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The purpose of this site is to give you more information and resources about each of the new titles the Media Center adds to its collection monthly.  Each title has its own info page with details about the book itself, the author, reviews, and book trailers and teacher resources if applicable.

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Serena Williams by Matt Christopher

Serena Williams by Matt Christoper. July 3, 2017. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 144 p. ISBN: 9780316471800.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.1.

Discover the amazing achievements of sports legend Serena Williams–on and off the tennis court–in this exciting new biography.

Serena Williams has been ranked number one in the world for tennis singles, won twenty-two Grand Slam singles titles, and won four Olympic gold medals. She is a powerful player and a fierce competitor. Learn more about the record-breaking athlete in this comprehensive and action-packed biography, complete with stats and photographs.

Part of series: Legends in Sports

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination

 

About the Author

Matt Christopher is the writer young readers turn to when they’re looking for fast-paced, action-packed sports novels. He is the best-selling author of more than one hundred sports books for young readers.

His website is www.mattchristopher.com

 Around the Web

Serena Williams on Amazon

Serena Williams on Goodreads

Serena Williams on JLG

Serena Williams Publisher Page

The First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez

The First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez. August 22, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 336 p. ISBN: 9780425290408.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.2; Lexile: 670.

From debut author and longtime zine-maker Celia C. Perez, The First Rule of Punk is a wry and heartfelt exploration of friendship, finding your place, and learning to rock out like no one’s watching.

There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school–you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malu (Maria Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.

The real Malu loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malu finally begins to feel at home. She’ll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!

Black and white illustrations and collage art throughout make The First Rule of Punk a perfect pick for fans of books like Roller Girl and online magazines like Rookie.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Online))
Grades 4-7. In her story of seventh-grader Malú, debut author Pérez harnesses the spirit of School of Rock and gives it a punk rock spin. Malú isn’t happy about her recent move to Chicago, because it meant leaving her dad (her parents are amicably divorced) and his record store behind. She tries to assume a brave punk attitude, but she can’t help being anxious on her first day of school, especially when she gets on the wrong side of the class mean girl. When Malú learns about the upcoming Fall Fiesta talent show, she decides to form a band, with the hopes of finding “her people” in the process. While this plan hits a few snags, it results in friendships and a Mexican punk mentor. Like any good riot grrrl, Malú finds a creative outlet in making zines, several of which appear in the novel and call attention to Malú’s passions, heritage (she is half Mexican), and private concerns. Pérez delivers an upbeat story of being true to yourself and your beliefs, that tweens will rally behind.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
Malú wants to be totally punk at her new middle school, but her Mexican-American mother would prefer she learn to be a proper señorita. Twelve-year-old María Luisa O’Neill-Morales, aka Malú, loves punk-rock music, hanging out at her father’s indie record store, and making zines. She doesn’t love moving from her home in Gainesville, Florida, to Chicago for her professor mother’s two-year appointment at a university. Although she loves both of her amicably divorced parents, Malú—who favors Chuck Taylors and music T’s—feels closer to her laid-back, artsy white father than her supportive but critical academic mother, whom she calls “SuperMexican.” At Malú’s new majority-Latino school, she quickly makes an enemy of beautiful Selena, who calls her a “coconut” (brown on the outside, white on the inside) and warns her about falling in with the class “weirdos.” Malú does befriend the school misfits (one activist white girl and two fellow “coconuts”) and enlists them to form a band to play a punk song at the Fall Fiesta. Middle-grade readers will appreciate the examples of Malú’s zines and artwork, which delightfully convey her journey of self-discovery. The author surrounds the feisty protagonist with a trio of older women (including her mom, her best friend Joe’s tattooed, punk-loving mother, and his humorous Abuela) who help her embrace being Mexican and punk. A charming debut about a thoughtful, creative preteen connecting to both halves of her identity. (Fiction. 9-13)

About the Author

Celia C. Pérez has been making zines inspired by punk and her love of writing for longer than some of you have been alive. Her favorite zine supplies are a long-arm stapler, glue sticks, and watercolor pencils. She still listens to punk music, and she’ll never stop picking cilantro out of her food at restaurants. Originally from Miami, Florida, Celia lives in Chicago with her family and works as a community college librarian. She owns two sets of worry dolls because you can never have too many. The First Rule of Punk is her first book for young readers.

