Are You Truly Good?

Have you ever pondered what’s good or innocent and what’s bad or corrupt and how do you tell who’s what? That’s what this anthology is about.

 

Evidently, there is a subset of people called “BookTubers,” who are a subset of people who publish regular information or reviews on YouTube. Before reading this anthology, I’d never even heard of such a group, but then I’m an old codger and proud that I am at least computer savvy enough to write a frequent blog.

 

Anyway, a group of booktubers and a group of YA story authors got together to write stories about good and evil, or about innocents and villains. They came up with 13 wonderful stories that make the reader ponder who is an innocent and who is a villain. The booktubers’ responses are just as provocative as the stories themselves. This is most decidedly worth the read.

 

 

Because You Love to Hate Me

Edited by Ameriie Mi Marie Nicholson

Are the protagonists in these thirteen tales villains, or not? What do the “booktubers” answer? This book is so complex and thought provoking, there’s no way to write a 300-word review and get in the names and details of each story. Do read the book to find out what issues are discussed, but also the sheer pleasure of reading them. All the stories are well written and the answering comments will mill around in your mind for quite a while afterward. The stories are told so subtlety, it’s hard to determine who is the villain. Dig deeper into your consciousness and look past the obvious to think about who the real villain is. Be sure to discuss this book with friends. Admire the artistry presented by the authors and enjoy the humor displayed by the commentators. It is deliciously irreverent. The stories range from retelling of such classics as The Beauty and Beast, werewolf myths, Jack and the Beanstalk, Irish Selkie myths to the exploration of what a psychopath is. As you’re reading, take your time to savor the stories for themselves and then what modern-day issues they raise. You’re guaranteed to want to read them again.

 

Renée Ahdieh’s “The Blood of Imuriv” is about sibling rivalry amongst a royal family and how much control we have over our emotions. Christine Riccio gives us the warning signs evil taking over your soul.

Ameriie writes a take on the old folk tale, “Jack and the Beanstalk,” but not necessarily with Jack as the hero. Tina Burke asks us to compare giants and tyrants and poses the possibility of our misunderstanding what/or who is good.

Soman Chainani’s version of the King Arthur legend, is told in 21st Century teen communication of texting and answered by booktuber, Samantha Lane, who enters the Persephone fable into the mix.

Susan Dennard puts an interesting twist into the Sherlock Holmes story. Sherlock is now Shirley and Moriarty is Jim and Sasha Alsberg answers with Jim’s excuse for his behavior.

In “Blessings of Little Wants,” Sarah Enni’s protagonist searches for a way to save magic, but she has to choose whether it’s worse the price. Sophia Lee’s rebuttal will leave you pondering lots.

Marissa Meyer’s protagonist, Nerit, is a sea witch in the making and is forever trying spells to get her way. Her hope is to have handsome Prince Lorindel make her his queen. When she’s shamed for trying, she surfaces and suns herself on the beach. She meets Samuel who charms her into believing he loves her, so she changes into human form. Alas, Samuel is tricking her and leaves her destitute on the shore. Things do not go well for her. In her response, Zoë Herdt asks us to decide where we stand in the discussion of good and evil.

Cindy Pon’s intriguing story, “Beautiful Venom,” tells of a beautiful young virgin who’s been groomed to be the Emperor of China’s latest consort, and how an evil man beguiles her, ruining her chances of success. The Goddess of Purity changes her into a snake. Benjamin Alderson suggests the villain is actually society’s belief that women provoke rape.

Victoria Schwab’s “Death Knell,” a fascinating description of death’s persona, is compelling. Is it always the same figure? Jesse George asks questions of death in his rebuttal.

Samantha Shannon’s story “Marigold,” is told as a fairy tale, but the truth of the matter is that women in the 1800’s were doomed to a life of obedience to men’s wills. No wonder they didn’t want to return when abducted by Erl people of the woods. Regan Perusse presents a different take on it in her story, “Evil Revealed.”

