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.]

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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: 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 11:11 Wish, by Kim Tomsic

Tomsic, Kim. The 11:11 Wish. Katherine Tegen Books, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9780062654946. 361 pages. Ages 8-12. P7 Q8

Megan moves from Colorado, where she was a nerd at school, to Arizona. She hopes to start over at her new school and to be fun and make friends. On her first day of school, Megan is given a dare, unbeknownst to her, she is placed in the middle of the two school captains, who are rivals. Wanting to be successful at completing the dare, Megan notices a cat clock in a classroom, that reminds her of the magic clock her grandmother had. She makes a wish and also wishes for some magic. The wish starts a series of events that don’t end as she expects them to. The wishes have side effects and rules, which Megan discovers as she uses the magic. When Megan calls her grandmother for advice, she advises her to be careful with magic, but Megan feels she needs the magic to be fun and to make friends. When Megan gets tangled up in magic, her grandmother encourages her to be true to herself. I appreciate the grandmother not fixing it for her. Through it all, Megan finds a way to voice her opinions and to stand up for her friends, all without magic.  A fun engaging story with likable characters, teaching creativity, friendship, loyalty, voicing one’s opinion and honesty. With short chapters and a good pace, it kept my interest and made me wonder what was going to happen next.

Verdict: Easy read, engaging, while teaching a powerful lesson on voicing your opinion and being true to yourself. Recommended for elementary school and middle school libraries.

March 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Sink or Swim, by Steve Watkins

Watkins, Steve. Sink or Swim. Scholastic Press, 2017. ISBN 978-1-338-05790-4. $16.99. 247 pages. Ages 10+. Q8P8

A historical novel based on the true U-boat threat on the Eastern Coast and the 12 year old who served in the navy in place of his brother.  I really liked this book because of the historical facts around the German U-boat threat on the Eastern Coast of the United States.  I also liked how the author made the story plausible even though a 12 year old, who admittedly looks older, wouldn’t typically deceive the Navy.  Interesting to see the author’s perception on how something like that could have happened.  Also describes the fear and tragedies caused by war but at an appropriate level for the intended audience.

Verdict:  A great way to highlight an aspect of World War II not commonly known, and an underage fighter who helped protect our country and the rights of others.

March 2018 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Unschooled, by Allan Woodrow

Woodrow, Allan. Unschooled. Scholastic Press, 2017. ISBN 978-1-338-11688-5. $16.99. 278 pages.  Ages 9+. Q7P8

This story is set in a modern day elementary school where all the 5th grade classes compete through school spirit and unity for an undisclosed prize.  The story highlights the positives and negatives of competition and how friendship can prevail if we can find it within ourselves to own our mistakes and apologize.  I really loved how the author captured several personality types including competitive, non-competitive, sensory processing eccentricities, and possible gender confusion.  I thought several aspects of the story–pranks performed by half of the 5th graders on the other half to undermine their ability to win that day’s competition–itself were far-fetched even though the author added young adult assistance to make them more believable.  I’m sorry, but putting slime in everyone’s locker, through the slats, within an hour of devising the plan is a little unbelievable to me.  Where do you get that much slime?  Not to mention the destruction to the materials inside.  I also feel the adults in the story were dumbed down to make the story-line believable.  This detracted from the ingenuity of some of the pranks and the story itself.

Verdict: A funny, heartfelt book about the strength of true friendship and the power of the word “sorry”.  Some aspects are pretty far-fetched and detract from the story.

March 2018 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Restart, by Gordon Korman

Korman, Gordon.  Restart.  Scholastic Press, 2017.  ISBN 978-1-338-05377-7.  $16.99.  243 pages.  Ages 9-12.  Q8P8

The main character, Chase, is a middle school student who suffers a head injury which gives him amnesia.  He cannot remember a thing about himself prior to the accident.  This turns out to be a good thing since Chase wasn’t a very nice guy.  Chase wonders why some of the kids at school clearly love him and others are afraid of him.  It’s interesting to hear Chase’s thoughts regarding who loves him and who hates him.  Additionally, due to his amnesia, Chase is able to look at his father objectively and realize he does not have to become the man his father wants him to be.  I love how Mr. Gordan captures the mentality and emotions of the bully and the bullied and how he allows both to change and grow and not be defined by their previous experiences, whether they remember them or not.

Verdict:  Lots of self-discovery in this painfully accurate middle school setting.

March 2018 review by Terri Lippert.