Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

 Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love. Candlewick, 2018. 9780763690458

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5+

Genre:  Picture book

What did you like about the book? Incandescent watercolor and ink illustrations make this picture book one of my favorites of the year. It is a very simple story of a little boy who dreams of being a mermaid. Will his abuela support his fantasy? Everywhere in his world is beauty, which Love lovingly brings to the reader: the flowers on the walk, the characters’ lovely shades of brown skin, the shapes of their bodies, the shadows, the light. The light is channeled through watercolors that are luminous on their brown background. Gorgeous flights of fishy fantasy complement the beauty of the everyday in his neighborhood. Julián is a lucky little boy to be in the company of an abuela who gets him, and we readers are so lucky to be taken on his adventure.

To whom would you recommend this book?  A wonderful offering for those who like flights of the imagination, and for those wanting to see diversity of gender and race in picture books.

Who should buy this book? Day cares, elementary school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington MA

Date of review: May 24, 2018

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Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

  Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol. First Second, 2018. 9781626724457

Format: Paperback

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4.5

Genre:  Graphic novel realistic fiction

What did you like about the book? Finally another graphic novel from Vera Brosgol! The title, a scouting mantra, gets the reader ready for a Russian camp adventure in upstate New York. Vera (the character which the author modeled after herself) learns about a camp for Russian emigres. Determined to be like her better off American classmates and hoping she will find kindred spirits, she convinces her single-parent Mom to scrape together the money to send her and her little brother. But she is made to bunk with much older girls who look down on her, there are bugs everywhere, the outhouses freak her out, and she just doesn’t seem to fit in there either. Letters are written home begging her mom to come get her. Camp can mean so many things to different people, and I certainly identified with the fabulous and horrible experience of the first time camper. Black and white pen with green coloring complements the woodsy adventure. I love the combination of middle school angst, cultural assimilation/alienation and camp memoir, rendered with humor and relatable drama. Brosgol notes at the end that the story consolidates her own two years of camp, and even includes a reproduction of a letter home asking her mom to come rescue her! This is a perfect summer read!

To whom would you recommend this book?  Suggest this to fans of Anya’s Ghost and to kids who like the Babysitters Club graphic novels, as well as to fans of Raina Telgemeier.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and middle school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Children’s graphic novels

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: May 24, 2018

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The Perfect Score – Rob Buyea

  The Perfect Score – Rob Buyea, Delacorte Press, (9781101938256), 2018

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1- 5 (5 is excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre:  Realistic

What did you like about the book?  Five middle school students find that sixth grade has its ups and downs.  Gavin loves football, but is unable to join the team because both parents work and need him at home.  He also struggles with reading. His best friend Randi is a young gymnast who faces pressure to succeed from her mother, whom she calls Coach Jane.  Natalie is an aspiring attorney and self-proclaimed teacher’s pet. Scott is a smart young man with a big heart whose attempts to help others somehow always go awry.  Finally, Trevor is a class clown and sometimes bully who is bullied at home by his much other brother. All five students end up in the class of Mrs. Woods, an elderly, no-nonsense woman, who was called out of retirement. Mrs. Woods turns out to be a great teacher although her methods are interrupted when she is ordered to teach to the test, the standardized test the school requires. The students also have math class with Mrs. Magenta, a free spirit of a teacher who gets the students involved in an afterschool class that combines art and community service. The five students make unexpected friendships and are soon plotting a way to ace the exam.  Each one must come face to face with a moral dilemma; do the ends ever justify the means? Told from the points of view of the five students, this is an engaging story about friendship, family, good deeds, cheating and, most of all, surviving middle school.

Anything you didn’t like about it?  No

To whom would you recommend this book?  Fans of Because of Mr. Terupt and the other books in that series will love this new set of characters.  Hand this to readers who enjoy stories about middle school and those who are facing standardized tests themselves.  