Adam Silveria’s protagonist in “You, You, It’s all about You,” is a drug dealer, not of heroin or other potent drugs. Rather she’s the provider of memory-erasing drugs, mesmerizing drugs, drugs that seriously screw up your psyche. She wears a mask made up of the rotting flesh of her dead father’s hand. Catriona Feeney takes the mask for her discussion of how we all wear masks of some sort.

Andrew Smith’s hero in “Julian Breaks Every Rule,” is either the luckiest guy on the face of the earth or a bona fide psychopath. You decide. Raeleen Lemay gives you some possibilities.

April Genevieve Thucholke ponders whether werewolves are to be killed or pitied or accepted in “Indigo and Shade.” This is actually a charming love story on one level.  Whitney Atkinson discusses what the reality of a particular situation is and whether one’s reaction is a good one.

Nicola Yoon reminded me of the main character in The Bad Seed, a little girl who is born evil, only to ripen into a real demon. “Sera” ripens into murderous, loathsome child. But nobody but her mother can see how evil she is. Steph Sinclair and Kat Kennedy illuminate the concept of being a villain in “The Bad Girl’s Guide to Villainy.”

BIBLIO: 2017, Bloomsbury Children’s Books/Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc., Ages 14+, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-68119-364-9

ISBN: 978-1-68119-365-6

 

 

 

 

 

Social or Anti-social?

What is social or antisocial behavior? Can you be social, but not spend all your time with other people? Are you antisocial if you like to spend time by yourself? Or are we all a little bit of both? I thought I’d give reviews of three books that address some aspect of the question. Hope you enjoy what I’ve chosen.

 

Antisocial

Jillian Blake

Anna, who suffers from social anxiety disorder, is having to deal with her return to Alexandria Preparatory Academy in Virginia, after the Christmas break. To make the return even more stressful, word of her break up with her one and only boyfriend, baseball star Palmer, has swept through the school. Since she’d abandoned her friends while trying to fit in with Palmer’s crowd, she is now alone. As she heads toward a vacant lunchroom table, she’s hailed by Jethro, who is in Anna’s old group—the group she ditched. He gets her to join their table, where she is treated with icy indifference by most of the group. But things get much worse for the whole school, when someone hacks the school’s social network site and then burrows into everyone’s phone, finding all kinds of personal information. The hacker then shares everyone’s secrets about bad things they’ve done. Anna is terrified the hacker will spread the awful things she wrote to Palmer about the kids in her group. Brought even closer together by the breaking scandals, Anna and Jethro spend more time together and eventually have sex. Jethro is suspected by the police of being the hacker and disappears, losing his opportunity to go to MIT. She and her friends do finally get back on an even keel in their relationships, and Anna learns good things about her ability to deal with social stress. The book is a little bland in its approach to the subject of hacking, but the damage the spreading of other people’s business is made abundantly clear.

BIBLIO: 2017, Old Curiosity Shop/Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books/ Penguin Random House, Ages 14+, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-101-93896-6

ISBN: 978-1-101-93897-3

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6470-8

 

Human relationships are complicated and people do things to one another that might be unintentional, but do have consequences.

 

Hear the Wolves

Victoria Scott

Sloan is an excellent shot and used to be brave, but when her mother ran off a couple of years earlier, Sloan turned into a clingy, fearful soul, who won’t let her father and sister out of her sight. Dad decides Sloan needs to get over her fear and leaves her alone in the family’s cabin as he and Sloan’s sister, Maren, head to Vernon, the closest large town, for the monthly trek for supplies and to vote. Sloan realizes she needs more kerosene to keep the cabin generator going and the cabin livable. She forces herself to dress for the already starting blizzard and head out to the town’s church where the kerosene reserves are stored. The minister is not there, but the town’s only school teacher, Mr. Foster, comes in looking for fuel. Then a kid, Elton, leads a badly wounded, elderly woman, Ms. Wade, in. Sloan decides their best option is to trek to the river and float down to Vernon. After Pilot and Farts, his basset hound, join the group and finally Pilot alcoholic father insists on coming, they head off into the woods. But the wolves keep getting closer, Ms. Wade gets sicker, Pilot’s father is wounded and Mr. Foster is in danger. The story ends with all the adults dying and becoming wolf food, but the three kids and Farts end up at the river. They take the boat moored there and head down river to Vernon. Sloan is much braver and looking forward to new adventures. The author researched wolf behavior to make sure she told her story correctly. This book is a good read, with lots of interesting information in it.

