Book Reviews by Teens
Volume 6 - Number 3

Thanks for picking up Volume 6, Number 3 of UNDER the COVER: Book Reviews by Teens, a partnership between Skokie Public Library, local junior high schools, and several book publishers who give us a sneak peek at the newest books for young readers. This is the third and final issue of the 2011-2012 school year. We call it V6N3 for short.

Reviews in this issue were written by students from Chute Middle School, Fairview South School, McCracken Middle School, and Old Orchard Junior High School. Most of the titles are available for checkout at Skokie Public Library or your school library.

You might find a few good books in this issue to read for yourself or recommend to a friend. You can find more reviews in back issues of UNDER the COVER on our website.

Read, print, save, and share this issue of UNDER the COVER in its original print format.
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janeThe Apothecary

Reviewed by Daniella T.
Fairview South School

Would you ever think of your local pharmacist as a person with the magic ability to heal and also to cast spells? In this action-packed book, there is, and he’s been taken! And this all starts with a move. Everyone can relate to it. Set after World War II, main character, Janie, must move because her parents revealed to her that they are communists after she finds herself being followed by mysterious men. They must flee America before the government gets to them, so from her parents’ expertise in show business, they landed a job to produce shows in London. There, Janie meets headstrong Benjamin, son of the neighborhood apothecary. As Janie’s curiosity about Benjamin rises, so does Benjamin’s. They’ll learn that Benjamin’s father isn’t just an ordinary apothecary, but that he comes from a line of ancestor apothecaries that holds the book of spells, healings, and magic. Because of the power of the apothecary, Benjamin’s father has been kidnapped! Janie and Benjamin must work together to keep the Apothecaries’ book and to rescue him.

I would recommend The Apothecary because of the thrilling action and suspicion that just makes you want to race to the finish. I also enjoyed this book because of its female lead and intriguing twists. This will be a great book to read if you’re into action filled pages with fantasy and magic! (Youth Junior High Fiction MEL)

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Reviewed by Carol G.
McCracken Middle School

Bewitching by Alex Flinn is a very page-turning and thrilling book. This book portrays Kendra the witch from Beastly, the amazing and lovable book by the same author Alex Flinn! Kendra tells her tale about two teenage girls Emma and Lisette who now become stepsisters! Emma’s stepdad had married her mother when she was only 3 years old and had left Lisette when she was 3 years old too! Now that Lisette’s mother has died, she moves in with her father, her stepmother, and stepsister. Emma tries to have a sister relationship with Lisette, but Emma’s plan comes crashing down when she sees Lisette for who she really is: a two-faced teenager.

Lisette abandoned Emma for the “populars” and becomes friends with Emma’s ex best friend, Courtney. Who became friends with Midori and Taylor, and the three of them picked on Emma ever since, calling her fat and more. And that is not the worst of it; Lisette also pushed Emma away from their dad. Emma becomes frustrated when she can’t go sailing with her father, can’t watch Jeopardy with her father, and carve the pumpkin with him. This sends Emma over the edge; in the middle of the night, Emma smashes a pumpkin that Lisette and her father had carved in the middle of the street. When Emma comes back to her room, Lisette has her phone out and soon Emma realizes Lisette has caught her smashing the pumpkin. Lisette is now blackmailing Emma that if she doesn’t stay away from their father, then she will show him the picture she took of Emma smashing a pumpkin. Emma now stays away from her father and Lisette is spending more time with him than ever. Emma struggles with her decision between coming clean with her father or keeping quiet about the pumpkin incident.

Then there’s the drama with Emma‘s long lost crush Warner. Emma and Lisette’s father had a sudden heart-attack at Lisette’s play, and Emma and Warner had to interview the cast of the play because they are both on the paper together. Soon after Emma’s stepfather’s passing, her mother turned her into their slave, throwing away her brand new clothing, takes away her cell phone, and gives Emma her car. Soon, to Emma’s horror, she finds Lisette hugging and kissing none other than her boyfriend WARNER! In a turn of events the next day, Warner and Emma break up. Emma now sees her life as Cinderella except the fact that the real daughter is the evil and manipulative one and she is the quiet bookworm child. Emma’s only friend is the witch Kendra.

