All posts by Marty Mason

Spooky Story Contest!

It’s that time of year, friends, and the Children’s Librarians cannot wait to read your Spooky Stories!

  • Our annual spooky story contest is open to everyone in grades K-8!
  • One story per author
  • Stories must be typed or neatly written
  • Stories must have a beginning, middle, and end
  • Stories do not need illustrations
  • Stories should be spooky and/or scary

Winners will be announced and their stories read aloud at the Spooky Story Celebration on Friday, October 29 at 4:00 on Zoom.

Feel free to stop by the Children’s desk with questions, or to drop off your spooky story! We can’t wait to read them! 🙂

Teen Book Reviews – September 20, 2021

Check out the wide range of books our teen volunteers are reading and reviewing this fall! Do you see any of your favorites? 🙂

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (2014)

Reviewed by Braneeth

Summary
The Screaming Staircase is a thriller novel set in Victorian England. An event known as
“the Problem” has caused deadly ghosts to appear all over London. Only children possess the ability to see and hear these supernatural forces. Agencies employing these young ones are committed to eradicating England of “the Problem.” Lockwood & Co, one such agency, find themselves in a financial crisis after a mission gone wrong. However, when a famous industrialist shows up with a well-paying job, they are forced to accept to save their company. They must brave the mysteries and dangers of Combe Carey Hall, the most haunted house in London. Furthermore, there seems to be something more sinister at play regarding their mysterious client and his true intentions.

My Opinions
The Screaming Staircase is a great book, and one that I would recommend. The idea that
only children can see the ghosts is a very unique twist on common ghost stories. Despite being a ghost story, the feelings and emotions of the main character Lucy are very relatable as she navigates fear, love, and danger. The book has many plot twists leaving you in suspense and never knowing what will happen next.

My only critique would be that there is not much danger or suspense for the first half of
the book as the agency is introduced and the introduction is set. However, once they enter the haunted house the plot picks up dramatically and tensions rise. It’s well worth the wait and the ending is both unexpected but also appropriately rounds off the book.

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (2013)

Reviewed by Vaanya

The exquisite book, The School for Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani, is the first of six in the series. It takes you on adventures you could only dream of and it contains the splendor that you could only imagine. Once you have read the first book your thirst for more will make you run out to get the second!

There are two schools, one for Good, and one for Evil. Try to escape and you will always fail, the only way out is through a fairytale. Away from all of this is the village of Gavaldon, in the center of the endless Woods. Every four years two “readers” are chosen, one to go to the School for Evil, and one for the School for Good. The villagers all think they know who will be chosen and which schools they will go to, but they find out they are very wrong.

Sophie and Agatha are two completely opposite girls, but are still very close friends. Sophie has always dreamed of getting away from Gavaldon and into the School for Good. She wants a bigger and better life. Ever since her mother died heartbroken, she told herself she would find a prince. She is the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, and she thinks if she does enough Good Deeds the School Master will choose her. The villagers feel sure that she will end up going to the School for Good. Her friendship with Agatha started out as a good deed. Agatha, on the other hand, keeps to herself and she wants to continue to live on the grave hill with her mother, the complete opposite of Sophie. The villagers believe that she will go to the School for Evil.

One night both Sophie and Agatha get abducted by the School Master. When both of the girls reach the schools, they are awestruck at first, but then the School Master drops Agatha at the School for Good, and Sophie is not happy about it. Sophie has always wanted the life of a princess who lives with a prince. After ending up in a school that only seems to portray her nightmares, Sophie is desperate to go to Agatha’s place. After many tries, she gives up and tries to win the heart of a prince instead – Prince Tedros of Camelot. He thinks there has been a mistake in the placement of the students. In his mind Agatha is the witch and Sophie is his princess.

Meanwhile, Agatha is miserable in her new school, and she wants to find a way back to Sophie and her home in Gavaldon. Most of all, she wants to get away from Prince Tedros, who she keeps encountering. This school promises her a beautiful and wonderful life, but she knows what would happen if she fails it. Worst of all, every single hallway has a mirror and young girls from fairytale dynasties. They all remind her of who she can’t be, a beautiful princess with a perfect life and someone she loves who loves her back. Agatha needs to escape from this school, but she doesn’t see the opportunities that lay just in front of her.

The School for Good and Evil is an enchanting book filled with mystical fantasies and twists that have a little bit of foreshadowing so that it doesn’t come as a complete surprise to the reader. The first book tangles the reader into a web of magic and drama. The details are exquisite, from what the characters eat to how they interact with others. The book is not your typical fairy tale. There is adventure beyond measure, and mysteries that will lead you to read the next book. Each book does end on somewhat of a cliffhanger, but it has a bittersweet ending along with it.

“In the forest of primeval, a school for Good and Evil, twin towers like two heads, one for the pure and one for the wicked, try to escape you’ll always fail, the only way out is through a fairytale.”

El Deafo by Cece Bell (2014)

Reviewed by Sanya

The book El Deafo was written by Cece Bell and it’s a story about her own childhood! Cece gets sick and soon finds out she’s losing her hearing. Since she has to wear a big hearing device she always feels like the odd one out. Towards the end of the story she shares her “superpower” with the rest of the class and doesn’t feel ashamed anymore. 

I loved reading this book! El Deafo is a graphic novel so I could really see what was happening and what everything looked like. Even if this book hadn’t included pictures, Cece describes everything really well so it’s easy to follow along. My favourite character was Cece since she’s the main character, but I also liked Martha. Martha was one of Cece’s only friends that wasn’t mean and didn’t make a big deal about her hearing aids. 

Throughout the book Cece was ashamed of her hearing aids, so if you have ever felt like the odd one out you can understand how Cece felt. If you’re looking for an entertaining graphic novel to read you should definitely check this book out! I enjoyed reading El Deafo and I think it’s a great book for kids in elementary and middle school.