BIBLIO: 2017, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-228-04358-7

ISBN: 978-1-228-04747-9

 

 

How important is it to have friends? How important is it to do things for others? How important is it do things for one’s self?

 

How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea

Kate Hosford

Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

The queen is tired of the same old tea, day in and day out, so she decides to travel the world by hot-air balloon in search of the perfect cup of tea. Her first stop is in Japan, most likely, since she meets a young girl named Noriko who says it’s time for the queen to snuggle with a kitten. The queen helps by finding the water faucet and watching Noriko make the tea. She enjoys her tea and says goodbye. Next, she flies to India, perhaps, since the boy she meets is named Sunil. He says it’s time for the queen to learn how to dribble a soccer ball. This time she helps her new friend make the tea by not only finding and turning on the water faucet, but then filling up the kettle, before watching Sunil do the rest. The two sit down to drink their tea and have a chat.  Two cups of tea they drink, before the queen flies away. She lands possibly in Thailand, otherwise known as Siam, because the girl she meets is dressed in Thai clothes. Here she learns to dance, because young Rana says it’s time she tried dancing. This time the queen adds boiling the water to her growing list of tea-making skills. Rana and the queen talk until they’ve drunk three cups of tea. Once aloft in their balloon, the queen and her butler head home because the queen now knows right where to find the perfect cup of tea. The queen awakes early the following Saturday to get ready for her tea party. She dresses herself and makes the tea herself, because she has learned the best cup of tea is made by the drinker and shared with friends. What a grand book, with perfect illustrations.

BIBLIO: 2017, Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing Group, Ages 5 to 8, $18.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-4677-3904-7

 

Nah, Is That Really True?

Sometimes fiction seems real and sometimes it’s fun, but most decidedly not real. Still either piece of fiction, if well written, lets the reader “suspend his disbelief.”

 

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The first book fits the not-real category, but still is worth reading, and may even encourage you to have a food fight.

 

Fakespeare: Star-Crossed in Romeo and Juliet

M. E. Castle

Illustrated by Daniel Jennewein

Becca is caught up in a mysterious and magical tale based on William Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet.” Becca has a great imagination and loves to write stories, but she does not like her new stepbrother, Sam, whom she considers obnoxious. She goes to her friend Kyle’s house to retrieve a library book she’d left there. Kyle is not there, though he’s supposed to be, but a book is, not that it’s supposed to be. Obnoxious Sam starts to read it, and before the kids can react, the book swallows them up. They wake up in a pile of straw, well, actually a pile of hay, in the town’s market. And they seem to be involved in the story of Romeo and Juliet and are about to be skewered by a swordsman or two. The Narrator from the magical book gives them advice, which they follow and hide behind a cart full of ripe tomatoes. Soon the stepsiblings become involved in sword and tomato fight between the Capulets and Montagues, who are fighting over who makes the best pizza. Along the way, Sam and Becca show Romeo how to captivate Juliet’s heart and how to end the war between their two families. Plus, Becca discovers that Sam actually isn’t so bad to have as a brother. The story is silly and fun, with enough of Shakespeare’s play in it to be a good introduction to the storyline and nobody dies.

BIBLIO: 2017, Paper Lantern/Get Lost Book Club/Imprint/Macmillan Children’s Publishing/Macmillan Publishing Group, Ages 9 to 12, $13.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 978-1-250-10162-4

ISBN: 978-1-250-10161-7

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Have you ever told a lie, even a teeny, tiny fib? I expect all of us have told at least one untruth in our lifetimes. As honest and truthful as we all try to be, sometimes it’s just easier on everyone to not tell the whole story. See if you can find the culprit in this murder mystery.

