Sunday, December 10, 2023

With or Without You

Smith, Eric. With or Without You
November 7, 2023 by Inkyard Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Both the Plazas family and the Ortiz family have had a lot of upheaval lately. Jordan Plazas is still sad that his family lost their diner and his parents have to work at other restaurants now, but he takes solace in the Philly cheesesteak food truck they still run. His plan, now that he has graduated, is to go on the road for a year. He's like to bring along Cindy Ortiz, his girlfriend, but there's a problem; the two have to keep their relationship secret. Cindy's family lost their urban farm in Boston and have set up a food truck near the Plazas', but it serves more organic, healthier fare. The two have fabricated a long standing, contentious rivalry between the two trucks that seems to bring them a lot of customers. There is some history between the families; the Ortiz's outbid the Plazas for their parking spot, and there's some thought they may have outbid Jordan's family on the truck they use as well. Cindy would like to go back to Boston, especially since her two best friends are there, but was waitlisted for her college of choice. She would like to study television production, and is so interested in reality shows that she and her friends have a podcast that discussions a reality show set in Boston. When Jordan wants to enter a food truck competition, things start to get hectic, and the family rivalry starts to heat up for real. When the families are approached to do a reality television series called Cheesesteak Wars based on the fabricated fighting, things start to get weird. Long standing grievances are unearthed, financial secrets bubble to the surface, and Jordan and Cindy realize that they might not share the same visions for the coming year. Will their relationship survive? 
Strengths: I'm always looking for young adult romances that are relatable to middle grade readers, and this is a good mix of details about running food trucks, family dynamics, and planning for a post high school future that will still appeal to readers who are not quite ready to think about leaving home. The representation of families dealing with financial difficulties is good to see, and there's a lot of vivid local flavor and descriptions of cheesesteaks. (Didn't know these were so contentious. Don't know that I've ever had one.) I know many people like the "enemies to lovers" trope, and this puts a nice twist on that. There's plenty of things going on with the competition, family finances, and plans for the coming year to keep readers turning the pages. 
Weaknesses: This wasn't that much of a romance book. There's a  nice date in a book store, but most of the time is spent arguing and worrying about the future instead of enjoying the moment. That definitely makes it Young Adult; middle grade romances are much more fun! Additionally, my complaint with many middle grade books is that we should be encouraging more needed occupations like medical and technical positions rather than journalism and cupcake baking. There are probably already enough teens who want to run food trucks and host podcasts. 
What I really think: Food trucks are starting to have quite a number of options! Middle grade books include Borba's The Midnight Brigade , Badua's The Takeout, Torres' Stef Soto, Taco Queen, and Downing's The Great Peach Experiment series. Nelson's You're Bacon Me Crazy was more middle grade, but adapted into a movie with more adult characters, and Goo's The Way You Make Me Feel has a similar feel. Next, we might need to discuss YA books with titles based on 1980s songs! 

Ms. Yingling

Saturday, December 09, 2023

No Such Thing As Perfect, Stuntboy, In-Between Time

Misako Rocks! No Such Thing As Perfect
November 7, 2023 by Feiwel Friends
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In this sequel to Bounce Back, we get to see the world through Emma's eyes. She's on the basketball team with Lilico, who came from Japan. (I need to check the print version of Bounce Back; I thought the main character was named Misako, but since I struggle with names, I might have to amend my review of that title.) She has a difficult home life because she and her mother have very similar temperments, so almost every interchange they have results in the two screaming at each other. Some of this conflict comes from the fact that Emma believes her mother likes her older sister Julia better, and pressures Emma to be more like Julia. Julia is actually a voice of reason in the household, but when she offers to watch Lexi, the adorable dog belonging to a boy she likes, Emma has another fit about that, since she hates dogs. Emma is pleased to make it on to the all star basketball team with Lilico, but has problems there are well. She starts a combative relationship with Alyssa, and the two fight on the court. Emma is used to being one of the few really good players on her team, so when everyone else is as good or better than she is, this causes her even more emotional turmoil. On the bright side, she does take to Lexi, who turns out to be her guardian spirit in the way Nicco was Lilico's magical guide in the first book. The entire all star team is affected by Emma's frequent outbursts, and don't play well because they are focusing on individual goals instead of coming together as a team. Emma has not been talking to Nala, since the two had a falling out in the first book, but the two have a bumpy road to reconnection, with Emma again disrepecting her friend on multiple occasions. When Lexi becomes ill when Emma is watching her, she has to work together with Lilico to get Lexi medical attention, and finally has a discussion that helps her to tell her mother what is bothering her. Can Emma get the help she needs to have constructive rather than destructive relationships?
Strengths: I would love to see more graphic novels with sports in them, like Dawson's Fifth Quarter or Tavares' Hoops. There is a bit of basketball in this, but most of the book is taken up with the friend drama, which is also a popular topic. The manga vibe of this one is strong, and Nala dresses in a very bold harujuku style of dress, which I have seen on a couple of girls at my school. This series definitely has a lot of tween appeal. 
Weaknesses: If I had to diagnose Emma, I would say that she falls on the Oppositional Defiant Disorder spectrum somewhere. Her mother is also absolutely horrible in her interactions. I know this happens in real life, but in books I would like to see some of the characters model good behavior. It's wearing just reading about all of Emma's tantrums, and I'm surprised that she has any friends at all. 
What I really think: Like the first book, this is absolutely overwrought, and handing it to students feels like giving them cotton candy for breakfast. The first book fell apart spectacularly after five circulations, even though I got a Follett Bound copy. I requested a replacement, so I'll see how well it circulates before ordering this. It's similar to the Chloe series by Tessier in many respects. 

