Category Archives: Articles

Amazing Adventure: New Books for Older Readers

The Wooden Prince by John Claude Bemis
out of abatonIn this steampunk retelling of the classic Italian story, Pinocchio, a wooden automaton is haphazardly delivered to the outlawed alchemist, Geppetto. But unlike most subservient automata, Pinocchio asks a lot of questions and thinks! Why is Pinocchio here? As Geppetto and Pinocchio ponder the question, they are swept up in the midst of a war zone between the magical kingdom of Abaton and the imperialistic Venitia. The pretentious cricket Maestro provides comic relief as Geppetto and Pinocchio identify their role in these perilous times. This interesting twisted fairy tale should suit fans of Marissa Meyer’s Cinder and Liesl Shurtliff’s Rump.

Compass South by Hope Larson
CompassSouthCharles Dickens meets Robert Louis Stevenson meets Doug Tennapel in this seafaring comic book about orphaned twins Alexander and Cleopatra learning to survive in 1860’s New York as young gang members. When a burglary goes sour, the twins exchange information with the police for a ticket to New Orleans to begin a con of their own devices. Just when they think they’ve landed their lottery ticket to a better life, they meet a set of twins with the same deceptive itinerary! Garnish that with a disgruntled gang member from the past, and you’re in for a rip-roaring tale that will keep you on your toes. Hope Larson is the Eisner award-winning author of the graphic novel: A Wrinkle in Time. Readers who enjoyed Craig Thompson’s Space Dumplins will satiate their appetite for fast paced adventures with her new graphic novel.

Dream On, Amber by Emma Shevah
DreamonAmber1Not only does Amber have a brutally long name: Amber Alexandra Leola Kimiko Miyamoto, she is also half Italian and half Japanese, which makes things molto confusing. Amber is starting 6th grade, which isn’t a walk in the park when there’s a super scary bully in your talk therapy class, you lack a smart phone like everyone else, and you don’t have a….Dad. How is Amber going to survive these in between years and be a thoughtful big sister? Written with a similar spunk as Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, this accessible book tackles real problems while remaining hilariously sarcastic and poignant. It is refreshing to see a protagonist navigate her identity as a bi-cultural tween in contemporary American culture. Dream On Amber also addresses bullying, single parent household, and self esteem.

The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks
nameless cityThe present conquerors call the great city DanDao, but the dwellers in the outskirts know better. The city is nameless, because it is defeated every 30 years. The 30 years is upon DanDao as the rulers feverishly train the next generation of soldiers. Naïve and absentminded, Kaidu begrudgingly shoulders his new responsibility as a future Dao soldier. His pensiveness reroutes him to a feral and magnetic girl of the city streets, a skral girl named Rat, who opens his eyes to the reality of the tumultuous political landscape he inhabits. With a strong female character, action oriented plot, and vibrant art panels, The Nameless City is a quality graphic novel that should suit fans of Kibuishi’s Amulet series.

-Courtney

Pokémon Go for Family Fun

pokemon2For the past few weeks I have been playing Pokémon Go to understand this new phenomenon, and as a children’s librarian I am embracing this game. Before you shrug this game off as the downfall of our society into a plugged-in-zombie-pedestrian dystopia, I would encourage you to try it out if you can, especially if you have children or grandchildren. From my research, I found many positive associations with this game.

Note: If you don’t know what a Pokémon is and want to learn how to play, visit this beginner’s guide.

Why play?

  1. Familiarize with the latest shift in our culture and prepare for future innovations in the virtual reality gaming domain
  2. Connect with your family! Playing this game is a great way to bridge generational divides and connect with kids and millennials, who may be nostalgic players.
  3. Explore the Bay Area, particularly landmarks, and get to know local history. The creators of this game created an algorithm that selects landmarks as “pokestops” where players collect goodies. Places with many historical landmarks are great for Pokémon, providing opportunities to learn local history. For instance, you might take your kids to the Rosie the Riveter historical park to catch Pokémon and learn about WWII.
  4. Harness a love of Pokémon and encourage them to read about their beloved pocket monsters: there are books pertaining to Pokémon, such as encyclopedias and graphic novels like as the Pokémon Essential Handbook and Pokémon XY. 
  5. Be involved in the dialogue about the latest Pokémon frenzy. The frenzy has sparked some controversy, such as:

rosieExplore the Bay Area!

