June 17, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Welcome to Heap House, the Untold Story of Goldilocks, and Roots Rediscovered | Fiction Grades 5-8

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.


redstarCarey, Edward. Heap House. illus. by Edward Carey. 416p. (The Iremonger Trilogy). ebook available. Overlook. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781468309539; pap. ISBN 9781471401596.

Gr 7-9–Welcome to Heap House, a sprawling, dark, dingy mansion, situated in the middle of a vast pile of junk. It’s home to the Iremongers, a strange and reclusive extended family. They intermarry to preserve their bloodlines and consider themselves almost royalty. People with partial Iremonger blood are their servants. Their identities are tied to “birth objects,” commonplace things that represent and shape who they are from birth. Clod Iremonger is 15, with a bath plug for a birth object. He is unhappily engaged to his cousin Pinalippy. Clod has a skill that makes him seem odd in the eyes of the other Iremongers; he can hear the birth objects speaking. They only speak their names, but their voices are always with him. He is resigned to his dreary life until he meets Lucy Pennant, an orphan who is told she has a little Iremonger blood and forced to work at Heap House. Lucy changes the way Clod sees his world, but her arrival sets off a chain of events that might mean the end of Heap House. Black-and-white illustrations are as deliciously unsettling as the text. Characters are rich with personality, from Clod’s frightening Granny who has never left her bedroom, to his bath plug, who manages to be sassy even though the only thing he says is “James Henry Hayward.” Some colorful language makes this most suitable for older middle grade and teen readers. Stories don’t get much weirder, but that’s precisely what makes it so magical.–Mandy Laferriere, Fowler Middle School, Frisco, TX

redstarCoville, Katherine. The Cottage in the Woods. 400p. Knopf. Feb. 2015. lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780385755740; Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385755733; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385755757.

Gr 5-8–This charming and engaging book tells the tale of Ursula, a young bear just out of school, who is hired as a governess for young Teddy Vaughn. She and all the animals living in the Enchanted Forest have the same abilities as humans and have enjoyed a peaceful coexistence. However, tension soon builds as a group of humans demand limits on the freedoms of the enchanted. Complicating matters is a young girl, Goldilocks, living with the Vaughns. This situation becomes a point of contention with the townspeople and soon ends up in court. Ursula has to summon all her courage to protect the people important to her. Featuring a new interpretation of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, this novel weaves other nursery rhyme characters throughout the story. Beautifully written with thought-provoking vocabulary, it’s best suited for strong readers who will also recognize the themes of social justice. Highly recommended.–Laura Fields Eason, Parker Bennett Curry Elementary School , Bowling Green, KY

redstarDraper, Sharon M. Stella by Starlight. 288p. ebook available. S. & S./Atheneum. Jan. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442494978.

Gr 4-8–Coretta Scott King Award winner Draper draws inspiration from her grandmother’s journal to tell the absorbing story of a young girl growing up in Depression-era, segregated North Carolina. One frightening night Stella and her brother Jojo witness a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan, practically in their own backyard. This meeting is the signal of trouble to come to the black community of Bumblebee. The townspeople must come together to find strength and protection to face the injustices all around them. This is an engrossing historical fiction novel with an amiable and humble heroine who does not recognize her own bravery or the power of her words. She provides inspiration not only to her fellow characters but also to readers who will relate to her and her situation. Storytelling at its finest.–Tiffany Davis, Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh, NY

redstarHardinge, Frances. Cuckoo Song. 416p. Abrams/Amulet. May 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781419714801.

Gr 5 Up–Ever since her older brother died in World War I, things have been tense for Triss and her family. After Triss suffers a horrible accident, her memory is hindered and all of a sudden she feels a strange, insatiable hunger that can only be calmed by digesting unusual items. From here, events proceed in an unexpected way as magical promises are made, relationships are tested, and characters question what it means to be alive. Mysterious letters and dangerous strangers create a mood of suspicion and paranoia as pieces of the story fall into place at just the right moment. Many secondary characters make understandable but regrettable mistakes throughout, cementing themselves as realistic and complex individuals. The beautiful writing is full of rich language that is reminiscent of an old fairy tale. Fans of Hardinge will not be disappointed in this latest spine-chilling, creative work that offers a nuanced depiction of grief within the structure of a well-wrought fantasy.–Carrie Shaurette, Dwight-Englewood School, Englewood, NJ

redstarhunt, Lynda Mullaly. Fish in a Tree. 288p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399162596; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781101601327.