Reynolds, Jason and Raul the Third (illus.) Stuntboy, In-Between Time (2)
August 29, 2023 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

After his adventures in Stuntboy, in the Meantime, Portico Reeves is back having adventures with his friends. His parents have split, which led to a lot of "frets" in his world, and he is now faced with another challenge. Since the family has moved into two separate apartments in the Skylight Gardens complex, Portico has to spend the nice with his father and Gran Gran, since his mother is away on a meditation retreat. He usually loves spending time with his father, who has the best job in the world (being a trash collector), but going to his father's apartment confirms in his mind that his family really is split up. He has saved a trash bag full of things his mother was cleaning out, and sets off to his father's apartment with it, thinking that the two will have a good time going through it together. Along the way, he has several adventures. Gran Gran has come to his new apartment to visit and test out the new couch, and Portico and Herbert are introduced to Zola's Grandpa Pepper, who has a job naming nail polish colors and is a very colorful character. There's an empty apartment on an upper floor, and the door isn't locked, so Portico and his friends brave several of the mean teens in the building to visit it. Once there, they decide to draw on the walls using markers, and really make the place feel like their own. They also help Zola's stepfather, the building superintendent (Super), deal with seventeen iguanas in Bean Bosworth's apartment. They use their super skills to capture them and turn a china cabinet into an iguana house. Eventually, Super finds out about the art in the apartment and is very angry, since he has a potential renter visiting soon. Luckily, that renter turns out to be Grandpa Pepper, who is thrilled with the amazing art. Still, Gran Gran is not happy that Portico has done this, and makes him explain himself to his mother before going to his father's apartment. His father tries to get to the root of why Portico has done this, and is somewhat understanding that Portico feels he doesn't have a place of his own since his parents have split up, but admonishes him that he still can't go and deface other people's property. 

The plot isn't really the draw in this book. Portico's adventures with his super hero persona, and all of his super hero antics and tricks, are the focus, and Raul the Third's exuberant artwork supports the frenetic quality of the text. Since Portico is not only a fan of art, but of television show, there are frequent "commercial breaks" and other asides that add to the boisterous exploits. 

The first book had much more information about Portico's anxiety, and while some of that is evident in, it is not as pervasive as it was in the first book. It helps that Herbert is an ally now, rather than an adversary, and that Portico has the steady presence of this Gran Gran and Zola, as well as his mother and father, who are not able to fight when they are not in the same apartment. 

This is definitely a book more suited to middle school students, even though the cover makes this look like an easy-to-read graphic novel. There is a surprising amount of text, making this more similar in length to Kinney's Wimpy Kid books than Pilkey's Dog Man installments. 

Readers who enjoyed the humorous frenzy of Angleberger's The Two-Headed Chicken or Barnett and Harris' The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza will love this rollicking tale of Portico and his friends making the best of their surroundings and infusing a bit of super hero magic into everyday life.

Friday, December 08, 2023

Impossible Escape: A True Story of Survival and Heroism in Nazi Europe

Sheinkin, Steve. Impossible Escape: A True Story of Survival and Heroism in Nazi Europe
August 29, 2023 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Rudi Vrba was born in Czechoslovakia in 1924, and was friends with a girl named Gerta Sidnova. As Hitler was rising to power and invaded Poland in 1939, Rudi decides it's a good time to leave. Gerta's family also debates this, but stays a bit longer, before relocating to Hungary where she learned typing and shorthand. Rudi also makes it to Hungary, but is stopped, beaten, and jailed. He escapes several times, but never makes it very far. Eventually, he ends up in Auschwitz, and because he is young and still strong, is assigned to many different jobs. Early in the war, people thought that families really were being located, but as time passes, it became clear that this was not the case. Rudi sees this first hand at Auschwitz, and knows other young men whose job it is to bury or burn corpses. It's a horrible situation, and there are many descriptions of the different abuses perpetrated by the Nazis. Rudi was fairly lucky, but was determined to escape so that he could let the world know the reality behind the Nazi propaganda. He thought very carefully about how to escape, did his research, and realized that he and his friend Alfred Wetzler would have to hide outside the first set of perimeter gates at Auschwitz for about three days, and then escape past the second set. There were other men who tried this and failed, but Rudi succeeded. He managed to make it to Slovakia and contacted the Jewish council, where he and Alfred filed the Vrba–Wetzler Report, one of the first accounts of the atrocities being committed. After the war, Vrba married Gerta, with whom he had reconnected, and became a scientist. 
Strengths: Sheinkin has done a lot of research; this read almost like a first hand account. Rudi's naive determination to escape but his fortunate ability to survive and escape again and again was an interesting progression of events I haven't seen as much in books about the Holocaust. It was contrasted nicely with Gerta's slightly more prosaic experience getting through the war. The details about the way that people were treated when they first got to the camp, the methods used for execution, and the secondary toll that this took on the people who had to work in positions surrounding this, are something I haven't seen expressed so clearly before. This is definitely a lot of information about what happened in the concentration camps, and about how the world really didn't know what exactly was going on for a while.
Weaknesses: This had many brutal moments, which makes it one that I would not hand it to sensitive 6th and 7th graders, but this allegiance to details, no matter how harrowing, makes it a great selection for 8th graders and high schoolers who have some background information and can handle it. Also, either I missed that Vrba was born Walter Rosenberg, or it wasn't mentioned as prominently in the book. I must have missed why he changed his name. 
What I really think: This might be a good choice to offer students if they werre particularly interested in  Wiesel's Night, which I know was studied for years at my school. I liked Rudi's determination to survive so that he could get out and tell the world. It also reminded me a bit of Rauch's Unlikely Warrior. 

Ms. Yingling

Thursday, December 07, 2023

Hollowthorn and Artifice

Hollowthorn takes place on the first day of Hannukah and has a lot of Jewish culture in it, so it seems like a great choice for the first day of the holiday this year. 

Josephson, Kalyn. Hollowthorn (Ravenfall #2)
October 17, 2023 by Delacorte Press
Public library copy

Anna is excited that her father Henry will be visiting when her mother, grandmother, and older twin sisters travel to Ireland. Her father is not home long before an old friend stops by with a favor. Anna and Colin embark on a quest to help Salem, who needs Henry's help to subdue a demon who is after the Tree of Life. Strange things are happening in the Hollowthorn Woods, and the Ravenfall house is not happy, especially when it is left in the care of Aunt Elaine. The group, which includes the cat/jabberwok Max, travels through a portal into the Otherworld. They need to retrieve the Myrtle Staff from the Crypt and return it to the Tree of Life before the demon Ashmedai finds them. There's a lot of running around, and fighting of various entitities while on this mission, and Colin and Anna fight a bit. The bigger issue is what is happening back home without them, as the woods encroaches on the house, which is struggling mightily. Things are not always what they seem, and while the mission goes fairly well, the reason for it becomes complicated when they learn some secrets from the past. 
Strengths: Anna's magical skills are put to good use in this adventure, and she gets to spend a little more time with her father. Colin polishes his own abilities, and learns a lot about himself. The Otherworld is an interesting setting, and there is a ton of Jewish culture and folklore in this that I just don't remember from the first book. We do get to see a little of what is happening with the house, since the chapters alternate between Anna and Colin with occasionall input from Ravenfall. A good sequel to the first book. 
Weaknesses: Not a weakness with the book, really; I just wasn't in the mood for a magical quest in the woods. I was more interested in what was going on in the house, so preferred the first book. Younger readers will not feel this way and will enjoy the adventure. 
What I really think: This is a great choice for readers who like their fictional magic to be a little dark, but want it broken up a bit by cocoa with snowflake shaped marshmallows. This felt more like McNichol's The Apprentice Witch, while the first was more murder-y. I'm curious to see how many books will be in this series; I feel like there could be one more. 

