What Are Leaves

What Are Leaves? by Kelley MacAulay, Crabtree Publishing Company (October 28, 2013). ISBN: 9780778712879. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.

what are leaves

This book takes young readers on a trip through the world of leaves, starting with how they emerge, how and why they are different and what purpose they serve. Each page focuses on a single topic and has a photograph or drawing to help readers understand visually what the words are trying to get across. There is a page at the back with keywords, each accompanied by a page number and illustration. Young learners will feel comfortable going through this book and have an enjoyable learning experience.

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

Courage For Beginners

Courage For Beginners by Karen Harrington, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (April 21, 2015). ISBN: 9780316210461. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


Twelve isn’t the best age to have to take over responsibility for managing your family. Then your best friend makes you promise to let him ignore you while not telling anyone so he can become popular, how much worse could life get? Meet Mysti Murphy. Her mother is agoraphobic, never leaving their house except to harvest stuff from the backyard garden and deals with her illness by painting, then repainting murals all over the interior of the house. Everyone copes until Dad climbs a tree to retrieve something her younger sister let go of and is seriously injured when a branch breaks.

Shunned by her best friend, worried that she’s becoming scared of every remote danger possibility like her mother and realizing how little food remains, Mysti faces a mountain of obstacles standing between her and any chance of feeling secure and happy. Fortunately, she acquires a new and self-reliant friend Rama Khan. With Rama’s help and the constant stories she writes in her head, Mysti is able to get through the emotional hurricane and find a new version of herself on the other side.

Younger teens will be pulled into this great story, particularly those who have, or are dealing with family stress or illness. It has a neat cast of characters and the author’s note about how this book came to be, adds insight into it and the people you read about. A great addition to both school and public libraries.

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

Engineering In Our Everyday Lives

Engineering In Our Everyday Lives by Reagan Miller, Crabtree Publishing, 2014. ISBN: 9780778700920. Reviewed b John R. Clark, MLIS.


Starting with a riddle: What does a bridge, running shoes and a roller coaster have in common?, this book uses colorful photos, along with sidebars that have facts or questions in them, to capture young readers’ attention. It covers what technology is, some terrific tools related to it, ways technology keeps people safe, how it’s constantly changing, how engineers think, how technology is both helpful and harmful, what kinds of engineers there are, some things to help readers decide if engineering is for them and where to learn more. There is a word index in the back with pronunciation and definitions of bolded words in the text. Overall it’s an engaging and decent look at engineering and technology for younger readers.

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

The Tiger Rising

Cover ArtThe Tiger Rising. Written by Kate DiCamillo.  Reviewed by Cheryl M. Coffin.

This is tale of two lonely children, both of which have been scarred by difficult life experiences.  They form a close bond and work together to release a wild tiger being kept in the woods.  The lesson of the story is that feelings are not meant to be covered over, contained with in you, any more than a wild tiger should be imprisoned in a cage.  Emotions have to be recognized and expressed.

This story would make a fantastic reading club selection, as there are so many fascinating layers to the story.  It would also be a nice addition to any classroom or school media center.


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

Cinder & Ella

Cinder & Ella by Kelly Oram, Bluefields (August 15, 2014). ISBN: 9780991457953. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


Ella Rodriguez’ dad split when she was little. She knows he lives in California and has remarried. She’s pretty content with her life even though money’s tight. She has an online blog where she posts her thoughts about movies and those who star in them. She started an online sparring match with follower who uses the name of Cinder, her favorite character from a fantasy series. The back and forth started out snarky, but it was pretty clear to both of them that they liked each others wit and opinions. Disagreement was a big part of the enjoyment for both.

Ella is on a trip to Vermont with her mom and is deciding whether or not to give Cinder her mailing address when they’re involved in a horrible accident. Her mom killed and Cinder suffers injuries that include burns over 70% of her body. She never gets to finish her reply.

Eight painful months later, Ella finds herself heading to live in California with her father, step-mother and twin step-sisters who are her age and both hot blondes. They resent her intrusion into their life. Ella, is not only miserable, but grief stricken and angry at having to be in a home where she feels like everyone really doesn’t want anything to do with her.

Meanwhile Cinder who is really actor Brian Oliver, feels lost without his online friend. When she emails him after hitting a new emotional bottom, he’s so thrilled he almost loses it. Unfortunately, she’s too frightened about how he’ll react to her burns to risk letting him find out she’s so close, but as things go from bad to worse both at home and school, her desperation breaks down her walls.

What happens after that makes for a read that’s nearly impossible to put down. Teens who like fairy tales retold in modern times as well as those who love an underdog rising to the top will delight in reading this one.

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

The Libby Garrett Intervention

The Libby Garrett Intervention by Kelly Oram, Bluefields (October 24, 2015). ISBN: 9780996638838. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


Abuse can be subtle as well as graphic. Take Libby Garrett’s addiction to Owen Jackson. She’ll lie, skip commitments and avoid responsibility whenever he asks her to hook up, but he refuses to be seen with her in public or give her any sort of validation.

