Category Archives: Articles

Heroes, Villains and More: New Books for Older Readers

greenglassGreenglass House by Kate Milford, illustrations by Jaime Zollars
Milo has looked forward to a promised quiet winter holiday at the cliffside hotel where he lives with his parents. But on a snowy night, the bell rings and a guest arrives. Then another, and another, until five strangers have shown up and seem suspiciously connected – to each other and to the history of Greenglass House. When mementos start disappearing, Milo and his new friend Meddy invent a role-playing game to help them solve the mysteries. In the vein of Agatha Christie or The Westing Game, this book’s twists and turns keep you guessing. (ages 10-14)

minionMinion by John David Anderson
In this companion novel to Sidekicked, Michael lives in a town without a superhero, one that’s run more by organized crime families than anything. His adoptive dad builds mysterious boxes that he sells to the mob to support himself and Michael. But Michael’s no bad guy, though he does have a particular ability to make people do what he says. When a mysterious blue superhero streaks into town and upsets the mob’s doings, Michael and his dad are thrown in and have to make some serious decisions. This is a gripping story that shows how regular – and not so regular – people can get caught up in the grander stories of heroes and villains. (ages 10-14)

Aviary-Wonders-cover-300Aviary Wonders Inc.: Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth
It’s the mid-21st century and of course you want to build your own bird. This catalog is just what you need! They have been renewing the world’s bird supply since 2031. Perhaps you’d like a wader or a percher, or one of the new flightless models? Then choose a beak – you can get a second, decorative beak for 25 percent off – a tail, wings, legs, and feet. Be sure your bird’s proportions are balanced! This weird and wonderful book is full of beautiful and brightly colored illustrations, laid out just like a catalog. Facts about extinct birds, wingspan ratio, and other avian tidbits pepper the pages. Don’t miss the Troubleshooting section at the end – is your bird depressed? Does it need a crest to soften its look? Try the Granny Warhol or the Rockette. Allow 12-16 weeks for delivery. Winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize for Young People’s Literature. (ages 9-14)

eldeafoEl Deafo by Cece Bell
In this autobiographical graphic novel, author and artist Cece Bell describes what it was like for her growing up deaf. She had to wear a large and conspicuous hearing aid to school, and she was profoundly embarrassed by it. However she soon realized she could hear the teacher even when she was out of the classroom – in the teacher’s lounge gossipping and even in the bathroom. Cece began to think of herself as El Deafo, with super hearing powers! The adorable bunny-like drawings make this an accessible book for a wide range of ages, and the feeling of wanting to fit in rings true for so many kids. This is an outstanding, heartfelt, and funny read. (ages 7-12)

-Lauren

Imagine It and Create It: New Books for Younger Readers

buddyandbunnies_coverBuddy and the Bunnies in Don’t Play with your Food by Bob Shea
From the creator of Dinosaur vs. Bedtime comes another irresistible book that is destined to be a story time favorite. Buddy the monster sees some tasty bunnies and decides that he must have them for his dinner, but they offer him freshly baked cupcakes instead. The bunnies fill Buddy’s tummy with yummy cupcakes, but he threatens to come back the next day when he is hungry again. The bunnies continue to trick Buddy out of eating them day after day until he realizes that he has been playing with his food! These bunnies are better as friends, not dinner. A hilarious monster, adorable bunnies, and fantastic illustrations…what’s not to love? (ages 4-8)

zoes jungleZoe’s Jungle by Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Zoe and Addie are back in this newest edition to the Zoe series, as the two sisters’ ordinary trip to the park turns into an exciting jungle adventure. Zoe imagines that she is an explorer and her sister Addie is a wild beast in their game of hide and seek. She must forge her way through the jungle tracking the elusive Addiebeast before she escapes. Their mother has given them five minutes, will it be enough time to capture the Addiebeast? The illustrations switch back and forth between the playground and the jungle showing how children easily slip from reality into fantasy. Zoe’s Jungle celebrates imaginative play and the bond between two sisters. (ages 3-6)

