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Staff Reviews by Elizabeth Lutz

Cover: 'Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts'

"Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts" by Esta Spalding

★★★★★ Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts is a book you feel like you’ve dreamed up. Its realistic elements are: the four Fitzgerald-Trout children need to go to school, they need to eat, they need to do laundry and - most importantly - they need a better place to live. Its fantastical twist is: they have two terrible mothers and two (or three) awful fathers...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: '101 Ways To Go Zero Waste'

"101 Ways To Go Zero Waste" by Kathryn Kellogg

★★★★★ Are you tired of taking out the trash? Does it bother you that only nine percent of plastic is actually recycled? That it takes three liters of water to produce once liter of bottled water? Everyone is familiar with the saying: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. What Kathryn Kellogg emphasizes in this guide is that recycle comes last. First, what can you do...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'The Cook and the King'

"The Cook and the King" by Julia Donaldson, David Roberts

★★★★ In this new fairy tale, a hungry king needs to find a cook. After trying many cooks and rejecting them all, he ends up with Wobbly Bob. The king then asks for his favorite dish—fish and chips—but Wobbly Bob is “terribly scared” about every aspect of food preparation. The king looks sympathetically on the shaking cook and helps him to prepare the meal....

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Faithful Spy'

"The Faithful Spy" by John Hendrix

★★★★★ This creative, colorful, biography tells the life story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor, a member of the German Resistance, and double agent working for the Abwehr during World War II. Bonhoeffer opposed Hitler’s ideology of Aryan supremacy early on in his rise to power, long before the outbreak of the second world war. He watched with...

Audience: children, teens, tweens | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'My Struggle, Book 1'

"My Struggle, Book 1" by Karl Ove Knausgaard

★★★★ My Struggle is a very serious book; if you couldn’t guess as much from the title, you will find out from the first pages of book one, which are a reflection on death. The author returns to this theme of death—specifically the death of his father—throughout the book in seamless passages, recollections that touch on his childhood, his adolescence, and his...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Snow Lane'

"Snow Lane" by Josie Angelini

★★★★ Annie Bianchi is a fifth-grader with dyslexia. This disability makes life difficult for her in many ways. She struggles to read and dress herself. She is teased when she smiles and laughs for no apparent reason. Annie has a habit of counting things and arranging numbers into organized groups. It is a coping mechanism for when she doesn’t know how to handle...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Third Mushroom'

"The Third Mushroom" by Jennifer L. Holm

★★★★★ Ellie and her grandfather have become better friends since last year when her grandfather turned himself young again through a science experiment and attended Ellie’s middle school. In this sequel to The Fourteenth Goldfish, crusty teenage scientist (with two PhDs) Melvin Sagarsky returns. Having her grandfather around has encouraged in Ellie a love for...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)'

"She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)" by Ann Hood

★★★★★ Trudy Mixer feels like she has lost control of her young life. She has been ostracized by her classmates ever since the new substitute teacher called her by her real name—Gertrude—and her best friend has left her for the future cheerleaders group. Practically the most important job of her life is running The Robert E. Quinn Junior High Beatles Fan Club (the...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Be Prepared'

"Be Prepared" by Vera Brosgol

★★★★ Vera is ashamed of her Russian heritage in front of her American girlfriends. She just wants to be as American as they are with their perfectly planned birthday parties and summer camp culture. When she tries to imitate them and utterly fails, she turns to an alternative—Russian camp. At ORRA, maybe she will meet better friends who are like she is for...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: graphic novel

Cover: 'The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden'

"The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden" by Kevin DeYoung, Don Clark

★★★★ This brilliantly illustrated book covers the Bible’s central message in just 10 chapters using simple, casually styled language. It describes the Bible story of the snake crusher (that’s Jesus), defeating death forever so that we can live with God in the garden as the biggest story the world has ever known. DeYoung’s writing makes the Bible accessible to...

