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ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Click to search this book in our catalog The Field Guide to the North American Teenager
by Ben Philippe

School Library Journal Gr 7 Up-Seventeen-year-old Norris Kaplan has just had his world turned upside-down. When his mother has to relocate to find work in her field, Norris finds his identity as a Black, French-Canadian hockey fan challenged by his new existence in the suburbs of Austin, Texas. While on the surface this is a classic fish-out-of-water tale, there are many more layers to the story. Lots of different elements of identity are brought to bear in Norris's narration: his Haitian/immigrant heritage, racial identity, and viewpoint on American high school stereotypes. The protagonist's smart and funny demeanor will engage readers, even when he makes obviously bad decisions. Norris is particularly adept at letting his assumptions about his peers impact his ability to relate to them as individuals, either as friends or romantically. The authorial decision to have the "outsider" be the character influenced by stereotypes rather than the opposite makes for a very compelling reversal that ultimately works. The unresolved ending allows teens to revel in the messiness of high school social blunders and see the value in doing the hard work of making amends. VERDICT A witty debut with whip-smart dialogue that will find much love among fans of authors like John Green and Jason Reynolds.-Kristin Lee Anderson, Jackson County Library Services, OR © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe's debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom's new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid-school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide-style burn book. He's greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris' ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he's hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris' voice detract.Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list For Norris Kaplan, Austin, Texas location of his mother's new professor gig is the antithesis of his true home in Montreal, Canada. Gone are hockey hooligans and routinely spoken French, replaced by relentless heat and the ubiquitous orange of the UT Longhorns. Compounding these differences is the fact that Norris is a black Haitian Canadian kid stuck in cowboy country. He resolves to build a barrier of snark to keep everyone out until he can get back north, where he hopes to reunite with his estranged father. However, Norris doesn't count on falling head over heels for the devilishly mysterious, soulful, and fiery Aarti Puri. Philippe's protagonist is as acerbic as they come, tossing one-liners at breakneck speed. His repartee with other characters, especially his closest friends Liam and Maddie, is hilarious and engaging. These friendships are the most interesting aspect of the book, even over the love story, which has a few twists along the way. Readers looking for a diverse, fun, coming-of-age tale need not look any further than this fantastic debut.--Reinhardt Suarez Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

ALA Notable Books for Children
Click to search this book in our catalog A Map into the World
by Kao Kalia Yang

School Library Journal Gr 2–5—The world can be a lonely and confusing place, but with the right companionship, it can be more easily navigated. Paj Ntaub and her Hmong family move into a new house with a swing and a garden, just in time to welcome her new baby twin brothers into their home. Her family befriends the elderly couple across the street, often waving back and forth, especially when things are overwhelming inside the houses. Over the winter, the man's wife dies, and when the weather again turns warm, Paj Ntaub executes a brave and insightful plan to reach out to her grieving neighbor. Written in a simple style with lyrical phrases peppered throughout, the heartfelt narrative allows readers to appreciate the depth the child's musings. The endpapers showcase a story cloth depicting how the Hmong people came to America. Beautiful, detailed illustrations are rich in color, texture, and emotion, lifting the story off the page; an emotional ending will leave tears in the eyes of some readers. VERDICT This is an excellent addition to elementary school libraries, especially as an enhancement to selections about intergenerational love and acceptance, and immigration stories about bridging cultures.—Mary Lanni, formerly at Denver Public Library