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway (2017)

Reviewed by Adharsha

This is a beautiful book which portrays the importance of family amidst the act of finding yourself. Three different teenagers, living not far away from each other, end up figuring out that they are half-siblings. As their paths converge, they learn more about each other and support each other through their struggles and times of difficulty.

Each of the characters is beautifully described and each of their stories touched me in a way no book has before. I loved every moment of this novel, and I loved Robin Benway’s unique and beautiful writing. This book made me cry, laugh, and wonder, through the amazing details and plot twists that would keep any reader invested.

I really, really, loved this book, and I know that anyone who picks up Far From the Tree will find it to be a heartwarming and truly stunning novel. Kudos to Robin Benway for taking me on such an emotional yet fantastic adventure. 🙂

  • Rating: 20/10

Teen Book Reviews – September 1, 2021

Our teen volunteers have been reading up a storm this summer! Check out these reviews – maybe you’ll find a few fun back to school reads! 🙂

North of Nowhere by Liz Kessler (2013)

Reviewed by Vaanya

An amazing mystery, North of Nowhere will really make the gears inside your head turn. Though it is a little hard to understand the book, it is a fun read for someone who loves plot twists and keeping up with whatever the characters discover. I must admit that the book is a little fast-paced but you love the feeling of the mystery solved in the end.

It’s a normal day in Mia’s life as she gets ready to go shopping with her friends. All of a sudden her mother gets a phone call regarding the disappearance of her Grandfather. As much as she doesn’t want to miss her plans, Mia has to go. Her mom drags her down to the sleepy village of Porthaven where they meet Mia’s grandmother who is stressed out by this situation. Her grandmother is busy running the family pub by herself and needs help from Mia and her mom. Mia has never seen her grandmother like this, so stressed out and panicked .

While walking her dog, Mia chases him to a boat with a small locker in it. From the locker she finds a diary of a girl, her age, and decides to write a letter to this mysterious girl. Everyday the diary comes back with a response from the mystery girl to Mia. The girl’s name is Dee and she is from the island of Luffsands, which Mia has never heard of. They write to each other about meeting up in the farmers market, but Dee says that the weather is too harsh and there is too much rain. Mia sees nothing but sunny skies, but decides not to push Dee.

Mia also meets a boy named Peter who looks familiar to her, though she cannot figure out why. Mia tells Peter about her letters to Dee on the island of Luffsands, and Peter asks her why she doesn’t go meet Dee instead of waiting for Dee to come to her. Mia thinks it would be too dangerous, especially with her Grandpa missing, but Peter insists that they try. In the end, Mia doesn’t go with him and the next morning the village is buzzing with news of how Peter went missing. Peter’s sister comes to Mia for help, and they decide to take a boat out in search of the island of Luffsands. You will have to read the story to find out what happens next!

All in all, the book was a brilliant mystery, almost like a detective book where everything is explained in the end. The characters were unique and offered diverse perspectives, which made the book more enjoyable.  The author did a great job describing every little detail of  Porthaven and Luffsands, so that both the sleepy neighborhood and mysterious island with its jagged rocks came to life for the reader.  The plot was hard to follow along with in the end, especially as the mystery is solved and untangled with multiple characters. The ending is very fast-paced, as if the author was trying to wrap things up a little quickly. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mystery and a little bit of confusion to get your mind going.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (2016)

Reviewed by Sriya

The Sun is Also a Star is a novel about perspective. Honestly, it’s a beautiful work of literature that can be analyzed in many ways. But before I get into the details, The Sun is Also a Star is the story of Natasha Kingsley and Daniel Bae and how their paths cross on one fateful day. Natasha Kingsley and her family are illegal immigrants from Jamaica. Natasha’s father, Samuel Kingsley, is a struggling actor who believes he is destined to be on stage but fails to land any roles. Mr. Kingsley brought his family to America with the hopes of becoming a great actor but ten years later, his family is being kicked out of the only home they’ve ever known. Daniel Bae is the second child of Korean immigrants and younger brother to the jerkish Charles Bae who got kicked out of Harvard. Alone, Natasha and Daniel’s lives seem very normal and the same as hundreds of other teens across the country. Together, however, they are magical

Natasha and Daniel’s meeting was purely coincidental but once they meet, they can both feel that this was more than just a coincidence. The two conflicted teens opened up to each other about their family struggles, school struggles, and so many more inner conflicts that can barely be expressed through words. After reading this book, you can decide for yourself if Natasha and Daniel meeting was a coincidence or destiny. The setting of this book is in modern day New York, a very classic but somewhat cliche setting for teen romance. The book starts off by narrating Natasha and Daniel and their respective backgrounds. After the two young adults meet, we can see the story from their perspective and what they think about each other and the world around them. What I liked most about this book is that the book has different chapters from Natasha’s and Daniel’s points of view, and there are a few chapters from the background characters’ perspectives also.  

Another book by Nicola Yoon that I would recommend is Everything, Everything. Everything, Everything is about Maddy, a teen with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a disease where most medicines and antibodies don’t work on her. Due to this, she has been quarantined in her house for all her life. However, the boy next door, Olly, believes that they still have a chance to be together.

We were Liars by E. Lockhart (2014)

Reviewed by Saimah

We Were Liars was written by E. Lockhart and published on May 13, 2014. Cadence spends every summer on a private island along with her family, the Sinclairs, and also Gat, who is the nephew of the man that one of the daughters is in a relationship with. Cadence, the 2 oldest cousins, and Gat are known as “the Liars”, and they spend summers having fun together away from the Sinclair family drama. Cadence and Gat fall in love but the following summer Cadence gets into an accident where she loses her memory of what had happened that summer and is not able to return to the island the next year. She writes letters and emails that are all unanswered by “the Liars”, and the next year when she returns to the island for summer, she tries to piece together what happened – the ending will shock you. 

The characters were very believable, especially Cadence’s behavior after she lost her memory, the Sinclair family’s was treatment of her after she returned to the island, and also “the Liars” behavior. The setting of the island was described with great detail, as was Cadence’s home during the school year. The plot was a bit slow and also confusing in my opinion, and I think it was partly because of how the story was formatted. The story was really amazing, good for people who like a plot twist or a mystery. However, the formatting of the book did not really appeal to me – on the contrary, I found it frustrating.

The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas (2014)

Reviewed by Cynthia

The Assassin’s Blade includes five prequel novellas to the high fantasy series, Throne of Glass. Located in the corrupt kingdom of Adarlan, it follows the feared 16-year old female assassin Celaena Sardothien when she, accompanied by the assassin Sam Cortland who she despises, sails to the island city Skull’s Bay. She has been sent by the King of the Assassins, Arobynn Hamel, to confront the Pirate Lord for presumably murdering three of the assassins they worked with. However, she soon learns that for some reason, Arobynn has actually sent them there to conduct a slave trade. Disgusted that he would tell her to do this, she decides to ruin the slave trade, and the chain of events that follow bring new discoveries that change her immensely. 

The book was very enjoyable, as the author made me quickly get attached to many of the unique characters that make up the story. It was filled with great word choice that made the heart warming and heart breaking moments resonate within me. The new, unexpected discoveries made throughout the story made me eagerly await how events would unfold. What’s more, the characters were very well developed. From the first few pages of the book, you can already tell that Celaena is a competent, disdainful, refined, and impulsive woman, yet she’s also kind and caring and is willing to go to far for the things she strongly believes in. This balance of traits makes her a very likable and realistic character who makes you laugh and cry with her. Additionally, the pacing was great. The author makes sure to sprinkle information throughout the story while repeating and specifying it in just the right amounts so you can understand and enjoy it. This is especially true for the large fantasy world it takes place in, as it is normally very difficult to describe settings like this without overwhelming a reader, but the author managed to incorporate it so it wasn’t boring. If you are a teen that enjoys high fantasy and romance stories and likes a strong female protagonist, I would recommend this book along with the rest of the Throne of Glass series.

Children’s Library of Things!

If you’ve been in the Children’s Room recently, you may have noticed our new display featuring the Children’s Library of Things!

Our Children’s Library of Things features unique items perfect for playing and learning that you can take home and enjoy with your family for 3 weeks. Items include sensory kits, musical instruments, and STEM related tools and toys.

Check out our offerings below – click on the title to link to a description in the catalog. And keep an eye out for more to come! 🙂

Teen Book Reviews – August 2, 2021

Summertime finds our teen volunteers reading and reviewing a wide variety of books. Check out their latest below!

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales (2020)

Reviewed by Hope

Only Mostly Devastated is a teen novel about a young man named Ollie who goes through many challenges including loss, love, and lots of confusion. Ollie is a gay teen who has a summer fling in a town far from where he lives. He does not expect much to come from this summer romance until his aunt gets sick, and his family decides that they will be moving to live in this town. Will, his summer fling, has not come out as gay yet, which causes many problems between the two boys. Both Ollie and Will struggle to find friends and to fit in.

I enjoyed reading this book quite a bit because I felt that it helped to show how high school really is. It didn’t sugar coat coming out in high school – instead, it kept it real. It showed how these closeted individuals may feel in a very toxic environment, and how we as a community can help them feel more comfortable to come out and be themselves. The book is also very unique in of how it was written; it was written to sound like it was in Ollie’s head. I really admired how the author managed to write in this way without it sounding fake or made-up. The author did an amazing job at showing Ollie’s feelings without directly saying them and making them seem boring. My only critique of the story is that it was a bit predictable. While everything about it is written very nicely and it is overall a very good book, I wish that it had a few more plot twists and turns. But other than that I really enjoyed reading this book. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading a not-so-traditional romantic comedy.

Not if I save you first by Ally Carter (2018)

Reviewed by Saimah

Not if I save you first is an adventure fiction book written by Ally Carter in 2018. Maddie Manchester, the daughter of a secret service agent, and Logan, the son of the U.S. president, are two teenagers whose friendship gets torn apart because of an attack on the White House. Maddie and Logan have been close friends since their childhood, but right after the attack, Maddie and her dad leave for Alaska. Maddie writes many letters to Logan and she never gets a single letter in reply. When Logan visits because the president wants his son to be safe, things are tense between them and go rapidly downhill when a Russian man kidnaps Logan and it’s up to Maddie to save him and figure out the truth about his past. 

This story was well written, depicting anger, happiness, anticipation and love. The characters were very realistic, and the emotions they portrayed matched their actions and reflected how real life people would react when they feel betrayed or when they feel like they can finally trust someone. The setting was also believable; the White House was described in detail, as was Alaska’s nature and habitats. The pacing of the story was more on the slow end rather than a fast action-packed story. In my opinion, the pace was fitting for the story because of all the emotions playing out, and I recommend it for how it explores a lot of secrets and emotions.

Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo (2020)

Reviewed by Claire

Teen Titans: Raven, by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo was originally published May 15, 2020, and is a graphic novel about Raven in high school. Raven Roth loses her memory after she is in a car accident which kills her mother. After the accident, Raven can’t remember anything about her old life, yet she remembers everyday things like how to read, and how to cook. She ends up moving to New Orleans to try and finish her last year of high school. Her attempts at a normal year are ruined by the strange things that keep happening to her. The truth about these occurrences may be hidden in her past, a past that Raven doesn’t want to remember. All of the things that have happened to Raven seem to prove that there is something dark, something evil inside of her. However, her foster sister, Max, assures her that she’s not a bad person, and Tommy, a boy who seems to like her, even without her memory, seems to believe in her goodness. Will the monsters that hide in her past finally catch up with her, or will Raven escape the evil that haunts her every thought?