Audience: children | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'The Glass Town Game'

"The Glass Town Game" by Catherynne M. Valente

★★★★★ What happens when four children follow a man made entirely out of book and magazine pages onto a train headed for Glass Town? An adventure, of course! Only these aren’t just any children, they are the Brontës—Branwell, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne—and the world they find themselves in is all their own creation. Glass Town and Gondal are at war, just like...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Nest'

"The Nest" by Kenneth Oppel

★★★★ This tale is told from the perspective of Steven, a tween with OCD. His anxiety acts up again after the birth of his brother Theo, who his parents worry may have mental or other disabilities. I was immediately hooked by the creepy details which sounded like the makings for an episode of Doctor Who. Steven’s recurring nightmare is of a figure standing...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Girl with the Ghost Machine'

"The Girl with the Ghost Machine" by Lauren DeStefano

★★★★ Emmaline’s father misses her mother so much after her premature death that he builds a ghost machine to bring her back. But in the two years he spends tinkering with it night and day, it still won’t work properly. Emmaline, frustrated by the way the machine has consumed her father’s life, attempts to break the machine by pouring her cup of tea into it. Then...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'A House Without Mirrors'

"A House Without Mirrors" by Mårten Sandén, Karin Altenberg

★★★★ After the death of her baby brother, Thomasine is staying with her cousins at her Great Aunt Henrietta’s house. The curious thing is that there are no mirrors hanging anywhere in this sprawling old manor. Then Thomasine’s five-year-old cousin Signe, who hardly ever speaks, comes out from the wardrobe where the mirrors are all hidden away, suddenly...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life'

"Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life" by David R. Montgomery

★★★★ Many people choose sides between conventional and organic methods of farming, assuming that you will have to settle for lower harvests and smaller produce if you don’t want your food to be poisoned by carcinogenic pesticides. Montgomery brings the reader’s attention to a third option: conservative agriculture. This means not tilling fields with a plow,...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Norah Gaughan's Knitted Cable Sourcebook'

"Norah Gaughan's Knitted Cable Sourcebook" by Norah Gaughan

★★★★★ I love this book! Every pattern in this book is beautiful. Clear, clean-looking photographs display cable patterns ranging from beginner to advanced in skill level. The hard part is deciding where to start! The instructions are written so that knitters can really experiment and individualize each design to suit their projects. The author includes 2–3...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Over The Hills And Far Away: The Life of Beatrix Potter'

"Over The Hills And Far Away: The Life of Beatrix Potter" by Matthew Dennison

★★★★ Famous for her many ‘little books’ such as Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny, Beatrix Potter’s life has been extensively documented. For those who don’t know where to begin I recommend this short biography. Each chapter smoothly moves through the stages in Potter’s life with frequent direct quotations from her own journals, which she kept meticulously....

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'My Happy Life'

"My Happy Life" by Rose Lagercrantz, Eva Eriksson, Julia Marshall

★★★★★ This book opens as Dani tries to fall asleep by counting all the times in her life she has been happy. Along with those happy times, she remembers some not so happy. Her mother died when she was very young and she lives with her father. Then, in her first year of school, her best friend moves away! But Dani stays positive. Lagercrantz excellently captures...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Last Days of Pompeii'

"The Last Days of Pompeii" by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

★★★★ You may think you know the eventual outcome: everyone dies, right? There can’t be much suspense in that! But do they? The story’s climax takes place, as the title suggests, just days before Vesuvius erupts. By then, our heroes and villains are caught in a complex web of actions and counteractions ostensibly dealt out by Fate. The Last Days of Pompeii by...

Audience: adults | Genre: historical fiction

Cover: 'Nine Open Arms'

"Nine Open Arms" by Benny Lindelauf

★★★★★ “Is it true that some stories only just manage to be born? Or do these stories always seek their own path into the world, and do they always, eventually, find a way of being told?” What first attracted me to this book was the cover art—a brick house on a deserted road with no front door, combined inside the jacket with a mysterious bed in a field and a...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction