Monday, April 23, 2018

SAINT PHILOMENE'S INFIRMARY FOR MAGICAL CREATURES, by W. Stone Cotter

The story: Chance Jeopard would never have thought digging a hole would turn out to be so dangerous--although it was actually the underground mail system leading to Saint Philomene's that really got him into trouble. When he tries to hand-deliver a lost letter, he finds out that humans are NOT welcome here--and now he's trapped in an underground dungeon with a greasy dwarf-looking guy. If only his older sister Pauline would come looking for him! (Well!?!? That's not any less likely than a hospital for magical creatures under the ground in Lubbock, Texas.)

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG; Violence PG; Sexual content G; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG; Magic & the occult PG; GLBT content G; adult themes (epidemic disease) PG; overall rating PG.

Liz's comments: This fantasy novel by first-time author Cotter has plenty of action and LOL moments. Hand it to boys who are looking for an action-packed story with magic (and who are tired of girls being the main character in all the latest fantasy novels).

MARY'S MONSTER, by Lita Judge

The story: 16-year-old Mary Godwin falls in love with Percy Shelley and risks the life of an outcast in order to be with him. This biography marries verse and a graphic novel format to present the story of their doomed love affair and her rise to fame as the author of "Frankenstein".

Liz's comments:
On-page sexual content (pictures too!), although "tasteful", render this better for HS, even though critics seem to think it's good for 7th grade and up. It's the rare MS student who would wade through this one.

HOPE NATION, edited by Rose Brock

The story: Top YA authors talk about the things that make them hope, give them inspiration, and help them move through hard times. From Atia Abawi to Jason Reynolds, James Dashner to Ally Condie (and Ally Carter), different perspectives tackle difficult topics facing today's teens...and offer hope.

June Cleaver's ratings: not applicable to non-fiction (although there's plenty of strong language in this one, so hand out an "R" rating for that).

Liz's comments: There really is something for every struggle in this compilation, from body image shaming to civil rights to GLBT issues. In general, it is appropriate for HS readers, not because MS readers wouldn't be able to understand it, but because younger readers tend to think more on a personal level and less on a societal or global scale. I'll keep it on hand in my MS library, though, and hand it to kids who are looking for encouragement about specific issues--you don't need to read the whole thing to get something out of an essay that targets your personal need. On a side note, author Rose Brock worked with the contributors to donate the proceeds from this book to favorite charities--$40,000 so far. Hopeful!

BETWEEN THE LINES, by Nikki Grimes

The story: A group of high school kids get to know each other on a completely different level through the medium of poetry. Everyone ends up in Mr. Ward's class for different reasons, but learning to use the right words helps them deal with their issues: Darrian's mom is dead, Jenesis is about to age out of foster care with nowhere to go; Tyrone's dad was innocent but got busted anyway, Freddie's mom is a drunk and Freddie is stuck taking care of both her mom and her niece, like she's the adult. Poetry helps them work through the pain--but can it take them to the next step?

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG-13; Violence PG; Sexual content PG; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG-13; Magic & the occult G; GLBT content G; adult themes (death of a parent, foster care, parental over-expectations, alcoholism, and others, yikes!) PG-13; overall rating PG-13.

Liz's comments: Word-wise, this is not a difficult book, and it will speak to a lot of different people. Recommended reading for teens looking for a ray of hope, and for kids on the affluenza end of the spectrum as well.

THE HOTEL BETWEEN, by Sean Easley

The story: Their parents disappeared years ago, and Oma takes care of Cameron and Cassie. He's worried about everything and even keeps a list of Worst Ways to Die--but when he has a chance to figure out what happened to Mom and Dad, Cam knows he has to take it...even if it means stepping into the Hotel Between. It's a place where rich travelers can take magical vacations--but where the unwary can find themselves overcome by magical mayhem. Cam doesn't know who to trust--the smiling Nico? Suspicious Rahki, or even the semi-creepy Agapios? Sucked into magical adventures as his own powers begin to show, Cam has to choose correctly, or he may never find his dad. Even worse, he may never see Cass and Oma again.

June Cleaver's ratings: Language G; Violence PG; Sexual content G; Nudity G; Substance abuse G; Magic & the occult PG; GLBT content G; adult themes (parental abandonment; death of a parent; chronic illness) PG; overall rating PG.

Liz's comments: Here's a very imaginative story by debut author Easley. Hand it to your 4th-7th grade fantasy fans, and just get ready to tell them they'll have to wait for the sequel! Cuz...it's clearly being set up for Book 2. So be warned.

LONG WAY DOWN, by Jason Reynolds


The story: Will's brother Shawn is dead, and Will knows the Rules: Don't cry. Don't snitch. DO get revenge. He's in the elevator, a gun stuffed down the back of his jeans, ready to make Riggs pay--but there are seven floors between here and the street, and at every floor, someone gets on: someone Will has known in the past, but who's dead now. Each ghost reminds Will just how it all went down, forcing him to wonder if there needs to be...a change to the rules.

June Cleaver's ratings: Language R; Violence PG-13; Sexual content PG; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG-13; Magic & the occult PG (cuz...ghosts...); GLBT content G; adult themes (gang and revenge killings) PG-13; overall rating PG-13.

Liz's comments: I keep feeling it isn't fair that someone ALWAYS does amazing work, yet here we are. It's another timely and telling story by Jason Reynolds. Dang, Jason. Don't you ever get tired of all those starred reviews? (Seriously, though...this story is eye opening, thought-provoking, and required for all libraries serving teens. Despite the "F" bomb and some other language, kids of all kinds should read this book.)

SUPERGIFTED, by Gordon Korman

The story: Noah Youkilis has escaped from the Gifted and Talented Academy and is now hanging out with the lame and the losers at Hardcastle Middle School, doing his best to make his way into a remedial class. Meanwhile, his ungifted buddy Donovan Curtis has just performed an act of heroism that should make him famous--but he's laying low, as usual. When Noah helps Donovan out by taking credit for the rescue, he's an instant superstar--and he's too smart to realize (like Donovan does) that everything is bound to come crashing down around his ears at any minute.

June Cleaver's ratings: Language: G; Violence G; Sexual content G; Nudity G; Substance abuse G; Magic & the occult G; GLBT content G; adult themes (lying) PG; overall rating G.

Liz's comments: The sequel to "Ungifted" is its worthy successor and has a bunch of LOL moments. Both are great for reluctant readers and anyone in grades 4-7 who wants to root for a likeable regular kid, or shake their heads at the cluelessness of the super-gifted. Not exactly a stand-alone, but there's enough explanation that reading book one is not a requirement.