Dec 282018

Ms MacNeal’s “Mr. Churchill’s Secretary” shows a Britain divided and awaiting the bombing of England by Nazi forces. The IRA and the Fascists are cooperating with the Nazis in a bid to bring down the old empire. Maggie Hope, a woman of English citizenship who was raised in America, is Churchill’s secretary. She has advanced degrees in mathematics and cryptography; however, she isn’t a welcome addition to Churchill’s staff and between Churchill’s idiosyncrasies and the old boys’ network, Maggie Hope is beginning to believe her talents would be better utilized elsewhere until she uncovers a chilling conspiracy.  This novel offers a rather different WWII perspective and there is a bit of bite to the story.


“Billie Standish Was Here” is an eloquent portrayal of true friendship, loyalty, and shared trauma between an eleven-year-old girl and an elderly woman. A very sensitive story of lessons learned and secrets kept. These characters were so real that I expect to miss them for a good long time.

An indomitable narrator views her family situation with a sense of humor. “Someone to play with? When you’re the youngest of nine kids, you aren’t a player. You’re the ball”. Annie has problems at school…she’s dyslexic. She has problems in church…she doesn’t always believe. And she has problems at home…her Mom loses her temper sometimes and attacks her children. A sweet, but not naive, look at a family who will need to decide just how much they want to stay together. “Snow Lane” addresses some serious topics but does so in a gentle manner and the resolution is hopeful. 


Your heart will melt for this little dog looking for his forever home. The story is told in letter form as the dog writes letters to prospective families. Too adorable to believe.

Check out the digital audio book of “The Stranger in the Woods” by Michael Finkel on Libby.  Finkel details the time the decades Chris Knight spent alone in the woods of Maine. He survived from stealing from other residents of the lake area the necessities he needed to survive the frigid Maine winters.

Dec 202018

The first in a new romance series.  Each of the employees at an animal rescue center may just find love in their inbox.

A killer hurricane, two stranded teens, and a struggle for survival pack this book with plenty of punch. The teenagers are complex and “real” as they each struggle with grief, loneliness, and problems much bigger than they can deal with alone.


A humorous look at what it takes to make a “slacker” into a young activist and leader. The plot is a little thin but the characters are fun and interesting. This book is a 2018-2019 Golden Sower nominee.


This little picture book is an inspirational ode to being kind. It breaks down all of the many simple ways kindness can be practiced in real life. The illustrations have a great diversity of age, religion, and culture. A very sweet introduction to the quality of kindness.


Dec 142018

The Christmas Town by Donna VanLiere starts out the list on a sentimental, hopeful note. That note won’t last long so please enjoy it while it does. This little story reads like a Hallmark movie. Everybody is just a bit too good to be true. However, if ever there is a time for mawkishly sentimental fluff, Christmas would be that time.

Well, I told you the sweet, sentimental reads wouldn’t last. Lauren Wolk’s Wolf Hollow is packed with characters so alive you expect to run into them at the grocery store. Unfortunately, about 25% of those characters are up to no good. Annabelle’s school life goes down hill when Betty moves to town. Betty is a bully who enjoys hurting and tormenting those around her and when she lays the blame for an awful injury at the door of a transient vet suffering from PTSD, Annabelle decides enough is enough. Set in the WWII era, this book’s plot is full of palpable prejudice against “others”. This book is an Accelerated Reader book with a reading level of 4.9; however, I would recommend it to 6th grade and up as the subject matter is somewhat dark. A 2018-2019 Golden Sower Nominee.

Adults who are seeking a way to explain the terrorist attacks of September 11th to a Middle Grade audience should check out Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes. A complex and nuanced look at the event and the fear, trauma, grief, and loss it caused. This little novel gets extra points for diverse, believable characters. Accelerated Reader reading level is 3.3.

A young girl doesn’t understand why her father can’t hold a job, why he is so anxious and why it causes him distress to find out she is studying the terrorist attack of September 11. She doesn’t understand why her sweet Muslim friend stays indoors each year on the anniversary of the attack. As she learns more about the events of that horrible day, she begins to understand how the events of one day can shape an individual, a school, a city, and a nation.

If you haven’t watched the sensational Scottish Grammy reading The Wonky Donkey on youtube, you are missing out! A clever narrative of a most unusual donkey walking up the road. Repetitive, humorous lines and fantastic illustrations keep kids and adults laughing.