Cameron, Sharon. Artifice
November 7, 2023 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Isa's parents ran an art gallery in Amsterdam, but now that the Nazis have taken over and her mother has died, it is all she can do to take care of her father. When a tax bill comes due on the building, she sells a forged piece of art to the Nazis. One of the officers seems suspicious, and she later sees him looking at the fake address she provided. He leaves a note, and eventually contacts her. His name is Michel, and he knew her parents before, but was forced into the Nazi army by his father. He wants out, but needs Isa's help. He thinks she has ties to some resistance members, and she does, but not very useful ones. Her friend Truus is trying to smuggle Jewish babies out of danger, and Willem is helping her, but that itself is such a fraught undertaking that they don't have much to offer. Things get even more complicated after Truus kills a Nazi officer and Isa ends up taking care of a baby. Michel explains himself to Willem, and everyone tries to stay safe in the art gallery. Isa is determined to get more money for Truus' cause by selling more forgeries, and ends up contacting Van Meegeren, an artist who has been selling things to the Nazis. Isa manages to infiltrate his studio and find out a lot about his forgery technique, but she also gets caught up in a dinner party that he is having with some of the Nazi officials. She manages to get some helpful information, and when she returns to the gallery, asks for Michel's help in selling a forgery. Things go very wrong, because there are multiple copies of the same works. Her father has been struggling with a drug addiction, and there is very little time before the German deadline for the Netherlands to be "free from Jews". Will Is be able to juggle all of the people depending on her to provided safety and resources, or will she herself get caught and killed? (Slight spoiler-- there's a rather nice, happyish ending.)
Strengths: This was apparently based on the real story of Van Meegeren, as well as an effort to save Jewish babies, so that was interesting. I haven't read a lot of books involving the problems surrounding art during World War II (except for Fitzgerald's Under the Egg), but I know that there was a lot going on. There are also not as many books set in Amsterdam, with the exception of Winter's Bullet, Hidden Like Anne Frank, and Girl in the Blue Coat, so that was interesting. I am especially fond of books that talk about the Resistance, and Truus' plan to save Jewish babies was a good one. That it was funded by bilking Nazis made it that much better. There are a good amount of details about what it was like to go out into the streets of town, some about the scarcity of food, and a lot about the problems with knowing whom to trust. 
Weaknesses: This was more of a Young Adult title due to the length, introspective nature, and philosophical conundrums that Isa faces. 
What I really think: Now that our 8th grade language arts classes do not study the Holocaust (it has not been in our social studies curriculum for twenty years; having it in language arts was a vestige of long ago!), I don't need as many books about it. The ones I do need are for the readers who want descriptions of battles. I probably won't buy a copy for my library, although I might buy one for a friend who loves historical fiction like this. 

Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Hurricane Girls

Holt, Kimberly Willis. Hurricane Girls
August 29, 2023 by Christy Ottaviano Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In 2018, we meet three classmates who were all born around the time of Hurricane Katrina, in the New Orleans area. Now in middle school, they are all facing challenges of their own. Greer, a talented runner, feels responsible for the accident that has consigned her younger sister Darby to a wheelchair and has stopped running. Joya Mia's family struggles financially, but she makes the best of things. Kiki, whose father has left her mother after installing a pool at their small house, wants to encourage her friend to get back to her sport, so signs the three girls up for a relay triathlon. Kiki doesn't swim, and is sometimes uncomfortable with her weight, although she tries to embrace it. She signs up for lessons at the local Y, although her mother is concerned that she won't stick with it. Greer finds it hard to get back to running; even her favorite shoes no longer fit, and she's worried that her parents are going to get a divorce. They do finally put her into therapy, and it helps that she can talk to Dr. Lake. Joya Mia is enjoying training on the rusty old bike that she shares with the rest of the family, but when she is approached by a modeling agent, she sees modeling as a way to help her family financially, and enjoys being able to buy things she needs. As the summer rolls on, Kiki babysits and also connects with a slightly older swim instructor, Ivan, whom she thinks it cute. Greer works at her father's movie theater, and Joya Mia finds that sometimes  modeling can be boring. At one point, Kiki gives up on the idea of the triathlon, but after visiting with her father, decides that she doesn't want to be like him and give up. The three girls support each other, but will they be able to win the race?
Strengths: I remember Hurrican Katrina very vividly, and it's hard to belive that it's been 18 years! Holt likes to catch us up with her characters years later, (as she did with When Zachary Beaver Came to Town), so it makes perfect sense for her to write a book that can be read after the many middle grade stories about the hurricane Herlong's Buddy.Patrick's Finding SomeplacePhilbrick's Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of KatrinaSmith's Another Kind of Hurricane, and Woods'Saint Louis Armstrong Beach). This gives some perspective to the progress made in resuming life in New Orleans. The details about training are just enough, and I liked that the girls had fairly different lives. I especially liked that the girls didn't really fight with each other, but were able to work out their differences. I particuarly liked Kiki's grandmother, although reading about her cooking made me hungry! 
Weaknesses: There were some points in the story where I thought this might be the second book in the series, but it wasn't. I felt like I was missing the beginning of the girls' friendship, somehow. 
What I really think: I like the idea of a relay triathlon, and the one outlined in the book is similar to some of the TRY-athlons I have seen for young athletes in my area. The challenges the girls face are realistic, and while it takes some effort to overcome them, they do a great job. This is a pleasantly upbeat book that carefully captures current thought about things like body image, economic challenges, and overcoming trauma. 

Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

The Dark Lord's Daughter

Wrede, Patricia. The Dark Lord's Daughter
September 5, 2023 by Random House Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Kayla was adopted as a baby by Rikita and Michael Jones, and hasn't thought too much about her birth parents, even after her father's recent death from cancer. Her mother, Riki, has tried to keep things pretty much the same for Kayla and her younger brother Del, but it's a struggle. When the fair rolls around, the three go, and Kayla isn't too thrilled about it. She has even brought her school tablet, which she has named Macavinchy, along with her, hoping to play some games when her mother is off seeing exhibits, and it does come in handy when accessing information about the fair. When an odd guy turns up, identifying himself as "Waylan, second commander of the Dark Horse of Zaradwin" and claiming that Kayla is really Xavrielina, the daughter of the Dark Lord Xavriel, they all think he is nuts... until they find themselves transported to an odd, quasi medeival world. Not everything in their possession has something analagous in that time, so some things transmute; Riki's cell phone becomes a lavendar messenger mouse, and Macavinchy becomes a familiar in the form of a winged monkey-type animal. (Although he's sensitive about being portrayed as such). The three head off through the woods to the castle, and meet Archibald along the way. He actually hopes to become the Dark Lord himself, even though he has Light magic, but even so, Kayla allows him to come along. After they get settled in the very decrepit castle, they learn the back story; Kayla's aunts sent her to another world so that she wouldn't pose a threat to them (and exile is better than murder!), but since her father has been gone ten years, and things have deteriorated in the kingdom, they're willing to have her back. Riki isn't thrilled with a lot of this and wants to go back home, but it proves difficult for Kayla to figure out how to accomplish this. She thinks that learning magic from the castle librarian, Harkawn, might be the way to go. There are a number of people at the castle who have an interest in what happens to Kayla, but an investiture is scheduled and preparations are made. There are a lot of traditions to uphold, although Kayla feels comfortable fighting many of them, and a lot of secrets of the Dark Lord that have to be figured out before Kayla can rule the kingdom.
Strengths: I absolutely adored the fact that her mother and brother went along with her on the magical journey! This should happen a lot more in middle grade literature. There are a lot of good details about what it takes to rule a kingdom; all of the Dark Traditions are very clearly laid out, and it reminded me a bit of Terry Brooks' Magic Kingdom for Sale: Sold! Of course one has to think about the castle budget, whom to invite to the investiture, how to deal with disloyal family members; being a Dark Lady is hard, and Kayla has to meet with different people to figure out how to proceed. The best part of this was how the technology of Macavinchy translate into magic in Zaradwin, and the clever way that Kayla manages to repair the castle and remove the threats using not only Macavinchy but also the forces in the castle. There's plenty of set up here for another book; now that Kayla has settled into the castle, I'm sure that people from the kingdom will try to challenge her! 
Weaknesses: I wanted this to have a lot more action and adventure, like Dealing with Dragons. It's such a great concept, and I understand why Kayla has to spend so much time in the castle just getting ready for her reign, but it... felt a bit like a faculty meeting. A lot of details, like having clothes made for the investiture, that should have been fun but ended up being dreary. This will appeal to hard core fantasy readers who like every little detail, but I would have liked this better if we had gone straight into a quest. Some reviewers complained that the mother was too involved and a bit whiny; I didn't think that at all. It seemed perfectly reasonable to me that she made sure the castle got cleaned up and stepped in to make breakfast. If I had gotten sucked into a world that proclaimed my daughter the Dark Lady, I probably would have tried to move things along a bit more quickly. 
What I really think: This was very different from something like Dark Lord: The Early Years; it wasn't really played too much for laughs. I don't know WHY the concept of a Dark Lord should be treated in this way, but I was surprised that this didn't. Of course, Kayla was rather appalled that she would have to kill people, and earn money by pillaging, but it would have been a lot more fun if she threw herself into the role. I have a feeling that Del would, if he were given a similar chance. I'm curious to see where the next book takes us. 

Monday, December 04, 2023

MMGM- Backcountry and Tasty with Bonus Blather!

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Goebel, Jenny. Backcountry
December 5, 2023 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Emily is a good athlete, and loves playing volleyball, so when she doesn't feel well during the game, it's serious. Her father thinks she should tough it out to finish the game, and since she sees so little of him (he's a busy realtor), she goes back in. The game doesn't end well, and Emily ends up in the hospital. The diagnosis; Type 1 diabetes. She's determined to deal with the disease head on, especially since she and her father have a backcountry ski trip planned in a few weeks. Her family is lucky enough to have the resources to get her a diabetic alert dog who is already trained, and once Molly joins their family, she'll be going on the trip as well. Emily's mother is concerned, and rightly so. She makes sure to supervise the packing of emergency provisions, since Emily and her father will be skiing from cabin to cabin and be well out of range of all civilization, much less hospitals. Emily reluctantly agrees to this micromangaing, but doesn't think there will be any problems. The trip starts out well, and Emily is glad to reconnect with her father and impress him with her athleticism. The first cabin is nice, and Emily even picks up a book about a ski soldier during World War II who had to survive in the wilderness. When a storm is predicted, Emily's mother wants the two to come home, but they persist. Of course, shortly after this, in near white out conditions, Emily's father disappears. It turns out he has fallen a short distance and broken his leg badly. Emily skis ahead to the next cabin, but things start to snowball downhill. The cold interferes with phone batteries as well as diabetic testing equipment, and pretty much anything that could go wrong DOES go wrong. Emily keeps on top of her blood sugar levels, since she knows that if anything happens to her, no one can save her father. She manages to get him to a run down cabin, since the next one on their route is too far away, and gets him warm and fed. She even goes back out at night with Molly to retrieve his backpack, only to find that animals have opened it up and her extra insulin is ruined. This makes getting help even more crucial. Will Emily be able to get to civilization before she experiences a health emergency?
Strengths: Survival stories are always popular with my students (think Carter's Not If I Save You First and Durst's The Lake House). Dog books fly off the shelves. If there were any books about volleyball, those would be in great demand. This also has a worried mom, a distant dad, and an exciting cross country ski trip, so it will absolutely sell itself. The story moves along quickly. My favorite part is how Emily manages her own diabetes and is pretty smart about most of her choices-- except for the one to go on the trip! Young readers will think this is a great idea, but I am super risk averse and kept thinking "No, no, no!" at every turn. That sense of the inevitable crises makes this a real page turner. 
Weaknesses: I'm torn-- I really wanted to see more of Emily's struggles leading up to her diagnosis, and more of her volleyball playing, but that's not really what the book is about. Maybe we need a completely different book about a volleyball player, maybe even one with diabetes. THAT'S a book that would be popular. 
What I really think: This should be in hardcover. It is an excellent book with many topics my students ask for and will be popular with readers who like Terry Lynn Johnson and Rebecca Behrens' survival books. Definitely purchasing. Order extra copies of this if you are hosting a Scholastic book fair. 