I really loved reading this book, and enjoyed all of the twists and turns. The characters were all believable, with emotions that seemed real. I liked a lot of the characters, and ended up having a definite favorite. My favorite character is Max, since she has a bit of a sarcastic streak. I think it would be fun to be friends with her, if she was a real person. There are many connections to different characters in the DC universe, and it can give you hints to what may happen in the future. The illustrations in the book were really cool, and they all showed the story incredibly well. The story was paced well, and it was usually clear how the time was passing. The story didn’t move too fast to follow, and the characters weren’t incredibly difficult to understand. I would definitely recommend this title, as it is a great read, with many fun characters, and great graphics. While it may not be the longest book, it definitely has a way of keeping you interested. I would also recommend reading the sequel to this book, Teen Titans: Beast Boy. You don’t have to read Raven to follow the sequel, though it may help a bit.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (2005)

Reviewed by Abhiram

The Book Thief is a historical fiction book written by Markus Zusak in 2005.
Liesel Meminger is the book thief and the main character in the book. Liesel found The Grave Digger’s Handbook at her brother’s funeral, where someone accidentally left it. Liesel learned how to read from her dad, and the theme of literacy is strong throughout this book and the relationships Liesl has in her life. The significance of being a book thief becomes more apparent as Liesel takes books from others and reads them and they change her perspective and understanding of the world. The bold words in the story indicate the texts from the books that Liesel read and the notes that were taken on the characters.
The story takes place in Germany before and during World War II, when the Nazi regime is gaining power. I liked the setting because it was interesting to me and it was written in such a way that I could see myself in that setting. I liked the characters in The Book Thief as well. Liesel was my favorite character because she is smart, kind-hearted, and brave. I also liked Max, Liesel’s Jewish friend. He had left his family to save himself and struggles with feeling guilty throughout the story. He feels broken but fights to keep himself alive.
I would recommend this book because historical fiction is really interesting to me. The book was written in a creative way, from the perspective of death. A movie was released in 2013 based on the book, so the story can be experienced in this way as well.

Teen Book Reviews – July 10, 2021

Check out these awesome reviews from our teen volunteers, and pick up a title for your next trip or beach read!

The Long Walk, by Stephen King (1979)

Reviewed by Braneeth

Summary

The Long Walk takes place in a dystopian United States. There is an annual competition in which one hundred volunteers from all over the country participate in an endless walk with no rest. The last one left wins any prize they want and a large sum of money. The catch? Slow down too often and you’ll be killed. The book follows young Ray Garraty on his journey to win the prize. He must endure both physical and mental barriers as he strives to stay alive. Not only must he push through the barriers of walking hundreds of miles with no break, but he must also witness fellow “Walkers” be shot dead in front of him.

My Opinions

The Long Walk is definitely a good read that I would recommend, but with fair warning. The book has some inappropriate references and some graphic details. However, Stephen King is a master of horror and dystopian literature, and he does a great job of making the characters believable. Main character Ray Garraty is easy to relate to; he suffers just like a normal human, and unlike many cliché protagonists, is no superhero/prodigy.

The setting and background are also very unique. The book shows some parallels to modern society, with the country having one person at the top of the government. However, Stephen King shows contrast by establishing a more dictatorial rule. Furthermore, during the Walk itself, the emotions of the young teens are very comprehensible and relatable. After all, they are just young boys struggling to stay alive.

The only problem I had was with the resolution, which seemed a bit abrupt and unexpected. It was not necessarily a bad one, but very surprising. You’ll have to read the book to find out, but all in all this book is a solid, entertaining read.

Frozen Charlotte, by Alex Bell (2007)

Reviewed by Vaanya

Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell (2007), was a thrill from the beginning to the end. The author, Alex Bell, writes a lot of horror novels. This book is one of her many exciting and mysterious adventures.

The story follows Sophie, who is being sent to the Island of Skye, where she needs answers to some disturbing questions. She is sent to her Uncle James and his three children (who once used to be four). Her goal is clear and simple; to find out more about Rebecca Craig, the ghost came to life on Jay’s Ouija board app and killed him after saying he would die that night. Sophie needs answers, and at first, she doesn’t know who to trust. The nights that Sophie spends at her Uncle James’s house are haunted by the voices of the Frozen Charlotte dolls. Sophie learns that these dolls can poke girls’ eyes out, move at night, and play games with death.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a little bit of thrill and mystery. The setting was described beautifully, even though it was dreary. All the characters were believable and had mysterious backstories and surprising qualities that were revealed in bits and pieces. There were many twists and turns, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Even though this book is a mystery, the author didn’t leave anything to the imagination; it was all detailed enough to grasp and understand. Everything made me feel like I was part of the restless adventures and shivery thrills. There is a decent amount of horror throughout the book, but nothing too overboard. The author was able to add a little bit of history about the Frozen Charlotte dolls, all the while with keeping the reader on the edge of their seat. When you read this book, be sure to not have a single doll in sight.

Crooked Kingdom, by Leigh Bardugo (2016)

Reviewed by Joe

Crooked Kingdom is the sequel to the Six of Crows novel. After Inej is kidnapped and Kaz stripped of his best spy, he tasks his team with rescuing Inej, taking down Jan Van Eck and Pekka Rollins, and keeping Kuwei away from the many who wish to exploit his knowledge of the formula for jurda parem. Their job is cut out for them, but after successfully breaking in and out of the most secure building in the world, how hard can it be?

Each and every character develops throughout the book, changing, for better or worse, by the end of the story. Kaz removes his gloves, slowly making peace with Jordie’s death and the aftermath of it. Nina and Matthias grow closer, and the former struggles to overcome the urge for parem now that she’s taken it. Out of all of the characters, however, Kuwei was the most well-written. Kaz, wants to keep him safe and doesn’t allow him to leave their hideout. However, Kuwei itches to do more than sit around, and constantly presses Kaz to let him leave. Eventually Kuwei is included in the plan, and although he is scared of what will happen if it fails, he follows through with it.

