  High school – could be 8th grade but for one mature scene

Book Review: Turning 15 On the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackmon Lowery



What an amazing story! This book will help young readers to understand the terror and bravery of the Selma Marchers. The voice is so real and authentic, I feel like I can hear her in my mind. Archival photos and illustrations add to the depth of this work.

NPR has a great interview to read or listen to.

Source:  Public Library

Audience:  grade 6 and up

Book Review: The Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertram



What a smart book! Exploring a new city while solving a mystery makes for a great action plot. The emotional plot about being a good friend and finding your roots was woven in beautifully. I do hope that this will be a series (and I NEVER say that!)

And guess what?  You can be a book scavenger too! Head on over to the author’s site for more information.

I may just hide a book myself…


Source:  Public Library ebook

Audience:  grade 6 and up

Book Review: Beneath by Roland Smith




This book is so realistic that I am feeling a bit claustrophobic after binge reading it.  I loved the strong relationship between Coop and Patrick and the quiet strength of Kate.  Nice complicated plot plus a little adventure.  A great pick for middle school and high school readers.

I’m generally not a fan of book series because so often the book does not END.  I cannot stand a cliffhanger – it makes me feel like I’m being tricked into buying a second book.  Not so in this case.  The ending was satisfying, but still left me wanting more.

I’m definitely going to read the sequel



Audience:  Grade 6 and up

Source:  Public Library




Review: 10 Things I Can See From Here


10 Things I Can See From Here

by Carrie Mac

Publication Date:  February 2017

I found this to be an exceptional book in many, many ways.  Readers will find multiple things to connect with in this book: Art, Music, Sexuality, Family Dynamics, Addiction, Death and Birth .  Carrie Mac does a wonderful job of fitting all of the pieces together – it might seem like too much for one text but it words beautifully.  This book is not just Maeve’s story, it’s the story of Maeve and all those that she she loves.

When Maeve must move to Vancouver to live with her recovering alcoholic dad, his pregnant wife and their young twins she is forced to leave behind the safety net she relies on.  Without her mother, her neighbor and her therapist she must face all of her fears alone.  But not really.  And there lies one of the greatest strengths of this book.  No one-dimensional supporting characters here.    Her dad loves her, her stepmother is a delight, her new neighbor adds depth to her life and she meets an intriguing love interest.  And the little brothers! Are! So! Funny! (I feel like the boys talk in! all the time)

Maeve’s inner voice tells the story of anxiety so very well.  First there’s an idea, then there are terrifying statistics about the idea, and finally a hilarious obituary resulting from the idea.  The reader can really understand how Maeve goes from observing a conversation between a traveler and a border patrol agent to mass murder on a bus via household tools.

I highly recommend this book, but must add one concern.

Anxiety Disorder is a crushing condition that many people do not understand.  It goes far beyond worrying and requires specialized care and intervention for the individual to be able to reach their daily living goals.    I was disappointed in only once part of the book:  Maeve’s parent do not allow her to take any medication, and I find their reasoning insufficient.  My concern is that teens reading this book will question their own medical choices 

“But my parents actually agreed on a lot of things, and one of them was that they wouldn’t let me take prescription drugs for my anxiety until I was an adult.  Your brain is still developing, Maeve.  You might grow out of it.  It’s too soon, they said.  I disagreed.  My brain was hard-wired differently.  What was the point of trying to put out a wildfire by pissing on it?”

Maybe I’m making too much of this.  It certainly did not keep me from devouring this book.

Source:  ARC from publisher

Audience:  high school



Review: Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist


What a delight! A great pick for high school or old middle school readers, Love and First Sight is truly a charmer. 17 year old Will is attending public school for the first time. Blind since birth, Will manages to navigate his world with skills and strategies honed in his years at a school for blind children. He learns to balance his need for independence with his need for community, he learns that he does have vision even if he does not have sight.
The author does a number of things well: Cecily explains art and perspective to Will in a way that helped me to see more clearly. Will’s understanding of the world is clearly developed and (I think) authentic. The reader gets a sense of how people who are blind experience daily life. And finally, There are no stereotypical characters too often used to pad the story in YA literature. I enjoyed each of Will’s friends and their quirky individuality.

Source:  ARC from publisher

Publication date:  January 17, 2017

Audience:  Teens – grade 8 and up

Review: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

by Chelsea Sedoti





It’s a bit hard to write about this without giving too much away.  Despite the title, the book isn’t really about Lizzie.  It’s about Hawthorn, a senior in high school who simply does not fit in.  Not with her family, not in her classes, not really even with her best (only) friend.

Hawthorn meets Lizzie during her freshman year,  Fascinated  and then spurned by the senior girl Hawthorn becomes a bit obsessed with her, making herself believe that she really knows Lizzie.  And when Lizzie disappears the obsession grows.  She actually takes Lizzie’s job and begins dating her boyfriend.

It’s a complicated book with lots of interest subplots (werewolves, hippies).  I can’t say I liked Hawthorn, but she sure was interesting.


Source:  ARC from publisher

Audience:  high school





Saving Red by Sonya Sones


Sonya Sones never disappoints.  Her novels in verse have captivated many of my students and lured in the most reluctant readers I have worked with.  This new title, published October 18, 2016 is no exception.

14 year old Molly is spending her winter break avoiding the sad remains of her family.  Her workaholic father is no match for her pot-addled mother. As Molly travels around town with her service dog she meets a cute boy on the pier and spots Red, a homeless teen living on the streets of the town.  Molly decides that everything will get better if she can just get Red home to her family for Christmas. With the help of Cristo, her maybe-boyfriend, Molly sets out to save Red.

But, like everything in YA novels, it is not that simple.

The cover itself supports the plot:  we only see the part of Red that Red wants us to see.  But if we peek closely at the lettering we know that there is more to her than meets the eye.

Source:  ARC from publisher

Audience:  7th-8th grade and up

*drug use by Molly’s mother is not glamorized or described in great detail.



Book Review: A Blind Guide to Normal by Beth Vrabel



Richie Ryder Raymond is leaving the school for blind children and heading to public school.  His wit and intelligence serve him well and are his complete downfall.  He turns everything into a joke and pushes away anyone who might offer help and support.


Some nice lessons about giving people a second chance and being honest with yourself.

(I guess you could call this a sequel to A Blind Guide to Stinkville, but it really stand alone.)

Source:  ARC from publisher

Audience:  Middle school

Publication Date:  October 11, 2016