Elliott, Victoria Grace. Tasty: A History of Yummy Experiments
December 5, 2023 by Random House Graphic
E ARC provided by Netgalley

If you enjoyed Yummy: A History of Desserts (and if you haven't read it, I highly recommend you do!), you will love this look at other forms of food that started out as a little bit of a surprise. The main sections are cheese, pickles, gelatin, processed foods, and sodas, and each is a HUGELY deep dive into the subject! Each chapter starts out with a map of where products were developed, and it was interesting that  not a lot of cheese was developed in North America. (Except, of course, Velveeta. Which does make an awfully good mac and cheese!) I loved the illustrations, and was impressed by the research that went into this; there's a nice bibliography at the end. 

I could have done without the sprites, but my students seem to enjoy them. There are some recipes, and I'm definitely going to have to try to make Gooey Butter Cake. Definitely will purchase a copy of this since I am such a fan of food history, but personally like the format of Kim Mill Zachmans' There's No Ham in Hamburger better. My students always prefer a graphic format. 

I did make the Gooey Butter Cake, which was just a little... weird. It was okay, but I don't think I need to make it again! 

Whew. 2023 has been something. After my daughter got married, I spent the summer dreading my class reunion. I didn't sew much. The reunion was blah and reinforced my thought that I was invisible in high school, and have remain so despite being The Most Knowledgeable Middle School Librarian in the US. Have any other school librarians read all of the fiction books in their collections? I think not. Yet, people who read a fraction of what I do (and don't review!) have tens of thousands more Twitter followers.

Planning the perfectly wonderful author visit with Tommy Greenwald and NCTE made me anxious, which was silly. We've still been having a lot of trouble getting classes covered when teachers are out, but that is getting better. I've also been battling a LOT of brain fog, for no apparently good reason. 

Since we have fewer students, I'm don't spend my days in a frantic haze of work. There are even times when I SIT DOWN. In the middle of the day! This makes me worry a bit; am I working hard enough? 

Language arts classes still visit once a week; the curriculum is solid, and students still read even though we have Advisory instead of Sustained Silent Reading. I help lots of students with homework. I've given up wearing skirts every day, since wearing dress shoes and jackets with jeans is a step above the joggers and tennis shoes the young'uns wear. 

Things are good. Steady. I'm hoping to get back up to speed this month, since I only read 36 books in November. Do some sewing over winter break and hit January with renewed vigor. It's a plan. 

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Just Lizzie

Wilfrid, Karen. Just Lizzie
November 14, 2023 by Clarion Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Lizzie's family has moved across town after a lot of unpleasantness with a neighbor (and a restraining order against him), and Lizzie is struggling with the move and with 8th grade. She misses her old neighborhood, and being close to her friends, and is also dealing with her older brother going off to college. Her best friend is Sarah Nan, but she's starting to become more and more interested in boys and kssing while Lizzie... just isn't. Lizzie also struggles with her perceptions of her body (she starts the book with running, and saying how much she hates it), relationships with teachers, and dealing with jerky classmates. She does have some positive things; she babysits younger neighbors and does have one teacher that she likes, Mrs. Faraher, although the teacher is pregnant and not as attentive as she was when Lizzie had her in 6th grade. When she needs to research something for a Capstone project, Lizzie comes across instances of asexual reproduction in the animal world and is intrigued. Is this perhaps what her sexual orientation is? She wonders again and again why she doesn't think anyone is "cute" and doesn't want to kiss anyone, boy or girl, they way her classmates do, and she can't find anyone to discuss this with. She tries to talk to Sarah Nan's mother (Daria is a free spirit who is planning a celebration of womanhood for Sarah Nan when the time is right) and her brother, who stays at college over the Thanksgiving break so he can sleep with his girlfriend. She wishes she could talk to Mrs. Faraher, but the teacher brushes off her concerns. Clearly still bothered by the thought of the neighbor who forced his way into their house trying to talk to her mother, Lizzie signs up for a self defense class. It's taught by a teacher she hasn't liked in the past, but the class is helpful. Eventually, Lizzie decides she does identify as asexual, joings the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), and even finds a classmate who identifies the same way. 
Strengths: Everybody feels awkward in middle school, but sometimes it's not as simple as not knowing what kind of shoes to wear or how to talk to other people. This is a good portrayal of how many tweens and young teens have questions that they just can't seem to get answered. Middle school friendships often fall victim to this, and it was good to see that while Lizzie and Sarah Nan were different, they still tried to stay connected. I liked the depiction of the self defense class, and well as the way the teachers were generally depicted as real human beings with good sides and bad sides. Wilfrid's prose is easy and enjoyable to read. 
Weaknesses: I don't think that Mrs. Faraher can be blamed for not completely supporting Lizzie; a large percentage of middle school students probably identify as asexual until later in their lives, so it's difficult issue to address. Lizzie does seem to really struggle with a lot of issues, and I'm a bit surprised that her parents don't have her in therapy. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who enjoyed medina's The One Who Loves You Most , Reese's Every Bird a Prince, or Gino's Rick. I don't know that I would buy this for elementary school because of several of the topics; they just wouldn't be applicable to most readers younger than 6th grade. 
 Ms. Yingling

Saturday, December 02, 2023

Cardboard Kingdom and Caturday

Sell, Chad, Fuller-Ng, Jay DeMeo, David, et. al.(contributors)
The Cardboard Kingdom #3: Snow and Sorcery
November 7, 2023 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

In this sequel to Cardboard Kingdom (2018) and Roar of the Beast (2021), the neighborhood children are back, and somehow, inexplicably, playing with cardboard in the snow. (This distracted me a LOT.) The stories seem much shorten and are more disjointed than the ones in the other books, but provide more insight into the different characters. Connie, in her robot costume, pretends to be an android when her aunt comes to visit, which seems odd at first, but soon everyone is playing along and having fun. New characters come from a nearby neighborhood and cause some problems. I have both of the other books in my library, and while they seemed to young for middle school to me, there have been a few students who are huge fans. Take a look at this newest title if this series is popular in your library. 