Her website is celiacperez.com

Around the Web

The First Rule of Punk on Amazon

The First Rule of Punk on Goodreads

The First Rule of Punk on JLG

The First Rule of Punk Publisher Page

Castle in the Stars by Alex Alice

Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869 (Book 1) by Alex Alice. September 12, 2017. First Second, 64 p. ISBN: 9781626724938.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.5.

In search of the mysterious element known as aether, Claire Dulac flew her hot air balloon toward the edge of our stratosphere―and never returned. Her husband, genius engineer Archibald Dulac, is certain that she is forever lost. Her son, Seraphin, still holds out hope.

One year after her disappearance, Seraphin and his father are delivered a tantalizing clue: a letter from an unknown sender who claims to have Claire’s lost logbook. The letter summons them to a Bavarian castle, where an ambitious young king dreams of flying the skies in a ship powered by aether. But within the castle walls, danger lurks―there are those who would stop at nothing to conquer the stars.

In Castle in the Stars, this lavishly illustrated graphic novel, Alex Alice delivers a historical fantasy adventure set in a world where man journeyed into space in 1869, not 1969.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Violence, Alcohol, Smoking, Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Booklist (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 5-8. What do you get when you mix steampunk, historic scientific theories, Jules Verne-style adventure, and King Ludwig II of Bavaria? A rollicking good time, that’s what. In 1869, a year after Seraphin’s mother disappeared in her hot air balloon while in search of the mysterious energy source called Aether, an unsigned letter arrives in which the writer claims to have found her logbook. On their way to Bavaria to claim it, Seraphin and his father become entangled with Prussian spies who are also on the hunt for the logbook, hoping that the secret of Aether will help them overthrow King Ludwig II and take over the world. The romantic setting of the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle is the perfect backdrop for this steampunk adventure story, and the author and artists use both interior and exterior views to good advantage. Done in soft watercolors, the illustrations are gorgeously detailed and alive with color and motion, giving the whole book a cinematic feel. This series starter ends on an extreme cliffhanger, so readers will be eager for the sequel.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
Some people will love this fanciful tale of a 19th-century space race so much they never finish it. This graphic novel is filled with distractions. Every scene has a new detail to focus on, usually off in the corner of a panel: a watercraft decorated with golden cherubs or an airship shaped like a swan. When one character holds up a book of blueprints (for a craft that travels “through aether”), readers may be tempted to crane their necks to get a better view of the tiny drawings. The artwork, which combines loose pencil outlines with elaborate watercolors, is that spectacular. Many panels could be framed as paintings, and it would be easy to ignore the text and just stare at the pictures of cloud banks. But that would be a mistake, as it’s a terrific adventure story with disguises and air chases and a plot against Bavarian royalty in the late 1800s. The story is full of digressions, though, and the digressions are the best part, as when the main character (a schoolboy named Seraphin) explains why there must be dinosaurs on Venus. In another, the royal architect shows off the orchestra pit on an airship. This is bad science and bad history (and surely not everyone in Bavaria was white), which makes it fantastic steampunk. Like the best steampunk, this story is one excellent distraction after another, with enough blueprints to hold people’s attention while they’re waiting for Book 2. (Graphic steampunk. 10-16)

About the Author

Alex Alice is a French graphic novelist, working in France and sometimes the U.S. His works have been translated into more than fifteen languages.

Born in 1974, he grew up in the south of France and had the chance to travel around Europe, where he developed a lifelong passion for the ruins and castles of the medieval and romantic ages. This experience influenced his art, from the grim setting of his esoteric thriller The Third Testament (co-written with Xavier Dorison and published by Titan Comics) to the primeval, mythic world found in Siegfried, an operatic re-telling of the northern saga of the great dragon slayer (published by Boom Entertainment). In Castle in the Stars, he draws on Jules Verne and nineteenth-century romanticism to create a watercolor world of adventure and wonder to enchant adults and younger readers alike.

His website is www.alexalice.com

Around the Web

Castle in the Stars on Amazon

Castle in the Stars on Goodreads

Castle in the Stars on JLG

Castle in the Stars Publisher Page

Battlesong by Lian Tanner

Battlesong by Lian Tanner. August 15, 2017. Fiewel & Friends, 393 p. ISBN: 9781250052186.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.4; Lexile: 720.

The thrilling conclusion to the Icebreaker trilogy, an acclaimed middle-grade fantasy-adventure from Lian Tanner.

Gwin is a Fetcher. With her papa and twin brother, Nat, she travels West Norn, bringing joy to its downtrodden people through song and story. But ever since Mama died, it’s been hard to keep the joy alive.

Proud and defiant, Fetchers have always been hunted by the Devouts for preserving the old ways. So when devious Brother Poosk captures Papa, Gwin must rescue him―whatever the cost.

Meanwhile, the Oyster’s crew and the Sunkers lay siege to the Citadel. But without their Sleeping Captain, can they ever win against the ruthless Devouts? Can Petrel, Fin, Sharkey, and Rain ever bring light back to such a dark world?

Sequel to: Sunker’s Deep

Part of series: Icebreaker (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Reviews

School Library Journal (June 1, 2017)
Gr 5-8-Tanner’s trilogy concludes with a meticulously plotted, rapidly paced adventure that both stands alone and richly satisfies fans of the first two novels. The narrative picks up where Sunker’s Deep left off, with the crews of both the Oyster and the Claw on dry land searching for the captain and the legendary Singer. Enter young Gwin and her family, traveling entertainers called “Fetchers,” whose performances bring moments of pleasure to the downtrodden population while preserving traditional lore and keeping ancient secrets from the Anti-Machinists. Tanner’s unparalleled world-building seamlessly weaves Gwin’s tale into a complex narrative told from multiple perspectives. The author provides just enough backstory to keep new readers engaged and the action moving toward a thrilling ending that unites characters from all three installments. Attentive readers will be intrigued by early plot details that later on return to add significance at pivotal moments. Masterly writing brings the stark landscape to life and reveals characters’ deepest emotions. -VERDICT A first purchase for collections that already have the other volumes in the series; expect interest in them if ordering this third entry on its own.-Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

About the Author

Lian Tanner has been dynamited while scuba diving and arrested while busking. She once spent a week in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, hunting for a Japanese soldier left over from the Second World War. She likes secrets, old bones, and animals that are not what they seem. Nowadays she lives by the beach in southern Tasmania with her cat, Harry-le-beau, who has his own blog at vampiremice.wordpress.com.

Her website is www.liantanner.com.au.

Around the Web

Battlesong on Amazon

Battlesong on Goodreads

Battlesong on JLG

Battlesong Publisher Page

Dinner at the Center of the Earth by Nathan Englander

Dinner at the Center of the Earth by Nathan Englander. September 5, 2017. Knopf Publishing Group, 254 p. ISBN: 9781524732738.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 940.

A prisoner in a secret cell. The guard who has watched over him a dozen years. An American waitress in Paris. A young Palestinian man in Berlin who strikes up an odd friendship with a wealthy Canadian businessman. And The General, Israel’s most controversial leader, who lies dying in a hospital, the only man who knows of the prisoner’s existence.

From these vastly different lives Nathan Englander has woven a powerful, intensely suspenseful portrait of a nation riven by insoluble conflict, even as the lives of its citizens become fatefully and inextricably entwined–a political thriller of the highest order that interrogates the anguished, violent division between Israelis and Palestinians, and dramatizes the immense moral ambiguities haunting both sides. Who is right, who is wrong–who is the guard, who is truly the prisoner?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Equal parts political thriller and tender lamentation, the latest from Englander (What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank, 2012) explores, in swirling, nonlinear fashion, Israeli-Palestinian tensions and moral conflicts. The General, who is never named but is clearly former prime minister Ariel Sharon, lies in a coma, his thoughts hovering over past glories and a horrifying gunshot. By his side is Ruthi, his devoted assistant, whose pot-smoking, TV-obsessed son has found a plum job guarding the disappeared Prisoner Z in a secret prison in the Negev. An American spy who in a moment of either moral courage or traitorous intent turned against his Israeli backers, Z was on the run in Europe but tripped up when he fell in love with a fearless waitress from an ultrawealthy Italian family. Discerning the connections between these narratives provides much of the drama, which turns on the logic of human weakness and intractable opposition. Ultimately, Englander suggests that shared humanity and fleeting moments of kindness between jailer and prisoner, spy and counterspy, hold the potential for hope, even peace.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2017)
A prisoner is held for more than a decade in the Israeli desert while, elsewhere, a general in a coma hallucinates about his past life and a young man works to fund the Palestinian resistance.Englander’s (What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, 2012, etc.) latest novel is an odd amalgam: part political thriller, part romance, part absurdist farce, it never quite settles into the story it wants to tell. First, there’s Prisoner Z, who’s been held for 12 years in an undisclosed location in Israel’s Negev Desert. His only human contact has been with his guard. Then, there are flashbacks to Prisoner Z’s time hiding out in Paris. An American intelligence operative, he’s compromised Israeli secrets, and the authorities have it in for him. In the meantime, he starts up a romance with a waitress and they dash around Europe together. There’s also the General, an infamous Israeli leader who’s been in a coma for years; Ruthi, the General’s former assistant and current caretaker; Ruthi’s son, who happens to serve as Prisoner Z’s guard; and Farid, a young Palestinian in Berlin who’s working to fund his brother’s anti-settlement activities. Chapters alternate among these various threads. Unfortunately, Englander fails to fully weave them together. His tone is uneven—sometimes he strains toward humor, sometimes toward drama, without quite reaching either one. The humor sags, and the political intrigue doesn’t quite add up. If it’s a farce, it’s an uneasy one. Toward the end, Englander introduces a second romance, and this one feels rushed, tacked on like a donkey’s tail. Still, there are moments of fine writing throughout. An uneasy blend of political intrigue, absurdity, and romance struggles to establish a steady, never mind believable, tone.

