Book review: The Caldera, by John Flanagan

Flanagan, John. The Caldera. (Brotherband Chronicles, #7) Philomel Books, 2017. $18.99. ISBN: 978-0399163586. 432p. Gr.7+. P9 Q7



Fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice series will love this latest installment in the companion series, Brotherband Chronicles. This one has pirates, Vikings, and lots of nonstop action.  There’s really nothing in this series that is objectionable, so parents should encourage their kids to read them.  They are a great way to escape!

May 2018 review by NHS student.


Book review: Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship, by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko

Latham, Irene, and Charles Waters. Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship. Illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. Carolrhoda Books, 2018. 39 pgs. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-5124-0442-5. Ages 8 -12. P7 Q8

This collection of poems encapsulates the interactions that happen between a pair of middle schoolers – a white girl and a black boy. The freestyle poems capture a variety of moments from each child’s point of view, from attending church, to dealing with other students on the bus, to incidents on the news, and dinner with the family. The poems capture the complex feelings of the children, from wanting to fit in, to different ways our parents try to protect us, and forgiving our friends for their misunderstandings as we learn to navigate the issue of race.

This collection reads more as a series of single-page journal entries than as poetry, but the dichotomies that are introduced are important. The POV approach to discussing different experiences around similar topics works well to highlight how different people have different understandings around similar topics. The illustrations are simple and the text is the central focus on each page.

VERDICT: A strong choice for discussions about race in a way that allows for personal interpretation.

May 2018 review by Sudi Stodola.

Book review: Lone Stars, by Mike Lupica

Lupica, Mike. Lone Stars. Philomel Books, 2017. 240p. $17.99.  ISBN: 978-0399172809. Gr. 7-9. P6 Q8

This book is about Clay, a young boy who overcomes his fear of playing football.  He and his friend Maddie also take time to help the coach (a former Dallas Cowboys player) cope with traumatic brain injuries he suffered while playing pro football.

Verdict: I liked this book; it’s an easy read that will appeal to anyone who is interested in sports.

April 2018 review by NHS student.

[Editor’s note: Other reviewers noted that, unlike other books by Mike Lupica, the sports action sometimes takes a back seat to emotional issues off the field. Unfortunately, the decision to have the children hide the coach’s symptoms may also hide some of the effects of cumulative brain traumas.  This new book by a well-known sports writer brings awareness to a growing problem for school and professional football programs.]

Book review: Dolls of War, by Shirley Parenteau

Parenteau, Shirley. Dolls of War. (Friendship Dolls, book 3). Candlewick Press, 2017. $16.99 ISBN 9780763690694. 310 pages. Ages 8-12. P7Q8

This historical fiction story has an intriguing plot with appeal for both boys and girls. Set in Oregon, in 1941, the book addresses the racial prejudice against the Japanese during World War II. Macy, a fifth grade student, has a special relationship, nurtured by her mother, with a Japanese Friendship Doll. The doll becomes a symbol of hatred in town. The storyline includes realistic classroom dynamics that occur when children are faced with a divisive event.

VERDICT: The historical detail of this book has much to teach; I recommend this book for both the
classroom and the library.

May 2018 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: The Eye of the North, by Sinéad O’Hart

O’Hart, Sinéad. The Eye of the North. Alfred A. Knopf, 2017. 346 pgs. $16.99. ISBN 9781101935033. Ages 8-12. P7Q7.

Emmaline grows up in a creaky old house, mainly kept company by the butler and house keeper. Her scientist parents are often away for work, but have now disappeared for real! She is put on a boat to Paris to ask a family friend for refuge, meets the stowaway boy Thing, and then the fun really begins! Criminals try to kidnap her, and she and Thing end up on a crazy adventure to the far north in an attempt to rescue Emmaline’s parents from the villainous Dr. Sigfried Bauer and his evil plan (which involves a kraken). The story is fast paced and exciting, and I enjoyed the watching Thing’s character develop. It has a bit of a steampunk quality in places, and a variety of interesting characters.

VERDICT: Middle grade readers will find this a fun adventure.

April 2018 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Another Castle: Grimoire, by Andrew Wheeler, illustrated by Pauline Ganucheau

Wheeler, Andrew.  Another Castle: Grimoire. Illustrated by Pauline Ganucheau. Oni Press, 2017. 134 pgs. $15.99. ISBN 9781620103111. Ages 11+. P8Q8.

Princess Misty of Beldora looks like a stereotypical princess in her girly pastel clothing, and everyone thinks she will marry the handsome Prince Pete and live happily ever after. But she really doesn’t want to do that. She wants to have an exciting life, and wonders why a princess can’t defend the kingdom as well as a prince (it turns out it’s a rule in Don Diego’s Book of Conduct). Evil Lord Badlug kidnaps her and takes her to the neighboring kingdom of Grimoire. Misty encounters a variety of people/ monsters who help her defeat Badlug, and in the process save the people of Grimoire and Beldora too. I enjoyed this book for the variety of its characters- there are various races, species, and sexual orientations represented, and the story is told with good humor, and the illustrations are bright, detailed and fun.

VERDICT: I think this book will be popular with our teen readers, especially those who like some humor mixed with their adventure.

April 2018 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: The Castoffs. Volume1, Mage Against the Machine, by MK Reed, Brian Smith, colorist

Reed, MK. The Castoffs. Volume 1, Mage Against the Machine. (The Castoffs, #1-4). Brian Smith, colorist. Roar, 2017. Unpaged. $12.99. ISBN 9781941302279. Ages 12+. P7Q7.

Charris, Trinh, and Ursa are apprentice mages who have been brought together on an errand to deliver a magical cure through a landscape devastated by a war twenty years before, to a nearby village. Each mage has a different magical gift and a very different personality, so of course they spend a lot of time arguing. Over the course of the story, we learn about the mage vs. machine war that ruined their world, and find that there is still a villain out there to defeat! I found the prologue very confusing- after I finished the rest of the book, I read that part again and still didn’t know how the various characters related to the main characters.

VERDICT: Graphic novel fans who enjoy stories about magic and battles will probably enjoy this book. Hopefully the material in the prologue will be explained in later books in the series.

April 2018 review by Carol Schramm.