If you’re interested in fairy tale twists and unexpected love, I recommend you to read Bewitching by Alex Flinn. Even if you haven’t read Beastly or seen the movies, but you love fairy tales--then this will be a real twist for you. Now come down to your library and get this intriguing novel!
(Teen Fiction FLI and Youth Junior High Fiction FLI)

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rubabBorn Wicked

Reviewed by Hazel F.
Chute Middle School

Witches are wicked, born wicked. In Jessica Spotswood’s new novel, the first in a series, the brotherhood is determined for the town never to forget this. They drill it into their minds during every Sunday sermon along with lessons on the frailty and weakness of women. The Cahill sisters know to keep their secret safe or they might be joining their dead mother in the graveyard. But it’s certainly not easy hiding that you’re a witch. They never seem to go unnoticed with their odd out-of-style fashions, unnaturally pretty faces, and the fact that they barely leave their property except for services on Sundays. Even worse, Cate, the oldest of the three, has only six months before she must decide to get married or join the sisterhood and both might mean breaking her promise to her mother to protect her beloved sisters. But bad news for the Cahill’s doesn’t stop there. Cate soon discovers her mother’s diary holding a mysterious prophecy that could possibly be referring to Cate and her sisters. If the prophecy the diary speaks of is true, the girls are in trouble and need to be more careful than ever.

In this fairly exciting novel, Spotswood mixes fantasy, magic, and romance. Born Wicked is the first book in The Cahill Witch Chronicles. Most of the characters are detailed and three dimensional; however their relationships are not as developed. I found the three sisters’ relationships confusing and not realistic, for example Tess and especially Maura seemed to strongly dislike their older sister Cate for being so strict about how cautious they were to be with magic. I think that because they were sisters and they had lost their mother leaving them with only each other would have made them closer. I also think that the story idea is creative and interesting.

Although she has a good premise, I think some of the details were unnecessary and took away from the plot. On the other hand, many of the details created fun and exciting twists in the story that added to the suspense. Over all I would give the book a three-and-a-half stars rating. (Teen Fiction SPO)

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margaretThe Boy Project: (Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister)

Reviewed by Emi K.
McCracken Middle School

Results of Kara McAllister’s “Boy Survey”: 39% like clingy girls, 42% dig popular, superficial chicks, and a measly 19% prefer artsy, smart girls. Kara, in 8th grade and still “boyfriendless,” is the epitome of the 19% girl.

The Boy Project by Kami Kinard portrays the life of the average teenage girl, hoping for romance and (hilariously) failing. The main character, Kara, however, is unlike many girls, nerdy and perpetually single, but extremely witty and creative. When Ms. Sabatino assigns a science project, Kara’s yearning heart leads her to start a project of her own: The Boy Project. Bizarre as it is, Kara begins taking note cards of all the boys she sees, from annoying jokers, to her current crush, to even her math teacher. Along the way, innumerable things go hysterically wrong, but through the aches, pains, and stakeouts in the boys’ bathroom, Kara makes it through 8th grade, not only discovering the true natures of her fellow guy classmates, but learning what she really wants and needs herself.

Written in the format and tone of a young teen’s journal, also on the basis of the scientific method,The Boy Project is sweet, funny, and incredibly applicable. Kara reminds me of myself, a hopeless romantic and bookish type of girl, and the crazy times she has with bullies, boys, teachers, and especially her best friend unknowingly dating her crush, made me laugh out loud and smile all the time. The Boy Project was a fairly easy read, but it had such personality and a humorous plotline that I couldn’t put it down! And, of course, being about boys, it’s no wonder that this book is relevant to teen girls today. Walking with Kara through middle school drama, excitements and trials of love life, this book gives great advice and teaches us about soul mates, friendships and making the best of junior high. For all girls, emotional or just in need of a good laugh, The Boy Project by Kami Kinard is for us, because once in a while we all need “Good Luck in Love.” (Youth Fiction KIN)

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tinaThe Case of the Deadly Desperados

Reviewed by Thomas W.
Chute Middle School

In Caroline Lawrence’s The Case of the Deadly Desperados, you follow young P.K. Pinkerton through a roaring Wild West adventure. The adventure starts off like a bullet out of a revolver when P.K. returns home from school to find his foster father lying dead on the ground and his foster mother on her last breath next to him. She tells him that the medicine bag that P.K.’s mother gave him is what the attackers were after and that he must protect it. Inside the bag is a paper granting the owner a vast amount of land, so P.K. begins his journey to get the paper verified.

The story’s main character P.K. Pinkerton is an extremely intelligent 12-year-old boy. He is also very brave and independent. But with all these great traits, P.K. has one fatal flaw; he has trouble reading other people’s emotions and expressing his own. This flaw makes him easily fooled by people since he can’t tell his friends from his enemies.