Gr 4-6–In her second middle grade novel (One for the Murphys, 2012), Mullaly Hunt again paints a nuanced portrayal of a sensitive, smart girl struggling with circumstances beyond her control. Ally is great at math, and her ability to visualize moving pictures makes her an amazing artist, but she has a terrible secret: reading is almost impossible for her. By using her wits and adopting a troublemaking persona, she’s been able to avoid anyone finding out a truth she is deeply ashamed of, but a new teacher at school seems to see right through the defenses she’s built. While Ally struggles to accept the help that Mr. Daniels offers, she also deals with a father deployed in the Middle East, crushing loneliness, and an authentically awful set of mean girls at school. Ally’s raw pain and depression are vividly rendered, while the diverse supporting cast feels fully developed. As the perceptive teacher who finally offers the diagnosis of dyslexia, Mr. Daniels is an inspirational educator whose warmth radiates off the page. Best of all, Mullaly Hunt eschews the unrealistic feel-good ending for one with hard work and small changes. Ally’s journey is heartwarming but refreshingly devoid of schmaltz.–Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla, Darien Library, CT

redstarJacobson, Jennifer Richard. Paper Things. 384p. Candlewick. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763663230. LC 2014944677.

Gr 4-8–This gentle depiction of homelessness follows Arianna Hazard, a fifth grader who bounces between friends’ couches and a shelter while struggling to hide her situation from classmates. Ari and her beloved 18-year-old brother Gage live with Jana, a caring but strict foster parent, until Gage decides they should strike out on their own. He plans to find them an apartment; when that doesn’t work out, Ari and Gage spend months staying with Gage’s girlfriend or buddies, or sneaking into a juvenile shelter on nights when couch surfing isn’t an option. Ari has many of the same concerns as her other fifth grade classmates—getting a leadership role at her school, finishing her homework on time, maintaining her friendships—but her living situation makes everything more difficult. Ari’s friendships are strained, and her grades slip as she tries to navigate homelessness. Everything becomes challenging, from personal hygiene to getting to school on time. Since her mother’s death four years ago (her soldier father was killed before Ari was born), Ari has hoped to fulfill her mother’s dream and go to Carter Middle School, a school for gifted students. However, the dip in her grades—and a detention for trying to revive elementary school traditions against the principal’s wishes—may ruin her chances. Ari finds comfort in a “family” cut out from catalogs, her “paper things.” This novel will engender empathy and understanding of a serious and all-too-real problem. Jacobson’s story is poignant but never preachy. While the ending won’t come as a surprise to many readers, this is a sweet and touching portrayal of a resilient young girl.–Miranda Doyle, Lake Oswego School District, OR

redstarLai, Thanhha. Listen Slowly. 272p. HarperCollins/Harper. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062229182.

Gr 5-8–The summer before she turns 13, Mai is planning to spend her time going to the beach and finally talking to her secret crush. She’s less than thrilled when her parents make her escort her grandmother to Vietnam instead. New information may have surfaced about her long lost grandfather, who disappeared over 40 years ago in “THE WAR.” Mai doesn’t know the culture or speak the language, and everything she knows about Vietnam is from a PBS documentary on the Fall of Saigon. While her parents are excited for her to learn more about her roots, the teen doesn’t even know the details of her own parents’ escape because “random roots are encouraged, but specific roots are off-limits.” Stuck in a village with limited internet access, a sulky Mai slowly makes friends due to lack of better things to do and bonds with her grandmother, with whom she was very close as a small child. Mai’s character growth is slow and believable, coming in small increments and occasionally backsliding. The sights, smells, and tastes of Vietnam’s cities and villages come alive on the page, without overwhelming a story filled with a summers-worth of touching and hilarious moments, grand adventure, and lazy afternoons. With a contemporary time setting, this compelling novel shows the lingering effects of war through generations and how the secrets our parents keep can shape us.–Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington County Public Libraries, VA

The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue:

Amston, Steve. The Trap. 256p. Houghton Harcourt. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780547824086; ebk. ISBN 9780547824123. LC 2014010211.

