Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern

After a bit of a reading drought I’ve spent the whole weekend reading. I can’t remember the last time I spent most of a day lying around zipping through one book. I really enjoyed this story and the back and forth viewpoints, but what kept me going the most and unable to stop was that I was dying to know what the big secrets were. I have to say….the big secret was NOT quite the intense start over a with a new identity type of secret I thought it would be. And that did change somewhat how I thought of the characters.

That said, the storytelling was great. My favorite character was Sunny, a child of no-schooling.  Of course I enjoyed that it was primarily set in a library (even if I did take issue with storytimes being put on the shoulders of the young teenager and that she was reading Mrs. Piggle Wiggle to preschoolers-great book, but not for preschool storytime.)


Snow Lane by Josie Angelini

This was great, though one of those books I found distressing to read because I kept thinking “why won’t someone step in and help these children?” and “if this horrible cruel girl doesn’t get caught and punished for her abusive behavior I’m going to hate this book!”
In many ways it reminded me of Family Game Night--children in a house with parents not properly caring for them. I found it really terribly sad. I did wonder why it was set so specifically in the 1980s-it seemed like it was just so that the Challenger explosion could be included.

A fast read, very emotional, and a good story.

The Dragon’s Guide to Making Perfect Wishes by Laurence Yep

This is the 3rd (final? I think?) book in this series about a dragon and her “pet”, who is human. They are delightful fantasies with a bit of adventure and the fun of blending humans and magicals together. I’m always trying to promote the first two in my library because they are just right. Sadly they are not as popular as I want them to be.
I liked this one very much, specifically because of the element of traveling through time to visit a 1915 expo in San Francisco. Such fun details! A meeting with a special figure you will recognize!
A satisfying, quick  magical adventure.

Slob by Ellen Potter

I’ve been looking at this book for over two years-very popular in my library, at least one teacher does it as a readaloud with her class, and kids have often requested it. But I’d never read it. And not only that, turns out it wasn’t what I thought it was about at all! So, my daughter’s class is one of the ones where the teacher just read it to them and she told me it was so good and I should read it. She also told me a major spoiler. That’s ok, it made me even more intrigued when I started to read it and couldn’t figure out how what she told me would fit in.

Based on title and cover I thought this was likely just a story about a fat kid who didn’t fit in. In fact, it’s much more than that. Yes, Owen is fat. Yes, he is picked on. But he’s also super smart and building some kind of incredible machine (in secret.) And his sister seems to not be transgender, but part of a group of girls who want to be called boys. And he goes to a school with a gym teacher who is a total monster and honestly this was the hardest part of the book for me to read/believe. Why could no on stop this cruel adult? It’s a topic I have a hard time looking at lightly, or as just a funny caricature. I got pretty worked up about it.

I really liked this and felt like there was not only the whole social issue/realistic fiction component, but also a few mysteries going on at once. [I might recommend Liar & Spy to students who liked this.]

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

I loved this! I was initially excited about it, but then I think I read a not great review of it, but I say that review was bunk because I really enjoyed this. Graphic novel: premise is that a prince loves to dress in women’s attire (wigs/gowns) and push the envelope in women’s fashion and he hires a new seamstress and shares his secret with her and they become tremendous friends. I really enjoyed this so much. I loved the fashion-the sketches, her designs, and also the bit of historical concept in there of a department store and ready to wear to clothes being a new modern idea. I enjoyed the Prince’s expressions of how he was a boy and just sometimes loved feeling like a woman. I loved his family’s responses. As for the drawings, they were pleasing to me. The prince has such a sharp triangular nose-he reminded me very much of Howl in the Studio Ghibli film version of Howl’s Moving Castle.

So, all in all –a good story, a good message without feeling didactic, and characters I really liked.

Revenge of the Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

Every time I stop doing this blog there’s some day where I find myself dipping back in,reading something I wrote, and being led to something new, in a way that doesn’t quite happen with Goodreads. It’s happened again, which is all the impetus I need to stick with my renewed plan to keep it up. I happened upon my review of Evil Librarian, which mentioned a forthcoming sequel, and how thrilled was I to a)be reminded of that and b)have it available in just a couple days?
As with the first book this was a delight to read over the weekend. It felt like watching several Buffy episodes all together. This time the setting is theater camp, and we are introduced to a new demon, Peter. Peter is a terrific character-a demon obsessed with the human world’s theater. Fast paced and fun, I definitely recommend this and am looking forward to another book.

Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly

The cover of this book is so enchanting–Belle, a swirly beautiful library, it’s very enticing. Plus Jennifer Donnelly is the author which immediately bumped this up in my esteem. I was pretty excited to read this as I’m a fan of Beauty and the Beast. I did slightly misunderstand the premise, though. I thought Belle would be dipping in and out of lots of magical books in the library. Actually it’s just one book and she is a pawn in a game between Love and Death, with Death tempting her in to a realm that she soon won’t be able to leave.
If you had never seen the movie Beauty and the Beast, no fear because the story (film version) is completely explained here. In addition to the enchanted Death book plot, the story mostly serves to fill in how Belle and Beast can grow to care for each other and become friends. Honestly, I found those bits a tad tiresome. What I really liked were details about castle life.
I’m only giving this 3 stars and not 4 and one of the reasons is that there were too many manufactured cliffhangers. “And then her eyes snapped open!” type things.

But overall, girls who enjoy magical adventures and who long for more detail of this charming film, will enjoy this. My favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling remains Beauty by Robin McKinley.