magnificentThe Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
A little girl who loves to make things has a new design that is perfect… in her head. After hiring an assistant and gathering her supplies, she hammers, glues, tinkers, adjusts, and measures, but her magnificent thing just won’t turn out right. Luckily for her she has a clever assistant who knows just when it is time for a break. After clearing her head with a nice walk the little girl is able to come back to her project with fresh energy. She realizes that by combining the right parts from some of her failed creations she is able to create the most magnificent thing! Children will relate to the protagonist’s growing frustration and hopefully learn that it is okay to make mistakes. This is a great book for encouraging a child to never give up!

foundFound by Salina Yoon
Bear loves the stuffed bunny he finds in the woods but he knows that it must belong to someone else. He tries to be responsible by making a Found poster for the bunny and putting up copies everywhere while secretly wishing that he could keep his new friend. After a long time of looking for the bunny’s owner, Bear is walking through the woods with the bunny when Moose stops him with a shout, “Floppy, my bunny!” To Bear’s delight, Moose realizes that he no longer needs his bunny and gives him back to Bear to keep. Found is a touching story about the importance of doing the right thing even when you don’t want to. The sweet characters, brightly colored illustrations, and simple story line make this a great choice for little ones that are ready for their first picture book. (ages 3-6)

-Sarah Beth

Far Far Away: International Fiction for Tweens

There are so many people in this world, so many lives buzzing differently and alike to ours. How do young people get to know about the different lives, struggles, and feelings of people in other countries? One engaging way is through well-researched tween fiction. Fiction based in compassion and fact can bring the reader inside the mind and heart of a person far away. This increases empathy, spreads awareness, and helps battle ignorance. Authors who do an outstanding job often conduct interviews, travel, spend time with people, and research archives and personal accounts. They do their best to convey true emotions and believable characters in the real circumstances that form the foundation for their stories. Let’s take a look at a few examples of excellent novels for younger readers about different cultures:

redpencilcvrThe Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Amira’s parents love to tell the story of when Amira was born. Her Muma was picking okra when Amira was ready to come out, and rushed home to deliver both okra and Amira! Now Amira is twelve, and in her village in Darfur this means she is ready to wear a toob and take on more responsibility with the livestock. What she really loves to do is draw in the sand and look up at Allah’s stars with her family, but when the Janjaweed militia brings tragedy and violence, Amira finds herself alive but barely intact. Amira will lose her voice, and it will take a red pencil to help her claim it again. Like many victims of this conflict, Amira witnessed traumatizing events and was forced to relocate to a refugee camp, where conditions were safer but still dire. Written in verse to show the healing effects of creativity, this is a story about the tragedy of war and the hope that still burns.

Brown Skila 2014 CaminarCaminar by Skila Brown
In his small Guatemalan village, Carlos is almost a man, but not quite. When government militia pass through his village and cast a violently suspicious eye on anyone who might be a Communist, Carlos wants to protect his village from any more intruders. But his mom will protect him one last time by sending Carlos out to the fields before their village gets slaughtered. Carlos the survivor is twelve, all alone, and starving when he encounters a small group of rebels. He doesn’t know which side he is on in this battle, but he does know that he needs to get to his grandmother in the mountains. As he navigates his guilt and his doubts, Carlos will travel with these rebels, and discover the man he is to become. Written in verse, Caminar is a novel that is based on real events that happened in Guatemala. It will teach readers about the world Carlos inhabits, a world that is intimate, traditional, close to the land, but also insecurely caught in a crossfire. This is a coming- of-age story that many kids will be able to relate to, even if their lives are vastly different.