 

One of Us Is Lying

Karen M. McManus

Yale-bound Bronwyn, a rule follower to the core, Homecoming Princess Addy, drug dealing Nate, and all-star pitcher Cooper are all sent to detention for having cell phones on them during school hours.  Also in detention is Simon, the creator of a gossip app which tells all of the students’ darkest secrets. It’s been rumored that Simon is going to spill the beans on all four of his detention mates the next day. When only the five students are in the closed-door classroom, Simon drinks water from a paper cup that’s been laced with peanut oil and dies of anaphylactic shock. The police investigate all four students and discover their secrets. During the investigation, the kids learn about each other and that their outward personas are not all there is to them. Each kid knows he’s not responsible, but wonders about the others. Each kid admits to and accepts her imperfections. They all grow emotionally during the story. The reader will enjoy figuring out who the murderer is and will learn more about accepting himself. Teachers will find much to use for classroom discussion. The book is a winner, even if a bit formulaic.

BIBLIO: 2017, Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1468-0

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1469-7

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1470-3

Happy 4th of July! Have fun and say thanks for the good in our country.

 

 

A Horse is a Horse…

As you’ve probably guessed, I love reading about animals, especially dogs and horses, but other animals are good to read about as well. I like fiction better than non-fiction, though I’ve read a number of good non-fiction animal books.

My husband loves to sing the first verse of the opening song for the old TV sitcom starring the “Mr. Ed,” hence the title of this post.

My favorites are:

Free and Easy, about young Stella O’Dare who pines for a horse of her own, but can’t afford one. She ends up helping at a neighboring farm and is allowed to train a filly. She begins to think of the mare as her own and gets jealous if other people take an interest in the horse. Things get more complicated when a young man takes an interest in the mare and then in Stella. I learned a lot about horse training, and about horse breeds. The filly is a purebred Narragansett Pacer. The breed no longer exists, but does show up in the bloodlines of Tennessee Walking Horses, Rocky Mountain gaited horses, and Saddlebreds. All these breeds have gaits other than just the usual walk, trot, canter, gallop. Not all Walking Horses trot and not all Walking Horses pace, but they all do the long, easy gait that is as fast as most horses’ trot, but with no bumping up and down.

Yeah, but what does that mean, to pace or to trot?

A horse’s walk, no matter how slow or fast, is a four-beat gait. Let’s say you’re looking at the horse from the left side, first the left hind foot moves forward, and as it lands, the right front foot moves forward, then the right hind and then left front.  A Walking Horse’s extended walk should be so smooth and straight, you could pass along rows of cornstalks and not touch the corn with your body. And you should be able to ride for hours. These horses were bred to carry the landowner as comfortably as possible while they checked on their plantations. Some horse shows used to have classes where the rider had to ride a certain distance holding a full glass of water without spilling a drop.

Next comes the trot, which is a two-beat gait. Again, watching from the left side, that hind foot and the alternate front foot leave the ground together, and, when they land, the other diagonal pair move. Once you learn to move with the push of the horse’s hind legs, it’s lots easier to stay with the horse instead of bouncing around. Now, this is where the gait called a pace comes in. Not all horses have it, but those that do can be quite comfortable. The difference is which legs move together. In the trot, it’s a diagonal pairing; in a pace, it’s a lateral pairing—left hind and left front. Your body must adjust to roll with the gait, instead rising to the gait. A slow trot is called a jog and, with the right horse, you can sit to it for miles. Our orange and white Pinto, had an outstanding jog trot, but he also had a glorious extended trot. I could feel his hind legs land under my seat and see his forelegs stretch past his muzzle.

Our wonderful Thoroughbred had a nice, steady trot, but his best gaits were his canter and his gallop—like riding on a fast-moving cloud. This is a three-beat gait—left hind, front legs mostly together and right hind. You should be able to sit to this gait.

The next gait is the gallop, which is what Thoroughbreds do when they’re racing. Similar to a canter, it is, of course, much faster and all four feet are off the ground in one stage of the stride. It’s so exciting it can take your breath away.

My husband and I had Tennessee Walking Horses on our farm. Two of them were good jumpers and very willing to go where ever we wanted them to go.  I loved that we had a breed which carried the bloodlines of the horse in my favorite horse story.

Other of my favorite books:

King of the Wind: the story of the Godolphin Arabian, and other books about horses, all of them illustrated by Wesley Dennis, taught me a great deal about horses. Her books about the Chincoteague ponies still resonate with horse lovers. The first of that series is Misty of Chincoteague.

Smoky, the Cowhorse written and illustrated by Will James, who was a cowboy and taught himself to draw.

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, who was another favorite of mine for horse books. And though this information says the book was copyrighted in 1969, I think it was first published much earlier than that.


My Friend Flicka
and the rest of the series by Mary O’Hara will always have a place inmy heart. Flicka is about a young boy’s struggle to please his domineering father and the solace he finds in gaining the trust of a filly.Any of the C W Anderson books will do, but see if you can find his Favorite Horse Stories. I believe his last story was of a pony named Blaze. I loved the pen and ink

drawings scattered throughout the pages. He was also quite well known for his

drawings of horses, perhaps even better known for them than his books.

Enid Bagnold’s National Velvet is another much loved and much filmed story about a

young English girl, who trains and rides a black and white pinto to win the grand prix

of steeple chase races in England at the time when girls weren’t supposed to do things

that. Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney played in the original film version.

Of course, just about everyone knows about Black Beauty, whose story was put to paper by Anna Sewell and was intended to inform the public about cruelty to horses, in particular harness horses. The book itself plays a part in my middle-reader novel, which I hope to have out by the end of this year. My book is titled Emily’s Ride to Courage.

Obviously, there are many more stories involving horses, but this is enough for now. Thanks for reading. Sarah Maury Swan, author of Terror’s Identity.

Adventures of all Kinds

I still am gathering books to talk about books about animals, so I’m going to give you reviews about books I just read. Two of them do have animals as main characters, but they’re not part of the collection in my heart.

 

The first one is about Henry who sees the museum he visits with his classmates in an entirely different way. The illustrations are funny and remind me of Peter Arnold’s drawings in the New Yorker, ages ago when I was young.

 

A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum

Davide Cali

Illustrated by Benjamin Chaud

Henry’s trip to the museum isn’t quite the same as what his classmates experience. Instead, he and his stalwart dog encounter a charging triceratops. But Henry and his dog take refuge with a Neanderthal family.  As thanks, our intrepid friend shows them how to design creatures using balloons, until he is chased away by a herd of buffalo. Saved from that, Henry and dog trigger a volcano to explode and, in running away to keep from being plastered with lava, the two heroes run smack into an exhibit of dinosaur bones, set up to represent the various types of animals. Their reconstruction is not quite as precise as it might have been. Even in the hall of sculptures, Henry has a different experience than the other students. But, in the end, he has made the museum an even more intriguing place for future visitors. The drawings are delightful and the story will have children wishing to go to a museum. But do be careful not to get caught in Henry’s kind of adventures. Teachers will happily gather discussion points from this book.

BIBLIO: 2017, Chronicle Books LLC, Ages 7 to 10, $12.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-1-4521-5593-7

 

This charming story talks about making friends and understanding where one belongs in the scheme of things.

 

Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten

Candice Ransom

Illustrated by Christine Grove

Amanda wants to be a school bus driver when she grows up, but, first, she wants to go to kindergarten. And she wants to do all things her brother, Lewis, did. She plans to write her name in big letters on the chalk board, so everyone will know who she is. She’ll build the tallest block tower and then she’ll run faster than everyone else, provided they’re only running downhill. The first day of school, Amanda gets to the bus stop only to discover a girl her age dressed in brilliantly-bright pink. Amanda tries to ignore her, but the pink girl follows her onto the bus and sits down next to her. Bitsy is her name, she announces, but Amanda doesn’t feel like being polite, so she doesn’t answer. Bitsy writes her name on the board, taking up most of the room, leaving Amanda only a very small area for her name. No matter what Amanda tries to be best at, Bitsy gets in her way. After recess, Amanda sneaks into the line for Lewis’ grade and sits next to him in his class. Amanda’s feet don’t reach the floor and she can’t read the words on the board. Just when she’s feeling very low, Bitsy shows up at the classroom door, looking quite lost and sad. Turns out she had gone looking for Amanda and got lost. Amanda realizes her mistake in quitting kindergarten, so she takes Bitsy’s hand and back they go to their classroom. Amanda discovers it doesn’t hurt to be kind. This is a sweet story with adorable illustrations combining panda traits with human traits. Teachers have many discussion points to use in class.

BIBLIO: 2017, Doubleday Books for Young Readers/Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House LLC, Ages 4 to 7, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-399-55455-1

ISBN: 978-0-399-55456-8

ISBN: 978-0-399-55457-5

 

 

This story is a winner, with a charming message and wonderful drawings.

 

No More Noisy Nights

Holly L. Niner

Illustrated by Guy Wolek

Poor Jackson Mole works hard all day, moving boxes of stuff and furniture into his new house, which makes him very ready for bed and a good night’s rest. Promptly at nine p.m., he settles himself in, expecting to sleep soundly, but the “oooEEEeee” wail coming from the attic keeps him awake all night. Jackson has a hard time staying awake the next day and does such silly things as putting ketchup on his toast. At bedtime, Jackson goes up to the attic and asks the ghost to be quiet.  The ghost, says he’ll try to be quieter, but what’s he supposed to do? Jackson says he’ll think about. The next evening he sets a box on the attic floor. But does he get to sleep that night? Noo. The basement Boogey Monster, boogety woogety wooos all night long. Jackson asks the monster to make less noise at night, but the monster doesn’t know how. Jackson leaves a box at the foot of the basement stairs. Now he is sure he’ll have good night’s sleep.  Nope. The Piano Pixie starts plinking out her music. Is he ever going to have a peaceful night’s sleep? Of course, the next morning, Jackson asks the pixie to not make all that noise at night. She says she’ll try, but what’s she supposed to do. He puts out sheet music for the pixie and goes to sleep with the soft sounds of a puzzle being assembled above him, a toy train chugging along below him, and a pixie lullaby coming from the piano. What can be better than a not-so-noisy house and new friends?  This book is adorable, with cute illustrations and a good message of cooperation.

BIBLIO: 2017, Flashlight Press, Ages 5 to 8, $17.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-936261-93-2

 

 

Animals in Books

I have to do more research before I present my next post. But here’s something for you to think about until next time. Most of us have at least one pet, or have had one in our lifetimes, and there always come a time when the pet needs to pass from this realm to the next. I have had lots of pets, some shared with other family members and some that were just mine.

I also have read many books about humans and their animals. So, I thought I’d write about some of those books. But, first I’ll have to go back and re-read at least some of them.

What books do you remember from your life of reading? Did you ever read the books about collies that were written by Alfred(?) Payson Terhune? Or Free and Easy, by Fairfax Downey? Or William Faulkner’s story The Bear? Along with Where the Red Fern Grows, or any of the other well-known books about humans and animals, these books have always stuck with me. Please tell me about your favorite animal stories. And next week, I’ll go into more detail about some of the books I’ve mentioned.

Of the more modern books I’ve read, there is Sheri Shepard Levy’s Seven Days to Goodbye and, of course, the Shiloh series.

Talk with you next week, if not sooner. Sarah

Good Books to Read

There are a lot of good books being written nowadays, though there are plenty of clunkers. I thought I’d include a good one from each reading range: Picture Book; Middle-Reader; and young adult. Hope you find these interesting.