I try to keep the focus of this blog on middle grade books, but I also review a number of picture books for Young Adult Books Central. If you're looking for picture books for gifts, there are LOTS of great suggestions there. I usually review dog books, but now that I have spent some quality time with my daughter's cat Bella, I've tried to read more cat books as well. 

Dubois, Claude. George and Tao
September 5, 2023 by Gecko Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Copy provided by Edelweiss Plus George is a small dog who is a little apprehensive when a kitten, Tao, joins his household. After a brief period when the two check each other out, they because fast friends and have a great time playing together. One favorite game is chase, but Tao gets a bit carried away, jumps on the curtains, and falls from some height. The animals' human takes Tao away, and George is bereft. He looks for Tao in all of the normal haunts, but can't find the kitten anywhere. George waits and waits for his friend to come back home, and is very glad when the two are reunited.

This is a tiny book, just six inches square, and is absolutely adorable. I am a huge fan of charcoal and watercolor type illustrations, and the gentle colors are especially evocative when George is sitting at the doorway, waiting for Tao to come back.

There is very little text in this, which will make it a very quick read at bedtime. It would also be great for use when teaching young children word recognition and reading skills, since there's not a lot to distract them. The pictures do have just enough detail so that children can describe things on the page; I particularly like the page with the man sitting in a chair reading the newspaper while George and Tao go racing past his feet. Of course, you might have to describe the ancient artifact that is the print newspaper to a tender young reader!

There are so many good books about cats and dogs, and this is a nice combination of the two. Pair this with McMullan's As Warm as the Sun, Foreman's Cat & Dog, or Oswald's Cat and Dog.

Hokkanen, Mirka. Kitty and Cat: Opposites Attract
April 4, 2023 by Candlewick Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Like many books about opposites, the plot on this in a bit slight. Cat is large, black, and grumpy, while Kitty is small, white, and energetic. Using just the opposite words, we see that Kitty is "new" while Cat is "old", and follow Cat's rocky path to accepting his new roomate. Kitty wants to get Cat's attention, so pounces on him and causes all kinds of havoc. Eventually, Cat manages to lure Kitty to the cat door, and pushes the newcomer outside. When it starts to rain, Cat feels somewhat guilty and goes to retrieve his charge, even drying him off. This softens him a bit, and as the two are settling back in and having their dinner, "apart" becomes "together", which is much nicer.

This is a highly amusing book because of the illustrations. Just take a look at what Hokkanen is able to do with minimal lines and simple colors. Cat is grumbly and cantakerous, while Kitty is sunshine and rainbows in a blender. There's a great picture of Cat surrounded by a cloud of red yarn, and a number of (one supposes) cat nip mice in bright colors that are the center of contention.

Similar in illustration style to Leonni's A Little Book About Opposites, this has a message akin to McMullan's As Warm as the Sun. It is also a bit like Twohy's Stop. Go. Yes. No., but that has a dog and a cat. Now that my daughter has a cat, I'm working on expanding my repetoire of cat picture books, and this will be at home with titles like George and Tao, Amari and Han's Happy Cats, and Maizes and Kramer's Atticus Caticus.

Friday, December 01, 2023

November Statistics

This was a busy month, so I didn't get as much read as I would like. It's still a lot of work for just eight books to buy. 

Also, just be kind to everyone today. 

Ink Girls

Happy December! To give you an idea how my blogging process works, I'm writing this on August 7, the day of schedule pick up. School hasn't even started! December releases were VERY sparse; I think there were maybe five middle grade books being released this month. I usually try to be very organized; each day of the week has a theme, I try to review books very close to their release date, and I try to post no more than two books per day. 

Prepare for a wild and banana pants December! I've scoured the catalog for other releases, which was good, but you'll find more books than usual that were released a while ago. Hang in there. I hope to be back on track in January! 

Nijkamp, Marieke and Bi, Sylvia (Illus.). Ink Girls
November 21, 2023 by Greenwillow Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Cinzina lives in an alternate version of Renaissance Italy in a city called Siannerra, where she has been adopted by Mestra Aronne, a printer, and works as her apprentice. Aronne is dedicated to publishing the truth, even at her own peril. When she discovers that the Lord Magistrate is extorting money from people, and has proof of this, she publishes an avissi (pamphlet) about this. Since the Lord Magistrate is in charge of the city council and is the brother of the Principessa, it doesn't take long before Aronne is arrested, the shop is trashed, and Arrone is imprisoned. Cinzina manages to escape, and comes across Alena, the contessina and Principessa's daughter. There are rumors around town that Alena is odd and unfit for rule, but she is just a quiet girl who likes to read and needs a friend. She decides to help Cinzina escape after hearing her story, and the two set out across the town to find people who might have clues to help get Aronne free. This proves difficult and dangerous, but they are aided by people like Carlotta, whose father is an unnamed dignitary, and who is now a pirate because life in the upper crust palace society was boring. There are many guilds in the town, and they help protect their members, but the citizens who aren't in guilds are suffering due to the actions of the council and Principessa. Will Cinzina and her associates be able to bring attention to the fraud running rampant in the town and convince the Principessa to stand up to her brother and do what's right?
Strengths: This has a strong feminist message, and a lot of good themes of speaking up for what is right and not being silenced. There's a lot of inclusion in the artwork, and a note about the fact that Italy in the 1600s had a somewhat diverse population, including people of color and those with a variety of abilities. Cinzina is depicted with a cane. Alena's running away from the palace and getting a view of the real world is interesting, and having her inspire her mother to change is depicted in a realistic fashion; it doesn't happen right away and isn't easy. I loved the support community and the agency that characters like Carlotta seize for themselves. Reading this made me sad that someone lost my copy of Donna Jo Napoli's 2001 Daughter of Venice that had a similar feel. 
Weaknesses: This is one of those odd historical books that almost seem like fantasy because they are set in a world that never existed. While I thought the matriarchal Siannerra was fantastic, younger readers might be cofused as to whether or not this is historical fiction based on a real world. Notes at the back help. 
What I really think: I don't have much in the way of historical fiction graphic novels, so would love to see more that depict history in a more realistic way. This reminds me a bit of Larson's Compass Point South or Walsh's Red Scare, both of which have an alternate historical setting. This was a good story about empowerment of the individual and is a great choice for readers who are interested in social activism and letting their voices be heard. 