When she leaves her partner Tara in the lurch at a science competition as well as making a complete fool of herself at Jo’s, the coffee shop where her best friend Avery works part time with Adam, it’s the last straw. She’s suspended from the science club and the members enlist Adam to do a twelve step style intervention on her because of her addictive behavior. He’s the perfect candidate because of his own experience with an alcoholic mother, as well as being responsible for the care of his younger sister.

What follows isn’t smooth or easy for anyone involved, but in the process of helping Libby apply the twelve steps to change her behavior, Adam has to admit how strong his feelings for her are. Libby, like most people in recovery, doesn’t have a smooth time. She relapses, but becomes stronger and far more honest as a result and both she and Adam discover they have some really important interests and goals in common.

This is an excellent story about an issue many teen girls face, particularly those with body image problems. The author doesn’t sugar coat things and the story is all the better for it. Teens struggling with self-esteem and relationship issues may find reading this very helpful. It’s a great story in addition to dealing with the issues facing both Libby and Adam. Readers will get even more enjoyment if they read The Avery Shaw Experiment first.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12

Your Breathtaking Lungs and Rocking Respiratory System

Your Breathtaking Lungs and Rocking Respiratory System, by Paul Mason, Crabtree Publishing, 2015. ISBN: 9780778721956. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


This is another really well done book in the Your Brilliant Body series. The illustrations, fascinating trivia facts and text work together to keep readers involved and create an enjoyable learning experience. Easily understood information and colorful illustrations fill every page and by the time readers finish, they will have a very good working understanding of the parts and function of their respiratory system. Definitely a worthy book for school and public libraries to own.

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Nonfiction

Your Mind-Bending Brain and Networking Nervous System

Your Mind-Bending Brain and Networking Nervous System, by Paul Mason, Crabtree Publishing, 2015. ISBN: 9780778721994. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


This is a really well done book. The illustrations and text work together to keep readers involved and together create an enjoyable learning experience. Every page is filled with fascinating, but easily understood information and colorful text balloons on most pages contain fascinating trivia or further information about what’s covered on the page. This is a great book to use when introducing brain and nervous system anatomy and function to children. Certainly a worthy book for school and public libraries to own.

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Nonfiction

I Can Write A Book About Butterflies

I Can Write A Book About Butterflies by Bobbie Kalman, Crabtree Publishinmg, 2012. ISBN: 9780778779872. Reviewed by, John R. Clark, MLIS.

I can write

This colorful, well illustrated book combines two subjects very well. It walks young readers through the differences between fiction and nonfiction books, then discusses and illustrates the parts of a book-title, copyright page, contents, glossary and index, before sharing ideas that could be incorporated into a book about butterflies (symmetry, bodies, metamorphosis, migration, involvement in pollination, etc.) This is followed by observations about different ways to write, types of text (instructional vs descriptive vs narrative) and then about how to revise a book. Overall, this is a colorful and easily understood book that will engage readers and spark young would-be authors. A good choice for school and public library collections.

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Filed under Nonfiction

Breaking Butterflies

Breaking Butterflies by M. Anjelais, Chicken House (August 26, 2014), ISBN: 9780545667661. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS


When we think of arranged marriages, what usually comes to mind are child brides in foreign countries or royalty in olden days. For Sphinx and Cadence, things were different, very much so, in fact. Their connection began when their mothers, Sarah and Leigh, met when they were seven. Leigh was the leader, Sarah the follower. As their friendship blossomed, Leigh began scripting everything that would happen to them, beginning with what they’d have as careers, that Sarah would have a girl, while she would have a boy and the two would bond, eventually marrying and provide another connected generation.

Leigh’s plan worked until it didn’t. Both married and got pregnant two months apart. Leigh had a boy, Sarah a girl and they were raised together. Like their moms, one took the lead, the other became a follower. Cadence thought up the best games and Spinx was happy to follow. Happy until the day Cadence took out a knife and sliced her face open.

Sarah’s father was furious, more at not heeding his suspicions about Cadence, raised when at age five, the boy crushed a butterfly and showed neither emotion or remorse. Leigh was devastated and hauled her son off to her house in England where her marriage soon fell apart.

Fast forward to when the kids are sixteen. Spinx has a modest social life, but has never had a boyfriend. She’s mostly content playing soccer and spending time with her girlfriends. Every morning, however, she sees the thin scar on her cheek before applying concealer and it reminds her of Cadence and her still conflicted feelings about him and what he said the day it happened.

A phone call from Leigh, who has remained friends with Sarah, starts in motion a strange journey for Spinx, one that’s both physical and emotional. Cadence has an aggressive form of leukemia and wants her to come see him before he dies. Despite her fear, she realizes that something inside is telling her she has to do this, so she and Sarah agree to come to England for one week.

Despite Cadence’s abruptness and rudeness, Spinx comes to believe that coming was the right thing to do and when it’s time to go, she convinces her mother to let her stay until Cadence dies.

What transpires as she waits for his passing, particularly in terms of her growing insight and understanding make for a compelling read. I expected this to be more of a horror story, but it’s sad and Spinx’s growing awareness of how intertwined the two of them really are is quite insightful, particularly in terms of portraying Cadence and what’s really wrong with him.

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Filed under Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9