Unlike Six of Crows, which takes place first in Ketterdam, across the sea to the Ice Court, and eventually back to the capital of Kerch, Crooked Kingdom takes place almost entirely in Ketterdam. From the Crow Club to Black Veil Island, the story zig-zags across the merchant city. Ketterdam is one of my favorite cities in any book I’ve read. Just reading the book makes me feel as if I’m walking through the Barrel, with all kinds of people passing by me. Everything about the city is so lifelike, even the graveyards.

The plot of Crooked Kingdom was very different from Six of Crows, yet so similar as well. The author still kept Kaz’s plan secret from the reader until the big reveal, only giving hints of what was to come. In the first book of the duology, Kaz and his team were on the offensive, committing a daring heist. Now, they’ve been put on the defensive, and they have to work to drag themselves back up to the most feared criminals in Ketterdam. There are at least five subplots I can count off the top of my head, all intertwining to form one masterful storyline.

Crooked Kingdom deserves full marks, and is just as amazing as its predecessor. Nothing about this book disappoints me, and it contains a little bit of something for everyone, from an amazing world and a masterful plan to love and devastating loss. This novel will amaze you, no matter your expectations.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling (2000)

Reviewed by Freya

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is an exciting book where many important events take place. The three main characters are Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger, and there are many supporting characters that play an important role in the story. In the beginning of the book, Harry returns to Hogwarts for his 4th year at school and discovers that the school will be hosting the Tri-wizard tournament. This means that there will be other students from various magical schools taking part in the tournament. Only students in the 6th year and above are allowed to participate in the tournament because it was very dangerous. Harry also discovers that there is a new teacher, Mad-Eye Moody, filling in the post for defense against the dark arts position.

For a set period of time, students are allowed to place their names in the Tri-wizard cup to have a chance to be chosen to participate in the tournament. On the day all the students gather to witness the drawing of the contestants’ names, everyone is shocked when the name Harry Potter comes out of the cup. Many people are upset and confused that a 4th year student was chosen, but in the end it is decided that Harry will participate in the tournament. There are three parts to the tournament, and contestants find clues to help them prepare for and conquer the challenges. At the end of the book, a very surprising event takes place – you’ll have to read it and find out more!

How I feel about this book

I think this book is great. I usually like fantasy books, so the Harry Potter series is one of my all-time favorites. One of my favorite parts of the book is the end because there are so many unexpected turns and plot twists. I also really liked reading about how students competed in the challenges. At the beginning of the book I didn’t like Mad eye-Moody, but by the end of the story I had changed my mind about him. My favorite character in this book was Hagrid because he is one of my favorite characters in the series.

 

Teen Book Reviews – June 15th, 2021

The reviews are in! Our teen volunteers never disappoint, and here we have a wide variety of reviews to share. Check them out below! 🙂

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo

Reviewed by Joe

Six of Crows is a fantasy novel about a group of outcasts and criminals, led by the notorious Kaz Brekker, who must attempt a heist on the world’s most secure stronghold: The Fjerdan Ice Court. Set in the same setting as the Shadow and Bone trilogy, a new power has come to light: a drug called jurda parem that can amplify the power of magic wielders thousand-fold. The scientist who discovered the drug, however, has been kidnapped and taken to the Ice Court, where the Fjerdans plan on replicating the drug for their own nefarious purposes. Kaz and his team have been asked to acquire the scientist for the Merchant Council of Kerch, in exchange for an enormous sum of money. The challenges they face along the way come not only from their adversaries, but from within as well, as past quarrels resurface.

The six main characters of the heist were quite believable. There are Jesper, the sharpshooter, Matthias, a Fjerdan ex-soldier split between his country and his loyalty to the team, Nina, a magic wielder known as a Grisha who put Matthias in jail to save him, Wylan, a demolitions expert who ran from his family, Inej, quite possibly the best spy and assassin in the world, and finally Kaz, a criminal mastermind with the most fearsome reputation in all of Kerch. Each of the characters had something that held them down. Kaz had a broken leg that never healed, and he couldn’t stand the touch of human skin after a traumatic experience in his past. Jesper can never stay away from the gambling tables, and Wylan doesn’t know how to read. However, despite their problems, both with each other and with the world, they manage to make one of the best teams the crime world has to offer. The history of each and every character is hinted at and given to the reader bit by bit, which makes me want to keep on reading to figure out more.

The setting of Six of Crows is the same setting as the Shadow and Bone trilogy, known as the Grishaverse. The world was made small, which made it much easier to keep track of. Leigh Bardugo did not spend paragraphs describing each different place as some authors I’ve read have, but if there was something that needed description, you would know what you needed to know about it. She managed to fit lots of information into two or three sentences, which really helped keep the book going while making it as in-depth as possible.

The plot of the novel was quite well written for my taste. Playing on the secretive nature of Kaz, the author kept details from even the reader until the big reveal. I loved this, but some readers might not. It did not affect the story much though, and the ball kept rolling through a maze of different paths the story could take, sometimes literally.

Overall, I would give Six of Crows a full 10/10. I read the book in less than 2 days, and much of the time, I take about a month to finish a book, reading off and on. Everything about the novel is amazing, and the sequel, Crooked Kingdom, is amazing as well. I suggest you read both, and if you’d like a more in-depth review of the second book in the duology, I might review that in the future as well.

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Reviewed by Shivam

One book that I had a chance to read over the course of the past month was Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan. Published in 2015, this fantasy novel, the first in a trilogy, did not disappoint.

