Codes for Reviews

First Initial (Overall Rating):
E = Exceptional
VG = Very Good
G = Good
F = Fair
NR = Not Recommended

Second Initital (Reading Level):
A = Average Reading Level
E = Easy
M = Mature

“The views expressed are of individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of their respective institutions.”

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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson

High School Fiction

VG/M. Jackson, Tiffany. Let me hear a rhyme.  Katherine Tegen Books, 2019. 380p. 978-0-06-284032-5. 17.99.

It’s the summer of ’98, and rather than heading off to Coney Island to enjoy the beach and fireworks like they always do right before the school year starts, Quadir and Jarrell are instead attending their best friend’s funeral.  To others, Steph may have just been another nameless victim of street violence, but to them he was their brother, someone they could always count on to have their back. However, as close as they were, Quadir and Jarrell are still surprised to find the depth of Steph’s musical talent.  When they discover his prerecorded music, they approach Jasmine, Steph’s sister, with an outrageous plan.  The three decide to promote Steph’s music under the alias “The Architect”, pretending Steph is still alive in order to get him signed onto a record label. Jasmine agrees, only if the two help her uncover the truth about her brother’s murder.  The stakes are high for the all three, and the situation ever more dangerous as they move closer to the truth.  Will they be able to help Steph achieve his dreams even after death and find justice for him? For fans of Angie Thomas. Recommended for all YA collections.

Camille Campos, LAPL, Benjamin Franklin Branch Library 

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

High School Fiction

VG/A. Donnelly, Jennifer. Stepsister. Scholastic Press, 2019. 342p. 978-1-338-26846-1. 17.99.
Stepsister is Donnelly’s darker and more nuanced reimagining of the classic fairy tale of Cinderella, told from the point of view of the “ugly stepsister”. Isabella may be considered ugly, but she’s fierce and strong of will. Isabella was also good and brave once upon a time, and she, Octavia or “Tavi”, and Ella were once friends. What happened to the three that made them so jealous and resentful of each other?  Now that Ella has married the prince, Isabella and Tavi, are left behind to deal with the derision and scorn of the villagers in the aftermath of their desperate and failed attempt to marry the prince. When the girls and their mother lose their home, they are forced to beg for a place to stay, finding work in the fields of a nearby farm.  Isabella can’t help but think that if only she were pretty, her life would be easier. Isabella meets the same fairy queen Tanaquill, who had helped Ella, but instead of giving Isabella gifts of a carriage and beautiful gown, only agrees to help Isabella, if she can find the missing pieces of her heart.  Isabella has to unravel the riddle, and in doing so, rediscover herself and forge her own path lest, she forever remain known as the ugly stepsister. Recommended for YA collections.

Camille Campos, LAPL, Benjamin Franklin Branch Library

Thursday, May 9, 2019

New Kid by Jerry Craft

E/A. Craft, Jerry. New Kid.  Harper, 2019. 249p. 978-0-06-269120-0. 21.99.

Middle Grade Graphic Novel

Jordan Banks loves to draw, and he wants nothing more than to start his 7th grade year at an art
school, but his mom has other plans. Instead, she wants him to attend a prestigious private
school—Riverdale Academy Day School.  His father is worried that there is not enough
diversity at this new school, and sure enough, Jordan is only one of the few diverse kids
at Riverdale. It’s difficult enough to be in middle school, but to be a new kid at a middle
school where the other kids are very privileged, who vacation in places like Aspen or
the Adirondacks, where the teacher confuses your name with other African American
boys, and even the librarian thinks that the only books that would appeal to you are the
gritty problem novels. Jordan can’t help but feel like an outsider, lost and alone, as he
tries to get through his classes, make new friends while staying clear of upperclassmen
and bullies, and generally trying to survive the school year until he can convince his mom
to send him to art school. This singular graphic novel is full of insight and humor, and
definitely answers the call for #weneeddiversebooks. For fans of Jeff Kinney and Raina
Telgemeier. Must-have for all general YA collections.

Camille Campos, LAPL, Benjamin Franklin Branch Library

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Beck by Mal Peet and Meg Rosoff

YA Fiction

The leaves shiver and fall and a gentle wind circulates through the neighborhood. It’s autumn and the perfect season to nestle up under an oak and lose yourself in a good book. And I’ve got just the book to chase away those post-summer blues. Let’s delve right in and get all roused with reverie for leisurely literature again.

Beck by Mal Peet is wholesale heartrending and a host to many narrative highs and lows. A historical novel that follows Beck, a young orphan vagabond traveling across the continent during the Depression, as he struggles with the racial inequalities of the era and the hardships of life on the road. It’s a story propelled by well-wrought emotions, fully-realized characters, and a protagonist that embodies determination in the face of abject desolation.  

The plot will pitch your wellbeing through the emotional wringer. Beck undergoes tremendous trials and tribulations and, willingly or not, finds his resolve and character hardened by it. Hunger and discrimination are a constant companion with him throughout his travels but he manages to find solace by novel’s end. Circumstance and chance batters the boy incessantly but he learns to persevere. He ekes his way from one harrowing situation to the next. Survival becomes a knack despite some gut-wrenching close calls. Beck finds himself testing the very limits of luck with his constant freight-hopping, illicit hardscrabble careers, and irreverent denunciation of authority.