Getting out with family is my favorite part of the Pokémon Go experience. Pack water, snacks, and sandwiches to explore/revisit the Bay Area. You won’t find many Pokémon in residential areas, so go to places with landmarks where you will have phone service. I have had great experiences at the University of California Berkeley, Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park, San Francisco hotspots like the Palace of Fine Arts and Fort Mason, and downtown Redwood City. I plan to visit the John Muir National Historic site, the Yoda Fountain at LucasFilm, the Oakland Aviation Museum, and the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz (although lack of cellular service may be a barrier). Check out the Library’s Discover & Go museum passes to get free admissions to Bay Area museums!

Practice safety skills and positive social skills

  1. There are already horror stories of people climbing up fences on highways to catch rare Pokémon, and people playing while driving and crashing into police cars. Let’s remind our kids to play smartly! Even if it’s common sense,  we can always remind kids to step out of the way so bikers can ride past, look up when crossing streets and be wary of strangers. Play during the well-lit daytime, and play with friends!
  2. Practice planning skills: bring water, snacks, money, food, chargers and extra clothes.
  3. When you go out to play Pokémon in popular places, you will likely notice other people playing. Kids can practice positive social skills such as greeting others, making eye contact, smiling, and being aware of other people’s space. There have been heart-warming articles about Pokémon Go making a positive difference for kids who are on the autism spectrum.
  4. Be patient with grumpy bystanders. There are many bystanders who are confused by this frenzy or express their resentment about it. If kids notice hostile comments, we can practice empathy skills, and talk people’s reasons for being upset such as change, and how we can react.

Who can play?

  1. The free app is accessible to all ages, though you’ll need a digital device to download and play.
  2. People with an android or iOs (version 4.3 or higher) digital device that has a GPS signal and Internet connectivity. You must download the Pokemon Go app on your android or iOS device, and have at least 200 MB of storage available on their phone for this initial download and updates to follow

Tips

The most frustrating aspect of playing Pokémon Go is that it rapidly depletes your phone’s battery. Here are some tips for dealing with this nuisance:

  1. Make sure your phone is fully charged! Bring your charger with you. You can stop by a library branch to charge your phone and read while you wait!
  2. Go into your settings and turn off the notifications for all of your apps. Your phone uses battery power when it’s checking for app updates and email.
  3. Go into your settings and set your battery to low power mode
  4. When you go out to eat or do other things, you can turn off your phone or switch it to airplane mode to conserve the battery
  5.  You can buy a portable phone charger so that you can play longer. There are good deals on Amazon!
  6. Bring your charger with you, so you can come into the Mill Valley Library and charge up!

Did you know that the Mill Valley Library is a PokéGym? Come on in to battle your Pokémon!

Have fun!

-Courtney

 

Growing Up but Staying Small: New Books for Younger Readers

The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have by Edward Van De Vendel
dog nino didn't haveCheck out this a feast for the eyes with illustrations painted in earth tones. “Nino had a dog that he didn’t have.” This imaginary dog that Nino didn’t have followed him everywhere, a daring and adventurous two.This dog could hear the phone conversations Nino had with his dad who worked far away. No one noticed the dog until the dog started to act up. Eventually, the dog that Nino didn’t have left because Nino didn’t outgrew him. In his place a different dog appeared. That dog was soft, sweet and obedient. Best of all, everyone could see him and he was a great comfort for Nino while his father was far away working. (ages 4-8)

Bye-Bye Binky by Maria van Lieshout
bye-bye-binkyThis may be the perfect book to assist in weaning a child off the dreaded Binky. Illustrated in orange, brown, black and white, this simple and concise picture book offers practical alternatives for young children transferring away from their pacifier. A must for any mom or dad struggling to wean their child of their Binky use. (age 2-5)

 

City Shapes by Diana Murray
PB_MURRAY_-City-Shapes-234x300A little girl winds her way through the city with her kaleidoscope. Written in a poetic jazzy swing, this book points out shapes in the busy city. This is a lovely book to take along on a walk as you look for shapes in the city. The second to last page creatively illustrates the city through the girl’s  kaleidoscope, and the final page illustrates the girl back in her apartment looking out at the night city through it. Wonderful! (ages 3-6)

 

The Big Blue Thing on the Hill by Yuval Zommer
big blue thingThis humorous tale shows woodland animals living peacefully in the middle of the Great Forest on Howling Hill. Everything is quite routine, sleeping during the day and coming out at night to do what woodland animals do. Until one day, when a blue thing appears on the hill. All is disrupted and the animals lives are turned upside down. The animals must find a way to solve this disruption. With a surprising and comical ending, this is a must read picture book! (ages 3-7)

