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September 1, 2015

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SLJ’s Starred Reviews | September 2015

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Excellent new titles from Mac Barnett, Emily Jenkins, Mo Willems, M.T. Anderson, and Steve Sheinkin top the August Stars list.

This article was published in School Library Journal's September 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely | SLJ Review

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REYNOLDS, Jason & Brendan Kiely. All American Boys. 320p. ebook available. S. & S. Bks. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481463331.

Gr 8 Up–Rashad Butler is a quiet, artistic teen who hates ROTC but dutifully attends because father insists “there’s no better opportunity for a black boy in this country than to join the army.” He heads to Jerry’s corner store on a Friday night to buy chips, and ends up the victim of unwarranted arrest and police brutality: an event […]

Book Review: Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez

Publisher’s description: “This is East Texas, and there’s lines. Lines you cross, lines you don’t cross. That clear?” New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Smith and Wash Fullerton know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them. They know the people who enforce them. But there are […]

Infinite in Between by Carolyn Mackler | SLJ Review

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MACKLER, Carolyn. Infinite in Between. 480p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780061731075.

Gr 7 Up–What are the four years spent in high school made up of? Teens tend to focus on the big moments—midterms and finals, homecoming and prom, first dates and first loves. But what about those unexpected battles and victories that truly shape and change them? Mackler follows five young adults from freshman orientation to senior graduation. Jake, Zoe, Whitney, Gregor, and Mia all have their own expectations […]

Old Maps on new devices

Teachers and lovers of history and geography are going to love this new app. Old Maps, available for iPhone, iPad or any Android device through Google Play, allows mobile access to more than 250,000 high resolution, historical maps from the 15th to the 20th century, from across the world.  Only a few years ago, we […]

This Is My Home, This Is My School by Jonathan Beam | SLJ Review

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BEAN, Jonathan. This Is My Home, This Is My School. illus. by Jonathan Bean. 48p. Farrar. Oct. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780374380205. LC 2014040682.
PreS-Gr 1–In his second semi-autobiographical picture book, Bean introduces young audiences to one family’s homeschooling experience. The well-paced narrative draws clear connections between the details of a traditional school environment—with a teacher, a cafeteria, and classrooms—and a homeschool setting—Mom and Dad are the teachers, the kitchen becomes the lunch room, and the house, the yard, the nearby […]

Book Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

I loved this book, it is indeed everything, everything! But even more telling is The Teen’s reaction to this book. She finished reading it yesterday and then immediately started reading it again. She left for school today carrying the book in her hand. She used words like “perfect”, “amazing”, and “beautiful” to describe Everything, Everything, […]

Stand-Off by Andrew Smith | SLJ Review

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SMITH, Andrew. Stand-Off. 416p. ebook available. S. & S. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481418294.
Gr 9 Up–In this sequel to Winger (S. & S., 2013), Ryan Dean West’s senior year at Pine Mountain Academy is off to a rough start. Still grieving over friend Joey’s death, he’s saddled with Sam, a 12-year-old freshman roommate he dismisses as a “larva in soccer pajamas.” Adding to the pressure, his rugby coach wants him to take Joey’s position on the field and as […]

Review: Space Dumplins

Craig Thompson is most noted for his award winning titles Blankets and Habibi. In a departure from his adult titles, Thompson has ventured into the world of comics for kids in this excellent futuristic space adventure. Space Dumplins By Craig Thompson. Graphix. August 2015. ISBN 9780545565417 HC, $24.99. 320pp. Grades 4 and up Violet loves […]

Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Judd Winick | SLJ Review

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WINICK, Judd. Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth. 208p. (Hilo: Bk. 1). ebook available. Random. Sept. 2015. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9780385386173.
Gr 2-5–Daniel Jackson Lim, aka DJ, is an ordinary boy in a family of overachievers. He meets Hilo, a robot boy who fell to Earth from space and doesn’t know where he came from or what he is doing on this planet. DJ, along with his best friend, Gina, help Hilo unlock the secrets of his past […]

Review from This Month’s School Library Journal: Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of School Library Journal.   BROWN, Don. Drowned City: Hurricane […]

“Toca Nature”: “A Perfectly Pixelated World” | Touch and Go

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Many readers know Toca Boca’s “play studio” apps designed for preschoolers. Here is something from them that’s a little different. It combines sandbox activities with a subtle ecological message.

Mystery, Thriller, and Sci-Fi Debuts | Adult Books 4 Teens

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Adult Books 4 Teens columnist Mark Flowers rounds up a group of debut novels that run the genre gamut—from meta cozy mysteries to survival fiction with threads of romance.

Rollicking “Ratscalibur” a sure favorite among young fantasy fans|Audio Pick

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LIEB, Josh. Ratscalibur. 3 CDs. 3:36 hrs. Listening Library. 2015. $27. ISBN 978101915301. digital download.
Gr 3-6–Joey, a soon-to-be seventh grader, has recently moved to New York City with his mother. He is not particularly enthralled by big city life. Soon though, Joey’s uncle brings home a special new friend for him—a rat, just like the creatures he has seen about the city. To Joey’s surprise, his new pet rodent begins speaking to him from his cage. He learns that the […]

The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands | SLJ Review

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SANDS, Kevin. The Blackthorn Key. 384p. ebook available. S. & S./Aladdin. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481446518. LC 2014048032.
Gr 4-6–An auspicious debut middle grade novel. Set in the 1600s, the story revolves around Christopher Rowe, the apprentice to a Master Apothecary. After losing his master, Christopher begins to unravel a series of complex codes that his master had, unbeknownst to Chris, been preparing him to solve all along. The more that the protagonist uncovers, the more he finds himself in […]

Review of the Day: The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

The Nest By Kenneth Oppel Illustrated by Jon Klassen Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers $16.99 ISBN: 978-1-4814-3232-0 On shelves October 6th Oh, how I love middle grade horror. It’s a very specific breed of book, you know. Most people on the street might think of the Goosebumps books or similar ilk when they […]

Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx by Sonia Manzano | SLJ Review

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SLJ’s starred review of Sonia Manzano—Sesame Street‘s “Maria”—YA memoir.

Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney | SLJ Review

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PINKNEY, Andrea Davis. Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound. 176p. chron. discog. index. notes. photos. Roaring Brook. Sept. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781596439733.
Gr 5 Up–A tour of the musical powerhouse’s history done with verve and panache. “The Groove” takes readers through the birth and demise of Motown, one of the most influential African American-owned enterprises in the world’s social and musical history. Centering around Gordy Berry, the talented tastemaker and eventual mogul, the ingenious narration highlights the […]

The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds | SLJ Review

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REYNOLDS, Luke. The Looney Experiment. 208p. Blink. Aug. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780310746423.
Gr 5-8–Eighth-grader Atticus Hobart is having a rough time. He is short and unathletic; his courage (and his voice) routinely fail him, especially when he’s around his crush Audrey Higgins; and he is the primary target of a blowhard class bully, who calls him “Fatticus.” To make matters worse, his father has just left the family to “figure things out” and the boy can’t help but feel that […]

Dream On, Amber by Emma Shevah | SLJ Review

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SHEVAH, Emma. Dream On, Amber. illus. by Helen Crawford-White. 272p. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Oct. 2015. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781492622505.

Gr 4-6Eleven-year-old Ambra Alessandra Leola Kimiko Miyamoto (please, just call her Amber) navigates middle school embarrassments, awkward friendships, a first crush, an intimidating bully, and the realities of being a biracial tween in this smart and funny middle grade debut, first published in the UK. Half Italian and half Japanese, Amber has always felt a bit different than her peers in South London. […]