Million-Shades-of-GreyA Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata
Thirteen-year old Y’Tin has grown up aware of war. In his small Dega village in South Vietnam, he is known for being an acute tracker, just like his father, who is a member of the United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races. But Y’Tin doesn’t want to be involved — he wants to train elephants. When North Vietnamese soldiers invade, burning villages and executing people, Y’Tin’s whole world shatters beyond belief. He will escape a prisoner camp, encounter betrayals, and ultimately learn that war has its own set of irrational rules. In spite of it all, Y’Tin will hold on to his dreams, and be there for his elephant. Y’Tin’s character is mesmerizing because he knows himself well and is honest. Because of this, readers will respect his bravery and his anguish. Kadohata does an excellent job of portraying the initial traumas of war and the long lasting effects. Y’Tin sees his outside world destroyed and violated, and also experiences a change of heart towards friends and old perceptions.

book.Serafinas-PromiseSerafina’s Promise by Ann Burg
Serafina has a passion for healing others, but life in a village in Haiti isn’t easy. Her anxious mother needs her to help with chores, and she makes sure Serafina knows it. When Serafina’s baby brother dies from impoverished circumstances, Serafina promises him she will become a doctor. She convinces her family to let her go to school, with extra money they earn from selling produce. But when floods and the catastrophic earthquake wreak havoc on Serafina’s life and country, she will have to find her family and her lost dreams among the rubble. This novel in verse poetically tells Serafina’s story of natural disaster, poverty, and tragedy. It also shows the beauty of Serafina’s hopeful character, a healing archetype who perseveres with optimism. Readers will learn about poor rural life in Haiti, the 2010 earthquake, and also about Haiti’s past of slavery and becoming the first free black country.

-Courtney

October Programming Wrap-up

It’s hard to believe that October is almost over. We’ve been busy in the Children’s Room offering programs for kids 2 through 13! If you’re wondering why we tend to pack so much in October, it’s because it’s a long month with no school vacations. March is the same way so we plan many of our program series during those two months.

This was our October line-up:

Boogie with Emily Bonn
DSCN2974
Emily got the toddlers and their caregivers moving, singing and dancing in this four-week music series for ages 2 to 5. The kids loved to move with the scarves and the shakers and learned many new songs and sang some of their old favorites like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. We plan to do another music series for toddlers in March.

Stories and Science for Kindergartners
DSCN2941
Twenty-five kindergartners joined us on Thursdays for four weeks and learned about a different science topic each week. These junior scientists (mostly girls this time!) learned about color, engineering, plant-life, and body science and did hands-on science experiments to help understand these concepts. They also learned scientific skills such as observation, trial and error, and were encouraged to ask questions. We’ll do this series again in March with a whole new line-up of STEM-related-topics and experiments.

Picture Books & More: Jeepers Creepers
263Jeepers Creepers is right! Two groups of 30 first and second graders came to the Creekside Room on four Tuesdays or Wednesdays this month. They heard some spooky tales, created cool crafts, and ate deliciously creepy snacks. Picture Books & More is one of our tried and true programs. It fills quickly each Fall and Spring. Watch for flyers in February for our next Picture Books & More series that will begin in early March.

Middle School Programs
DSCN2967Our Middle Schoolers were busy this month, too. We offered three programs especially for kids in grades 6 to 8 in October:

Lego Mindstorms Robotics Lab
Our Lego Mindstorms Robotics Lab is up and running! Twenty middle schoolers paired up and built robots and created challenges for their robots along the way. Both the kids and the librarians learned a lot during this first series, and we’re planning to hold monthly Robotics Workshops beginning in January.

Pizza & Pages
Thirteen middle schoolers gathered to discuss Monster by Walter Dean Myers. As always, it was a lively discussion and the kids devoured six extra large pizzas in record time. January’s book will be Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve.

Playwriting Workshop
We are currently partnering with the Marin Theatre Company to offer a five-week series for aspiring playwrights. Eight middle schoolers are working with teaching professional and playwright LeShawn Davis to learn about the craft of playwriting. We will also be offering a Creative Writing Workshop once a month for four months beginning in January with local author and poet Karen Benke.

Thank you to the Mill Valley Library Foundation (Storybooks) and the Friends for making these programs possible. In November, be sure to stop in the Children’s Room to see the five finalists of our Annual Bookmark Contest. Those bookmarks will be printed professionally and distributed all year. We received nearly 600 entries, which are currently being displayed in the library. Thank you to all the young artists who participated.

-Jessica

Talk to Me! Early Literacy Pointers

whos in the tree

One of the cornerstones of early literacy — what your little one knows about reading before actually learning to read — is talking. This starts at birth with the very first words you said to your baby, and continues throughout their lives with every conversation you have. It includes the language your baby hears and later, what he or she speaks.

Research has shown that children of low-income families hear as many as 30,000 fewer words before age 3, leaving them much less prepared to enter kindergarten. Earlier this month, the White House hosted a Summit on Working Families, which in part addressed this “word gap.” There, a study was unveiled that showed it’s the quality of verbal interaction, rather than the sheer number of words, that best predicts a child’s verbal abilities. Simple conversations with children, even those too young to verbally respond, have a significant impact on their language skills and brain development.

What can you do to help your child be read to learn to read?

  • You can narrate your day using shared symbols (“look, a bus!”), rituals (“let’s read a book before bedtime”) and conversational fluency (“yes, that’s a hat!”).
  • You can ask them questions to encourage their thinking and speaking, making sure to give them plenty of time (about 20 seconds) to respond.
  • You can point out the sounds that things make (a car goes vroooom, a cat says meow). This isn’t necessarily to teach what an animal really sounds like but instead what sounds our words contain.

Any and all of these easy activities can greatly impact your child’s kindergarten readiness. The more sounds and rhymes a child hears and internalizes, the more they will be able to decode those sounds when it comes time to learn to read. The greater vocabulary they have heard in their lives, the easier it will be to sound out those familiar words in kindergarten.

Here are some new book suggestions that are particularly good for promoting talking with your children:

flashlight

  • Wordless books encourage little ones to tell a story in their own words. Try Flashlight by Lizi Boyd, about a little boy who explores the forest outside his tent.
  • Books with plenty of questions in the text are great for promoting dialog. Try a lift-the-flap book like Who’s in the Tree? by Craig Shuttlewood.

normanspeak

  • Some books are actually about language. Norman, Speak, by Caroline Anderson and Qin Lang, is about a dog who previously had a Mandarin-speaking owner.
  • Books about sound words introduce animal or other sounds to children in our language. A new favorite of mine is Say Hello Like This! by Mary Murphy, in which six different animals greet one another. It also encourages vocabulary development, with sentences like, “A cat hello is prissy and proud…like this! purrrrrr… meow.”sayhello

Above all, talk talk talk to your children. Tell stories, ask questions, narrate your day. They’ll love it, and you’ll be helping them get ready to learn to read.

-Lauren

Gods, Robots and Wizards: New Books for Older Readers

1.ANUBIS_CVAnubis Speaks! A Guide to the Afterlife by the Egyptian God of the Dead by Vicky Alvear Shecter, illustrated by Antoine Revoy
Welcome, visitors. Meet Anubis, the Egyptian god of the “Mysteries of Embalming,” the “Guardian of the Veil of Death,” and “The Opener of the Ways of the Dead.” In other words, as he likes to say it: “Your. Worst. Nightmare.” It’s showtime, people! With swagger, humor, and a full dose of awesome nonfiction storytelling, the jackal-headed lord of the afterlife leads readers through the ancient Egyptian culture of death. We’re treated to mummification, tomb-building, King Tut, Osiris, monsters, demons, and more. Oh, my! This is the first title in a new series called Secrets of the Ancient Gods. The newest title is Hades Speaks!, and if the rest are as fresh, sassy, and engaging as this one, we’re in for a great treat. (ages 9-12)

frankFrank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Brian Biggs
All is quiet in Frank Einstein’s lab (which is really Grandpa Al’s garage). The town of Midville sleeps (for now), because inventor and “kid genius” Frank is working on something big. Something smart. Something totally unprecedented and sure to win the Midville Science Prize. But then: lightning flashes, thunder booms, a power outage short-circuits the house Frank lives in with his grandpa. Now, two mechanical shapes lurk in the dark, and things don’t go quite as Frank thought they would. With characteristic humor, slapdash action, totally ludicrous situations, and absolutely real science, Jon Scieszka brings us the first in a series sure to win middle school fans everywhere. (ages 8-12)