I enjoyed reading The Case of the Deadly Desperados, but I felt that while the writing kept the story moving, it wasn’t very descriptive. I felt that I couldn’t really picture the characters or setting as well as in other books. I also felt that at some points, the book was full of action and kept me wanting to read, while at other times, it slowed down, and I had trouble staying interested. Some parts really engaged me though, like the first page: “My name is P.K. Pinkerton and before this day is over I will be dead.” This really grabbed my attention and made me want to read this book.

So all in all, I would recommend this book to boys 11 and up who enjoy adventure stories about the Wild West. It’s a good light read, but not really anything more. (Youth Fiction LAW)

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dustynCold Fury

Reviewed by Sean L.
McCracken Middle School

In the book Cold Fury by T.M. Goeglein, Sara Jane Rispoli just turned 16, but she comes home from the school dance on her birthday to find her family missing! The house is in disarray and a masked assassin in the basement tries to kill Sara Jane. Luckily she gets away. However, Sara Jane soon finds out that her family has been deeply involved in the Chicago Outfit (The Mob) ever since her great grandfather made molasses to make illegal alcohol during the prohibition.

Her Uncle Buddy, the masked assassin, and a crazy cop are all after the same thing: a notebook hidden deep in the depths of the Rispoli Bakery, in a speakeasy called Club Molasses. Sara Jane finds the briefcase that holds thousands of dollars in cash, a credit card in her name, a .45 pistol, and the coveted notebook that the other three are after. Inside the notebook are all the secrets to complete control of The Outfit.

If Sara Jane wants any hope of finding her family, she will have to put her own life at risk. It will require using her family’s secrets and getting fully involved in The Outfit herself. She has to be on the run at all times if she has any hopes to keep the notebook a Rispoli family secret. Using the notebook, she finds information that will help her escape, such as the Capone Doors—hidden doors marked with a C that Outfit members can use to make a quick escape when needed.

Cold Fury by T.M. Goeglein is the perfect mix of action and thrilling suspense with a touch of romance, so this book is truly for fans of all genres. There is mild cursing, so this book is probably better for ages 12 and up. To what extent will Sara Jane go to save her family? Read Cold Fury to find out! (Youth Junior High Fiction GOE)

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shandiinThe Crowfield Curse

Reviewed by Benjamin J.
Chute Middle School

The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh is a combination of science and historical fiction. I picked this book because the cover caught my attention and when I scanned a page in the middle of the book it immediately got me hooked in. What got me hooked was the uncertainty of what was going to happen next. This book takes place in Europe 1347, during the winter with a cryptic brotherhood of monks a few days away from any of the nearest villages.

The main character is a pre-teen named Will. Will is getting used to the hard work, and little food the monks give him, he has the sight. The sight is when you can see magical creatures without their permission. Another main character is a hob who does not and cannot tell Will his name for fear of Will getting complete power over him so Will calls him brother Walter. One of the other main characters is brother Snail who is the healer for the monks and has the sight like Will.

Will’s family has all died in a house fire, except for his older brother who left England in search of wealth and glory. Nobody would take Will in because everyone who was in the house died and yet Will made it out unscathed. The town folk think that he is cursed, this is the first main conflict. Another main conflict is that two strangers come and they want to know more about Crowfield’s Curse and use it for their own purposes but only Will can help them.

A passage I enjoyed, “William felt a small stirring of unease. The pigs had kept him busy that afternoon and he’d had little time to worry. But now, alone in the hut in the dark woods, he felt vulnerable. The hut walls did not seem like much protection against whatever might be outside.” I enjoyed the fact that he now felt like something was out there to get him. Also I liked the mood that Pat Walsh set in this passage. This because this is one of the first parts of the story that had started getting me deeper and deeper into the world that a good book can take you to. I would recommend this book to pre teenagers because the plot is some what confusing but the language is pretty easy. (Youth Fiction WAL)

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abdurahmanThe Eleventh Plague