Balliett, Blue. Pieces and Players. 320p. Scholastic. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545299909; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545746342.

Banks, Angelica. Finding Serendipity. illus. by Steve Lewis. 288p. Holt. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781627791540; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781627794404.

Barnett, Mac & Jory John. The Terrible Two. illus. by Kevin Cornell. 224p. (The Terrible Two: Bk. 1). Abrams/Amulet. Jan. 2015. Tr $13.95. ISBN 9781419714917.

Blume, Lesley M.M. Julia and the Art of Practical Travel. 192p. Knopf. Jan. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385752824; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780385752831; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385752848. LC 201304490.

Burnham, Molly B. Almost a World Record Breaker. illus. by Trevor Spencer. 224p. (Teddy Mars: Bk. 1). HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062278104; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062278128.

Carlton, Kat. Sealed with a Lie. 256p. S. & S. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481400527; ebk. ISBN 9781481400541. LC 2013041857.

Clark, Henry. The Book that Proves Time Travel Happens. 416p. ebook available. Little, Brown. Apr. 2015. Tr $17. ISBN 9780316406178. LC 2014015130.

Cotter, Charis. The Swallow: A Ghost Story. 320p. Tundra. 2014. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781770495913. LC 2014934478.

DeKeyser, Stacy. One Witch at a Time. 224p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481413510; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481413534.

Edwards, Bruce. Channel ‘63. 224p. (The Age of Amy: Bk. 3). Lambert Hill. 2014. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9780983760443.

Flynn, Alex. The Misshapes: The Coming Storm. 304p. Polis. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781940610313; ebk. ISBN 9781940610122.

Grabenstein, Chris. The Island of Dr. Libris. 256p. Random. Mar. 2015. lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780385388467; Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385388443; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385388474. LC 2014000214.

Grant, Holly. The League of Beastly Dreadfuls. illus. by Josie Portillo. 320p. (The League of Beastly Dreadfuls: Bk. 1). Random. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385370073; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780385370080; ebk. ISBN 9780385370097. LC 2013050800.

Grau, Sheila. Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions. illus. by Joe Sutphin. 288p. Abrams/Amulet. Apr. 2015. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781419713705. LC 2014029584.

Griffin, N. Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of Room 11. illus. by Kate Hindley. 256p. Candlewick. Feb. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763661458.

Harkey, Faith. Genuine Sweet. 288p. Clarion. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544283664; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780544285255.

Helget, Nicole. Wonder at the Edge of the World. 384p. ebook available. Little, Brown. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.00. ISBN 9780316245104.

Hoffman, Alice. Nightbird. 208p. Random/Wendy Lamb Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385389587; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780385389594; ebk. ISBN 9780385389600.

Kessler, Liz. Has Anyone Seen Jessica Jenkins? 288p. Candlewick. Feb. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763674113. LC 2014944676.

Manale, Shizumi Shigeto & Richard Marshall. Running with Cosmos Flowers: The Children of Hiroshima. 152p. appendix. ebook available. further reading. glossary. illus. notes. photos. reprods. Pelican. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781455619665; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9781455619672. LC 2014017934.

Meyer, Carolyn. Anastasia and Her Sisters. 320p. ebook available. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481403269. LC 2014003498.

Millionaire, Tony. Sock Monkey: Into the Deep Woods. illus. by Matt Danner. 80p. Fantagraphics. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781606997468.

Myer, Andy. Henry Hubble’s Book of Troubles. illus. by Andy Myer. 160p. Delacorte. Feb. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780385744393; lib. ed. $18.99. ISBN 9780375991646; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385385268.

Nelson, Theresa. The Year We Sailed the Sun. 432p. S. & S./Atheneum/Richard Jackson Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780689858277; ebk. ISBN 9781481406499.

O’Donnell, Liam. Tank & Fizz: The Case of the Slime Stampede. illus. by Mike Deas. 152p. (Tank & Fizz: Bk. 1). Orca. Mar. 2015. Tr $9.95. ISBN 9781459808102; ebk. ISBN 9781459808126.