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Horn Book A Hmong American family--mother, father, Tais Tais (grandmother), and little girl--moves into a cozy house across the street from a loving elderly couple, Bob and Ruth. The girl's twin baby brothers are born; the seasons pass; the outdoor landscape changes; and in wintertime Ruth dies. When spring comes, Bob takes his seat on the "special bench" that he and Ruth had shared; it's clear that he is grieving, and the little girl uses her skill with sidewalk chalk--and her great compassion--to brighten up his outlook and their neighborhood. Yang's story is an understated (if somewhat sentimental) snapshot of family life over the course of a quietly transformative year. The text is straightforward and spare, with touches of lyricism ("The house across the street looked empty. The gingko trees reached for the sky with their thin fingers"). Culturally specific details are naturally incorporated into the text and into the textured, delicate-lined, digitally created illustrations. A brief glossary on the copyright page explains that the protagonist's name, Paj Ntaub, is both a girl's name and the word for the traditional needlework often used to create story cloths like the one hanging on the family's wall (also shown in close-up detail on the endpapers), "which visually represent and document the experiences of the Hmong people across time, including families' journeys as refugees. (c) Copyright 2021. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus A young Hmong American girl shares the small things of wonder that make up her world.When Paj Ntaub moves into a new green house with big windows with her family, the garden grows with "tomatoes, green beans, and a watermelon as round as my mother's belly." Soon, the green house becomes their house. Paj Ntaub helps "Tais Tais hang the special story cloth about how the Hmong got to America." She exchanges waves with her neighbors Bob and Ruth, an elderly white couple even older than Tais Tais. And changing seasons usher in life and death. In gentle prose, Yang's picture-book debut explores nature, community, and connection. Twin brothers are born amid the summer bounty in the garden. On a snowy, cold morning, loss arrives, and bare gingko trees "[reach] for the sky with their thin fingers" against the new emptiness of the house across the street. When the world becomes green again, Paj Ntaub draws together these connections in a neighborly gesture of comfort. Using digital graphite, pastels, watercolor, and scanned handmade textures, Kim brings detailed dimension to the green house and the world around it. Alternating perspectives capture the expansiveness of the outside as well as the intimacy of Paj Ntaub's observations.Contemplative, curious, and kind. (Picture book. 5-9) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Yang (The Song Poet for adults), a Hmong writer making her picture book debut, offers a story about a girl who notices things. Young Paj Ntaub (both a girl’s name and a term that nods to needlework tellings of Hmong experiences) moves with her family to a green house and helps to hang their story cloth “about how the Hmong got to America” on the wall. When her twin baby brothers cry too loudly, her father takes her outside, where they wave to their elderly neighbors, Bob and Ruth. In lovingly detailed spreads, Kim, making her U.S. debut, draws all the things that Paj Ntaub sees: gingko leaves (“yellow like apricots”), winter snow, a worm. When Ruth dies in the winter, and Paj Ntaub notices Bob grieving come spring, she chalks a wealth of previously regarded details on his driveway—“a map into the world,” she explains. Though age separates them, Paj Ntaub’s accounting of everyday details reaches Bob—and gives voice to the child’s experience, too. A distinctive story that weaves together threads of family life, community and culture, the natural world, and the power of stories. Ages 7–8. (Oct.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list A year brings many changes to a Hmong girl's world. Paj Ntaub and her family move to their house in the summer, when her mother's belly is round with twins and the garden is flourishing. Across the street live Ruth and Bob, an elderly couple with whom they exchange friendly waves. The seasons change, twins are born, and Ruth dies. To comfort Bob, Paj Ntaub makes a chalk drawing on his driveway that features elements from her year and nods to the story cloth her family keeps that commemorates their journey to America. Although readers see the story cloth on the wall and at the end, what it details is never really explained, though a brief note on the copyright page describes what it is and who the Hmong people are. This is more of a relationship story, showing how Paj Ntaub engages with her brothers and grandmother and how neighboring families come together when sadness strikes. Kim's digital artwork using pastels, graphite, watercolors, and hand-scanned textures captures the warmth of family, the charm of changing seasons, and the depth of friendships.--Ilene Cooper Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Caldecott Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog The Man Who Walked Between the Towers
by Mordicai Gerstein