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Dance Fever

Julie Bowe

The latest in the “Victoria Torres: Unfortunately Average” series has our heroine, called Vicka, working on the school fund raiser committee as a sixth-grade representative.  Her older sister, Sofia, is chairperson of the committee and is trying to keep peace in the committee.  Unfortunately, fellow sixth grader, Annelise, is also on the committee and has what she thinks is the perfect dance theme—a formal ball, with girls in fancy gowns and boys wearing suits and ties.  Guess how many boys are thrilled with this idea. Vicka must get Annelise to change her mind.  Not an easy task, but Vicka succeeds, with one proviso. Annelise insists on having a Sadie Hawkins dance. Everybody’s happy. The boys because they can wear jeans and boots. The girls because they get to ask the boys to the dance. Vicka is not all that happy, however, because she’s afraid to ask her crush, Drew. She’s sure he won’t be interested because he’s popular and older. In the end, she and Drew go singly, but end up dancing together. The fund raiser is a huge success, especially when the school principal gives a calf three kisses on the nose. This is a cute story about a girl who feels she doesn’t have anything special to offer the world, but is indeed a good friend and a natural-born fence-mender. There are lots of issues presented for classroom discussion.

BIBLIO: 2017, Stone Arch Books/Capstone Books, Ages 11 to 14, $25.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 9781496538192

ISBN: 9781496538215

ISBN: 9781496538277

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We all have times when we wish we were in a better place. It just takes someone to show us we’re in the perfect place right now.

Princessland

Emily Jenkins

Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka

Young Romy is sad. She’d rather be in Princessland, where everything is perfect. Her cat, Lady Cat, takes her on a walk through their town to show Romy she already lives in such a land. Romy says in Princessland a person can get whatever she wants to eat whenever she wants it. Lady Cat stops at the bakery, where the baker gives Romy a day-old muffin and Lady Cat a dish of milk. Next the cat takes Romy up a tree, so high they can see the whole town. Romy tells Lady Cat about the tall towers in the Princessland castles where the Princesses sleep on rose petals. The cat takes her to open-air market, where lady cat steals a fish from the fish monger and Romy dances to a guitar-player’s music dreaming of being at a fancy ball. Next the two stretch out on a patch of lush green grass, while Lady Cat chases a butterfly and Romy tells of the princesses all having their own horses or whatever creature they want. After a nap, Lady Cat announces she wants her dinner and Romy complains that she hadn’t been to Princessland as the cat had promised. Lady Cat says she had taken Romy there. Romy thinks about it and realized the cat was right.  Sweet story with a wry sense of humor, which might give the reader an understanding of appreciating what she has.

BIBLIO: 2017, Farrar Straus Giroux Books/Macmillan Publishing Group, Ages 5 to 8, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 9780374361150

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What do you do when the person you count on to keep things on an even keel is floundering?

Stealing Our Way Home

Cecilia Galante

Pippa and Jack Kendall are dealing with the death of their mother as best they can. Pippa doesn’t talk anymore and Jack thinks it’s his fault. Then they discover their dad has lost his car dealership and is broke.  He’s afraid of losing their house and he can’t find a job. The house is of great importance for many reasons, but especially because it belonged to his wife through inheritance. Pippa is now looked upon as weird and is afraid of being taunted by her classmates. Then their father takes Jack with him when he goes to rob a bank and Jack is horrified, but also glad that the family now can pay the mortgage and get the utilities functioning, plus buy Pippa and Jack new school clothes. Pippa has to write a paper about someone she thinks is a hero. Originally, she picks her mother, because she was so brave during her losing battle with cancer. Jack is concerned about his father and Pippa and how he can keep them safe.  While the two are trying to sort out what’s going on, Pippa learns what her father is doing to support the family. The next time he goes to rob a bank, Pippa goes with him and Jack.  She knows Jack doesn’t approve of the robbery. Just as her dad heads into the bank, she regains her voice and yells at him to not go. Dad stops, goes back to the car and heads home. He turns himself in to the police and has to spend a year in jail. Pippa writes her paper on Jack and reads it aloud to the whole school. This book is nicely written, telling a powerful story.

BIBLIO: 2017, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN:978-1-338-04296-2

ISBN:978-1-338-04298-6

 

Please let me know what you’re reading and what you think of it. Thanks, Sarah