Thursday, November 30, 2023

V is for Victorine

Nesbet, Anne. V is for Victorine
November 14, 2023 by Candlewick Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In this sequel to Daring Darleen: Star of the Screen, we find our two intrepid heroines dealing with several problems, two of which financially based. Victorine, who is living with Darleen's family, who run Matchless Photoplay, the company that produced the films starring Darleen. Only Darleen's father knows “Bella Mae Goodwin's" story, but the family have taken her in without question. Everyone at Matchless has to band together to make the Fort Lee, New Jersey studio work, but with costs up, the family is considering a move to California, where many of the studios are taking advantage of the warmer Hollywood climate. This works well because there is a search for Victorine Berryman. There is a reward offered, and Vee (as Darleen calls her) finds out that this is because the family lawyer has died and his son has deemed her grandmother's will, which dictates that money be left in a safety deposit box every month, is not sustainable. With her money cut off, moving to California to make her fortune sounds like a good idea. There are plenty of connections out West, and the girls are planning on staying with the Gish family, but the train trip out is problematic. They end up going with their uncle, who gets arrested when he is accused of stealing someone else's valise. Indeed, their uncles "treasure" (which turns out to be 3D film and glasses) is mixed up with a case containing Egyptian artifacts that were stolen from a museum. Alone in California, they emulate the plucky heroines they play on screen, and get jobs at a film studio. The studio is pleased to have Darleen, who is a bit of a star, and Vee steps in as her "responsible relative" to insure that Darleen gets good treatment. Vee is also delving into writing, reading a book about it by Louella Parsons, and this leads to some opportunities at the end of the book. There are plenty of adventures to have with film dignitaries of 1915 as they try to figure out what has happened to their uncle, to get the artifacts back to their rightful place, and to carve out a new place for Matchless Photoplay. 
Strengths: This is a good sequel that has it's own excitement, although I was glad to find out more about what happened with Victorine's circumstances. My favorite part of this was the freedom that the girls had, and the way that they could portray themselves as younger or older depending on their circumstances. Ah, for the days when shorter skirts and braids made you look younger. I would be all for the dark dress, high button shoes, and lace cap of the elderly at this time! There are so many people they run into; writers, actors, and studio helpers, some of whom were working in Hollywood at this time. There is also a Black actress, the sister of a train porter they meet, who is interesting. There is a bit of discussion about The Birth of a Nation and the problems with that. I'm not sure if young readers would know anything at all about that, but it''s good historical information to know. There's a delightful overall sense of the Perils of Pauline vibe of the films at the time that made this even more enjoyable. 
Weaknesses: I could have used a few more descriptions of clothes and food of the period, but then that's my love of period details. Interior illustrations by Brett Helquist wouldn't have gone amiss, either! 
What I really think: As fond as young readers are of movies and Hollywood stars, I'm a little surprised that there aren't more books set in Hollywood. Evans's Audrey Covington Breaks the Rules  is a good choice  for a more modern book, while Wiley's The Nerviest Girl in the World  is set around the same period as this one. Rubin's The Women Who Built Hollywood 12 Trailblazers in Front of and Behind the Camera would be great to have at one's side while reading this, to double check who was real (although there is a nice note at the end of the book). I would have loved this one when I was young, and would have gone to great lengths to locate some of the photoplays on late night television, if they ever aired! With the internet, it will be a lot easier to see actors like the Gish sisters in action! 

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The Secret of the Ravens

Cacao, Joanna. The Secret of the Ravens
November 7, 2023 by Clarion Books
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Elliot and Liza live alone after their parents death and scrounge what they can from the local dump to sell in order to survive. When their freind Connor shows them a game where they can catch magical ravens, perform quests, and be rewarded with cash, this seems like a better option. They decide to move to the capital city of Kawumiti in order to have more access to the ravens, but the city is much more expensive as well as treacherous. They manage to find a place to stay, and are befriended by Seb, a member of the King's Royal Apprentices. Elliot is particularly averse to accepting any help, but when the twins go on a quest to get venom from a giant snake and Liza is poisoned, he asks Isra, a mage, for help. She sends Elliott on errands to get several ingredients, like black lillies, but those haven't been seen for a long time. Seb agrees to help if Elliott will promise to join the apprentices. Not everything is at it appears, and Isra has a troubled past. Will Elliot and Liza, with Seb's help, be able to support themselves and help find a way to make things right in the kingdom?
Strengths: While there are a lot of fantasy quest novels, there are not as many in graphic novel format. They are fighting against both an evil mage as well as an evil king, so there's plenty of action and adventure. This makes good use of the orphan trope bu showing how the two are able to use their wits and hard work in order to survive rather difficult circumstances. The author, who also illustrated Soontornvat's The Tryout, is of Filippino descent, and there is a flavor of that in the setting and characters. The characters exhibit an array of body types. There are some indications that Elliot might think Seb is cute, but it's just in passing. There are also strong messages about the treatment of the twins when they are homeless, and the imbalance of power in the kingdom. This has a surprisingly large number of details reviews on Goodreads. 
Weaknesses: I would have like to see a little more of Elliot and Liza's back story. Why are they wearing what looks to be school uniforms? How can they do spells by crushing up various flora? (Although there are notes about this at the end.) It felt like we started in the middle of their story. 
What I really think: This is a good chioce for readers who like magical quests like DasGupta's The Chaos Monster or Soontornvat's The Legend of Lotus Island. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Spell of a Time- Witches of Brooklyn

Escabasse, Sophia. Spell of a Time (Witches of Brooklyn #4)
September 5, 2023 by Random House Graphic
E ARC provided by Edelweiss plus