Animals Aplenty: New Books for Younger Readers

Los Pollitos by Susie Jaramillo
Los-PollitosIn this adorable book, the famous Spanish nursery rhyme “Los Pollitos Dicen” comes to life with the help of three very expressive baby chicks. The simple story shows the love and care that a mother hen has for her babies. From the moment the chicks hatch she is kept very busy tending to their every need. The unique accordion style book allows readers to enjoy the story in English on one side and Spanish on the other, while the interactive elements featured on each page add yet another dimension to please the very youngest of readers. Canticos will release its second bilingual book this fall titled Elefantitos (Little Elephants). (ages 1-4)

Splashdance by Liz Starin
splashdancethumb_500Ursula the bear and all of the other bears get kicked out of the swimming pool (for being too hairy) right before the big water ballet championship. To make matters worse, Ursula’s partner in the competition ditches her for a giraffe! She heads down to the pond to continue training by herself and much to her surprise she finds a new team to join who is committed to standing up for its teammates. Serious topics of inequality and social justice are made accessible for a young audience thanks to the goofy interspecies cast in this silly tale that’s perfect for summer. Pay close attention to the illustrations, humorous details abound! (ages 4-7)

Treat by Mary Sullivan
treatWhen a hungry pup wakes up to the smell of food, all hilarity ensues! Racing out of his bed to find a treat leads to utter disappointment time and again as none of his family will give him a single bite of anything. Exhausted by his begging efforts, the pup finally returns to bed where his dreams of treats turn into a nightmare of being the treat. Using only one word in the book, Sullivan fills the story with energy and emotion through the character’s expressions, creative font choices, and constant movement. This determined and irresistible little round pup will have readers rooting for him the whole time and delighted by the happy ending. (ages 4-7)

Frankie the Blankie by Jennifer Sattler
frankie blankieDoris loves her blankie, Frankie. In fact she loves him so much she never does anything without him: napping, snacking, dancing. That is, until she is told that “only babies play with blankies, you know.” Doris decides to give Frankie up, but life is too miserable without him. She comes up with the brilliant idea of disguising him, which almost goes terribly wrong until she turns him into a puppet and wins the hearts of the other jungle animals. While most books about transitional objects focus on letting go of the object, such as Owen by Kevin Henkes or Geraldine’s Blanket by Holly Keller, the story of Doris and Frankie shows that children don’t have to give up their comfort object until they are ready.

-Sarah Beth

Great Podcasts for Librarians and Lovers of Children’s Literature!

How do children’s librarians keep up with the rapid publishing of children’s books? We read on the bus, listen to audiobooks while we clean, keep track of starred reviews in journals, and talk to each other. Podcasts are another exciting avenue for learning about buzzing titles, getting to know authors, and understanding the creative writing process. Here are seven of my favorites:

Publisher’s Weekly PW KidsCast
Esteemed book reviewer Publisher’s Weekly interviews contemporary authors of youth and young adult materials to talk about their upcoming and well anticipated book. In 20 minutes or less, each author talks about their latest work, weaving in tales from their own lives, and the events that led to their books. Out of all of the podcasts listed here, PW KidsCast is especially great because they publish new material frequently, almost weekly. Guests have included Maggie Stiefvater, Rick Riordan, and Brian Selznick.

cover170x170The Guardian’s Children’s Books Podcast
The Guardian is a British daily newspaper that also produces fun programs and podcasts, such as this one that focuses on current kids’ and teen books. The creators of buzzing juvenile books often make an appearance, talking about their latest work and inspirations, sometimes diving deeper into their own childhoods, issues with society, causes that they are fighting for, and more. On occasion, the creators will read passages from their book. Celebrated authors and illustrators Jacqueline Wilson, Sally Gardner, Jeff Kinney, and David Leviathan have made appearances.

The Yarn
The-Yarn-logo-500-300x300Ranging from picture books to teen titles, The Yarn goes behind the scenes to interview authors and illustrators, unraveling their creative processes and inspirations in this short podcast. Most titles are contemporary, or to be released! Authors that they have talked with include Jennifer Holm, Raina Telgemeier, Salina Yoon, Chris Grabenstein, and Rebecca Stead.

The Picturebooking Podcast
picturebookingFocusing on picture books, this podcast mostly interviews creators, discussing their latest book, their artistic techniques, their career, culture, and more. This podcast also dives into the publishing process, giving amateur writers guidance. Author-illustrators Molly Idle, Dan Santat, and Peter Brown have spoken here.