The story revolves around Magnus Chase (for those familiar with the Percy Jackson series, he is the cousin of Annabeth, a main protagonist of that series), a 16 year-old teen left homeless on the streets of Boston after the death of his mother. Magnus has two friends, Blitz and Hearth, who look out for him. Life is pretty humdrum for Magnus until his 16th birthday, where he runs into his uncle, Randolph. A historian, Randolph tells Magnus something that changes his life forever: that Magnus is the son of a Norse god. Randolph has Magnus summon the Sword of Summer, an ancient artifact that belongs to his godly parent. Randolph tells Magnus that he will need it. At the moment that Magnus manages to summon the sword, disaster strikes. A fire giant lands in Boston, and Magnus tries single-handedly to stop it. He fails, and dies, losing the sword. After his death, Magnus’ soul is saved by a girl named Sam, and he ends up in Hotel Valhalla, a place for those who died bravely in combat as Magnus did. From here, Magnus faces many dangers, such as battles to the death, a quest to retake the sword, and even the biggest bad guy in Norse mythology himself: Loki.

Overall, I had a really good time reading this book. Everything about it was well-crafted, such as the characters and the setting. The characters were all believable and well-written. Magnus, for example, uses dry humor throughout the book, making it easy to see that even though he is the son of a god, he still has the personality of a teenager. Blitz, Hearth, and Sam are also great characters, and I couldn’t help but root for them all as the story progressed. Another thing that impressed me was the setting. It connects elements of the ancient Norse mythology to a very modern setting, evidenced by the story taking place in Boston at many different stages. I could definitely see myself in this world, whether it be as a protagonist or just a side character. Riordan manages to pull off something that seems impossible in hindsight with the setting, bonding the new and the old. Most impressive of all, however, was the plot. The plot is never slow, and there is always something new and interesting on every page. I was never bored, and it allowed me to understand and enjoy the book to its fullest extent. Nothing seemed out of place, and any actions taken over the course of the story all came together perfectly.

I 100% recommend this book to anyone and everyone, be it interesting mythology or funny comic relief. Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer is a must-read.  Even reluctant readers will be swept up in the plot, reading with great interest. For those who are interested in/enjoyed this book, I recommend many other books by Rick Riordan. He writes about many different types of mythology, and if the Norse mythology world is something people enjoy, it is also worth checking out the series Percy Jackson and The Heroes of Olympus, which include Greek and Roman mythology. If Egyptian mythology interests you as well, I recommend The Kane Chronicles series. All in all, Rick Riordan has many great works, and Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer is definitely one of them.

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Reviewed by Claire

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli was published on April 7, 2015, and tells the story of Simon Spier. Simon is a sixteen year old high school junior, and he is everything that he is expected to be. Except for one, small thing; Simon is gay, and he hasn’t told anyone, except for Blue.

Simon met Blue online, and even though they’ve never met in person, Simon has found a friend in him. In fact, he kind of loves the guy. Blue is the best friend he’s never met, the boyfriend he’s always wanted, hidden behind a computer screen. Simon talks to Blue as much as he can, which is how he’s ended up being blackmailed by Martin Addison. Martin has never really been a problem for him, the guy has always been the class clown, no trouble at all. Until Martin takes it upon himself to blackmail Simon, forcing him to help Martin talk to his dream girl, Abby. Abby is one of Simon’s best friends, and definitely not into Martin. Simon doesn’t want to help, but if he doesn’t, Martin will tell everyone his secret. Not only will Simon be outed, but Blue will be as well. This wouldn’t be so bad, if Blue lived somewhere far away, like California. Except Blue goes to Creekwood High School in Georgia, with Simon, where bullying the gay guys isn’t a rare occurrence. What choice does Simon have?

I loved this book, and found it to have realistic characters, since all of them have flaws, and aren’t made out to be inhumanly perfect. I like almost all of the characters, though my favorites have to be Leah and Bram. I really love Leah’s sarcastic streak, and the fact that she’s not afraid to be different. What I like about Bram is that he’s the quiet kid, the shy one that always exists in fiction, who sits in the back of the room. The story was described in great detail, and I could see myself sitting in the auditorium, watching the drama class put on a show. The pacing of the story works well, and shows how the relationship between Simon and Blue progresses over time. This story highlights how hard it is to be different, especially when people hate you for those differences, and expect you to be someone you’re not. Though it’s not good that we still have these issues in society, I love the fact that this author didn’t make the entire thing out to be a game. This book talks about important issues, emphasizes how it feels to not fit in, and discusses having a different sexuality in a heteronormative society.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a different kind of love story, one that is often underrepresented in the media, though I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone under 13. The characters are well developed, and this book is different from most romance novels. I haven’t read any other books by this author, though there are a few sequels to this book.

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

Reviewed by Ryan

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a novel told from the perspective of a black teenage girl named Starr who witnesses one of her close friends, Khalil, being killed by a police officer in a routine traffic stop. The story takes place in the fictional town of Garden Heights where Starr grew up. Starr tells the reader about her experience following the incident involving Khalil, where she is left to deal with the publicity that surrounds Khalil’s murder, the trauma that she develops, and navigating a predominantly white private high school.

This novel did a great job of telling a compelling story with believable and realistic characters and events. Angie Thomas built a world in this book that is as close to reality as it possibly could be. The setting is described with great detail and imagery that made me question whether or not it was in fact an actual town. Each character was given an intensely detailed description that gives the reader the ability to connect and relate to all of the major characters. I would definitely recommend this book.

Summer Reading has begun!

We are so excited that Summer Reading is back at the Chelmsford Public Library, and hope you will join us for the 2021 “Tails and Tales” Summer Reading Challenge! If you participated in Summer Reading last year, you may already be familiar with our Beanstack tracker app that you can use to log your daily reading and participate in additional literacy challenges!

For more information about the program, and to get a glimpse of the cool prizes you will earn raffle tickets for, head over to our Summer Reading page, or swing by the Children’s Desk for a printed brochure!

 

Teen Book Reviews – May 25, 2021

Check out the latest reviews from our teen volunteers!

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, 1997

Reviewed by Sriya

Starting off I’m going to be honest, I watched the movie Ella Enchanted before reading the actual book. *GASP* I know, I know, I’m ashamed of myself too. But as always, the book was much better than the movie and is 100% deserving of the Newbery Honor Medal. Ella Enchanted is the story of an extraordinary girl who was blessed by a fool of a fairy to be obedient. However, throughout her life she realizes that this so-called blessing was more of a curse. Follow this daring, clumsy, and small-footed heroine through her journey to find the fairy that “blessed” her and break this unfortunate curse.