After Effie moves in with her aunts in Witches of Brooklyn and makes friends with Garance in What the Hex, she starts her magical training and is a little annoyed at how slowly it is going. Now that she has turned 12, however, her aunts take her to a seer who will evaluate the type of  magic that she has. This is a bit irritating, but since Effie has some powers that she can't control well, she is looking forward to some guidance. She has flourescent magic, much like Selimene and Carlota. The seer, a mermaid, knows that Effie can talk to animals, but isn't very good at it. Since she also knows that Effie has been talking to some seagulls who seem to know something about the disappearance of her sister, she loans Effie a turtle who helps her learn to modulate her communications with animals. This helps, but Effie and Garance come across some strong magical vibes with the help of the seagulls. They contact the aunts for backup, but because they are tweens, burst into an apartment on their own. They find the missing merrmaid, who is stuck in a spell created by Walter. Walter has created a time loop in order to try to get back his boyfriend, Elliott. The last time the two were happy was when Walter interacted with the mermaid, which is why she is stuck in the spell. It's difficult to unravel this, and the aunts think the best way is to send Effie and Garance back in time to the Mermaid Parade on Coney Island to try to stop the spell from ever being cast. Of course, this is filled with all sorts of problems. Will Effie's ability to harness her magic be enough to save the day? 
Strengths: The graphics are particularly fun; colorful, lots of details, and have a great feeling of place, which can be hard to capture. There are a lot of middle school students who secretly believe that they can learn magic and be witches, so Effie's experiences are a great way for them to have a glimpse into that world. The community is supportive, and her aunts are great fun. This has just the right flavor of goofy for middle school, which is a hard thing to get right. 
Weakness: Walter has one of those noses that looks like it is going to fall off his face. Very long and thin. I get so distracted by noses in graphic novels. No idea why. Also, I somehow missed book two, so feel like I didn't know enough about the mermaid community. 
What I really think: This is a fun graphic novel series that my students really like. It's a great choice for readers who like their stories with a little Steinkellner's The Okay Witch, Fern├índez's  ¡¡Manu!!, or Liu's Wingbearer. 

Monday, November 27, 2023

Over Fifty Horror Books!!!

After attending an NCTE session on "Monsters in the Middle", putting together a list of scary books seemed like a good idea. Alyssa Wishingrad has a great list of Monster Books here, so I didn't put too many books about monsters on my list. Most of these are within the last 8 years, since there are still teachers are still trotting out Lois Duncan books from the 1970s, and those... don't even smell good! This is a little of everything: creepy dolls (notes, for those with phobias), vampires, psychological horror, and lots and lots of ghosts. There's no particular rhyme or reason, but if you had money to buy a variety of fifty new horror books, this would not be a bad place to start. 

And look! I reviewed all of these, so if you hate horror, you don't even have to read them! 
  1. Alender, Katie. The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall (2015)
  2. Alexander, K.R. Darkroom (2022) and MANY other titles
  3. Arden, Katherine. Small Spaces (2018)(series)
  4. Balog, Cyn. Alone (2017)
  5. Baptiste, Tracy. The Jumbies (2015)(series)
  6. Bayon, Kalynn. The Vanquishers (2022)
  7. Bell, Alex. Frozen Charlotte (2016)*
  8. Birchall, Katy. How Not to Be A Vampire Slayer (2023)
  9. Bourne, Shakirah. Nightmare Island (2023)
  10. Cernosek, Nick. The Hiddenseek (2021)
  11. Cervantes, Angela. The Cursed Moon (2023)
  12. Cohen, Marina. Shadow Grave (2022)
  13. Coleman, Allen. Only if You Dare (2021) (stories)
  14. Condie, Ally. The Darkdeep (2018)(series)
  15. Currie, Lindsay. It Found Us (2023)
  16. Dawson, Delilah S. Mine (2021)
  17.  De Quidt, Jeremy. The Wrong Train (2017)(stories)
  18. Duga, Lindsey. The Girl in the Headlights (2021)
  19. Durst, Sarah Beth. The Lake House (2023)
  20. Ford, Mike. The Lonley Ghost (2021)
  21. Fournet, M. R. Brick Dust and Bones (2023)
  22. Hahn, Mary Downing. The Thirteenth Cat (2021)
  23. Henderson, Trevor. Scarewaves 2023)
  24. Henry, April. Girl, Forgotten (2023)
  25. Hermon, Daka. Hide and Seeker (2020)
  26. Krovatin, Christopher. Red Rover
  27. Lawrence, Lorien. Fright Watch 2020 (series)
  28. Lubar, David. Check Out the Library Weenies (2018)(series)
  29. McCall, Guadalupe Garcia. The Keeper (2022)
  30. Mott, Jody Lee. Hush-a-Bye (2021)*
  31. Night, P.J. Creepover (2023) books (series)
  32. Ocker, J.W. The Smashed Man of Dread End (2021)
  33. Okorafor, Nnedi. Ikenga (2020)
  34. Oh, Ellen. Spirit Hunters (2017)
  35. Perry, Adam. Ghosts Come Rising (2022)
  36. Poblocki, Dan. The Ghost Hunter’s Daughter (2020)
  37. Preller, James Exit 13 (2023)(series)
  38. Rissi, Anica Mrose. Hide and Don't Seek (2021)(stories)
  39. Schwab, Victoria. City of Ghosts (2018) Series
  40. Stine, R.L. Stinetinglers (2022) (stories)
  41. Stratton, Allen. The Dogs (2015)
  42. Smith, Ronald L. Where the Black Flowers Bloom (2023)
  43. Stringfellow, Lisa. A Comb of Wishes (2022)
  44. Strong, Karen. Eden's Everdark (2022)
  45. Sutherland, Joel A. Field of Screams (2020)(Series)
  46. Szpirglas, Jeff and Hughes, Steven B. (illus.) Book of Screams
  47. Walker, Angharad. The Ash House (2021)
  48. Weinberger, Justin. Zombie Season (2023)
  49. White, J.A. Nightbooks (2018)
  50. Wills, S.J. Bite Risk (2023)
  51. Young, Suzanne. What Stays Buried (2023)

* Creepy Doll Alert

Older titles

  1. Lettrick, Robert. Frenzy (2014) (Worth it for the rabid squirrel on the cover)
  2. Stroud, Jonathan. The Screaming Staircase (2013) (series)