A Prince without a Kingdom

cover artA Prince without a Kingdom by Timothee de Fombelle translated by Sarah Ardizzone.  This is a strange and puzzling tale in which a young man named Vango, tries to unravel his mysterious past, uncover why people are trying to kill him, and figure out a way to protect those he loves.

I am not sure I would consider this 443 paged book sometime for younger teens, as the book is long (!) and the tone of the work seems “older”, more mature, like a spy novel or a novel of intrigue from the 1940s.

At times, the plot is dry and a bit drawn out, which may be due to the fact that de Fombelle’s novel has been translated from French to English, so there is definitely an “old world” feel to the story.

In the end, because of its old-fashioned flavor, I don’t believe that this is a book many youth would find terribly appealing.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12

Stitching Snow

Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis, Disney-Hyperion; Reprint edition (October 6, 2015). ISBN: 9781423185079.


Essie’s as content as one can be, living on a harsh world, earning money in cage fights to buy more parts for her drones which are far superior to any built by others. They not only keephker company, but fix the dumber ones that are used in the mines which are why the planet, Thanda. Is colonized. She’s hiding from pretty much everyone, but also from herself and who she was nine years ago when her mother was killed and she barely escaped with her own life from the ruling planet, one of four in the small solar system.

When a mysterious young man named Dane crashes his vessel not far from her home, she and a couple of her drones are first to reach the site and pull him free. She’s intrigued when he asks her to help him repair the ship, even though she’s suspicious of his story that he’s landed on Thanda to seek the most valuable treasure in the system. During the repair process, she starts experiencing feelings that are both frightening and exciting as she begins to thaw emotionally and realize that she just might like him.

When he kidnaps her and she realized he knows she’s the missing Princess Snow, things are set in motion that take them on dual journeys, one emotional, the other physical, as she begins to understand that Dane has lost as much as she has and that together, they might be able to fix the horrible mess that has become the hostility between the two factions they represent. Neither journey is easy or smooth, but reading about how Dane and Essie navigate uncharted emotional and spatial territory is extremely satisfying.

Teens who like a love story that has lots of action and intrigue mixed in will really enjoy this book.

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Filed under Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9, Science fiction

The Rest of Us Just Live Here

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, HarperTeen (October 6, 2015) . ISBN: 9780062403162

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS

the rest of us

Surviving high school is a challenge even when you’re normal and as well adjusted as a teen can be, but what happens when you feel like you’re the least important in your circle of friends? What about when your mom is an elected official running for national office, your dad is an alcoholic afterthought and you have poorly controlled OCD? Dealing with all that might be overwhelming, you think, but what if the situation was a lot crazier and scarier than even that? Suppose your town and your school are ground zero for a cosmic battle, a repeat of one that wiped out the high school less than ten years ago? Now imagine that your best friend has powers beyond anything you could explain to a stranger and is worshiped by mountain lions. Add in the possibility that the ‘indie’ kids at school are supposed to save mankind and you have quite the situation.

This is what high school senior Mickey faces. He’s in serious like with biracial friend Henna, scared that his sister Mel, who almost died (she did briefly, but was brought back to life) from an eating disorder will relapse and he’s distressed by the flare-up of his OCD. At the same time, he’s convinced that everyone tolerates him because, as he puts it, “I’m the least.”

As the craziness surrounding the possibility that zombies, ghosts and creatures affected by the ubiquitous blue lights may be about to defeat the ‘indie’ kids, teen readers will find the challenges Mickey, his sister Mel, Henna and best friend Jared are dealing with as graduation approaches are ones they can easily relate to. And the second layer of supernatural happenings is a nice counterpart to the sort of angst each of the main characters face as they begin to realize just how much life will change soon, no matter what else happens. This is a fun, quirky and emotional story about growing up and the insanity that accompanies that experience.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9, Supernatural

Red Girl, Blue Girl

Red Girl, Blue Boy by Lauren Baratz-Logsted, Bloomsbury USA Childrens (October 20, 2015) ISBN: 9781619636859. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS

red girl

Imagine a sixteen year old girl who has a split personality. Raised by her dad after her mom died of cancer when she was three, Katie got started at age four when her father first ran for political office. She’s been eyeball deep in every campaign since and now he’s running for president. Her split manifests itself thusly: She is a whiz when it comes to politics and campaign strategy, but she’s beyond clueless when it comes to acting like a teen. She has no friends at her private school, has never been kissed, or out on a date and can’t understand how to make or be a friend.

