Book review: Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want to Survive the Cafeteria, by John Grandits, illustrated by Michael Allen Austin

Grandits, John. Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want to Survive the Cafeteria. illus. Michael Allen Austin. Clarion Books, 2017. 32 pgs. $16.99. ISBN: 978-0-544-69951-9. Gr. 1+. P8 Q8

Kyle’s mother did not have time to fix his lunch before the bus arrives. Ginny, sits close to Kyle and tries to give him the dos and don’ts of school life. When she finds out about his lunch she gasps  and tells him seven rules about how to conduct yourself in the cafeteria. Kyle breaks every rule and when he sees Ginny later on the bus he tells her about rule number 8. Rule 8: never ever listen to Ginny’s rules. Instead, enjoy your lunch. Cafeteria food is very good. The illustrations are hilarious as Kyle breaks every one of Ginny’s rules for conduct in the cafeteria. Kyle survives and eats his lunch.

Verdict: I would read this book aloud to students who are going to eating in the cafeteria. It was so much fun to read.  I know younger students will enjoy it too.

July 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.


Book review: Competing for The Cup, by Bobbi J.G. Weiss

Weiss, Bobbi J. G. Competing for The Cup. (Ride series.) Candlewick Entertainment, 2018. $7.99. ISBN 9780763698553. 267pages. Ages 12-16. P7 Q5

Based on the Nickelodeon series: Ride. In Competing for the Cup, Kit’s father is injured by falling timbers in the barn. Will and his friends put a dummy (from the first book) in a loft in the barn, causing the accident. Kit’s interest in Will continues from the first book but is threatened when she finds out that Will is to blame for her father’s accident. Someone leaves her clues on how to successfully ride her horse, TK, using sticky notes. She thinks the person is Will, but is it? Meanwhile, her friend Anya has a secret and she thinks she knows what it is. A sequel for Ride: Kit meets Covington, Book 2 in the Ride series as seen on Nickelodeon. This book can stand alone, but you will miss the past rival between Kit and Elaine along with other details that leave the book incomplete. Without the first book, some of the actions of the characters do not make sense.

Verdict: If you have watched the television series, you may be interested in the book. With the incomplete story line and lack of fully developed characters, this book is an easy read, but pointless.

April 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Secrets of Ninja School, by Deb Pilutti

Pilutti, Deb. The Secrets of Ninja School. Henry Holt & Company, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781627796491. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

Everyone has a talent. We may not learn as fast as others but when we persevere we will discover our talents. One weekend each summer children come to learn the ways of the ninja. These “saplings” as Master Willow calls them, learn how to sneak, slither, listen, pay attention and be brave. While the other saplings learn quickly, Ruby is not skillful and does not know how to find her secret skill. In the evening, when Ruby is homesick she reminisces about her family and the other saplings get homesick as well. Ruby sets out to find a way to cheer them up and, in the process, she finds her secret skills. Models helping others and, in that process, becoming brave and discovering your talents. The book includes 2 patterns for a Dragon softie, one that is sewn and one that is not sewn. Children will enjoy making the softie and then re-reading the book, with their very own softie.

Verdict: I recommend this book for libraries with elementary aged children. While everyone has talent, sometimes it takes looking outside oneself to find that talent. This book emphasizes practicing to improve a skill and bravery to continue. In the end, “Ruby kept practicing because being brave isn’t always easy.”

April 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: One True Way, by Shannon Hitchcock

Hitchcock, Shannon. One True Way. Scholastic, 2018. 213 pages. $16.99. ISBN 9781338181722. Ages 10-14. P7Q7

Allie: Seventh grader, recently lost her beloved older brother in a car accident, which threw her parents into conflict, mother moved the family from New Jersey to small town North Carolina for a new job as the town librarian leaving Allie’s father behind.

Sam: aka Samantha, tomboy, family belongs to a large evangelical church, loves sports (especially basketball) and her coach.

Two girls meet on Allie’s first day at a new school and become close friends—and possibly more than friends. But as Allie learns more about her new town, ugly rumors accuse the school coach and the English teacher of being lesbians.  To save her beloved coach from her mother’s church, Sam gives up basketball and cannot meet Allie after school. Allie talks with her mother about her feelings for Sam, but her mother reacts badly.  Fortunately for Allie, the woman minister at her church is open and supportive, but coming to grips with all her problems takes time and the stress comes between Allie and Sam.

Verdict:  Stories about young lesbians for middle grade readers are still rare, and One True Way is a welcome addition.  Although set in the South in the 1970’s, there is little mention of the major news stories of the time and the town population seems overwhelmingly white. The contrast in how different churches approached the topic of homosexuality is front and center.  Allie, as a character, copes realistically with her grief over her brother’s death and exhibits grace and maturity as she navigates coming out to herself and her parents, especially when faced with her mother’s disapproval.  Some reviews noted that this comes close to becoming a trope of the coming out story, but I think that the presence of supportive adult characters mitigates this. Highly recommended for middle to high school and public library collections.

June 2018 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: P.S. I Miss You, by Jen Petro-Roy

Petro-Roy, Jen. P.S. I Miss You. Feiwel & Friends, 2018. 313 pages. $16.99. ISBN 9781250123480. Ages 11-14. P7Q8

After Evie’s parents exile her very pregnant, rebellious older sister off to live in the country with a great-aunt, Evie copes by sending her sister letters.  As Evie’s story emerges, the letters reveal a family in grief, parents bound by strict adherence to the rules of Catholicism, and an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame.   Evie’s letters describe events at school, events at home, and the confusion of being a seventh grader.   She could use some advice from a beloved older sister, but her parents refuse to allow her to speak to Cilla.  As the year turns, Evie discovers herself growing closer to a new girlfriend and begins questioning her sexuality.  The question is, who is reading the letters?  Cilla only responds twice and the letters do not sound like Evie’s sister.

Verdict: The immediacy of learning a story by reading letters works well with this story.  Gleaning each letter for details means that the reader experiences the emotions and questioning of family secrets, shame, guilt, grief, religious belief, and sexual identity along with Evie.   Though the book brings up heavy topics, the presentation is age appropriate for middle school readers and will not only show young lesbian characters to LGBTQ+ readers, but also introduce realistic lesbian characters to those who are not questioning their own sexuality.  Highly recommended for middle and high school collections and public libraries.

Note: See also

June 2018 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: One Weirdest Weekend, by Greg Schigiel

Schigiel, Gregg (author, illustrator.) One Weirdest Weekend. (Pix, Volume 1) Image Comics, 2017.  $12.99. 128p. ISBN: 978-1534301405. Gr. 3-6. P9 Q6

What a fun book! Pix is a teenager who also happens to be a fairy princess.  Her special powers really lead to some pretty hilarious situations at her school, but she manages to keep her cool. I am really looking forward to more of these books and I think they will be really popular.

May 2018 review by NHS student.

Book review: Boy, by Blake Nelson

Nelson, Blake. Boy. Simon Pulse, 2017. $18.99. ISBN: 978-1481488136. 368p. Gr. 9-12. P8 Q7

I am a real fan of Nelson’s other book in this series, Girl, so I might be a bit prejudiced about this new book, but Boy is really a great read.  Good things about it: it’s interesting, inspirational, easy to relate to, easy to read, hard to put down.  Bad things about it: I knew what was going to happen right away and some of the characters were really unrealistic to me and at times it was preachy. Also, if you don’t like romance, this is not the book for you, because the whole thing is about a guy who develops a crush – almost to the point of stalking – a girl who moves to his school.  I loved the way the boy starts thinking about someone other than himself, though.

May 2018 review by NHS student.