Saucy by Cynthia Kadohata

Reviewed by Andrea Bisordi (Library Staff)

Becca would like to be very good at something, but she just can’t seem to find the thing for her. Then a piglet enters her life, and she is sure that saving this little piglet will be the thing for her! The problem is, the pig, whom she names Saucy, is just not cut out to be a house pet. How can she be good at something she might have to give up?

Fans of Mercy Watson who are looking for a longer tale would enjoy this one very much. Saucy gets into all kinds of mischief while still being beloved by the family. I also liked how Becca is trying to understand her place in her family, her school, and life in general. A delightful story.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC KADOHATA)

Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan

Reviewed by Andrea Bisordi (Library Staff)

Ana Dakkar thinks that she’s about to endure the equivalent of finals at her small private school named Harding-Pencroft, but things don’t turn out the way she or anyone else expects them to. Now she must take charge of the expedition and lean into her heritage in ways she doesn’t expect. A solid cohort of friends and enemies draws you into this nautical adventure.

I have enjoyed the pacing of Rick Riordan’s other novels, and while this one is slightly more sedate, the new discoveries and plot twists kept me engaged. I am also a big fan of his humor – I mean, everybody puts their enemies in pink ducky water wings, right? If you like adventure, fun characters, and dolphins named Socrates, this is the book for you.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC RIORDAN)

How to Find What You’re Not Looking For by Veera Hiranandani

Reviewed by Andrea Bisordi (Library Staff)

Ariel and her sister Leah are very close, even though Leah is six years older. So, when Leah starts spending a lot of time with Raj, eleven-year-old Ariel isn’t sure what it will mean for their relationship, even though Raj seems nice and even takes her out for ice cream. But then, the girls’ Jewish parents reject Raj, and eloping seems like Leah’s only option. Ariel’s world is turned upside down, and everything seems harder without Leah, including managing her dysgraphia and working at the family bakery. How can she help the family come together again?

This historical fiction story is quite interesting. Like Ms. Hiranandani’s Newbery Honor winning title The Night Diary, this book talks a lot about how the main character is feeling. I loved the setting, in part because it takes place the same year my parents got married. 54 years seems like a long time, but it was a great reminder that the Supreme court case Loving vs. Virginia was decided only a couple of generations ago. I believe it makes court cases much more interesting when you consider the impact they had on people’s day to day lives. Kids who like historical fiction, deep characters, or books about feelings would probably enjoy this book.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC HIRANANDANI)

While I Was Away by Waka T. Brown

Reviewed by Andrea Bisordi (Library Staff)

Waka lives in Kansas with her Japanese born parents, and they speak both Japanese and English at home. Concerned that Waka’s Japanese is not strong enough, her parents decide to send her to Japan for four months to live with her grandmother and attend Japanese school. Waka has always been a strong student, so struggling with reading is very frustrating to her, and getting along with her grandmother proves tricky as well.

I have always loved Japanese culture, so I really enjoyed this inside look at a Japanese school in the 1980s. Japanese words are sprinkled liberally throughout the text, as well as explanations for how some of the kanji are derived. I enjoyed Waka’s journey, her honesty, and her recollections of what this time in her life were like. If you like true stories (this is a memoir), like learning new things, and enjoy reading about relationships, this might be the book for you.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC BROWN)

Playing the Cards You’re Dealt by Varian Johnson

Reviewed by Andrea Bisordi (Library Staff)

Secrets can be tricky things. They can make you feel powerful, like you are on the inside of something special, or they can make you feel powerless, because sometimes you can’t do anything to help someone who has sworn you to secrecy. Ant (short for Anthony) is so focused on winning the spades tournament that he’s willing to take on some secrets, including the fact that his new card partner is a girl. I love how Ant wrestles with himself as he tries to figure out what to do about his best friend, his brother, this new girl, and his dad. Another fun thing about this story is the all-knowing narrator – just who is telling this story, anyway?

Kids (and grown-ups!) who like well-developed characters, stories about friendships, humor, or who have ever felt conflicted about a secret will enjoy this book.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC JOHNSON)

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo, illustrations by Sophie Blackall

Reviewed by Andrea Bisordi (Library Staff)

We shall all, in the end, be led to where we belong.

We shall all, in the end, find our way home.

These words are the first words that Beatryce writes in the presence of the brothers of the Chronicles of Sorrowing, but they bring only questions rather than sweet answers. Who is this Beatryce, who came to them sick and alone? Why did she make such easy friends with the goat Answelica, who seems to despise all of the brothers? How did a girl learn to write? (It is, after all, forbidden by the law.) And, what should happen to her next?

Kate DiCamillo has once again given us a beautiful story with surprising twists and turns, wonderful characters, and sparse text that sparks our imagination. If you have enjoyed her other stories, such as The Tale of Despereaux or The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, you are sure to be delighted by this one.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC DICAMILLO)

StrangeWorlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

Reviewed by Andrea Bisordi (Library Staff)

We usually use suitcases when we travel to other places. But what if we could use them to travel to other worlds? 12 year-old Flick doesn’t think there is anything special about her until she meets Jonathan. He shows her how to jump inside his special suitcases and explore amazing new societies. Slowly she comes to realize that there are more places to explore than she ever knew or imagined, and some of them are endangered. Can she prevent a tragedy that she didn’t know existed?

If you liked The Land of Stories, The Mysterious Benedict Society, or the Story Thieves books, you will likely enjoy this story as well.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC LAPINSKI)

Pawcasso by Remy Lai

Reviewed by Andrea Bisordi (Library Staff)

Have you ever thought that a little lie would help you fix a problem, or make a friend? When eleven year-old Jo meets a basket carrying dog that she dubs Pawcasso, he seems to be the answer to helping her make some friends nearby. The trouble is, the stories she has to keep inventing get bigger and bigger, until they are way beyond her control. In the meantime, the neighborhood gets caught up in a big fight over changing the leash law, and both sides make judgements about the other. Can Jo bring peace to the neighborhood and still keep her new friends?

I like how the author uses thought bubbles help us see what Jo is thinking as she wrestles with when and how to tell the truth, and how it can be tricky to make friends, especially when we are worried about what they will think of us. Pawcasso is an endearing character, and the human characters are all wonderful, too. Kids who like stories about animals, friendships, and easy mysteries might enjoy this book. Bonus: there’s an ice cream recipe that’s suitable for dogs at the end!

Located in Children’s Graphics (J GRAPHIC LAI)

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

Reviewed by Andrea Bisordi (Library Staff)

In Chattana, all of the light is held and created by one man – the Governor. Pong, who was born in prison, believes that light is the key to freedom and hope. As the story progresses, he comes to realize that first impressions can be deceiving. Similarly, the prison warden’s daughter, Nok, must come face to face with what she believes about the world, and about herself. The setting feels both familiar and otherworldly, and draws the reader in gently.

This book has something for many different kinds of readers. If you like adventure, fantasy, mystery or books about friendship, this might be your next read. There are also themes of justice, hope, self-discovery, and bravery. I highly recommend this 2021 Newbery Honor book!

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC SOONTORNVAT)

How to Be Cooler Than Cool by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien

Reviewed by Andrea Bisordi (Library Staff)

Everybody wants to be cool, right? So what does it take to be cool? Cat, Cockatoo, and Pig are pretty sure that the sunglasses they found on the playground are their ticket to being amazing, groovy, and just generally awesome. But showing off in the sunglasses leads to some outcomes they don’t expect, and they don’t end up looking as cool as they thought they would. Happily, Chick helps them see that what we wear on the outside isn’t the key to being cool.

Located in Children’s Picture Books (E TAYLOR)

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