About the Author

Nathan Englander is a Jewish-American author born in Long Island, NY in 1970. He wrote the short story collection, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., in 1999. The volume won widespread critical acclaim, earning Englander the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Malamud Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Sue Kauffman Prize, and established him as an important writer of fiction.  His website is www.nathanenglander.com

Around the Web

Dinner at the Center of the Earth on Amazon

Dinner at the Center of the Earth on Goodreads

Dinner at the Center of the Earth on JLG

Dinner at the Center of the Earth Publisher Page

Too Shattered for Mending by Peter Brown Hoffmeister

Too Shattered for Mending by Peter Brown Hoffmeister. September 12, 2017. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 384 p. ISBN: 9780553538076.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 680.

“Little” McCardell is doing all he can just to keep it together after the disappearance of his grandfather “Big” and the arrest of his older brother, JT. He’s looking out for his younger cousin, trying to stay afloat in school, working in the town graveyard for extra cash, and in his spare time he’s pining after Rowan–the girl JT was dating until he got locked up. When the cops turn up asking questions about Big, Little doesn’t want to get involved in the investigation–he’s already got enough to deal with–but he has no choice. Especially not after the sheriff’s deputy catches him hunting deer out of season and threatens to prosecute unless he cooperates.

Soon Little finds himself drowning in secrets, beholden to the sheriff, to JT, to Rowan, and to Big’s memory, with no clear way out that doesn’t betray at least one of them. And when Little’s deepest secret is revealed, there’s no telling how it could shatter their lives.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Suicide, Physical abuse

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. As in This Is the Part Where You Laugh (2016), Hoffmeister’s latest depicts a teenager trying to endure his relatives and life in poverty. Sixteen-year-old Little is trying to survive after his grandfather Big disappears. He looks after himself and his cousin while also controlling romantic feelings for his brother’s girlfriend, Rowan. Believing Little knows something about the disappearance, police continually try to glean information from him. It’s not long before Little is smothered in the secrets of others, all of whom want his loyalty. This is a raw and gritty book depicting someone attempting to thrive in harsh conditions. It is deliberately paced only until one becomes accustomed to the structure, wherein sporadic flashbacks provide information about what happened to Big, and readers begin to put the pieces together to understand what occurred. Hoffmeister’s Mexican heritage is reflected through the main character. A compelling new work by Hoffmeister.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2017)
When 16-year-old Little McCardell’s grandfather disappears, it is up to him to clean up the mess that’s left behind. Hunger, violence, drugs, and hopelessness haunt the citizens of his impoverished Idaho town. But Little is determined to break free from his family’s legacy. Desperate to find stronger roots, he even begins learning Spanish in hopes of feeling closer to his estranged Mexican father. He is determined to graduate and find a way to care for his young cousin, but his dyslexia is a constant battle. When an obsessed sheriff’s deputy begins asking questions about his grandfather’s whereabouts, Little must dig for information or risk becoming entangled in a dangerous world. Drugs, abuse, child pornography, casually crude language, drinking, and rape orient readers to the ample challenges that Little faces. But the unfolding mystery, lyrical language, and empathy for the characters make Hoffmeister’s a story worth investing in. Little’s determination, passion, and genuine love for the broken people in his life keep this narrative from falling into despair. Short chapters, a sparse setting, and evocative characters combine to create a story that is more than the sum of its parts. Proof that even in the darkness, there can be light. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Peter Brown Hoffmeister is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Graphic The Valley, the memoir The End of Boys, the nonfiction text Let Them Be Eaten By Bears, and the forthcoming YA novels This Is The Part Where You Laugh and Too Shattered For Mending (Random House, Knopf).