Publishers Weekly : This effectively spare, lyrical account chronicles Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between Manhattan's World Trade Center towers in 1974. Gerstein (What Charlie Heard) begins the book like a fairy tale, "Once there were two towers side by side. They were each a quarter of a mile high... The tallest buildings in New York City." The author casts the French aerialist and street performer as the hero: "A young man saw them rise into the sky.... He loved to walk and dance on a rope he tied between two trees." As the man makes his way across the rope from one tree to the other, the towers loom in the background. When Philippe gazes at the twin buildings, he looks "not at the towers but at the space between them.... What a wonderful place to stretch a rope; a wire on which to walk." Disguised as construction workers, he and a friend haul a 440-pound reel of cable and other materials onto the roof of the south tower. How Philippe and his pals hang the cable over the 140-feet distance is in itself a fascinating-and harrowing-story, charted in a series of vertical and horizontal ink and oil panels. An inventive foldout tracking Philippe's progress across the wire offers dizzying views of the city below; a turn of the page transforms readers' vantage point into a vertical view of the feat from street level. When police race to the top of one tower's roof, threatening arrest, Philippe moves back and forth between the towers ("As long as he stayed on the wire he was free"). Gerstein's dramatic paintings include some perspectives bound to take any reader's breath away. Truly affecting is the book's final painting of the imagined imprint of the towers, now existing "in memory"-linked by Philippe and his high wire. Ages 5-8.

Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

School Library Journal : K-Gr 6-As this story opens, French funambulist Philippe Petit is dancing across a tightrope tied between two trees to the delight of the passersby in Lower Manhattan. Gerstein places him in the middle of a balancing act, framed by the two unfinished World Trade Center towers when the idea hits: "He looked not at the towers, but at the space between them and thought, what a wonderful place to stretch a rope-." On August 7, 1974, Petit and three friends, posing as construction workers, began their evening ascent from the elevators to the remaining stairs with a 440-pound cable and equipment, prepared to carry out their clever but dangerous scheme to secure the wire. The pacing of the narrative is as masterful as the placement and quality of the oil-and-ink paintings. The interplay of a single sentence or view with a sequence of thoughts or panels builds to a riveting climax. A small, framed close-up of Petit's foot on the wire yields to two three-page foldouts of the walk. One captures his progress from above, the other from the perspective of a pedestrian. The vertiginous views paint the New York skyline in twinkling starlight and at breathtaking sunrise. Gerstein captures his subject's incredible determination, profound skill, and sheer joy. The final scene depicts transparent, cloud-filled skyscrapers, a man in their midst. With its graceful majesty and mythic overtones, this unique and uplifting book is at once a portrait of a larger-than-life individual and a memorial to the towers and the lives associated with them.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library

Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

Independent Booksellers List
Click to search this book in our catalog David and Goliath
by Malcolm Gladwell

Book list Gr. 5-8. Igus' prose poems and Wood's evocative paintings combine to give a succinct overview of African American music. A useful time line sets the social context, and brief paragraphs describe the various types of music, from African origins and slave songs through ragtime; the blues; big band, bebop, and cool jazz; gospel; rhythm and blues; and the contemporary sounds of rock, hip-hop, and rap. Igus effectively uses snippets from song lyrics to communicate both a feel for the music itself and a sense of how the various styles played to the emotions of the musicians and their fans ("From the basements to the rooftops, / I see the cool tones of modern jazz / escape the city heat"). Wood's paintings are equally suggestive. Mixing modernist and primitive styles and using color nicely to communicate musical style and tone, her art not only complements the text but vivifies it. Audience may be a problem: the supportive text is too sophisticated for younger readers to grasp themselves, and the format may alienate some older readers. Perhaps best used in a junior-high classroom with audio accompaniment, this striking book, in the hands of a creative teacher or librarian, could give kids a feeling for the majesty, creativity, and continuity of African American music. (Reviewed February 15, 1998)0892391510Bill Ott

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Kirkus The collaborators on Going Back Home (1997) return with a stunning history of African-American music. They begin 500 years ago, on the African continent, chronicle the slave trade, and document the work songs and spirituals of American slaves. The blues, ragtime, jazz, gospel, R&B, rock, funk, rap, and hip hop all come under scrutiny in free-verse poems that incorporate lyrics about and the rhythms of every style. In addition, Igus has added a brief description of each musical movement and a terrific timeline noting highlights of African-American history--both musical and more general information--which roots the whole book in a broader context. Wood's vibrant paintings are based in historical detail, and resonate with emotion. The color choices, postures of the figures, as well as the expressions on their faces, reflect various aspects of African-American music; the pictures broadcast joy, innovation, and exuberance in the face of systematic oppression. A child hidden in each scene adds a nice piece of personality for readers to interpret. Stylish and lively design pulls it all together into an absorbing, attractive package. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

