Featured  Fiction Books

City of Bones
by Cassandra Clare 

When Clary Fray witnesses three tattoo-covered teenagers murder another teen, she is unable to prove the crime because the victim disappears right in front of her eyes, and no one else can see the killers. She learns that the teens are Shadowhunters (humans who hunt and kill demons), and Clary, a mundie (i.e., mundane human), should not be able to see them either. Shortly after this discovery, her mother, Jocelyn, an erstwhile Shadowhunter, is kidnapped. Jocelyn is the only person who knows the whereabouts of The Mortal Cup, a dangerous magical item that turns humans into Shadowhunters. Clary must find the cup and keep it from a renegade sector of Shadowhunters bent on eliminating all nonhumans, including benevolent werewolves and friendly vampires. Amid motorcycles powered by demon energies, a telepathic brotherhood of archivists, and other moments of great urban fantasy, the story gets sidetracked by cutesy touches, like the toasted bat sandwich on the menu of an otherworldly restaurant. The characters are sporadically characterized and tend toward behavior that is both predictable and slightly repellent–Clary finds out who her real father is about 200 pages after readers will have it figured out. Despite the narrative flaws, this version of New York, full of Buffyesque teens who are trying to save the world, is entertaining and will have fantasy readers anxiously awaiting the next book in the series.–Heather M. Campbell, Philip S. Miller Library for School Library Journal on Amazon

by Alison Goodman

This mesmerizing story begins where most novels end: in a tension-filled climactic event, in which the fate of the protagonist and a nation hang in the balance. Goodman catapults the reader headfirst into a pivotal moment in the Empire of the Celestial Dragons, a world so richly imagined that it feels real. No detail is overlooked, from the smallest sensory description to the fascinating mythos of the elemental dragons. It is a new year, and 12 boys vie to become an apprentice to the ascendant Rat Dragon. Eon has trained for this moment for four years, but she and her master hide a dangerous secret. Eon is actually Eona, a 16-year-old girl with a singular talent. Females are forbidden to take part in dragon magic, and Eona faces disembowelment if discovered. As the story races forward, Eona becomes the fulcrum of a seesaw struggle for control of the Empire. Entangled politics and fierce battle scenes provide a pulse-quickening pace, while the intriguing characters add interest and depth. Eona’s pivotal acceptance of her femininity, so ruthlessly repressed by both herself and her culture, gives this intricate fantasy particular weight. Readers will clamor for the sequel. - Lynn Rutanon for Booklist on Amazon

The Help
by Kathryn Stockett

Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960s is a city of tradition. Silver is used at bridge-club luncheons, pieces polished to perfection by black maids who “yes, ma’am,” and “no, ma’am,” to the young white ladies who order the days. This is the world Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan enters when she graduates from Ole Miss and returns to the family plantation, but it is a world that, to her, seems ripe for change. As she observes her friend Elizabeth rudely interact with Aibileen, the gentle black woman who is practically raising Elizabeth’s two-year-old daughter, Mae Mobley, Skeeter latches ontothe idea of writing the story of such fraught domestic relations from the help’s point of view. With the reluctant assistance of Aibileen’s feisty friend, Minny, Skeeter manages to interview a dozen of the city’s maids, and the book, when it is finally published, rocks Jackson’s world in unimaginable ways. With pitch-perfect tone and an unerring facility for character and setting, Stockett’s richly accomplished debut novel inventively explores the unspoken ways in which the nascent civil rights and feminist movements threatened the southern status quo. Look for the forthcoming movie to generate keen interest in Stockett’s luminous portrait of friendship, loyalty, courage, and redemption. --Carol Haggas for Booklist on Amazon

 I Am the Messenger
by Marcus Zusak

Nineteen-year-old cabbie Ed Kennedy has little in life to be proud of: his dad died of alcoholism, and he and his mom have few prospects for success. He has little to do except share a run-down apartment with his faithful yet smelly dog, drive his taxi, and play cards and drink with his amiable yet similarly washed-up friends. Then, after he stops a bank robbery, Ed begins receiving anonymous messages marked in code on playing cards in the mail, and almost immediately his life begins to swerve off its beaten-down path. Usually the messages instruct him to be at a certain address at a certain time. So with nothing to lose, Ed embarks on a series of missions as random as a toss of dice: sometimes daredevil, sometimes heartwarmingly safe. He rescues a woman from nightly rape by her husband. He brings a congregation to an abandoned parish. The ease with which he achieves results vacillates between facile and dangerous, and Ed's search for meaning drives him to complete every task. But the true driving force behind the novel itself is readers' knowledge that behind every turn looms the unknown presence - either good or evil - of the person or persons sending the messages. Zusak's characters, styling, and conversations are believably unpretentious, well conceived, and appropriately raw. Together, these key elements fuse into an enigmatically dark, almost film-noir atmosphere where unknowingly lost Ed Kennedy stumbles onto a mystery - or series of mysteries - that could very well make or break his life. - Hillias J. Martin, New York Public Library for School Library Journal on Amazon