Drew, also seventeen, is the son of the female democratic presidential candidate. He grew up poor until his father invented an electronic device that made billions. However, he still chooses to go to a public high school on the bus and maintains his friendship with Sandy, a mixed race boy from his old neighborhood. He wants nothing to do with the political hoopla, but when a TV station picks up on the possible human interest angle of both candidates having teens the same age and invites Katie and Drew to appear, she does and he doesn’t, leading her to call him a wimp on live TV.

Drew may have thick skin, but when everyone at his school starts repeating her derisive comment, he gets angry and calls the station, asking to come on the show and for Katie to be there. When they meet face to face, the initial hostility starts to diminish, replaced by heaven forbid! Attraction. Right after the interview, Katie and her secret service person rescue Drew from some a pair of very eager girls who watched the show on an outside screen. When he takes her to the beach, she begins to suspect that maybe her life isn’t as great as she’s been telling herself.

What happens after that is fun and has a few surprises. The story does require a bit of suspension-of-belief. Even so, this is a fast, fun read, particularly for teens who like improbable romances with a fairly clueless heroine.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9

Emmy and Oliver

Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway, HarperTeen (June 23, 2015). ISBN: 9780062330598. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.

emmy and oliver.jpg

How do you hold onto the feeling and memory of your best friend after he’s snatched by his father when you’re in third grade and ten years pass before he reappears? During that gap, you’ve grown, your imagination has done all sorts of manipulations to your visual and emotional images and pretty much everyone who was close to Oliver or his mother has been scarred by the abduction. Emmy has dealt with it in part by learning to lie to her parents because they’ve become so overprotective that her love of surfing would be among the first casualties due to their overwhelming fear of ‘what might happen’ It’s also why she hasn’t told them about her college application to the school down the coast where she dreams of making the surfing team.

Meanwhile, Oliver has returned home after ten years, but feels like a fish out of water because his mother has remarried, he has two step-siblings and nobody seems to be able to talk to him like a normal person. It’s up to Emmy to find a way to get back inside his head and heart, because in her mind, she realizes that she never really left either. How she accomplishes this and what kind of painful evolution Oliver must go through make for a very emotional read. Teens who like emotion-filled stories with memorable characters will like this book a lot. It’s perfect for all school and public libraries.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9

The Girl In the Torch

Cover ArtThe Girl in the Torch. Written by Robert Sharenow. Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

Sarah and her mother are in the process of emmigrating to America when Sarah’s mother dies, just as they reach New York Harbor.  Sarah, now an orphan, is forced to board a boat back to her homeland, but while the boat is still in the harbor, she glimpses the Statute of Liberty, which gives her the courage to jump into the water and swim to shore.

All alone, Sarah takes temporary refuge inside the statute itself, with only her father’s scissors to protect her against the less than savory elements of the big city.

This book is nicely written, and it will appeal to children who enjoy a bit of adventure with a historical perspective.


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Filed under Fiction, Grade 4-6, Grade K-3, Historical Fiction

Everything But the Truth, an If Only Novel

Everything But the Truth, an If Only Novel by Mandy Hubbard, Bloomsbury, 2015 ISBN: 9781619636606. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.

everything but

Holly’s life has been on the low end of the financial scale until her mom’s latest job. Dad bailed early on, they struggled and she knew what pinching pennies meant in a way that most other kids her age never understood. It took several years, but now Mom has a degree and is near the end of her probation at a dream job, managing a very high class retirement home on an island in Washington State. Holly, short for Holiday, likes art, creativity and helping out the nicer residents. She saves the tips they give her for college.

When she meets Malik while on the floor trying to move a very large couch, she’s floored by how hot he is. She’s even more flabbergasted when she meets him again on the top floor and discovers his grandfather is the unhappy occupant of the ultra-fancy suite Mom has been trying to rent for months. When she’s called Lucy by Henrietta, her favorite resident who lives down the hall because she looks like the woman’s deceased granddaughter, Malik assumes that’s her name. Afraid that he’ll lose interest if he knows the truth, Holly goes along with the lie.

