Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary

Book CoverFatal Fever, written by Gail Jarrow, reviewed  by Cheryl Coffin.

This book tells an enthralling tale of how Typhoid Fever was contained in the early 20th century, as a result of advances in  healthcare practices and a more complete understanding of this deadly disease and how it spread in cities and towns throughout America.

Mary Malone, better known as Typhoid Mary, was both a victim and a victimizer.  In spite of being warned that she was a carrier, Mary found it unbelievable that she, from all appearances a  strong and healthy woman, could be the purveyor of such a contagious and deadly disease, and so she continude to move from family to family, earning her living as a private cook.

This informational book is a 143 pages of text and yet it is easily read, due to the larger font, well-written text and numerous photographs and inserts.  Each chapter begins with a direct quote from that time period.  Readers will be surprised to read about the more famous typhoid victims, such as Prince Albert, Abigail Adams, Louisa May Alcott, etc. The volume includes an author’s note and source notes, a comprehensive bibliography, Index, Table of Contents,  a Timeline, and valuable resources to go to “For More Information.”

~Definitely a “must have” for any library.

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Filed under Grade 10-12, Grade 4-6, Grade 7-9, Nonfiction

Fizzy’s Lunch Lab Super Supper Throwdown

Book Cover Fizzy’s Lunch Lab Super Supper Throwdown. Written by PBS Kids. Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.  This book is meant to be a funny story that teaches young children about the importance of good nutrition, health and exercise.

The book includes characters that are cartoony in appearance, with silly names like “Mixie Bot”, “Sully the Cell” and “Corporal Cup”. There are “fun” facts,  learning activities, tips on creating healthy meals, numerous recipes and some information on the various nutrients in food.

Children already familiar with this PBS series may enjoy the book, but as an objective reader, I thought it was boring. Surely, there must be better resources out there that can teach children about nutrition in a more comprehensive and engaging manner.  This book is limited in nutritional information,  and the “unifying story” of a cook-off between Professor Fizzy and Fast Food Freddy seems forced.  I was surprise that PBS Kids produced this book in conjunction with Candlewick Press, as both organizations usually create excellent educational products for children.

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Filed under Grade K-3

Pretty Minnie in Paris

Pretty Minnie in Paris by Danielle Steel. Illustrated by Kristi Valiant. Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

Steel’s picture book about Pretty Minnie, an adorable teacup-szed Chihuahua, is exactly what one might expect.  The story is set in Paris, a city renown for romance and fashion.  She belongs to Francoise and lives near the Arc de Triomphe.  She loves shoes, fashion and everything feminine. During a fashion show, Minnie becomes lost, but luckily Francoise sees Minnie, as Minnie comes down the catwalk in the arms of a lovely model.

Children who like dogs and glitter will be delighted with this book.  It is a great introduction to the city of Paris (and how the 1% live).

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Filed under Fiction, Grade K-3, Preschool

LeBron James

LeBron James. Written by Rachel Stuckey. Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin. This series of books (Superstars!) provides a short introduction to the best athletes, singers and movie stars in the world.

In this volume, the author considers LeBron James’ life, from the difficult early years to his rise to fame as a talented basketball celebrity. Written at a guided reading level of Q, young readers can learn about the people who encouraged LeBron and how the star’s personal choices, efforts and hard work, helped him to achieve his goals.

This book is full of photographs, quotes and interesting facts.  There is a brief timeline, a glossary, and a list of websites, for those who wish to learn more. This informational text is a good option for a first biography on LeBron James’ life and achievements.

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


Emu by Glaire Saxby, illustrated by Graham Byrne. Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

Children will be captivated by the digitally created illustrations of this unusual bird.  Readers will learn many interesting things, including the fact that emu fathers rear their offspring without any assistance from the mothers.  The female of the species merely lays the eggs and then abandons them to the father’s care.

The author separates out the story portion of the book by using a clear, large font.  The related facts are set in an italicized print so that it is easier for younger reader to differentiate between the two. There a brief index in back and a short addendum that provides additional facts about this amazing bird.