 Scholastic Reads
ScholasticReads_Podcast_LogoScholastic, a well-known publishing company of books for children and teens, launched this podcast in 2015 to talk about the world of children’s books, literacy, and libraries. Episodes have ranged from talks with literacy experts about enhancing summer reading programs, to prestigious art and writing awards, to literary campaigns. This is a great podcast to learn about emerging trends in culture and activism concerning books and youth.

Kids on Comics: Father and Son Comic Book Talk
kids on comicsA father and son discuss kids’ comics and graphic novels in this endearing podcast. The duo prefers superheroes and popular graphic novels, and together they give listeners a synopsis of their chosen read, sharing their likes and dislikes. The father asks his son questions to help him develop his critical thinking skills, and it’s always fun to hear a kid’s perspective in an atmosphere where we heavily rely on professional reviewers for our selections. Father and son have talked about titles such as Dogs of War, Cardboard, X-Men, and Zita the Spacegirl.  

the splitThe Split: A Young Adult Book Review Podcast for Readers and Writers
For readers who love young adult books, this podcast passionately reviews the new, popular, and buzzing titles to be released of teen literature. Creators talk about their new work in 30 to 60 minutes, with an interviewer asking thought provoking questions. I only hope that this podcast will come out with new episodes, since it was last updated in December 2015.

-Courtney

Fantastic New Nonfiction

Masterpieces Up Close by Claire d’Harcourt
masterpieces-up-close
This amazing oversized art book looks at 21 paintings, magnifying important aspects in each one. Not only does this book examine detailed theory and technique, it also makes it fun to find the highlighted area within the painting itself. So often in famous masterpieces there is so much going on, it is hard to focus on key elements of the great work.  Looking at color, composition, brush stroke and imagery, the young artist is given a better understanding of art appreciation. When examining Marilyn by Andy Warhol, I myself discovered a more complex meaning in his work.  Each repeated image evokes a powerful facet of the talented and troubled Marilyn. This very interactive book is perfect for any budding young artist. (ages 9-14)

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
boys in the boatIn a text adapted for young readers, read about the United States 1939 Olympic crew team who through hard work, perseverance, and amazing odds won gold in Hitler’s Germany. Written like a novel, The Boys in the Boat takes you on a great adventure through the eyes of Joe Rantz. Rowing requires physical endurance, mental toughness and training the mind and body to endure the natural elements and great pain. Growing up in the great depression with an extremely challenging childhood, paved the way for Joe Rantz to endure great challenges and become an Olympic champion. (ages 9-13)

Children Growing up with War by Jenny Matthews
children growing up with warTake a journey through the eyes of a photo journalist into the lives of children in war. With stunning photographs and heart-wrenching text, Matthews examines the everyday life of children living in war-torn environments. One particularly wonderful section in the book shows children playing, illustrating how resourceful and creative the power of play is to a child. (ages 10 and up)

NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe by Terence Dickinson
nightwatch
This guide has it all, from choosing your telescope, sky measurements using your hand, a start brightness meter, and a pronunciation guide, to photographic charts (including a chart of the names of each crater on the moon) and traditional star charts, this book has it all. NightWatch will delight even the most amateur astronomer. Not only does this guide offer everything you need to know about star gazing, it also houses a wealth of information on galaxies, stars, planets, comets, nebulas, black holes, asteroids and more in the night sky. With a spiral binding that allows the book to lie flat while you’re star gazing on Mount Tam, NightWatch deserves its high recommendation from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. (ages 11 and up)

The Science of a Bridge Collapse by Nikole Brooks Bethea
science of a bridge collapseAfter reading The Science of a Bridge Collapse you may think twice about crossing any bridge in the Bay Area. Taking a scientific approach to bridge design, this book examines the causes of bridge failure. On a good note, engineers analyze data collected from these collapses improving the rebuilding of these important structures. (ages 11-14)

Fantastic Fugitives Criminals, Cutthroats, and Rebels who Changed History While on the Run! by Brianna DeMont
fantastic fugitives
Learn about an eclectic group of famous runaways who changed the course of history. Did you ever think of the Pilgrims as fugitives? When Europe’s fashion craze killed off its beaver population, investors supported the Pilgrims’ passage to the New World to access the beaver population in there. Learn about Harriet Tubman, whose course to freedom on the Underground Railroad entailed running the equivalent of four marathons while being tracked by slave catchers and bloodhounds; encountering snakes, thick brush, and swamps; and countless other dangerous obstacles. This is a fantastic mix of obscure facts and action-packed adventure. (ages 9-13)