Dec 062018

84 Charing Cross Road and Q’s Legacy by Helene Hanff. The holidays are stressful.  Sit down and pick up one of these two little gems.  84 Charing Cross Road is a compilation of very short letters written between an American writer and her very English rare bookseller in the late 1940’s/early 1950s. Companionship and humor abound. It is perfect for a quick read. Q’s Legacy should be read after “84” as it details Hanff’s literary career and the making of “84”. The perfect present to yourself this holiday season…a little rest and relaxation with friends.

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt.  This is an emotional roller coaster ride of a novel.  Joseph is a troubled 13 year old who wants nothing more than to be able to find his baby daughter. An incredibly intense novel about the power and cost of love. This is an AR book with a reading level of 4.4; however, the content is definitely geared towards teen readers.

House Arrest by K.A. Holt. A twelve-year-old boy is placed on house arrest after stealing someone’s credit card to pay for his brother’s medication. Timothy takes care of his medically unstable baby brother while his mother works two jobs. Written in verse, this novel looks at the responsibilities and frustrations unique to his situation while he also deals with the “normal” twelve-year-old problems. Timothy is required to keep a diary during his probationary period and it is through this diary format that we follow his story.

I am Not a Chair by Ross Burach.  Nominated for the 2018-2019 Golden Sower Award. A giraffe is new to the area and would love to meet some new friends but everyone keeps mistaking him for a chair!  As giraffe struggles to find his voice, the reader laughs at all of the silly situations in which Giraffe finds himself. Great illustrations really help bring the story home.

All of the print books listed above are available at Loup City Library.

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices by Cheryl Willis and Wade Hudson. Available on Libby/Overdrive digital system. A compilation of essays, poetry, and music by multiple diverse contributors. An audio book aimed at children feeling scared and frustrated in this time of political extremes.  Only two hours long, this is a wonderful way to encourage tolerance and support those who feel anxious about their own safety. Beautifully done. If you listen to nothing else (although that would be a shame), listen to Prayers of the Grandmothers by Sharon M. Draper, read by Adenrele Ojo. This book is available in print but the best format, in my opinion, is to listen to the wide range of voices saturated with experience as they say it is going to be ok.


Nov 292018


While not specifically a Christmas book, this novel evokes all of the warm family feelings of the holiday.

Jillian has no one and no place to call home. Connor has too many ties to break free from his small hometown. Together they are perfect. A sweet, complex story about life and the people with whom we choose to live it. If you liked her Harmony series, you will love this book. Bonus: Sunnie and Reese are the BEST teen couple.


Cassidy died and came back. Following her return, she has been able to see ghosts. Indeed, her best friend is a ghost.
A spooky, engaging story of a ghost-saturated Edinburgh and the relationships of young teens teaming up to protect themselves from other world horrors. Edinburgh becomes a character in the novel with its history of castles, prisons, hangings, and plague.

A young girl from a broken home is sent to an aunt and uncle’s home in the country. She is tough and lonely but the people around her start to change her perceptions of the place. And then there’s the dog…a stray, just like her… This is heartwarming and hopeful. It was surprising to find the “fighter” the young girl and the “peacemaker” the boy. Howard gives Charlie gentle reminders on controlling her temper and the futility of allowing her temper to control her but never in a lecturing way. The humor and “goodness” seep off the page into your fingers and hopefully, into your heart.

Yes, I know. This makes two books (and two dog books at that) for the Middle Grade Group; however, there is no way I can choose one over the other here.

Timminy is very short for his age. He isn’t looking forward to moving to a new place, starting a new school where his father will be Assistant Principal, and running the gamut of new bullies. He receives Maxi, a Great Pyrenees puppy, as a bribe from his parents. It takes a while before the family figures out Maxi is deaf.
Abby, Timminy’s neighbor, is blind and brave. She doesn’t view Timminy’s self-pity with compassion but rather impatience. Another young woman has a debilitating muscular weakness leaving her dependent on crutches. These young people with disabilities aren’t portrayed as “saintly” or “self-pitying” but rather pragmatic.
There are no pat answers or lecturing tone in this story. Each character is unique and complex. The relationship between Timminy and his classmates and Timminy and his dog are heartwarming. 


I will have you know the School librarian just dumped this in my lap and told me to read it. Did she warn me that it would turn me into a soppy mess? No, she did not.

Madeline Finn works hard at reading but it just never seems to get any easier. Then the librarian has her read to Bonny, the library dog, and little by little Madeline’s reading improves. Heartwarming with wonderful artwork.