New York Times Bestsellers
Click to search this book in our catalog Will
by Will Smith with Mark Manson

Kirkus One of Hollywoods biggest stars delivers a memoir of success won through endless, relentless work and self-reckoning. My imagination is my gift, and when it merges with my work ethic, I can make money rain from the heavens. So writes Smith, whose imagination is indeed a thing of wondera means of coping with fear, an abusive father with the heart of a drill instructor, and all manner of inner yearnings. The authors imagination took him from a job bagging ice in Philadelphia to initial success as a partner in the Grammy-winning rap act DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Smith was propelled into stardom thanks to the ministrations of Quincy Jones, who arranged an audition in the middle of his own birthday party, bellowing No paralysis through analysis! when Smith begged for time to prepare. The mantrawhich Jones intoned 50-odd times during the two hours it took for the Hollywood suits to draw up a contract for the hit comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Airis telling, for hidden within this memoir lies a powerful self-help book. For Smith, all of life is a challenge in which ones feelings are largely immaterial. I watched my fathers negative emotions seize control of his ample intellect and cause him over and over again to destroy beautiful parts of our family, he writes, good reason for him to sublimate negativity in the drive to get what he wantedmoney, at first, and lots of it, which got him in trouble with the IRS in the early 1990s. Smith, having developed a self-image that cast him as a coward, opines that ones best life is lived by facing up to the things that hold us back. Ive been making a conscious effort to attack all the things that Im scared of, he writes, adding, And this is scary. Its a good lesson for any aspiring creative to ponderthough it helps to have Smiths abundant talent, too.A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Newbery Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman

Publishers Weekly : Starred Review. A lavish middle-grade novel, Gaiman's first since Coraline, this gothic fantasy almost lives up to its extravagant advance billing. The opening is enthralling: There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife. Evading the murderer who kills the rest of his family, a child roughly 18 months old climbs out of his crib, bumps his bottom down a steep stairway, walks out the open door and crosses the street into the cemetery opposite, where ghosts take him in. What mystery/horror/suspense reader could stop here, especially with Gaiman's talent for storytelling? The author riffs on the Jungle Book, folklore, nursery rhymes and history; he tosses in werewolves and hints at vampires—and he makes these figures seem like metaphors for transitions in childhood and youth. As the boy, called Nobody or Bod, grows up, the killer still stalking him, there are slack moments and some repetition—not enough to spoil a reader's pleasure, but noticeable all the same. When the chilling moments do come, they are as genuinely frightening as only Gaiman can make them, and redeem any shortcomings. Ages 10–up. (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

School Library Journal : Gr 5–8—Somewhere in contemporary Britain, "the man Jack" uses his razor-sharp knife to murder a family, but the youngest, a toddler, slips away. The boy ends up in a graveyard, where the ghostly inhabitants adopt him to keep him safe. Nobody Owens, so named because he "looks like nobody but himself," grows up among a multigenerational cast of characters from different historical periods that includes matronly Mistress Owens; ancient Roman Caius Pompeius; an opinionated young witch; a melodramatic hack poet; and Bod's beloved mentor and guardian, Silas, who is neither living nor dead and has secrets of his own. As he grows up, Bod has a series of adventures, both in and out of the graveyard, and the threat of the man Jack who continues to hunt for him is ever present. Bod's love for his graveyard family and vice versa provide the emotional center, amid suspense, spot-on humor, and delightful scene-setting. The child Bod's behavior is occasionally too precocious to be believed, and a series of puns on the name Jack render the villain a bit less frightening than he should be, though only momentarily. Aside from these small flaws, however, Gaiman has created a rich, surprising, and sometimes disturbing tale of dreams, ghouls, murderers, trickery, and family.—Megan Honig, New York Public Library

