Materials We Have

Teen Book Reviews

As the summer draws to a close, we are proud to unveil two shiny new book reviews from a couple of our teen patrons! As you may recall, participants of the 2016 Teen Summer Challenge had the option of submitting reviews for fame (a spot on our blog) and fortune (a chance to win one of our ossm prizes). So, without further ado:

 

Rick Yancey's The Infinite Sea, review by Anonymous
[Also available as an audiobook, Hoopla audiobook, e-book, and e-audiobook]

I read the book The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey. This book was filled with action packed, intriguing scenes and also many scary ideas of a world in which aliens (really just enhanced humans called the 'others') invade in a series of 5 different waves of destruction. Overall, I think that this book definitely keeps your attention while you are reading and is interesting to read but I don't really appreciate the ideas that the author comes up with with all of the destruction and distorted thinking that this book instigates. This book also seemed to just be a prolonging of the ending of the story and did not really move the plot on much from the ending of the fifth wave. This book was interesting to read but I felt that it brought about a lot of imprudent thinking and definitely would not be appropriate for younger children. You could argue that this is a science fictional book and none of these events would ever occur but some of the ideas still seem as if they could bring about and suggest bad ideas.

 

Soman Chainani's The School for Good and Evil, review by Ren M.

“In the Forest primeval 
A school for Good and Evil

Two towers like twin heads
One for the pure
One for the wicked
Try to escape you’ll always fail
The only way out is… through a Fairy Tale”

-Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil is not the usual Fairy Tale everyone expects… With many twists and turns, the book is never a bore.

Let us start from the first book of the trilogy. The Fairy Tale starts in the town of Gavaldon, a small town just outside the Endless Woods…

Sophie, a girl with a reputation for the love of pink, frills, and even glass slippers, had been waiting her whole life to be kidnapped and swept into the magical school for Good. She just knew she would earn top marks in the Good school, find her Prince Charming and graduate as a beautiful, Fairy Tale princess.

Agatha on the other hand, with a greasy dome of black hair, shapeless frocks as clothes and a life inside a house in the middle of a graveyard, everyone, including herself, always believed she would be kidnapped into the school for Evil. She would then graduate the school as a witch that boils children into stew…

However, when they are kidnapped and thrown into the Endless Woods, they find themselves in the wrong schools! Will the two friends be able to survive the classes of the opposite schools?

Or, is it possible that the two girls are actually in the right schools all along…?

Theodore Boone series by John Grisham

If your child is looking for a new series to read, I recommend giving one of John Grisham’s Theodore Boone novels a try.  They are fast paced and have interesting characters.  Each story is self-contained so you do not need to read them in order!  The stories revolve around Theodore, a lawyer-in-training.  His mother and father are lawyers and he sometimes is asked to use his knowledge of the law to help his classmates when they get involved in situations.  He has his own little office in the law firm his parents own, and a trusty dog!  There are six books in this very popular series.

The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

As a children’s librarian, I read (and love) tons of books for kids and young adults, but I still find myself needing to return to my English-major roots and pick up a long literary novel from time to time. And I’m so glad that I happened upon Elena Ferrante’s series The Neapolitan Novels as my most recent choice. I’ve heard them hyped up for a while, but didn’t know much about them going in, and yet from the first 20 pages of the first installment, My Brilliant Friend, I was hooked.

The series of four books follows two childhood friends, Elena and Lila, as they grow up together in Naples. The scope of all four books – a daunting 1,700 pages between them that I nevertheless cruised through entirely in under a month – is massive, and follows the trajectory of their entire lives. Through this, they deal with an enormous swath of issues: family, education, marriage, motherhood, class, politics, personal and professional achievement, female identity, violence, socio-political upheaval, what it means to be from a place, what it means to be. The writing itself is brilliant, insightful and incisive, and completely unflinching –Ferrante refuses to pull even one single punch. There’s a reason so many reviews have referred to this series as a “masterpiece.”

Adding to its impressive impact is the fact that Ferrante writes under a pseudonym; she gives no clues to her identity, nor any in person interviews, and so no one is quite sure of who she is, save for that she is a woman from Naples. It’s an intriguing mystery, but I tend to agree with the idea that I’ve heard Ferrante quoted on – that once a book exists in the world, it doesn’t need an author, it needs only to tell its story. These books do exactly that, and near perfectly.

The series starts with My Brilliant Friend, followed up by The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child. Find all of Ferrante’s works here at ELPL.