The writer is adept at conjuring vivid paragraphs of description. We’re transported from the gloomy docks of Liverpool to the frigid tundras of Canada to the desolate amber prairies of rural America. It’s a story that spans many lands and locales. Displacement and social decline a strong theme page after page. It’s a Dorothea Lange portrait writ large across the page. Bleak and howling gray. But embedded in the nigh nothingness of descriptive deprivation and famine, we catch sight of lyrical glimmers of poetry. Soothing and sorely sought sustenance for the soul. Scattered are easily-missed, microscopically-mentioned mementos that remind readers of the beauty in disconsolate environs. Though seemingly barren and unforgiving, we must make an earnest effort to dust off the dolorous to find the shoots of green hope dormant underfoot.  

It’s a challenging book. Dark and sublime in its devastating portrayal of chronic indigence. Not your usual Young Adult fare that strikes all the conventional plot points and culminates in a tidy saccharine ending. This tale expects more from readers. It prods and poses difficult questions regarding race, class, and an outsider’s waning place in the world. It’s a book that has the courage to not opt for the easy answers. And presses you to find comfort in a lack of resolution or sense of closure.  

The long and short of it: Beck is fine reading. Stark and powerful in its craft of storytelling. It’s a thick borsch of The Grapes of Wrath, Angela’s Ashes, and Great Expectations. A tale as steadfast, unsettling, and mosaic-like as America itself. So brandish that thumb and hitchhike a ride on this rich and harrowing literary odyssey.

It’s a ride that’s sure to be itinerant and eye-opening.   ​

Tommy Vinh Bui, Inglewood Public Library 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

More Deadly Than War : The Hidden History of the Spanish Flu and the First World War

YA Nonfiction

VG/A. Davis, Kenneth C. More Deadly Than War: The Hidden History of the Spanish Flu and the First World War. Henry Holt and Company, 2018. 291p. 978-1-250-14512-3. 19.95.

“We live in a world in which we fear the deadly things we can see. Bombs, guns, and terrorism are the most visible threats to life and peace…But throughout human history, the things we cannot see have actually been the most lethal. Disease have been more deadly than war.” Davis’s fascinating and engrossing account comes on the 100th anniversary of the Spanish flu, the most deadly pandemic in the modern era. It has recently been estimated that 100 million people died worldwide, of which 675,000 died in the US.  However, little attention has been paid to the Spanish flu that left victims, otherwise young and healthy, “blue as huckleberries and spitting blood”.  A “collective amnesia”, the censorship of newspapers, magazines and textbooks surrounding the Spanish flu and its effects on WWI, has allowed it to fall into “a black hole of history”.  The history of the Spanish flu is a cautionary tale, in which lessons of the past are still relevant today, especially in a world more interconnected than ever before, where outbreaks of Zika or Ebola or even the flu can lead to another deadly and terrifying pandemic. Includes black and white photographs, appendices, timeline, bibliography, source, notes, and index. Recommended for all general YA collections.

C. Campos, Benjamin Franklin Library, LAPL

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Prince and the Dressmaker

General YA Graphic Novel

VG/A. Wang, Jen. The Prince and the Dressmaker.  First Second, 2018. 312p. 978-1-62672-363-4. 16.99.

After having designed such a scandalous dress for Lady Sophia Rohan, Frances finds herself unexpectedly let go. Luckily, she soon finds herself as a personal seamstress for a private client -- the mysterious Lady Crystallia.  By night, the confident, bold, beautiful and alluring Lady Crystallia takes Paris by storm.  By day, Lady Crystallia is none other than the Crown Prince Sebastian of Belgium, a dutiful son for whom his parents are steadfastly searching for a bride.  Whenever Sebastian wears Frances’ beautiful creations, he feels absolutely transformed, that he can do just about anything.  Just as Lady Crystallia and Frances’ designs grow in popularity - all the girls want to dress like her - so, too, does the need for secrecy. Sebastian is worried about what his parents would think if they find out the truth.  He implores Frances to keep his secret, but Sebastian’s secret may tear their friendship apart.  Frances knows that in order to keep Sebastian’s secret she would have to keep her own talents a secret and miss out on following her dreams.  Sebastian is torn between following his parent’s wishes or being honest and remaining true to himself.  Jen Wang’s delightful and refreshing graphic novel is a wonderfully illustrated, unconventional fairy tale that will captivate many fans. C. Campos, LAPL, Benjamin Franklin

Monday, April 30, 2018



G/A  Kops, Deborah.  Alice Paul and the Fight for Women's Rights.  Calkins Creek, 2017.
978-1-62979-323-8.  17.95.  Paul's inspiration to become a political activist for the fair treatment and rights of women began during her 2 1/2 years in England.  While extending her "beyond graduate" education, she became a suffragette in London's -- Women's Social and Political Union.  This involvement prepared her for a leadership role in America's -- National Woman's Party.  She worked tirelessly for the women's right to vote, anti-sex discrimination, civil rights, and the Equal Rights Amendment.  Included in the book are:  a very detailed index; a mini -- who's who section of approximately 30 additional women; an extensive bibliography; and a thorough listing of sources for quotations.  There are also an ample number of good quality b/w photographs distributed throughout the book -- many of which are properties of the  Library of Congress.   E.M. Roublow (ret.)