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

Oprah's Book Club
Click to search this book in our catalog The Best Way to Play
by Bill Cosby

School Library Journal : K-Gr 3--Cosby turns his hand to writing, telling stories about situations that children often face. In The Best Way to Play, Little Bill, the narrator, and his friends get caught up in the excitement and marketing of their favorite TV cartoon, Space Explorers, and desperately want their parents to buy them the expensive video game. They become bored with it quickly, however, and realize that it's more fun to play Space Explorers outside. In The Meanest Thing to Say, Little Bill comes face to face with a bully. The Treasure Hunt takes him on a voyage of self-exploration. It seems to him that everyone in his family has a special quality. After a full day of searching, he discovers that his is "telling stories and making people laugh." These titles feature short chapters, making them appropriate for beginning readers--but they're also short enough to be read aloud. Honeywood's illustrations are bright and eye-catching, and show Little Bill and his friends and family as having distinctive personalities and characteristics. Each book comes with a letter to parents from a child psychiatrist about the subject matter in that book. While the writing is nothing extraordinary, Cosby has a good grasp of the issues and how the world looks through children's eyes. The primarily African-American characters also make these books welcome additions to easy-reader collections.

Dina Sherman, Brooklyn Children's Museum, NY Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

Rebecca Caudill Awards
Click to search this book in our catalog Eragon
by Christopher Paolini

Publishers Weekly: In the first volume in Paolini's planned Inheritance trilogy, 15-year-old Eragon discovers an odd blue gemstone while exploring an infamous stretch of forest. It is a dragon egg, fated to hatch in his care. Eragon quickly develops a psychic connection with the female dragon that emerges, whom he names Saphira ("His emotions were completely open to her mind, and she understood him better than anyone else"). Eragon narrowly escapes doom with Saphira's help, but the uncle who raised him is killed, setting up a robust revenge/adventure tale. The scope quickly expands: Eragon turns out to be the first of a new generation of Riders, a lodge of legendary dragon-riding warriors killed by the evil King Galbatorix. As a result, he becomes the focal point in a war between Galbatorix's forces and the resistance efforts of the Varden. Paolini, who was 15 years old himself when he began this book, takes the near-archetypes of fantasy fiction and makes them fresh and enjoyable, chiefly through a crisp narrative and a likable hero. He carries a substantial Tolkien influence-fanciful spellings of geographical names, the use of landscape as character, as well as the scale and structure of the story itself. But his use of language dispenses with the floral, pastoral touch in favor of more direct prose. The likeness does not end there: the volume opens with a detailed map of Paolini's world, and ends with a glossary and pronunciation guide for his invented language. An auspicious beginning to both career and series. Ages 12-up.

Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

School Library Journal: Gr 5 Up-Eragon, 15, is hunting for wild game when he witnesses a mysterious explosion. At the center of the blast radius he finds a polished blue stone marked with white veins. Brom, the village storyteller, has shown interest in it, so it is to him that Eragon turns when it starts squeaking, then wobbling, and then hatches into a majestic sapphire blue dragon. His decision to keep and raise Saphira starts him on an epic journey of Tolkienesque proportions that is only partially told in the 500 pages of this book. Eragon learns that the Empire's cruel and oppressive king will stop at nothing to get Eragon and Saphira to serve him. Training and traveling with Brom, the teen and dragon learn to work together in war and peace, using a combination of traditional fighting arts and magic. They encounter massive humanoid warriors with savage intentions and are befriended by Murtagh, a human warrior with mysterious ties to the Varden and the Empire. Eventually, they seek refuge with dwarves who harbor the Varden, who exist to free the Empire. Eragon does not approach the depth, uniqueness, or mastery of J. R. R. Tolkien's works, and sometimes the magic solutions are just too convenient for getting out of difficult situations. However, the empathetic characters and interesting plot twists will appeal to the legions of readers who have been captivated by the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and are looking for more books like it.-Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA

Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

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