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

As a huge fan of the Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems, I have to admit I was sad when the latest book came out, which is the last one for Gerald and Piggie.  It is called The Thank You Book and it does not disappoint!  These books teach great lessons and are just plain fun!  I highly recommend them for any early readers, or parents reading aloud to their children.

Saving Lucas Biggs

Saving Lucas Biggs is the first book by the writing partners, husband and wife team of Marisa de los Santos and David Teague.  It is a well-written, captivating book that involves the O’Malley family and their “quirk” – the ability to time travel.  Margaret O’Malley learns that “history resists” when you are going back in time to change the past, but she desperately wants to help her father who has been found guilty of the crimes of arson and murder and sentenced to death.  The chapters alternate between present day 2014 and 1938.  It was a good escape from recent news, and this quote from the book even helped me put things in perspective:

“For every big, bad, attention-getting thing that happens, there are thousands of small good ones, acts that might even seem ordinary but really aren’t, so many that we can forget to notice them or to count them up.  But it’s what has always amazed me:  not how terrible people can be to each other, but how good, in spite of everything.” 

So, I will keep that in mind when the news is full of the big, bad attention-getting things, and I will be thankful that the library is full of books that will help me escape for a little while.

As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds

When I read something by a “new to me” author that I really like, I want to read all of the books that they have written!  So this weekend after reading As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds, I put myself on hold for his book All American Boys, and checked out The Boy in the Black Suit and When I Was the Greatest

I liked everything about As Brave as You – the characters, plot, writing style, even what the author had to say about himself on the flap!  The story centers around two brothers who go to stay with their grandparents while their parents go on a vacation to try to work out some of their issues.  The youngest, Genie, is worried about them getting divorced. 

The boys get to know their grandparents and life in Virginia, which is very different than life in Brooklyn!  Ernest and Genie have a whole list of chores to do every day and they don’t even have an internet connection!  The story takes a lot of different twists and turns, and focuses on the sweet relationship that is blooming between Genie and Grandpop.  I don’t want to give out too many details, but I highly recommend this book.  I'll keep you posted on his other titles.

There Is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith

I picked this book up as I was going through my semi-regular scouring of the lists of potential 2017 Caldecott Award contenders (which is a great way to stumble across new and wonderful picture books). Out of the most recent stack I checked out, There Is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith was by far and away my absolute favorite. I expected to like it (I’ve been a fan of Lane Smith’s work since my own childhood when he teamed up with Jon Scieszka to illustrate several of his books, including The Stinky Cheese Man and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs), but even with that expectation, I was blown away by just how beautiful and touching this book turned out to be.

The premise of the book straightforward enough: we see an unnamed, leaf-clad child in nature as he encounters different groups of animals and learns the names for their various communities (a pod of whales, an unkindness of ravens, and so on). We watch him join in with these different communities and take part in their rituals and experiences before moving onto the next. What initially seems like it might be a disparate set of encounters turns out to be his journey as he eventually makes his way towards his own group, a – you guessed it – tribe of kids. And although it’s clear that his path is designed to take him towards this tribe where he belongs and recognizes himself in its others members, we still see him joyfully experiencing life among the other groups of animals as he makes his way there, even if they aren’t his own tribe.

The text is sparse while still being engaging, and the illustrations elevate this book to something really beautiful and immersive. They are rich, textured, and whimsical, with so many things to discover that you almost have to go back to certain pages. From his very first meeting with a colony of penguins, I was hooked on this gorgeous celebration of nature, communities, and the joy we can feel while immersed within both those things.

Find it here at ELPL.

Beginning Reader Kits

The transition to easy readers can often be difficult for young children who are reading their very first words.

Ida, Always by Caron Levis

In Ida, Always, by Caron Levis and Charles Santoso, we meet Gus and Ida, two polar bears who live together at a zoo in New York City (based loosely on the real life polar bear residents of the Brooklyn Zoo) and spend all their time together. But when Ida suddenly falls terminally ill, they both have to confront the fact that soon she won’t be around anymore, and we see them both grieve in their own ways. Sometimes they play like normal; sometimes they’re angry; sometimes they need to be alone; and sometimes they need to be together. When Ida ultimately passes away, Gus is left to make sense of what her life – and her absence – means.

Ida, Always isn’t the first picture book to address the tough (but necessary) concept of loss and grief in a way that’s accessible and appropriate for children, but this is one of the best versions I’ve come across recently. Both the text and the illustrations hit on the exact right tone; it’s tender without being overly cloying or euphemistic, and it reminds children that it’s okay (and expected) to grieve in a multitude of ways when a loved one dies. And the underlying concept that threads through the story – the idea that just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not still with you, illustrated by Gus’ ability to hear the sounds of New York City around him without ever being able to see it – brings a poetic and uplifting sensibility to a tough subject in a way that will resonate with children and adults alike.