1395846739000-IronTrialCoverThe Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, illustrated by Scott M. Fischer
A boy wizard unaware of his own power, a horrible past, and a school of magic staffed by mages both good and terrible. This sounds familiar, but here the plot similarities between The Iron Trial and Harry Potter come to an end. When Callum Hunt limps into the entry exam for the secretive and powerful wizardry school called The Magesterium, he wants to fail. His father has warned him of the horrors and corruption that swirl around the school. But in trying to answer incorrectly, Callum shocks himself and the wizards present with the extent of his raw and untapped power. Forced to enter the frightening world of the school, Callum must figure out what is truth, what is lie, and where he falls in between. This first book in the new Magesterium series is mythic, layered, fascinating, and fast-paced. (ages 10-14)

Junk-Drawer_5Junk Drawer Physics: 50 Awesome Experiments That Don’t Cost a Thing by Bobby Mercer
An “incredibly loud mini air horn.” A pinhole camera. A super squirt bottle. Who can resist the high rewards of this new book from science educator Bobby Mercer? With easy-to-follow directions, clear photos, and materials that are simple to find around the house, Junk Drawer Physics shows how scientific principles and experimentation can be learned and applied in a super fun way at home. The chapters are divided into such topics as forces and motion, sound and waves, light, and fluids and pressure. Each experiment comes with a description of the science behind it. But most importantly, each exercise is approachable and satisfying. So, learn centripetal force and get started on your own spinning force machine! (ages 9 and up)

-Molly

New Nonfiction

bblsSet“Building Blocks of Science” by Joseph Midthun
World Book has decided to take advantage of the widespread appeal of graphic novels and has released their own graphic non-fiction series, “Building Blocks of Science.” The first books of the series were introduced in 2012 and feature topics such as matter, gravity, and energy. New in 2014 are eight books on the human body. The graphic novel format, bright colors, and funny characters will show kids that science can be fun while they are learning about fairly complex concepts. This series is good for readers of various levels. Also included in each book are an index, glossary, and a list of additional resources. (ages 5-11)

yosemite“Preserving America” by Nate Frisch
As part of the Common Core curriculum for California, fourth grade students study state history and learn how to read informational texts. A new series that can help students achieve both of these objectives is titled “Preserving America.” Two of the books in this series feature California national parks and are great for students performing research. Each book discusses the history of the park, resident animals, geography, and current park attractions. The well-written and detailed information is accompanied by many full color photographs, maps, and charts. Children will really enjoy learning about our national parks with this series. (ages 9-12)

New books on national parks in the “Preserving America” series:

columbus“Fact Finders” and Who Was…?” series
Perfect for an upper elementary biography project are the “Fact Finders” and “Who Was…?” biography series. Books in the Fact Finders series feature many colorful illustrations and photographs, an engaging layout, and a Common Core critical thinking section. This series in particular will appeal to reluctant readers due to the contemporary cover and mature page design. The “Who Was…?” series are easy to read, with short chapters, large print, and black and white illustrations on nearly every page. Both series will help children learn about the life stories of interesting historical figures. (ages 8-12)

New biographies in the “Fact Finders” series:

New biographies in the “Who Was…?” series:

chokedHow They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg, illustrated by Kevin O’Malley
For a completely different type of biography check out the sure to please follow up to How They Croaked. How They Choked tells the true stories behind the failures of 14 famous individuals. Most people know the accomplishments of very famous people, such as Vincent Van Gogh and Marco Polo, but they don’t know about these people’s often fatal flaws. Find out why the famous scientist Isaac Newton tried to turn lead into gold or how Montezuma contributed to the elimination of the Aztec people. Even though this book is fairly dark, it is full of tongue-in-cheek humor. Bragg and O’Malley do a good job of engaging the reader with really fascinating historical facts and comical black and white illustrations. Reluctant readers and kids that think they don’t like history will appreciate the short chapters and unique subject matter. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this book turn up on future award lists. (ages 10-14)