Featured Non-Fiction Books

The Voice the Challenged a Nation
by Russell Freedman

In the initial chapter, Freedman movingly and dramatically sets the stage for the performer's historic 1939 Easter concert at the Lincoln Memorial. In less than two pages, he captures the huge crowd's eager anticipation, briefly describes the controversy sparked by the Daughters of the American Revolution's refusal to allow Anderson to appear at Constitution Hall, and mentions the significance of the concert. He leaves readers at the moment when "A profound hush settled over the crowd.… she closed her eyes, lifted her head, clasped her hands before her, and began to sing." The author then switches to a chronological account of Anderson's life from her childhood in Philadelphia through her acclaimed U.S. and European concert tours in the 1920s and 1930s. He then gives a fuller account of the famous outdoor concert, which he refers to as a milestone in both musical and civil rights history. Freedman acknowledges that the singer did not set out to be a political activist or a crusader for civil rights. Numerous archival photographs, thorough chapter notes, a selected bibliography of works for both adult and younger readers, and a selected discography of currently available Anderson CDs are included. This inspiring work once again demonstrates Freedman's talent for showing how a person's life is molded by its historical and cultural context. – Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library for School Library Journal on Amazon

A Tiger's Heart
by Aisling Juanjuan Shen

"I can hear the mosquitoes buzzing around my ears and feel the leeches sucking the blood from my calves. I think of planting rice shoots in the paddies with my bare feet deep in the mud. I'm only 33, but I've faced enough for a hundred lifetimes," says Shen, describing her poverty-stricken childhood in rural China. In an effort to move up in life, she got into college, only to find that it was a vocational-type two-year teachers college from which she was placed in a backwoods village school. She soon followed her love to southern China to better her status, moving to increasingly better-paying (but sometimes unethical) jobs using her English, and moving on to other men. She thought she was plain and ordinary, but from others' reactions, readers know she was pretty and smart, and see her using those attributes to take control of her life. Young adults will respond to the authenticity of the author's language and her drive to move away from the primitive village to a modern, luxurious lifestyle in the city. Eventually, she reached the United States, where she graduated with honors from Wellesley College and was offered a job in a prestigious firm in Boston. Shen's spirit, wit, and drive draw readers faster and faster through the pages of this bird's-eye view of China at the brink of modern-day capitalism.—Ellen Bell, Amador Valley High School from School Library Journal on Amazon


Featured Graphic Novels


by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by P. Craig Russell

This adaptation of Neil Gaiman's novel (HarperCollins, 2002) reads as though it were intended for the graphic novel format in the first place. Insatiably curious Coraline is an explorer dedicated to discovering everything she can about the area around her family's new home. When she comes upon a door in their flat that seems to go nowhere, enters an alternate world that at first is full of interesting things and delicious foods–everything that she has longed for. However, the dangerous creature there–called the other mother– intends to keep her forever. After Coraline's parents are kidnapped into the other world, she sets off on a mission to rescue them. Russell's illustrations suit the tone of the story perfectly, from the horrific black button eyes of the people in the other world to Coraline's very telling facial expressions. The style is realistic, which makes the moments when the other world loses its solidity even more eerie. The pacing never lags, and Coraline's transformation into a girl who understands that having everything you want is the least interesting thing of all is natural. For readers who enjoyed the novel, Coraline is sure to complement their reading experience. Those who come to the book first as a graphic novel will be just as captivated. – Alana Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library for School Library Journal on Amazon

 Rapunzel's Revenge
by Dean and Shannon Hale with illustrations by Nathan Hale

This is the tale as you've never seen it before. After using her hair to free herself from her prison tower, this Rapunzel ignores the pompous prince and teams up with Jack (of Beanstalk fame) in an attempt to free her birth mother and an entire kingdom from the evil witch who once moonlighted as her mother. Dogged by both the witch's henchman and Jack's outlaw past, the heroes travel across the map as they right wrongs, help the oppressed, and generally try to stay alive. Rapunzel is no damsel in distress–she wields her long braids as both rope and weapon–but she happily accepts Jack's teamwork and friendship. While the witch's castle is straight out of a fairy tale, the nearby mining camps and rugged surrounding countryside are a throwback to the Wild West and make sense in the world that the authors and illustrator have crafted. The dialogue is witty, the story is an enticing departure from the original, and the illustrations are magically fun and expressive. – Cara von Wrangel Kinsey, New York Public Library for School Library Journal on Amazon

by Marjane Satrapi

Marji tells of her life in Iran from the age of 10, when the Islamic revolution of 1979 reintroduced a religious state, through the age of 14 when the Iran-Iraq war forced her parents to send her to Europe for safety. This story, told in graphic format with simple, but expressive, black-and-white illustrations, combines the normal rebelliousness of an intelligent adolescent with the horrors of war and totalitarianism. Marji's parents, especially her freethinking mother, modeled a strong belief in freedom and equality, while her French education gave her a strong faith in God. Her Marxist-inclined family initially favored the overthrow of the Shah, but soon realized that the new regime was more restrictive and unfair than the last. The girl's independence, which made her parents both proud and fearful, caused them to send her to Austria. With bold lines and deceptively uncomplicated scenes, Satrapi conveys her story. From it, teens will learn much of the history of this important area and will identify with young Marji and her friends. This is a graphic novel of immense power and importance for Westerners of all ages. Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library for School Library Journal on Amazon