This is a touching, carefully done book about grief – a topic that we all grapple with eventually, and sometimes at far too young an age – that will stand the test of time.

(Maybe don’t read this one at your desk if you tend to cry easily like I do, though).

Find Ida, Always at ELPL.

World of Warcraft Chronicle Volume I

This is a must read for any fan of Blizzard's World of Warcraft MMO or the Warcraft I.P in general. WoW Chronicle details the history of Azeroth from before its creation to 45 years before the opening of the Dark Portal. You learn about the history of almost all the denizens of  the game, from the cosmic beings that discovered Azeroth to (most of) the various races and factions we've all come to love (or loath). It was fascinating to read about the creation of the dwarves and gnomes, and the bloody history of the trolls. This book, more than anything else, has recreated the WoW itch and makes me wish I were still playing the game. I constantly recognized various dungeons and dungeon bosses and reading where they came from made the lore of the game that much more rich and exciting, and I would love to create a myriad of level 1's just to experience everything all over again with this new found historical knowledge.
What also added so much to the book were the gorgeous illustrations sprinkled throughout, depicting various characters, battles, and landscapes. The only real complaint I have is that I wish there were more of them. But seeing how much detail and effort went into each one, I can understand how there can only be so many. Especially since this is the first of three books.

World of Warcraft Chronicle Volume I is an amazing addition to the Warcraft library and I cannot wait for the second volume to be published.

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

First, two disclaimers: one, I’m using this review as an opportunity to recommend the whole series, so if you haven’t already, don’t start with The Raven King, which is the newly released fourth and final book in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series – start with The Raven Boys and its two follow-ups, The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily Lily Blue. And two: I already knew I was going to love this book even before I read it. I know that might be a little overconfident, because conclusions to series can often be a let-down, but the first three books in this series are not just some of my favorite young adult books, but some of my favorite books of all time in general, so I was pretty confident this installment would be no exception (and I was right – I loved how this book wrapped up the series as a whole).

To briefly sum it up, the books follow Blue Sargeant, the daughter of a psychic, and the four “Raven Boys”, Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah (called Raven Boys because they attend a private school whose crest is a raven) she’s tentatively found herself forming a friendship with. The action follows their quest to find an underground sleeping Welsh king named Glendower, who is rumored to be buried in Virginia and who can (hopefully) stop Gansey from meeting his untimely – but maybe unavoidable – death. The search for Glendower (and all the other magical goings-on that sidetrack them) is fascinating, unique, and well-written, but what ultimately makes this book so engrossing is the characters in it. The plot is almost secondary to the five of them navigating their new-found relationships with one another in ways that are thoughtful, hilarious, and heart-wrenching, sometimes all at once. The setting, which is lush and atmospheric from page one, is almost a character itself, and leads to a whole host of new characters, powers, and foes cropping up during the series, some dreamily magical and some heartbreakingly realistic.

This series ticks every box on the list of things that make me love a book series, including:

  • Fully fleshed-out, multi-dimensional characters (who still manage to believably act like teenagers)
  • Creepy magic, ghosts, psychics, and the looming specter of imminent death
  • Co-dependent friends and found families
  • Dreamy, atmospheric writing that has a style all its own
  • Cliché-free romance

(And that’s an abbreviated list).

I already miss these characters so much that I’ve started re-reading the series from the beginning, and in the mark of truly great books, it’s just as good – if not a little better – the second time around. This is a young adult series, but I think it has appeal for adults as well. If you only try one YA series this year, I recommend this one.

Find all the installments in The Raven Cycle here at ELPL.

400 Years Since Shakespeare

Saturday, April 23rd, marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death. In his lifetime, Shakespeare wrote nearly 40 plays and more than 150 sonnets, and since his death in 1616 at the age of 52, his work has been translated into every major language in the world.

Prince

The sudden news of Prince's death has shocked us all, and as tributes to the multi-award winning musician, singer, songwriter and producer continue to spread purple across the world, we simply have to take a look back at the extraordinary contribution he made to the music industryCelebrated as one of the most unique and diverse artists of all time, Prince sold over 100 million 

Happy National Library Week!

In honor of National Library Week, we are displaying media for all ages featuring libraries and librarians. You can browse our selections in meatspace (on the shelving unit to the left of the new books) or online via our "National Library Week" community tag!

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