-Toni

Live Your Imagination! New Books for Younger Readers

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Alexie_ThunderBoyJr
Thunder Boy Jr. hates his name because it is not his own. He is named after Thunder Boy Senior, his dad! Why couldn’t he be Touch the Clouds for that time he climbed a mountain, or Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth for that time he touched an orca? Can Thunder Boy Jr. and Thunder Boy Sr. find their own ways to fill up the sky together? Sherman Alexie has won several awards for his adult and teen novels, including the National Book Award, California Young Reader Medal, and American Book Award. Alexie grew up on a Spokane Indian Reservation and much of his work explores contemporary Native American identity. This is his first picture book. (ages 3-6)

The Typewriter by Bill Thomson
typewriter
A thrill-seeking trio find a mysterious typewriter hidden in plain view. Do they dare type and discover its magic? One of the friends takes the plunge and types “Beach,” and the children look up to find sand between their toes and the ocean breeze kissing them. A metaphor for the wonder that words bring us, in a book that contains seven words, The Typewriter is a wild adventure into imagination. The illustrations in this picture book are so lifelike, it is hard to believe that Bill Thomson abstained from digital tools. He uses acrylic paints and colored pencils to create his art by hand, and the detail is jaw dropping. (ages 5-8)

The Cow Who Climbed a Tree by Gemma Merino
The Cow Who Climbed a TreeCows are supposed to sit around on the farm and eat grass, right? Meet Tina, the curious cow who explores and dreams of space travel. Impossible! Ridiculous! Nonsense! chime her sisters. But their chides do not discourage Tina, for the following day, she climbs a tree and meets a… dragon?! In this case curiosity does not kill the cow, but liberates her! With sweet illustrations adorned with watercolor, Merino delivers a charming story about individuality, resilience, and faith. This can be enjoyed as a read-a-loud together, or as material for beginning readers. (ages 4-8)

There is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith
there is a tribe of kids
Either lost, in mourning, or upset, a lonely child clings to a goat. When the goat departs up a cliff, the child starts walking, unsuspecting of the adventure to be. The child meets friends, foes, and the strange, usually in pods, piles, and families. Sometimes connecting with the miracle and brutality of nature is the only way to remember connecting with one’s own tribe. Using mixed media, Lane Smith’s latest picture book will dazzle readers and remind them of the old adage, “No man is an island.” Lane Smith is an award-winning writer and illustrator, most notably for his children’s books. (ages 5-8)

-Courtney

Summer Reading : Explore!

EXPLORE_Web_Square_ArtSummer Reading is your ticket to explore all summer long! Whether you’re reading to yourself or listening to stories read aloud, you can pick up a summer reading log beginning June 16th and start off with your first prize and stamp. Participants promise to read (or be read to) for three hours a week and keep track of their reading all summer long. Come back every week for a new stamp and a new prize. Prizes include adorable sea turtle erasers, pencils, books, Pacifics and Giants baseball game tickets, and more!

Click this link to download a pdf of our Summer flyer: Explore!

We have different programs for all ages Monday through Friday. Some require advance registrations, but many do not. We are partnering with the Marin Theatre Company, the Bay Area Discovery Museum, Golden Gate National Park Conservancy, and WildCare Associates to bring your kids some amazing programs that will stretch their minds and imaginations. We have authors, artists, musicians, magicians, storytellers, and circus performers coming to share their amazing talents with us. We hope that every child can find something they like in our program offerings. So download the flyer if you haven’t already, and mark your calendars for the events you and your kids don’t want to miss. Please pay attention to age restrictions and registration requirements. Beginning June 13, register on-line at millvalleylibrary.org/kids, call us or come in and speak to a librarian. All the events at the Library are free thanks to generous funding from The Mill Valley Library Foundation and the Friends.

You can see the library’s summer programs for middle schoolers here or download a pdf of our middle school summer flyer

 

Middle School: Explore!

middle_school_explore_web_square_artWe are excited about the library’s third annual Summer Reading Program for middle schoolers: Explore! This year, we have even more in store for you! It’s time to Explore summer reading. With all new programs like a henna art workshop and a chance to join the circus, we’re looking ahead to a fantastic summer. Come kick things off with us on Friday, June 17 for our Middle School Mash-Up Concert. We have a terrific lineup of teens and tweens who can’t wait to perform. There will be refreshments to eat and door prizes to win. Bring your friends – it’s going to be a blast!