-Sarah Beth

Crabby Crabs and Poodle-y Dogs: New Books for Younger Readers

pardonPardon Me! by Daniel Miyares
Little bird has found the perfect rock to relax at on the swamp. But not for long! Swamp neighbors use the magical phrase, “Pardon me,” and make him scoot over. When Little Bird has had enough of being crowded, squished, and elbowed, he will discover an unlikely neighbor who will also excuse himself. Pardon Me! does a fantastic job of portraying irony. Little Bird has to deal with the paradox of his friends being polite and rude at the same time. Although he is frustrated, he also discovers that he is not the only swamp animal being stepped on. Written  expressively with short sentences and repetition, this story makes a fun read aloud. Kids who love lush illustrations, and who enjoy laughing at hairy situations will enjoy this book. (ages 4-8)

1905MoondayCover1Moonday by Adam Rex
The moon is always far away, big and mysterious, but what happens when if comes down for the whole day? A young girl wakes to find the moon in her backyard. It feels cold and chalky, but is ultimately beautiful. While the moon’s visit is a wonder, the neighborhood also discovers it is a nuisance. The whole town is sleepy! People constantly yawn, teachers can’t think straight, and dogs are constantly howling. The young girl must take the moon for a ride back home. Written with a poetic ring, this story is philosophical and scientific, and teeters between dreamy imagination and reality. The gorgeous illustrations outline a day flooded with night and magical illumination. This would be a wonderful book for a tranquil story time before bed. (ages 3-7)

crabCrabby Crab by Chris Raschka
Crab is not happy with himself. He doesn’t have fingers, and he cannot walk forward. He is dwelling on what he cannot do, even though there is plenty to like about him! Crab needs to be reminded that he is loved for who he is. Crabby Crab is a simple story, written in a direct and concise style. It has a lot of open space, and uses solid colors to emphasize that each page has a statement. This little book teaches kids to accept themselves and others for who they are, for their strengths and shortcomings alike. Even Crab is painted imperfectly, with some color outside of the lines and parts not filled in. (ages 2-5)

gastonGaston by Kelly DiPucchio, pictures by Christian Robinson
Gaston, a happy bulldog in a family of poodles, practices to be proper and look pretty in pink. When he goes to the park with his family, he meets the rough and tough Antoinette, a poodle in a family of bulldogs. Whoops! When Gaston and Antoinette’s families try to remedy the mix-up by letting the pups switch places, everything looks as it should. But will Gaston and Antoinette feel at home?  Gaston has a classic story structure, with a lesson and a happy ending. The witty and pleasant plot is brought to life with endearing drawings. This is a great book for dog lovers, story time audiences, and kids who are adopted. Kids will learn how good it feels to find your niche, and that family and love does not need to look like you. (ages 4-7)

-Courtney

Celebrate the Freedom to Read

freedomThis week we are celebrating the freedom to read! So why are we calling this week Banned Books Week? Because the freedom to read can be a controversial subject.

You may be surprised at the books that are frequently challenged. Aren’t The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Where the Wild Things Are among the pieces of literature that make up American culture? Aren’t these the books that have resonated throughout the generations?

People have accused Where the Wild Things Are of promoting naughty behavior in children. Others have suggested it can have a frightening impact on kids, with the notion that they can be sent to bed without dinner. Of course, people have a right to these opinions. The beauty of freedom of speech is to hear all sides, even if you blatantly disagree. But, barring other people from reading that material stomps on our beloved First Amendment.

You have the freedom to read. You also have the freedom to choose what not to read, and so does your neighbor. Now, where does the public library fit into all of this?

The public library must balance upholding the First Amendment and meeting the needs and interests of its local community. It must also provide diversity, accessibility, and the ability to check out materials without judgment. As the wise saying goes, “A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone” – Jo Godwin.