Phillips, Gin. A Little Bit of Spectacular. 176p. Dial. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803738379; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698191358. LC 2013049146.

Potter, David. The Left Behinds and the iPhone That Saved George Washington. 352p. (Left Behinds). Crown. Jan. 2015. lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780385390576; Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385390569; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385390583. LC 2014006650.

Rodkey, Geoff. The Tapper Twins Go to War (With Each Other). 240p. (The Tapper Twins). Little, Brown. Apr. 2015. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9780316297790; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316297820. LC 2014015918.

Sanders, Ted. The Keepers: The Box and the Dragonfly. illus. by Iacopo Bruno. 624p. glossary. HarperCollins. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062275820; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062275844.

Scattergood, Augusta. The Way to Stay in Destiny. 192p. Scholastic. Jan. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545538244; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545633642.

Scott, Kieran. What Waits in the Woods. 288p. ebook available. Scholastic/Point. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545691116.

Seidler, Tor. Firstborn. 240p. S. & S./Atheneum. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481410175; ebk. ISBN 9781481410199. LC 2014009659.

Skye, Obert. Witherwood Reform School. illus. by Keith Thompson. 240p. (Witherwood Reform School: Bk. 1). Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780805098792; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781627793209.

Smith, Roland. Beneath. 272p. Scholastic. Jan. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545564861; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545564885.

Stevens, Robin. Murder is Bad Manners: A Wells and Wong Mystery. 320p. S. & S. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481422123; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481422147.

Vernon, Ursula. Castle Hangnail. 384p. Dial. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803741294.

Weeks, Sarah. Honey. 160p. Scholastic. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545465571; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545662819.

Wells, Marcia. Eddie Red, Undercover: Mystery in Mayan Mexico. illus. by Marcos Calo. 224p. (Eddie Red Undercover). Houghton Harcourt. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544302068; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780544556928. LC 2014013599.

Wiechman, Kathy Cannon. Like a River: A Civil War Novel. 336p. bibliog. Calkins Creek. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781629792095. LC 2014945289.

Wyatt, Chris. The Great Core Caper: A This Way or That Novel. illus. by Corin Howell. 112p. (Bravest Warriors: Bk. 1). VIZ Media/Perfect Square. 2014. Tr $7.99. ISBN 9781421575391.

Yep, Laurence & Joanne Ryder. A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans. illus. by Mary GrandPré. 160p. Crown. Mar. 2015. lib. ed. $18.99. ISBN 9780385392297; Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780385392280; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385392303. LC 2014017803.

Yolen, Jane. Trash Mountain. illus. by Chris Monroe. 184p. ebook available. Carolrhoda. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781467712347. LC 2013030727.

Young, Ed. Should You Be a River: A Poem About Love. illus. by Ed Young. 40p. Little, Brown. Apr. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316230896. LC 2013043172.

Zeiss, Joyce Burns. Out of the Dragon’s Mouth. 264p. Flux. Mar. 2015. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9780738741963.

Graphic Novels

Giarrusso, Chris. The G-Man Super Journal: Awesome Origins. illus. by Chris Giarrusso. 240p. (G-Man). AMP! Comics for Kids. Feb. 2015. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9781449458447.

Jansson, Tove. Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition. illus. by Tove Jansson. 448p. Drawn and Quarterly. 2014. Tr $69.95. ISBN 9781770461710.

Liniers. Macanudo: Vol. 2. tr. from Spanish by Mara Faye Lethem. illus. by Liniers. 104p. Enchanted Lion. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781592701698.

Rosa, Don. Walt Disney Uncle Scrooge And Donald Duck: The Son of the Sun. Vol. 1. ISBN 9781606997420.

––––. Walt Disney Uncle Scrooge And Donald Duck: Return to Plain Awful. Vol. 2. ISBN 9781606997802.

ea vol: illus. by Don Rosa. 216p. (The Don Rosa Library). illus. notes. photos. Fantagraphics. 2014. Tr. $29.99.

Schwartz, Simon. The Other Side of the Wall. 112p. ebook available. Graphic Universe. Mar. 2015. lib. ed. $29.32. ISBN 9781467758406; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781467760287.

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