Of course, it’s about more than just Summer Nights @ the Library. We want to encourage kids to read, Read, READ. This year you can participate online or with a paper reading log. Either way, for every book you read this summer you can earn an entry in our end-of-summer raffle. Register here and read to win gift certificates to local businesses, iTunes gift cards, Giants tickets or even a GoPro. The more books you read, the better your chances to win!

Want to earn more raffle tickets? Come in to the library and complete an Explore Challenge, or volunteer to help out at a children’s event or with program prep. Come on in and fill out an application, or give us a call at (415) 389-4292 x4.

Throughout the summer we’ll have fantastic programs just for middle schoolers. You can learn to make (and eat!) vegetarian sushi, get a fabulous henna tattoo, craft a wallet or wristband out of an old bicycle tire, program Lego Mindstorms robots, and dine and discuss Masterminds by Gordon Korman at our Pizza & Pages Book Club. Finally, we’ll draw raffle winners at our Star Wars Trivia Night and End of Summer Party.

We can’t wait to see you this summer! Download full the brochure here (pdf).

Volunteers, download an application here (pdf).

-Lauren

A Thief, a Prankster, and a Class Clown: New Books for Older Readers

A Bandit’s Tale: The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket by Deborah Hopkinson
bandit's taleFrom the author of A Great Trouble comes another fascinating historical novel set in 1880s New York City. A Bandit’s Tale follows Rocco, a clever young boy who has been sent to America in order to earn money for his family back in Italy. Little did Rocco or his parents know what kind of life was in store for him on the streets of New York; hunger, cold, and appalling living conditions lead Rocco to make very difficult decisions in order to survive. The presence of famous historical figures such as Jacob Wiis and Henry Bergh, vintage photos, and background information bring a authenticity to the novel. Even though child labor, cruelty to animals, and immigration are major themes in this story, Rocco’s unbreakable spirit lends an optimistic light to his narrative. (ages 9-12)

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste
jumbiesMost people in Corinne’s village do not go near the forest, for terrible creatures called jumbies are said to live there. Corinne is not scared, but when she sees a strange pair of yellow eyes watching her one night she begins to suspect some of the old stories she has heard are real. When she uncovers the truth about herself and her island’s history she must make a terrible decision: risk her own life for her that of her village or join the jumbies in their quest to take back their island. Loosely based on a Caribbean folktale from the author’s childhood growing up in Trinidad, this story adds new flavor to the fairy tale/folklore genre dominated by Grimm’s Brothers and Andersen’s tales. The Jumbies is a fast-paced, action packed story great for any reader breaking into middle grade fiction who enjoys magic, adventure, and scary creatures. (ages 10-14)

The Last Boy at St. Edith’s by Lee Malone
last boyOne by one, 24 of the 25 boys that attended St. Edith’s transfer to other schools, leaving Jeremy stuck with more than 400 girls and no hope of escape since he receives free tuition through his mom’s job. While Jeremy wasn’t particularly good friends with any of the other boys, he desperately wishes to go to a school where he is not the minority. He and his best friend Claudia concoct a plan to pull “harmless” pranks until Jeremy is expelled. The humor throughout the first half of the book gives way to a more thoughtful, emotional story as Jeremy’s pranks start to go wrong and he realizes the consequences of his actions are further reaching than anticipated. Practical jokers who have enjoyed Frindle or The Tapper Twins Go To War should like reading about Jeremy’s escapades in this solid coming-of-age story. (ages 8-12)

Jacky Ha Ha by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
jacky hahaClass clown Jacky Ha Ha Hart loves to crack jokes at all the wrong times, maybe to distract others from her stutter or distract herself from the crummy stuff going on at home. With a mom deployed to Saudi Arabia and a father that is never home, Jacky channels her frustration into acting out at school, gaining her many, many detentions. The new English teacher recognizes Jacky’s potential and comes up with a plan for Jacky to get rid of her detentions while channeling her creative energy into joining the school play. Fans of Patterson and Grabenstein should enjoy this humorous story, but it isn’t either one’s best work. While Jacky is a relatable character just trying to navigate through the ups and downs of pre-pubescent life, the references to 90’s pop culture will not register with most readers and some of the humor falls flat. (ages 8-12)

-Sarah Beth