Now for a potentially even messier topic: the public library and children. A lot of times, well-intentioned parents want to ban books to protect their children. They may want the “right” morals surrounding their children. Or, they simply want their kids to read “enriching literature,” instead of anything they consider non-literary. Of course parents should guide their children toward reading good books. It is a parent’s job to shape and prepare their kids for adulthood. But banning books from the library takes away other parents’ rights to guide their own children. Going full force with censorship is dangerous. Who decides what is the “right” material to read? What voices will get silenced? Will humor and sarcasm be suppressed? This sounds like a dark and gray dystopian novel to me.

So, let’s take a look at some children’s books that have been repeatedly challenged, either in public libraries or in schools. The public library gives you a choice. You may celebrate Banned Books Week by choosing to read one of them, or by choosing not to. (Source: American Library Association)

-Courtney

Aliens or Cowboys? New Books for Older Readers

minionMinion by John David Anderson
This companion novel to Sidekicked follows the life of Mickey, a kid with a hypnotizing gift. Mickey and his adoptive father live in New Liberty, the town without a Super, but with two competing crime bosses who provide a certain level of stability to the city. Mickey and his father perform odd jobs for big boss Tony Romano and life is good, if not exactly legal. That is, until a supervillain called The Dictator comes to town and takes an interest in Mickey’s gift. Only a Super can save them, but a new Super could also ruin everything that Mickey and his father have built. Sidekicked introduced readers to a world where superheroes and villains are a part of everyday life and Minion gives readers everything they could ask for in a companion novel and more. Action, mystery, and a fight between good and evil only add to a truly engaging story about a boy learning about the many complexities of life. (ages 10-14)

skies cover finalSkies Like These by Tess Hilmo
This summer vacation will be like none other for Jade who is used to quiet summers reading and watching TV. She has been sent to Wyoming to stay with an aunt she hasn’t seen in years. On her first day in Wyoming she meets a wannabe Butch Cassidy, who has even renamed himself Roy Parker, after his idol’s real name. Roy turns Jade’s summer upside down when he enlists her as his sidekick to help save his family’s hardware store through a few harebrained Butch Cassidy-style stunts that aren’t completely legal. Jade thinks of a better plan for earning money and keeping Roy out of trouble: he should enter a cowboy poetry contest and she would host astronomy classes on her aunt’s roof. Finding her sense of adventure and a true friend is more than Jade could ask for from her summer. This book will serve as many readers’ inspiration for trying something new. (ages 9-12)

LittleGreenMenAtTheMercuryInnLittle Green Men at the Mercury Inn by Greg Leitich Smith
Aidan’s life at the Mercury Inn is as normal as it can get for a kid who lives at a space-themed motel on the Florida coast. One of the highlights of life at the Mercury is the up close and personal view of NASA rocket launches from the motel’s beach. Aiden’s summer takes a turn for the weird, when a launch is interrupted up a UFO that the government claims is a plane with modified wings but Aiden and his alien obsessed best friend Louis know what they saw. Just when Aiden and Louis think things couldn’t get any stranger they make a shocking discovery about the identity of one of the motel’s guests. Comedy meets science fiction in an entertaining story sure to please UFO and alien enthusiasts. (ages 9-12)

hopeHope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera
Star Mackey has blue hair, a mullet, and a sister who has been kicked out of school. If this wasn’t enough for the students in her new school to make fun of, she also lives by the town dump in a trailer park. Star is a lonely ten-year-old with no friends, no father, and an increasingly distant sister. Instead of letting her troubles get her down, she decides to make friends and educate her classmates on what life in a trailer park is really like by starting The Trailer Park Club. But instead of helping her fit in she becomes the laughing stock of her class. Inspired by the Emily Dickinson poem “Hope” she attempts to form a club again, a poetry club. Through this more successful club Star learns about poetry but even more about herself. She is a determined, relatable girl with a great sense of humor that keeps this book light even when addressing difficult issues. (ages 9-11)

-Sarah Beth