As you might have guessed, the main character’s name is Ella. In my opinion, Ella is the perfect main character and easily my favorite character in the book. She’s witty, adventurous, and ironically disobedient. Ella’s cook Mandy is the perfect motherly figure for this enchanted child, according to Ella she is the most wonderful cook in the world and is a magical woman. Another character is Prince Charming himself or in this case, Prince Char. Prince Char is the Prince of Frell and is close friends with Ella due to their similar sense of humor. In a world this perfect, there needs to be some evil to balance it out right? That’s where Dame Olga and her evil minion- oops I mean children- come in. Dame Olga and her two daughters are Ella’s worst nightmare. They unexpectedly come into her life and abuse her curse by ordering her around like well, Cinderella.

Ella Enchanted takes place in Frell, a magical town with a medley of humans, centaurs, elves, gnomes, and ogres. Surrounding Frell are more mystical towns inhabited by even more mystic creatures. The plot of Ella Enchanted revolves around Ella traveling through these towns to find the fairy that cursed her. Through her journey, Ella faces all kinds of obstacles and makes a multitude of friends of different species. Levine’s descriptions of these settings and characters were so vivid and detailed that I could perfectly paint Ella’s point of view in my head.

I would definitely recommend this book to people of all ages, Ella Enchanted is a timeless entertainer. I absolutely loved everything about this book, the characters, the plot, and especially the broad vocabulary usage and vivid details. Ella Enchanted successfully combines fairy tale, coming of age, and rom-com tropes into one perfectly written book. Along with reading this wondrous work of literature, I also recommend you watch the movie too. But unlike me, make sure you watch it after reading the book. If you love a book that can make you laugh, swoon, and cry, Ella Enchanted is the perfect book for you.

The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer, 2008

Reviewed by Abhiram

One of my favorite books, The Dead and the Gone, is a sci-fi novel written by Susan Beth Pfeffer in 2008. It is a sequel to Life As We Knew It in the series known as The Last Survivors.

The story’s protagonist, Alex Morales, has to keep himself and his sisters alive after natural disasters take place. He has a hard time thinking about how to look after and protect his two younger sisters, Briana and Julie, because their parents vanished after the tidal waves, and his brother is away serving in the US Army.

The story begins after an asteroid collides with Earth and causes disasters such as tidal waves, eruptions, and earthquakes which transform their home in New York City from a vibrant neighborhood to a jeopardizing wasteland. After witnessing the loss of many lives and a lockdown, maintaining their faith and family harmony are necessary for Alex, Briana, and Julie to survive in the aftermath of these disasters. Alex has to work hard to help himself and his sisters come together as a family.

In the story, Alex’s sister Julie’s hatred towards him bothered me. Alex tries to maintain control over his sisters’ actions to keep them safe, which frustrates Julie and prompts her to tell Alex she hates him several times in the story. However, as the story progresses she starts to appreciate all he has done to keep them safe. In the end, the siblings both realize how much they need each other.

The overall plot was interesting, but initially I didn’t feel like everyone’s actions made sense in response to the asteroid; the main characters were afraid that everyone would die, but everyone else in the story seemed to believe that nobody was going to die. It was interesting to see how everything played out in the face of such an emergency! There’s an excerpt from the beginning of the former story, and part of the sequel at the end, so it does work well as a standalone. I would highly recommend this book.

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, 1961

Reviewed by Saimah

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel written by Harper Lee. The story is set in Maycomb County Alabama in 1933, where the community is very racially divided and prejudiced. Jem and Scout are two kids who live with their father, Atticus. This novel is shown through the perspective of Scout, a young girl who grows from six to nine years old and learns many valuable life lessons along the way. There are rumors about a mysterious person known as Boo Radley, and townspeople say he is a monster and does terrible things. Jem and Scout, along with their friend Dill, try to discover more about Boo Radley as they find him interesting.

When a black man, Tom Robinson, gets accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman, the whole community believes Tom Robinson is guilty. When Atticus is given the job of trying to defend Tom in court, he tries his level best even though there is very little hope of winning the case – he hopes he can at start making change in Maycomb County.

I felt like the characters were very believable throughout this novel. Scout is very young and it shows throughout the book as she describes events that she does not really understand in the way that an older reader will. Atticus, the widowed father of Jem and Scout, tries to teach valuable lessons to his kids and stand up for what is right throughout the novel. Calpurnia is another important character, and her perspective as a black woman raising two white children in a prejudiced community is realistic. The mystery around Boo Radley is also very realistic, and throws more light on the depth of prejudice within Maycomb.

The setting of the story was very realistic, and gives the reader a good snapshot of how things would have been done in a time and place like this. The pacing of the story worked well – the beginning is slow and confusing as there are many characters in the story to keep track of. After the first chapter it starts getting more interesting and the pace picks up, with larger reveals and plot twists.

 

Teen Book Reviews – May 1, 2021

The reviews are in, and our teens are reading a wide variety of books these days! See what our teen volunteers have to say in the reviews below, and swing by the Library to check out one (or many) of these books for yourself!

Every Other Weekend, by Abigail Johnson

Reviewed by Vaishnavi

The book, Every Other Weekend by Abigail Johnson is a realistic fiction novel and it was published on January 7th, 2020. This novel describes the life of two young teenagers named Adam and Jolene. Adam Moynihan’s life is a mess. His brother Greg just died, and his parents got divorced. Jolene Timber, on the other hand, doesn’t remember the last time that she felt loved and needed in the world. Her parents could care less about her, and the only thing that distracts Jolene from her reality is making movies. One day, Adam comes to visit his dad at his apartment, and Jolene comes to visit her dad. They meet and develop an unbreakable friendship. Somewhere along the way, they develop feelings for each other. Soon though, Adam’s family starts to get back together, and Jolene’s family stays the same. Jealousy pricks in and Jolene wonders if Adam will still want to be with her in the long run.