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Filed under Grade K-3, Nonfiction, Picture Book, Preschool

The Way to the Zoo

Book CoverThe Way to the Zoo. Written by John Burningham. Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

Just before drifting off to sleep, Sylvie sees a door she had not noticed before in the wall of her bedroom, but decides to investigate the door the next morning.   Unfortunately, Sylvie is whisked off to school and forgets all about the door until bedtime rolls around again.   This time Sylvie goes through the door and, much to her surprise, finds herself in a zoo with all kinds of animals.  She invites a different animal each night to a sleepover in her bedroom, being sure that the animal is back in the zoo before she leaves for school.  Then one day, Sylvie leaves the magic door open and when she returns home from school, all the animals are sitting in her living room.  Sylvie has to get the animals to leave and clean up the mess before her mother gets home.

This is a fun book for children.  Any child who has ever had to choose only 1-2 stuffed animals to sleep with will understand Sylvie’s dilemma.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade K-3, Picture Book, Preschool


Hexed by Michelle Krys, Delacorte Press, 2014. ISBN: 9780385743372. Reviewed by, John R. Clark, MLIS.


Indigo’s your typical high school girl-a cheerleader who is dating the captain of the football team. Bianca is her best friend and is also on the cheering squad. The only odd part of her life is her mom who is into Wicca to the point of owning a store catering to all things Wiccan. Indigo knows that her mother has a mysterious bible hidden away that she’s extremely protective of.

When Indigo starts seeing a guy in a leather coat about her age, who has an abundance of tattoos every time she turns around, she’s a bit creeped out, but those feelings are nothing compared to what’s coming. In addition to catching her boyfriend in bed with Bianca at a party she mostly misses because she’s unable to reach her mother by phone and is afraid some really evil guys who have appeared recently may have harmed Mom, Bishop, the guy in leather, informs her that she may be a witch. Her grandmother was and she has a 50% chance of becoming one on the night of her 200th moon (16 2/3 years of age in human terms). In addition to trying to wrap her head around all this, she begins to realize that Paige, her next door neighbor she’s been trying to avoid for years, due to lack of popularity on Paige’s part, is a better and more reliable friend than Bianca.

It’s Paige and Bishop who help her avoid coming apart completely after something terrible happens to her mom. All of a sudden, Indigo has to learn how to use and control her witch powers, deal with the realization she’s really attracted to Bishop and that she’s in the crosshairs of every sorcerer in the world because they believe she can unlock the spell preventing them from opening her mom’s strange bible, a book that will give them the power to kill every witch and warlock on the planet.

Teens who enjoy edgy romances with magic and a lot of action will like this book big time, but they need to be prepared for a ‘slam your fingers in the door’ abrupt ending that will have them craving the second book.

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction, Grade 10-12

How to Write a Drama

How to Write a Drama by Megan Kopp.  Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

This informational book does an excellent job of describing what a drama is and how to write one.  The author covers everything from choosing the setting, creating dynamic characters and engaging dialogue, as well as writing scenes.  This book includes two stories that can be used as writing models.

There are many colorful pictures and factual inserts.  The variety of fonts employed aid the reader in quickly identifying the desired information.

There is a short glossary, an index and a list of suggested books and websites for further reference.

This series of books offers school media centers and new educators a helpful, easy-to-use guide for teaching children about dramas and playwriting.  Therefore, this series is a good choice for the elementary classroom and/or library.

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Grade K-3

Walk on the Wild Side

cover artWalk on the Wild Side by Nicholas Oldland. Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin. Moose, bear and beaver set out on a hiking trip, each intent on being the first to reach the summit. But along the way, they learn some valuables lessons, including the importance of teamwork and the idea that sometimes the journey is as important as the end result.

This “modern” fairy tale is one that offers children a positive message through the use of engaging wildlife animals, an amusing storyline  and charming pictures.  A great gift for the young book lover in your life.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade K-3, Picture Book

Her Dark Curiosity

Her Dark Curiosity.   By Megan Shepherd.  Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

This follow-up to Madman’s Daughter is an equally satisfying tale of danger, murder and madness.  In this sequel, the author takes her protagonist, Juliet Moreau, back to streets of Victorian London.  Juliet mistakenly believes that by leaving her father’s island behind she can forget all her terrifying experiences and move forward with her life; that is until she begins to realize that there is something eerily familiar about the murders that are occurring throughout the city, and it isn’t just a coincidence that the people being murdered are those connected to her.

Megan Shepherd’s work is compelling and unpredictable.   I eagerly anticipated this sequel, hoping that it would be as good of a read as the first book, and I was not disappointed.  However, because of situations of an adult nature, I would offer this book to older teens and mature young adult audiences only.

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Filed under Fiction, Historical Fiction