Ginny H.'s blog

When You Trap a Tiger

Lily’s grandmother, Halmoni, would tell Lily and her sister Sam fantastic stories filled with stars, tigers, and magic whenever they’d visit. But when Halmoni gets sick and Lily and her family move in, the stories have a way of becoming real! Lily soon starts to see a mysterious tiger around their town which prompts her to make a desperate plan to trap the tiger to save Halmoni! 

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller is a beautiful story that left me daydreaming about the origin of stories, the meaning of family, and the importance of heritage.

There are so many things to love about this book––the connection to Korean culture, the love of storytelling prevalent throughout the novel, the gentle coming-of-age themes, and the beautiful messages about family and coping with the imminent death of a loved one––it is no surprise that it won the 2021 John Newbery Medal! 

Recommended for readers ages 10–14. 

––Reviewed by Kim B., Children’s Librarian

A Wolf for a Spell

Young wolf, Zima, has always been told by her pack-mates that humans and witches are evil, dangerous beings that should be attacked at first sight. Yet, when a young girl ventures into the woods with the aim of running away from the orphanage in town, Zima can't bring herself to attack the girl. A legendary witch, Baba Yaga, witnesses Zima's hesitance and decides that Zima is exactly the wolf she needs to help her. But are Baba Yaga's intentions really as evil as Zima's pack has always told her?

This spin on the classic Russian folktales of Baba Yaga will have you guessing what twist and turn will take place next as storylines entangle and long-held secrets unfold. This tale is perfect for readers who love fairy tales and folktales and themes of family and friendship. Recommended for ages 8–12.

Reviewed by Ginny H.

Lia & Luis Who Has More?

Brazilian American siblings explore math concepts while trying to figure out who has more of their favorite snack. This story includes Portuguese vocabulary along with various measuring terms such as more, less, heavier, lighter, and eventually...equal! This includes a glossary for the Portuguese words used and tips for exploring math concepts with children. Recommended for children ages 3–6.

Reviewed by Christa S.

Cub

Seventh grader, Cindy Copeland does not fit in with the other kids in her class. Several kids bully her because her clothes are old fashioned and unlike the other kids, she loves school! Cindy’s favorite thing to do is writing, so when her teacher offers to pair her with a local newspaper journalist, she jumps at the chance to become a cub reporter! As Cindy experiences life as a young reporter, she makes new friends and learns that she is in charge of writing her own story!

Cub is a graphic novel memoir, telling the true story of author Cynthia Copeland’s as she discovered how to be herself and own her story. I loved seeing Cindy’s writing grow as she gained new experiences and seeing the elements of life in the early-mid 1970s! While so many elements are different (fashion, slang, etc), there are other things that remain similar to our life today (struggles growing up, making friends, and dealing with bullies).

A Boy Called Bat

Bixby Alexander Tam (Bat, for short) loves all kinds of animals. When Bat's veterinarian mom brings home an orphaned newborn skunk, his focus and goal is to convince her that a skunk might just be a perfect pet. The only trouble is, she insists that the skunk can only stay with them for one short month, just long enough for the baby skunk to grow up enough to transition to a wildlife rehab center. Can Bat convince her to change her mind?  

A sweet and understanding portrayal of a boy on the spectrum, Bat's supportive family and teacher bring to life how it can be difficult to communicate with someone whose mind works differently, and yet, the story never mentions autism at all. When it comes to making friends, and making eye contact, Bat isn't made fun of or judged, and his full focus on his interests is as appreciated as he is. Recommended for ages 8+

Reviewed by Claire C.

The Last Last-Day-of-Summer

The small town of Fry in Logan County is a weird place. Strange, unexplainable, dangerous stuff happens all the time, threatening the townsfolk. Thankfully, the town is also home to cousins Otto and Sheed - the Legendary Alston Boys. They've solved mysteries and saved the day countless times, but when they encounter an unusual man with a magical camera on the last day of summer, they embark on what may be their toughest challenge yet... The setting is reminiscent of Gravity Falls or Stranger Things (but more kid-friendly of course) - Logan County is full of supernatural surprises. Otto and Sheed are extremely likable characters, and the story is filled with humor, action, imagination, and delivers a heartwarming and inspiring message on top. Recommended for ages 9-12, but could be enjoyed by younger kids as well.

Reviewed by Paul D.

American As Paneer Pie

Eleven year old Lekha is the only Indian American girl in her school and definitely feels like an outcast in the mostly-white Detroit neighborhood she calls home. Her classmates make ignorant remarks about her family’s culture, language, and tease her about her birthmark (that just so happens to be on her forehead, just like a Bindi).

Lekha has learned to suppress everything that makes her different from everyone else - she never brings her favorite Indian foods to lunch, covers her birthmark with her hair, and stays silent when she, or anyone else, is teased. When a new Desi kid, Avantika, moves in across the street everything begins to change. Avantika speaks up about her culture and celebrates it when all Lekha has done is hide it. Lekha is impressed and embarrassed by Avantika’s ability to lean into her culture and heritage. But when a local political election spawns a hate crime against Lekha’s family, she knows she can’t stay silent and complacent any longer.

Scritch Scratch

This spooky novel follows Claire, an interested-in-science-doesn’t-believe-in-the-paranormal-thank-you-very-much middle schooler who has a pretty typical life. She doesn’t always get along with her brother and her friend group is having some growing pains since her best friend is now hanging out with a new girl. Her parents would be normal if it wasn’t for her dad’s job which is a tour guide for a Chicago Ghost bus touring company. Claire can usually ignore that, but one night she gets pulled into helping her dad on the tour and a ghost follows her home, haunting her. Claire has to figure out what the ghost wants, and quickly, before it gets angrier.

111 Trees: How One Village Celebrates the Birth of Every Girl

Growing up as a young boy in the Indian state of Rajasthan, Sundar Paliwal experienced several difficult things such as hunger, poverty and the loss of his mother at a young age. He continues to look at his community as he grows up, gets married and eventually has his own two daughters and one son. He teaches his children about the beauty and importance of all living things. But Sundar’s community and land is being destroyed by mining companies, where he works.

Sundar knows he must make change in his community and for the land around them. He quits his mining job and becomes an activist and local leader. However, when tragedy strikes yet again in Sundar’s life, he imagines an inspiring plan that will not only replenish the environment but also highlight the need for equality amongst girls and boys in his village. In honor of every girl born in the village, 111 trees will be planted!

Doodleville

There’s something special about the doodles Drew and her art club pals create - they come to life! The art club crew usually draft friendly characters, though Drew’s doodles are known to get into trouble, like the time they stole a hat out of a painting in the museum. But that was nothing compared to real trouble her newest doodle, Levi, created in Doodleville! With her monster on the loose destroying all of her friends’ creations, Drew feels hopeless. How will Drew ever be able to stop Levi from destroying everything in sight and hold onto her friendships!

With such an imaginative story and a wonderfully racially diverse group whose members display a variety of gender presentations, there's a lot to love about this book. It is the perfect read for fans of Chad Sell’s The Cardboard Kingdom, or Kirsten Gudsnuk’s Making Friends. Recommended ages 8+

Reviewed by Kim B., Librarian

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