Although Abigail Johnson’s story was obvious at parts, it had the elements of the fun, humorous love story I was looking for. The story is in the first-person point of view but switches between Adam and Jolene after every other chapter. This gave me a true picture of the emotions and feelings of the characters. I fell in love with Jolene’s sarcastic, humorous attitude towards life, and Adam’s serious one.

Johnson’s tone in this book is very informal. Her writing style is simple and easy to understand, yet it contains a tremendous amount of dialogue and an excellent choice of vocabulary. Furthermore, I feel like this story has a lot of different themes running through it including young love, growing up, and facing reality. But I think two themes that really stuck out to me after reading this story were forgiveness and moving on. I think Johnson highlights these themes by showing the character development both Jolene and Adam go through from the beginning to the end of the story. Adam starts to celebrate Greg’s life rather than always feel sad when he thinks about him. He eventually faces reality and realizes that Greg is not coming back and that he would not have wanted to see his family living like this. In the end, Adam tries to move on and be happy with what life has in store for him. Jolene changes too because she decides to forgive her father and mother for never being there for her. At the beginning of the story, this bothers her and makes her miserable every time she thinks about it. Jolene comes to realize that some people are not going to be there for you, but you can choose to be with the people that are there for you. Eventually, you can choose to move on and live life to the fullest.

I think something else that Johnson did well was leaving a couple of loose ends at the novel’s conclusion. Throughout the story, Jolene worries about her future with Adam and wonders if they will ever be able to last. Jolene says, “You can’t just say you’ll always want me. We’ve been fine seeing each other a couple weekends a month… But what happens when you realize you only like me in small doses-”. Johnson never gives us a “ten years later” at the end of the story to tell us about what happens to Adam and Jolene. I liked how the author did this because I feel like it was her way of telling us that you never know what is going to happen in life, but sometimes you have to take chances.

After finishing this book, I felt satisfied but did feel like there could have been some improvement. I liked Johnson’s happily-ever-after ending to the book but wished that there could’ve been more of a storyline and more plot throughout the book. I found the middle a bit long and boring, and felt that it dragged on for far too long, without a lot happening.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and thought that Abigail Johnson did a great job making the characters likable and realistic. Obviously, I felt that there could’ve been some improvements, but I liked how she portrayed the characters and showed us that nobody’s perfect.  I think that this book is a must-read for someone that enjoys coming-of-age stories about love and forgiveness. If you are looking for a light, fun-loving, humorous book about two young teenagers navigating through the hardships of life, and learning a ton throughout the way then this book is perfect for you.

If I had to rate this book I would give it 7/10. This book reminds me of another book, The Distance Between Us, by another one of my favorite authors, Katie West. Both books have the same elements of young love, navigating life, and humor.

The Arc of a Scythe Trilogy, by Neal Shusterman

Reviewed by Adharsha

The Arc of a Scythe series takes place in an almost utopian society where everything is perfect, except for one thing: the scythes. These special people take care of the most grueling yet necessary job: thinning the population. Our main characters, Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch, meet each other as they become scythe apprentices and work to become true scythes. This trilogy, composed of the books Scythe, Thunderhead, and The Toll, is full of twists and kept me engaged for most of it, but often I felt as if the author dragged the story a little too much. However, the plot is so unique and gripping, and there were moments when I truly could not put the book down! I especially loved the last book of the series, The Toll, which was riveting throughout. The characters are very relatable, and I found myself just loving Citra and Rowan, especially towards the middle and the end of the trilogy. Citra’s amazing woman-power and Rowan’s determination inspired me and added a layer of depth to the story. I would recommend this trilogy to any YA book reader who enjoys a thriller plot mixed in with some mystery!

My Rating: 9/10

Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard

Reviewed by Akhila

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard is a fantasy novel published in 2015 and one of the most intriguing books I have read. In Mare Barrow’s world, the people are divided by the color of their blood: the Reds and Silvers, the poor and the rich. The Silvers all have a special power of their own, based on their Houses. When Mare, a Red thief, picks the wrong pocket, her life turns upside down. She finds herself in a job at the palace where she is to serve the royal Silvers. It is unheard of for a Red to have powers, until Mare nearly explodes with electricity in the middle of the palace. Mare is then given a new identity as a Silver princess, a new name, Mareena, and is betrothed to the second son of the King to hide the fact that a Red can have powers. However, Mare soon finds out that there are many more Reds like her, with powers of their own. Mare now not only has to find a way to survive, but also fight for her own people in a revolution that could change the world. Mare grew up both hating and envying the Silvers, so when she finds herself torn between two Silvers, the Prince and his half-brother, she has to constantly remind herself not to trust either of them because of who they are. Mare’s actions end up pitting prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.

Mare’s story shows the consequences of blind trust and betrayal at its finest. Red Queen kept me hooked the whole time. It was hard to tell friend from foe, which just increased the tension. The novel contains both action and romance, but never too much of either. The ending, especially the Epilogue, was definitely the best part of the book, and left off on a great cliff hanger. One thing I loved about this book was that Mare had great character development, even though it meant her making mistake after mistake. I also loved all the characters of the book, my favorite being Kilorn, Mare’s Red best friend who put himself in danger just to be a good, honorable man and was also essentially the cause for Mare’s chaos. The relationship that both of them have is just too desirable. They are always teasing each other but also putting their lives on the line for each other.

While the overall plot was similar to other novels, it was still interesting and a great reading experience. I felt that it was a mix of The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Selection, and Shadow and Bone. However, it still had its own pieces of the plot which were original and engaging. Red Queen is the first book in a series of four. The epilogues of the novels end in such a way that you want to read the next book immediately. In the end, I definitely recommend reading this novel!