Unfortunately for her, the two hit it off and start spending a lot of time together. As Holly discovers the real Malik, a guy uncomfortable with his wealth and fame and starts helping him figure out how to achieve his dreams, she finds it harder and harder to tell him the truth. How that evolves, what she learns about her own dreams, as well as how she deals with the belief that she’s lost her best friend Alex, make for a fast, fun, read. The characters are appealing, the gyrations Holly has to go through to keep the ball of lies spinning are funny and it has a feel-good ending. I’ve read several books in the series and have liked them all.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9, Uncategorized


Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, Balzer & Bray, (September 15, 2015) . ISBN: 9780062327185. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS


Willowdean, AKA Willow or Dumplin’ is overweight, lives in Texas with her mom and has no clue who her father might be. She works in a fast food restaurant after school and on weekends and has a best friend, Ellen who is her complete opposite. While not completely aware of the degree, she misses and mourns her recently deceased Aunt Lucy who was greatly obese and pretty much housebound at the time of her death. Even so, Lucy was the number one Dolly Parton fan and acted as Dumplin’s support system, mainly because Mom has forever hinted about Willow’s weight and is always prattling on about some new diet.

Things might have gone on, unruffled on the surface, if moody boy Bo hadn’t started working in the fast food place, but he did the unthinkable, he started liking her and that escalated to making out after work. The problem is that Willow has been telling herself for years that she’s comfortable in her skin, but this thing with Bo kicks her self-confidence to the curb. And starts her on the mother of all self-doubt adventures.

When her mother starts to gear up as head of the annual Clover City Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant, an event she won years ago and has been managing for years, Willow’s upsets with her mom’s taking over Lucy’s room and getting rid of what’s in there, the thing with Bo and a realization that she and Ellen are drifting apart, send her into new territory. She deals with it by deciding to compete in the pageant and before you know it, three other girls, two who are also overweight and one who has been teased unmercifully about her protruding teeth, decide that they’re going to enter as well.

What happens as these four navigate the uncharted waters of a beauty queen competition, Willow’s estrangement from both her mother and best friend, what she discovers about Lucy and how she deals with Bo, make for a wild ride that is alternately funny and touching. Girls who are self-conscious, have lost a relative they were very close to, and those who like a spunky, but vulnerable heroine, will really like this book. It’s worth adding to any school or public library.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9

Every Last Word

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone, Disney-Hyperion (June 16, 2015) ISBN: 9781484705278. reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS

every last

We all obsess, it’s part of the human condition, but for Samantha McAllister, it’s an all-consuming condition. When she was eleven, she was diagnosed with Purely-Obsessional OCD, a condition that hits her with an endless stream of dark thoughts and worries she cannot shut off.

She’s hidden it well, primarily from her group of friends, the Crazy Eights. They’ve been besties since early grade school and are among the most popular sixteen year olds in her high school. It hasn’t been easy. Sam, as she would like to be called, has been on medication and seeing Sue, a psychiatrist, for five years, but still has moments when she can’t back away from really scary thoughts. She’s obsessed with number three-the odometer on her car must stop at it whenever she parks her car, she swims in lane three (she’s a really good swimmer and hopes to get a college scholarship), if she’s stressing, she scratches the back of her neck in intervals of three.

When she’s really upset by one of her friends, she hides out in the school theater where she meets Caroline. As they talk, Sam opens up, even telling her about her OCD and being in therapy. In return, Caroline tells her about dealing with depression and invites her to meet a secret group of teens who have a room under the theater called Poet’s Corner. A.J. The first person Sam meets when entering the room, is cold and distant, telling her they’ve met before, but not saying more. At first, Sam can’t make the connection, but it’s at the lunch table with the Crazy Eights when Kaitlyn, the de facto leader of the group, reminds her of what happened when they were in fifth grade with A.J.

This starts some serious soul searching on Sam’s part and she tries, with Caroline’s help, to write a poem that will reflect her remorse for what happened. It takes a while, but she’s forgiven and then the sparks begin between Sam and A.J. They’re really good for each other and she’s beginning to develop some self-confidence when she learns something so mind boggling it makes her question everything she thinks is real. The author does a stellar job of pulling readers from her melt down through to the conclusion. This is a superb story, full of emotion and a cast of characters, not all nice, but all very real.

The book is an excellent one for any type of library to ad, particularly ones where teens struggle with mental health issues.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9

Read, Recite, and Write Haiku

Read, Recite, and Write Haiku. Written by JoAnn Early Mackean.  Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

This activity-based informational book introduces young poetry fans to haiku poetry.  The series is perfect for those in the upper elementary grades.  The first chapter teaches children the differences and similarities amongst prose, drama and poetry, defines what a haiku poem is, and introduces young poets to a simple but effective five-step writing process, which could be applied to just about any writing assignment.

Readers will learn how to write various types of  haikus.

This short series gives young writers specific, clear instructions on how to read and write poetry.  The author incorporates technical vocabulary (clearly defined) and meaningful graphics with pertinent writing examples and online resources.

This book is written at a guided reading level of Q.

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Grade K-3, Nonfiction, Poetry