Reviewed by Conor P.
Old Orchard Junior High School

The Eleventh Plague is a story about a boy traveling through North America after it was ravaged by a plague, P11, sent by the Chinese during a war. Though the plague has mostly died down, before it is gone completely, it takes the life of Stephen’s stern, tough Grandpa who had kept his family alive for so long. Soon, Stephen’s dad enters a coma from a fall in a storm and later dies. Stephen is left alone. Soon enough, though, Stephen finds his way to Settler’s Landing, a village formed by several families. One of the few villages that Stephen has seen on his travels, this is by far the nicest. There are fields of vegetables, a school, and several homes. It seems too good to be true, and it is. The leader of the town gets Stephen and a Chinese girl named Jenny, who had been adopted as a newborn, kicked out of town. Though some villagers protest, most agree that they are both probably spies. Left to their own devices, the two play a prank on the town leader. Using explosives, they send his animals stampeding away. But what was meant to be a joke leads to a war. The people of Settler’s Landing blame the attack on a rival village, Fort Leonard, and send a couple men to attack their livestock. Both villages gather armies, but before the Fort Leonard men can attack, Stephen convinces several people that the mercenaries that Settler’s Landing hired are slavers and are just going to attack anyone they see. This starts a battle between the slavers and most of the villagers. Once the slavers are forced to retreat, people begin cleaning up—until the small army Fort Leonard has assembled arrives. But, in an unlikely feat, Stephen and his friends convince these soldiers to join forces and work together with Settler’s Landing.

The Eleventh Plague is a taut novel most of the time, but I think that often good luck is exaggerated. The characters get too lucky, and because of this, often accomplish things that should be impossible. The Eleventh Plague is a good read, but not the best of what you can get. (Youth Junior High Fiction HIR)

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Reviewed by Kacie-Marie K.
Fairview South School

In Embrace by Jessica Shirvington, the main character, Violet, is turning 18. During her birth, her mother died. This fact will change the rest of her life, forever. On her 18th birthday it starts off like any other day - she trains with her best friend, Lincoln, goes home to where she is alone, and then goes to a nice restaurant for dinner. There she meets a guy that will send her on a journey which will change the rest of her life. On her long journey she makes both enemies and some new friends. The day after her birthday, her trainer gives her some big news. He tells her how she is a Grigori and how you become a Grigori. Also, the people she meets at her birthday party aren’t who they seem to be. At the party she meets an angel but he isn’t what he claims to be either. Over time, she also develops feelings for both Lincoln, her trainer, and Phoenix, a guy she meets at her party. What do you think will happen to Violet in the mysterious journey that she is now embracing? Which guy do you think she will choose? You must read this gripping book to find out!

I would recommend this book because it pulls you in! I didn’t want to do anything before I finished reading the book. It has such a good plot and has a great story around it. The people who would enjoy this book are girls between the ages of 12 and 18 year olds, because it is based on a girl and her thoughts. Reading this book will allow you to know how older girls think about things. (Teen Fiction SHI)

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yousufThe Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict

Reviewed by Juliana T.
McCracken Middle School

Nicholas Benedict, a 9-year-old boy, has been transferred from orphanage to orphanage throughout his life, with each one being no better than the last. In The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart, Nicholas has moved to yet another orphanage called The Manor. On his first day there, he meets the Spiders, who are the orphanage’s bullies. Of course, they immediately find some things to tease him about: he is smarter than your average professor and he has narcolepsy (meaning that strong emotions make him fall asleep).

Nicholas’s days at the manor get steadily worse until a boy named John, his first real friend, tells him about the treasure. Together, the boys (and an unexpected partner from a neighboring farm named Violet) attempt to solve the mystery of the treasure that hides within the manor.
I really liked The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart. It was a great addition to the Mysterious Benedict Society series, which I have read in its entirety. This book is full of humor, friendship, adventure and intrigue and is a great read that both boys and girls will enjoy. Although it can be read on its own, I suggest reading the other books in the Mysterious Benedict Society series before reading this one. Overall these are great books that will surely appeal to all. (Youth Fiction STE)

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ninaFinding Somewhere

Reviewed by Hamid A.
Old Orchard Junior High School

I really think that Finding Somewhere connects to what a teenager goes through daily: all the troubles, the misfits, the non-stop nagging from the parents. The two main characters of the book are best friends Hattie and Dolores who have really strong feelings for an old horse named Speed. When they find out his life is in danger, they want to set him free so that he can taste the feeling of freedom. I think that Joseph Monninger put enough effort into writing this book that when I read it he made me feel as though I was a character IN the book. He pulled me into the story! I connected with the book really well. I think that boys can enjoy this book too! Five stars out of five stars. (Teen Fiction MON and Youth Junior High Fiction MON)

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Reviewed by Shandiin O.
McCracken Middle School

Leena Thomas is going to have the best senior year, or so she thinks. When the strange Celeste Lazar moves in with Leena and her three friends into Frost House things start to look down for Leena, but she tries to work through the differences of everyone. As Celeste starts experiencing strange happenings within the house she blames it on the other housemates. With Leena too distracted in the company of Celeste’s new and handsome brother, David, a growing hatred grows between the other two inhabitants and Celeste. As Leena takes pills to make all the little problems go away, Celeste finds out and threatens to tell David, which will ruin Leena’s perfect bubble of reality, which is less than true. With Celeste going insane, according to Leena, who has her own pill popping problem, what will happen in Frost House?