A former troubled teen, Hoffmeister was expelled from three high schools, lived for a short while in a Greyhound bus station, was remanded to a recovery and parole program, and completed a wilderness experience for troubled teens. He now runs the Integrated Outdoor Program, serving teens of all backgrounds, taking them into wilderness areas to backpack, climb, spelunk, orienteer, and whitewater raft.

He lives with his wife and daughters in Eugene, Oregon. His website is www.peterbrownhoffmeister.com

Around the Web

Too Shattered For Mending on Amazon

Too Shattered For Mending on Goodreads

Too Shattered For Mending on JLG

Too Shattered For Mending Publisher Page

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu. September 19, 2017. Roaring Brook Press, 330 p. ISBN: 9781626726352.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 840.

Moxie girls fight back!

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. Vivian’s mom was a rebel. In the nineties, she followed her favorite punk-rock bands across the Pacific Northwest and championed the Riot Grrrl movement. When Vivian’s father died a few months after Vivian was born, her mom returned home. Vivian, raised in East Rockport, Texas, where high-school football stars are king and their bad behavior is excused by a blind-eyed administration, is a mild-mannered good girl. But when she witnesses a sexist incident in class, she is disturbed. One trip to a copy store later, and Moxie is born: an anonymous, Riot Grrrl–inspired zine that contains both a diatribe and a call to action. These actions start small, but as more girls become involved, the movement grows, protesting everything from an unfairly enforced dress code to sexual harassment. The novel’s triumphs—and there are many—lie in the way the zine opens Vivian’s eyes to the way girls are treated, and to the additional roadblocks that her classmates of color face. Though the novel presents plenty of differing opinions, it never once pits girl against girl, and Vivian struggles with how to navigate a burgeoning relationship with a well-intentioned boy who doesn’t always understand what she’s fighting for. From an adult perspective, some of the ripped-from-the-headlines issues might seem like old news, but for teens like Vivian, who are just discovering how to stand up—and what to stand up for—this is an invaluable revelation.

Booklist starred (July 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Vivian’s mom was a rebel. In the nineties, she followed her favorite punk-rock bands across the Pacific Northwest and championed the Riot Grrrl movement. When Vivian’s father died a few months after Vivian was born, her mom returned home. Vivian, raised in East Rockport, Texas, where high-school football stars are king and their bad behavior is excused by a blind-eyed administration, is a mild-mannered good girl. But when she witnesses a sexist incident in class, she is disturbed. One trip to a copy store later, and Moxie is born: an anonymous, Riot Grrrl–inspired zine that contains both a diatribe and a call to action. These actions start small, but as more girls become involved, the movement grows, protesting everything from an unfairly enforced dress code to sexual harassment. The novel’s triumphs—and there are many—lie in the way the zine opens Vivian’s eyes to the way girls are treated, and to the additional roadblocks that her classmates of color face. Though the novel presents plenty of differing opinions, it never once pits girl against girl, and Vivian struggles with how to navigate a burgeoning relationship with a well-intentioned boy who doesn’t always understand what she’s fighting for. From an adult perspective, some of the ripped-from-the-headlines issues might seem like old news, but for teens like Vivian, who are just discovering how to stand up—and what to stand up for—this is an invaluable revelation.

About the Author

I’m an English teacher, writer, wife, and mom who writes books for and about young adults.

My favorite things include chocolate, pepperoni pizza, and this super hilarious 1980s sitcom about four retired women called The Golden Girls. I can basically quote every episode.

I live in Texas with my husband, son, and dog!

When it comes to what I read, I love realistic young adult fiction (duh), creative nonfiction, super scandalous tell-all memoirs and unauthorized biographies, and basically anything that hooks me on the first page. My website is www.jennifermathieu.com

Around the Web

Moxie on Amazon

Moxie on Goodreads

Moxie on JLG

Moxie Publisher Page

Artificial Intelligence by Stephanie Sammartino McPherson

Artificial Intelligence: Building Smarter Machines by Sammartino McPherson. September 1, 2017. Twenty-First Century Books, 104 p. ISBN: 9781512418262.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1170.

