Preller, James. The Courage Test. Feiwell and Friends, 2016. 212 pgs. $16.99. ISBN: 978-1-250-09391-2. Gr. 4+. P7 Q8
William Meriweather Miller, what a name–all due to his professor father who loves anything to do with the Lewis and Clark Expedition. William has plans for the summer, playing on the all-star baseball team. His mother and father are divorcing and his mother wants him to spend time with his dad. William, does not want to go on a road trip that follows the Lewis and Clark Trail, he wants to play baseball. Loaded with his essentials, phone, computer and his iPod they start out. William is on a journey of growing up and coming to terms with himself, his father and a family crisis.
Verdict: This book would be a great read aloud to students who are studying the Lewis and Clark Trail.
April 2017 review by Carol Bernardi.
Griffin, N. Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of the Missing Goop. (Smashie McPerter series, #2) Illustrated by Kate Hindley. Candlewick Press, 2016. $15.99. ISBN 9780763685355. 297 pages. Age 7-10. P6 Q7
Smashie and her best friend Dontel find out that their class is going to perform in a talent show. Smashie wants to sing, but since she does not sing well, her teacher does not want her to. In the process of creating the talent show, a jar of hair goop disappears. Smashie and Dontel decide to solve the mystery of where the hair goop went. The book takes many twists and turns. By the end of the book, Smashie and Dontel solve the mystery and the talent show is a success. The cover to the book is colorful and intriguing, which made me want to read the book. The book has black and white line drawings. The book also includes codes which are fun for readers to figure out.
Verdict: The story moved slowly, so I had a hard time staying interested in the book until the last third when the mystery was being solved. I liked the play on words, with Herr and hair. Even though it moves slowly, it would still be a good book for an elementary school library.
December 2016 review by Tami Harris.
Spratt, R.A. Friday Barnes Under Suspicion. Illustrated by Phil Gosier. (Friday Barnes series, #2) Roaring Brook Press, 2016. $13.99. ISBN 9781626722996. 279 pages. Ages 8-12. P8 Q8
This book is the second in the series Friday Barnes. Friday is an eleven-year-old girl who attends a private school. The mystery starts out with her being arrested because she is thought to be a terrorist. While at the police station, she meets a man, Malcolm, who has also been arrested. Friday is determined to prove Malcolm’s innocence. In the process of proving Malcolm’s innocence, Friday solves several mysteries. This book was first published in Australia in 2014. It has whimsical line drawings in black and white.
Verdict: The mystery is interesting and has some unexpected twists. I found the book engaging and interesting. The idea of an eleven-year-old being arrested was far-fetched, but the rest of the book was good. The author added facts about birds and other real facts into the book. I recommend this book for elementary and middle school libraries. It made me interested in reading other books in this series.
December 2016 review by Tami Harris.
Holm, Jennifer L. & Matthew Holm. Pod vs. Pod. (Squish series, #8) Random House, 2016. $6.99. 96p. ISBN 9780307983091. Ages 7-10. P9Q9
In the eighth book of the series, amoeba Squish’s best friend goes from pure joy to misery—it’s mitosis, the process that splits single-celled organisms. The book about the blobby creature includes instructions for drawing. For lovers of Babymouse and as always with this series, both fun and educational.
Fall 2016 review by Nel Ward.
Fisher, Catherine. The Hidden Coronet. (Relic Master, book 3) Dial Books, 2011. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3675-7. 414 p. Gr. 6 – 12. P6Q7
Five characters, Raffi, Solon, Galen, Marco, and Cary, go on a mission to find the hidden coronet. Along the way the five start to turn against each other because someone has slipped information to the order about their secret plans. Despite the upheaval the five are forced to work together to obtain the coronet. Why they finally find it the spy can be unmasked. A complex story that the reviewer found a little difficult to follow.
Review by student: H. M.
Fidler, Kathleen. The Boy with the Bronze Axe. Kelpies, 2012. $9.95. ISBN 978-086315-882-7. 164 p. Gr. 3 – 7. P6Q8
This book is about a small village called Skara Brae on the island of Orkney. The islanders use their stone axes with great efficiency, but one day a stranger, in a strange boat, arrives and he brings with him an axe made of bronze. The people in the Stone Age are challenged by this new technology and the novel explores their rituals, practices, and struggles.
Review by student: E. S.
Editor’s note: This story from Scottish publisher, Kelpies, is set in the neolithic Scottish village of Skara Brae and examines the effects of the change from chipped flint to bronze weapons on the villagers and their customs. Skara Brae is an actual Stone Age village that was swallowed up by sand dunes and was unearthed in the 1850’s by a ferocious storm.
Pennypacker, Sara. Pax. Il. Jon Klassen. .Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins, 2016. $16.99. 276p. ISBN 978-0-06-237701-2. Ages 9-13. P9Q8
Set in an unnamed country at war, the book shows how children pay for the injustices of adult actions as 12-year-old Peter is separated from his pet of five years, Pax the fox. Because Peter’s mother has died, his father, who volunteers for the military, takes him to live with his grandfather over 200 miles distant from their home and abandons the pet to the wild. Chapters alternate between Pax’s struggle to adapt to a strange environment and Peter’s attempt to hike back to rescue his friend despite a broken leg. Details of the sheltered animal forced into a hostile world can be very grim while Peter deals after his injury with Vola, a veteran who lives in isolation after she lost her leg in war. Throughout his relationship with Vola, Peter learns more about war and the fact that his father chose to leave him behind. Although the information that Pennypacker gives about the lives of foxes has been well researched, the relationship between fox and boy may be less so because the feral nature of foxes that keep them from being tamed. Peter’s ability to survive the long walk with a broken leg may also be somewhat less than realistic. Yet animal lovers will be entranced by the story, and Pennypacker communicates her message well. The few illustrations from classic illustrator Jon Klassen add to understanding the difficulties that boy and fox face.
May 2016 review by Nel Ward.