The Leading Edge of Now – by Marci Lyn Curtis

 The Leading Edge of Now – by Marci Lyn Curtis, Kids Can Press Loft (KCP Loft), 2018. 9781771389990 (hardcover) 9781525301391 (softcover).

Format: Paperback

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

Genre:  Contemporary YA Fiction

What did you like about the book? Grace feels like she has lost everything in the last two years. She has lost her father, her trust in the uncle that didn’t come forward to claim her while she sat in foster care, her best friend, her boyfriend, and the memory of the night that changed her life. Everything can be traced back to that night. When Grace returns to New Harbor, a place of childhood memories and first love, she must face all of the things she has lost while trying to figure out many truths. The truth of that night, the truth of her relationship with her uncle, why her best friend won’t speak to her, why things fell apart with her boyfriend; but ultimately Grace must determine the truth of how to heal herself.

I thought this book was absolutely raw and beautiful. That being said, it is not an easy read. This book deals with sexual assault as well as grief from the loss of a parent. The author does an amazing job exploring the emotions and trauma that Grace would be going through after both of these experiences. Both healthy and unhealthy ways of coping with tragedy are discussed, but ultimately Grace’s story is one of hope and acceptance.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book? Older YA readers – but definitely be aware of trigger warnings for sexual assault. It is discussed throughout the book as Grace learns more about what happened on the night in question, so this is not just a quick mention of violence.

Who should buy this book? High schools and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? YA Fiction

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

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

Date of review: 9/17/18

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King Ben and Sir Rhino – Eric Sailer

  King Ben and Sir Rhino – Eric Sailer, Two Lions, (9781503939844), 2018

Format: Hardcover Picture book

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

 What did you like about the book? Ben is a little lion who sees himself as a king. His subjects are his stuffed animals but that is not good enough – he needs a real subject.  He finds a sweet rhinoceros whom he knights Sir Rhino.  King Ben is not a fun playmate, he orders Rhino around constantly taking advantage of his good nature.  This lasts until Ben grabs Rhino’s favorite toy in a tug of war and it breaks!  Rhino is heart-broken and runs away and Ben finally gets it: he must be a friend, not a king.  Illustrations rendered in ink, watercolor and gouache are colorful and fun, perfectly complementing Sir Rhino and King Ben.

Anything you did not like about the book?  Not a thing.

 To whom would you recommend this book? This is a good choice to read to children who want to be in control all the time, to be the leader instead of being part of a team or a friendship.

 Who should buy this book? Public libraries and child-care centers

 Where would you shelve it?  Picture books

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  Not quite but sweet and useful.

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

Date of review: 9/16/2018

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A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker

 51niccy4cEL__AC_US218_A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker. Candlewick, 2018. ISBN 9780763665968

Format: Hardcover

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

Genre:  Picture book

What did you like about the book? Another gorgeous wordless picture book to ponder from Aaron Becker. A little girl buries the family dog, and while trying to amuse herself in the absence of her beloved pet, she throws a stone into the ocean. The reader then takes a trip back in time, tracing a stone – the same one? Who knows? – from its origin as a meteoroid from space, through many eons in history. At the end, the girl picks up a stone from the ocean – the same one? Who knows? – and places it on the grave of her dog. Digital art that has the painterliness of impressionism, with lovely lights and darks, creates a feel of mystical time travel. The endpapers add interest with maps of the ancient world where the stone traveled through time.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Definitely offer this to fans of Becker’s other works.

Who should buy this book? 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: September 14, 2018

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Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School by Janet Halfmann, illustrated by London Ladd

 Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School by Janet 51kMeGAeQ+L__AC_US218_Halfmann,  illustrated by London Ladd. Lee & Low, 2018. ISBN 9781620141632

Format: Hardcover

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

What did you like about the book? This is an affecting picture book biography of an enslaved woman who learned to read and risked her life to teach others. In many states in the South in the early 19th century is was illegal for enslaved people to learn to read, with penalties for both teacher and students, so it was an incredibly brave thing to do. I really like how the author describes matter-of-factly how readily Granderson was sold when her masters’ circumstances changed, showing, rather than telling, of the cruelty and injustice of slavery. Quotes from people who met Granderson are included in the biography and lend credence to the story. Useful back matter includes an afterward, bibliography and quotation sources. The art, acrylic and pencil on illustration board, is dramatic, with a deep color palette, especially in the scenes depicting the night school.

To whom would you recommend this book?  This is an excellent book for use in classrooms, grades 1-3, for study of African American history and the Civil War.

Who should buy this book? This is an essential purchase for elementary school and public libraries, as I am not aware of another biography of Granderson, and she is an inspiring figure in our history.