Who should buy this book?  Public Libraries and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it? Juvenile Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this at the top of our “to read” piles?  Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

Date of review: 5/24/18        

 

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The True Queen – Sarah Fine

  The True Queen – Sarah Fine, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 9781481490603, 2018

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Genre:  Fantasy

What did you like about the book? This story is the conclusion of the trilogy begun with The Imposter Queen and The Cursed Queen and brings the main characters from each of those two books together in alternating chapters to build to an epic and magical (if a bit expected in parts) conclusion.  Ansa knows she should be the rightful Queen, but her powers and those of Sig are flaring out of control; putting themselves and all of her now-homeless people, in danger.  Elli is holding together the facade of being Queen without any power but in Kupari the magic wielders are also losing control of their powers and chaos is stretching everyone to their limits.  The break-neck pace throughout may make the ending feel rushed but most fans should enjoy this final installment if they can get past the first 100-150 pages where we see the same time frames/scenes from each girl’s POV. The writing is lovely most times which pulls you along in the story.

Anything you didn’t like about it? I can’t believe we’re still suffering through the trope of killing off the gay characters.  Seriously disappointing after the hopeful representation in the series to this point.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Good for those who need the conclusion to the series; fans will likely enjoy it but again; caveat that some slogging in necessary at the start and some of the “poignant” moments may make you super frustrated at the author.

Who should buy this book? Public Libraries with the first two books

Where would you shelve it? YA Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: April Duclos, Hudson Public Library, Hudson MA

Date of review: 5/22/18

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Price of Duty – Todd Strasser

 Price of Duty – Todd Strasser, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, (9781481497091), 2018

Format: Paperback ARC

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre: Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book? Jake Liddell has just returned from active duty to recover from wounds he sustained.  He is to receive the Silver Star and expected to return to active duty after he has physical therapy.  Though everyone views him as a hero, he is very disturbed about what he witnessed, like one friend losing both legs and an arm, a mother holding a baby gunned down as a possible suicide bomber and another friend killing himself because of what he had witnessed.  But Jake comes from a military family with an uncle who is a General.  He does not want to return but he is very conflicted.

Anything you did not like about this book?  No.

 To whom would you recommend this book?  Recommend to those considering a career in the military or just those interested in what war is really like.  Might offer this one to those who like stories of military life as written by Walter Dean Myers or The Right Sideby Spencer Quinn.

 Who should buy this book? Public and high school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  YA fiction

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No, but highly recommended to those who are interested.

 Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Katrina Yurenka, Moderator, Youth Services Book Review

Date of review: 5/22/2018

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Jazz Owls: A Novel of the Zoot Suit Riots by Margarita Engle, art by Rudy Gutierrez

     Jazz Owls: A Novel of the Zoot Suit Riots by Margarita Engle, art by Rudy Gutierrez. Atheneum, 2018. 9781534409439

Format: ARC

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre:  Historical fiction

What did you like about the book? Engle succeeds once again in presenting a complex social/political event in the form of a novel in verse. And once again, I think I can’t possibly be sucked in and I am. The Zoot Suit Riots took place in a Los Angeles night club in 1943. Zoot suit-wearing minority teens enjoying the late night salsa club scene clashed with police and mobs of U.S. servicemen. A young man was killed. Although portrayed in the press of the time as provocative and violent, the teens were in fact the victims of a mob mentality fueled by racism and the high emotions of the war era. Engle illustrates this by using the voices of four characters: a Cuban musician and three Mexican American siblings. The hard work and the joy of their lives comes through, with the voices of reporters and policemen forming the counterpoint. Music, family, racism and striving to make one’s way are prominent themes. A compelling read. This may be the only fictional treatment of this historical event for kids or teens.

To whom would you recommend this book?  I would recommend this to kids ages 12 and up who like historical fiction, and especially where Latinx voices are appreciated.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and middle school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Teen or children’s fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? If you like novels in verse, then yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: May 22, 2018

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Confucius: Great Teacher of China by Demi

    Confucius: Great Teacher of China by Demi. Shen’s Books/ Lee & Low, 2018. 9781620141939

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

What did you like about the book? Demi brings us another stellar biography of a spiritual leader who has had great influence on the world. Kongzi, known as Confucius in the West, was a teacher and philosopher, and sort of a patron saint of China. This picture book biography melds history, tradition and legend to paint a portrait of the man. Her signature paint and ink art with gold leaf is stunning and is presented in gold framed panels that look like screens. Spare, with gorgeous color and a wise use of open page, this is a pleasure to read. Sources and quotations make up the back matter.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Bring this to the attention of Demi’s fans, and to lovers of picture book biography.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Children’s biography

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: May 22, 2018

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