In 2011 a computer named Watson outscored two human competitors on the TV quiz show Jeopardy! and snagged the million-dollar prize. Watson isn’t the only machine keeping up with humans. The field of artificial intelligence (AI) is booming, with drones, robots, and computers handling tasks that once only humans could perform.

Read about the history of artificial intelligence from smart cars to drones and learn how the fields of AI and neurology work together to create “thinking machines.” You’ll also consider the pros and cons of AI and discover what lies ahead.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 8-11. The concept of artificial intelligence, or AI, shouldn’t be new to most young readers, since it’s a frequent feature of sci-fi movies, TV shows, and even the game show Jeopardy!, which famously featured a computer contestant, Watson, that beat its human competitors. There’s more to AI than a dystopian future of robot overlords, however, and McPherson cogently lays out the concept from its inception, with Lovelace and Babbage’s analytical engine, to contemporary research on the topic, including neural mapping, the ways AI is already integrated into current technology, and depictions in popular culture. In addition to laying out the basic research at hand, McPherson also raises critical questions, such whether we should allow computers to make ethical choices, given that those circumstances are so complicated that a simple algorithm likely wouldn’t suffice. On magazinelike pages packed with inset boxes and sidebars, as well as photos of scientists and their machines, McPherson’s straightforward, accessible text offers fascinating, thought-provoking, and up-to-date information on a high-interest, very relevant topic to contemporary teens. Extensive back matter includes further reading and source notes.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
McPherson presents the evolution of artificial intelligence—machines with the “humanlike ability to reason and solve problems.” That definition opens McPherson’s tour d’horizon of artificial intelligence, immediately placing readers on shaky ground. Philosophers have been debating “to reason” since long before Descartes. There is little doubt that McPherson richly explores the women and men who develop machines to do the drudge work of mechanical production and everyday life, but do either the amusingly crafty Watson, which took down the Jeopardy! game show champs, or Deep Blue, which humiliated Garry Kasparov, qualify as “a truly thinking machine, able to learn on its own and modify its own programming without human input”? The ability for a machine to reckon if/then is part of its programming. Sentience, which includes feeling, is stickier. How is it possible, as McPherson writes, that a machine programmed by humans “might not share human social and ethical values—such as notions of fairness, justice, and right and wrong”? Throughout, there’s too much supposition and not enough science; emblematic of this is a failure to convey exactly how Google Brain arrived at the concept of a cat without being commanded to: “All on its own, it had developed the concept of ‘cat.’ ” McPherson conveys the thrill of the possibility inherent in AI, but she’s frequently a giant step ahead of the game. (Nonfiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Stephanie Sammartino McPherson wrote her first children’s story in college. She enjoyed the process so much that she’s never stopped writing. A former teacher and freelance newspaper writer, she has written twenty-eight books and numerous magazine stories. She especially enjoys writing about science and the human interest stories behind major discoveries.

Stephanie and her husband, Richard, live in Virginia but also call California home. They are the parents of two grown children.

Around the Web

Artificial Intelligence on Amazon

Artificial Intelligence on Goodreads

Artificial Intelligence on JLG

Artificial Intelligence Publisher Page

Older than Dirt by Don Brown

Older than Dirt by Don Brown. September 5, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 112 p. ISBN: 9780544805033.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.4; Lexile: 730.