Where would you shelve it ? Biography

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes, especially if you are a biography selector.

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

Date of review: September 17, 2018

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Shadow State – Elyse Brayden

 Shadow State – Elyse Brayden, Imprint, 9781250124234, 2018

Format: Hardcover

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

Genre:  Thriller

What did you like about the book? This story follows Brynn Caldwell, a science student starting to find her way as she comes out of a depression. She realizes she may have some forgotten traumas that are starting to come to light just as her scientist mother is about to launch a brand new drug aimed at curing PTSD victims of their bad memories.  There’s intrigue and political danger and mystery and conspiracies and lots of never knowing who to trust as Brynn begins to remember something she never should have forgotten. The tension gets high and this reads nearly like a screenplay for a fast-paced Hollywood flick complete with threat of bombs and flashbacks and twists at the end with betrayals heaped on betrayals.

Anything you didn’t like about it? The melodrama is incredibly ratcheted up -so while the story of a depressed teen reeling from escaping an abusive boyfriend mixed with high-action thriller suffers a bit in the execution, it is a bit campy in spots it likely doesn’t intend to be and very over the top in others.  It’s also incredibly predictable.  Aside from telling us that she clearly did one key small project, we don’t see any of Brynn’s supposed science student smarts in here used in any useful way.

To whom would you recommend this book? Will appeal to anyone looking for a very cheesy but fast-paced and twisting terrorism conspiracy thriller with some light talk of depression/PTSD 

Who should buy this book? Public Libraries with large YA budgets

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: 9/16/18

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The Last Wish of Sasha Cade by Cheyanne Young

   The Last Wish of Sasha Cade by Cheyanne Young. Kids Can Press, 2018.  9781525301407 (paperback) 9781525300042 (hardcover).

Format: Paperback

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

Genre:  Contemporary YA Fiction

What did you like about the book? This story begins with a death. Sasha Cade loses a long battle with cancer, and her best friend Racquel is left to grieve the tragic loss of the person her life was completely linked to. As Rocki is working to pick up the pieces of her life, she receives a card from her deceased best friend, telling Rocki to bring her laptop to her grave site. Once there, she meets a young man who looks strikingly similar to Sasha and Rocki learns that in her last few months, Sasha had made contact with Elijah – her biological brother who was not adopted along with her as a baby. 

Sasha has set up an elaborate series of adventures for Elijah and Rocki, all the while showing Elijah about the life Sasha led for seventeen years through the eyes of the person who knew her better than anyone, Rocki. While on these adventures, Racquel becomes the bridge between the siblings, one of her past and one of her future, while learning how to be her own person and stand up for herself now that she is without her best friend.

This book is a beautiful portrait of female friendship. The love between Racquel and Sasha is so strong and honest that it’s truly a punch in the gut for the reader whenever both you and Rocki are reminded that Sasha is dead. There is a lot of honesty about the disadvantages of children and minorities who move through the foster system, as well as the advantages of race and wealth that are shown as contrasts to the ways Sasha and Elijah were raised. I really enjoyed the raw emotion of this book, both positive and negative, that truly let the reader be a part of these relationships.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  I would recommend this book to older YA readers.

Who should buy this book? High schools, Public libraries.

Where would you shelve it ? YA Fiction

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

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

Date of review: 9/16/18

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The Pharaoh Key – Preston & Child

   The Pharaoh Key – Preston & Child, narrated by David W. Collins, Hachette audio, (9781549168799), 2018

Format: cd audiobook, 8 discs

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

Genre: Mystery/Adventure

 What did you like about the book? Gideon Crew has not only just been informed that he has months to live, but the company he has worked for has just shut down permanently. Contacted by his co-worker, Manuel Garza, the two discover that a computer has just translated a centuries-old stone tablet, the Phaistos Disk.  Together the two head out to find to Egypt what they hope is a very lucrative treasure. What they find instead, after surviving the sinking of the ferry they were traveling on, is being deserted in the desert without food or water, left to die, until an archaeologist woman traveling with them returns to save them.  The three are captured by a group from a lost civilization who enslave them. The pace never slackens and things never get wholly better. David Collins captures each character perfectly thus amping up the adrenalin.

Anything you did not like about the book?  No.

 To whom would you recommend this book?  This is the fifth in a series starring Gideon Crew and, perhaps the last, so it will be more than welcomed by those who have read the previous entries and those who like Preston and Child.

 Who should buy this book? Public and high school libraries

 Where would you shelve it?  cd audiobooks

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

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

Date of review: 9/14/2018

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