Almost 14.5 billion years ago, it all started with a BIG BANG and what began as a cloud of gas, dust, and rock eventually took shape and bloomed into a molten sphere. Battered by asteroid collisions, ice ages, and shifting tectonic plates, our fledgling planet finally pushed forth continents. But if you think the earth has calmed down since then—think again! Geological activity continues to sculpt the earth’s landscape, sometimes with terrible consequences for its inhabitants: earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis.     In this one-of-a-kind, wild, but true history of Earth, the Sibert Honor medalist Don Brown takes on big concepts with humor and ease.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 5-8. In 100 fact-crammed but surprisingly zippy pages, nonfiction graphic novelist extraordinaire Brown covers 14 billion years of Earth’s development. From the big bang to our planet’s origin to landmass formation to the appearance of life, Brown and scientific consultant Perfit provide an astonishingly comprehensive overview and manage to humanize it with witty asides from the woodchuck and worm who serve as surrogate teacher and student, as well as quick visits with important historical scientists. Brown’s art—loose, easy lines but clear, vivid representations—also strikes a necessary balance between friendly accessibility and accurate portrayal. Comics are not a form naturally inclined to delivery of hard facts, and the speed with which information is conveyed here doesn’t make it ideal for, say, supporting a long-range science curriculum. But comics have always held a strong suit in high accessibility for young readers, and this could serve as a good beginning research source and will be a nifty opportunity for burgeoning geologists or anyone looking for a deeper way to explore the real world. A word of warning, though, that between climate change, gradual landmass upheavals, and the eventual cooking of the planet by the sun, things don’t wrap up on a particularly hopeful note. Appended with three helpful illustrated diagrams and extensive source notes.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2017)
A groundhog and her worm sidekick offer a concise tour of the Earth’s history from the Big Bang to climate change with a glimpse of the bleak, sun-dried future to come—all lightened by frequent humorous asides. Born of the partnership between geology professor Perfit (Univ. of Florida) and prolific graphic novelist Brown, this highly engaging overview briefly introduces a broad range of scientific topics in a vivid and accessible way, for example describing magma as “rock that is so hot that it’s gooey, like chocolate fudge.” Clear illustrations effectively complement the text, rendering the array of subjects memorable and easy to grasp: a cross section of an apple indicates the relative thinness of the Earth’s basalt crust, while a plaid blanket hovering above the planet illustrates the effect on temperatures of excessive carbon dioxide. The groundhog is utterly endearing, and the worm is remarkably expressive considering the absence of limbs and most facial features. Readers will be entertained, informed, and inspired to learn more about whatever piques their curiosity, whether it is uranium, continental drift, glaciers, or one of the featured scientists, such as Marie Tharp. A lengthy bibliography and detailed source notes are an added bonus. A guaranteed hit with science lovers and a best bet for convincing skeptics that science is indeed a grand and exciting adventure. (Graphic nonfiction. 9-14)

About the Author

Don Brown is the award-winning author and illustrator of many picture book biographies. He has been widely praised for his resonant storytelling and his delicate watercolor paintings that evoke the excitement, humor, pain, and joy of lives lived with passion. School Library Journal has called him “a current pacesetter who has put the finishing touches on the standards for storyographies.”

He lives in New York with his family. His website is www.booksbybrown.com

Around the Web

Older than Dirt on Amazon

Older than Dirt on Goodreads

Older than Dirt on JLG

Older than Dirt Publisher Page

The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

The Ship of the Dead  by Rick Riordan. October 3, 2017. Disney-Hyperion, 423 p. ISBN: 9781423160939.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.4; Lexile: 710.

Magnus Chase, a once-homeless teen, is a resident of the Hotel Valhalla and one of Odin’s chosen warriors. As the son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus isn’t naturally inclined to fighting. But he has strong and steadfast friends, including Hearthstone the elf, Blitzen the dwarf, and Samirah the Valkyrie, and together they have achieved brave deeds, such as defeating Fenris Wolf and battling giants for Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. Now Magnus and his crew must sail to the farthest borders of Jotunheim and Niflheim in pursuit of Asgard’s greatest threat. Will they succeed in their perilous journey, or is Ragnarok lurking on the horizon?

Sequel to: The Hammer of Thor

Part of Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Violence, Racism and racist language, Anti-Islamic sentiment, Child abuse, Terrorism

 

Book Trailer

 

About the Author

Rick Riordan is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the Kane Chronicles, and the Heroes of Olympus. He is also the author of the multi-award-winning Tres Navarre mystery series for adults.

For fifteen years, Rick taught English and history at public and private middle schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Texas. In 2002, Saint Mary’s Hall honored him with the school’s first Master Teacher Award.

While teaching full time, Riordan began writing mystery novels for grownups. His Tres Navarre series went on to win the top three national awards in the mystery genre – the Edgar, the Anthony and the Shamus. Riordan turned to children’s fiction when he started The Lightning Thief as a bedtime story for his oldest son.

Rick Riordan now writes full-time. He lives in Boston with his wife and two sons.

His website is www.rickriordan.com.

Teacher Resources

Magnus Chase Discussion Guide

Norse mythology Teaching Resources

Around the Web

The Ship of the Dead on Amazon

The Ship of the Dead on Goodreads

The Ship of the Dead on JLG

The Ship of the Dead Publisher Page