Frost is a good book with lots of mystery and page turning clues. I would recommend this book if you like a scary book. (Teen Fiction BAE)

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juliaGhost Knight

Reviewed by Jimmy G-V.
Old Orchard Junior High School

In Cornelia Funke’s Ghost Knight, John Whitcroft is sent to boarding school by his mom, even though he knows the idea for “banishing” him from his home came from “The Beard,” the man who John’s mom has been with since the years after his dad died when he was 4—and the man whom John completely hates and despises. On John’s sixth night in his new school, he doesn’t expect to see three pale-white figures called “Ghost-Men” outside his window: figures of knights on horses with swords and armor. John’s roommates tell him that he’s only “seeing things,” so John disregards the encounter as homesickness or even hunger. The next day John almost completely forgets about the pale figures during French class, where all he can think about is The Beard and his mom vacationing with his two sisters on the sandy beaches of Spain.

But then, on his way to the school’s boardinghouse, John sees the Ghost Knights standing at the entrance gate...waiting for him. Only instead of three ghosts, this time there are four. At this point John realizes that his encounter the day before was not a dream or hallucination; these figures were real, and he is the only one that could see them. While in his state of shock, a crow caws and the knights spur their horses, charging at John. In reaction John turns and runs for his life. While he’s running, John is threatened by the Knights, who are now calling him by the name “Hartgill” and threatening to hunt him down and kill him. The weird thing is that “Hartgill” is his mother’s maiden name. When questioned about the Ghost Knights by Ella, a girl John had only seen around school, he realizes he’s not the only student seeing the Ghosts.

Now, while being hunted by the four ghosts, Ella and John (who now have become good friends) have to do some research and investigation to uncover a centuries-old murder and to find the reason why the ghosts are after John. The only way to get some real answers is to summon the ghost of Knight Longspee, and John doesn’t know whether he can be trusted.

Ghost Knight is a great mystery book with some amazing clues that all conclude with discovering the murderer. It is a great fantasy-adventure book since John and Ella are running from the knights searching for answers, and it also a story of true friendship. It’s a fantastic choice if you like to read about ancient mysteries being solved in a fantasy world! (Youth Fiction FUN)

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conorA Girl Named Digit: She’s Got Your Number

Reviewed by Maryam K.
Old Orchard Junior High School

The Digit of the title is a high-school-aged math prodigy who has been keeping her light under a bushel in order to fit in with the crowd. It’s working; she’s part of the popular-girls clique, to the delight of her method-actress mother and the chagrin of her UCLA-math-professor father. She’s not really all that interested in the latest heavy-teen-drama TV shows, but watches them in order to be able to discuss them over the cafeteria table with her pals. And that’s how she notices, three weeks in a row, a series of numbers that flashes at the beginning of one of them that, when decoded, results in a cryptic message. She soon discovers what it means in the most tragic way possible, and as a result finds herself being chased by a murderous TV station employee right into the arms of a young, FBI agent.

What made this book most enjoyable for me is that the author made the whole plot believable while staying true to the characters she introduces. Even the cool girls at the high school have some depth and shows how Digit herself was guilty of the same profiling she was subjected to. I really enjoyed it, I would recommend A Girl Named Digit: She’s Got Your Number to girls who like reading Gemma Halliday’s YA series or Meg Cabot. (Youth Junior High Fiction MON)

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dinaGrave Mercy

Reviewed by Geoffrey S.
Old Orchard Junior High School

Grave Mercy, the first book in Robin LaFevers’s series His Fair Assassin, begins with a marriage between the narrator and an unmannerly pig farmer under the interesting heading of “Brittany 1485.” We find out this is an arranged marriage, and a violent scene of abuse follows. This serves as your average exposition of a teenage protagonist, complete with thorough explanations of the main character’s internal conflicts with their awful situation.

Very quickly after this shocking opening, we find our 14-year-old receiving help escaping from her husband and being rushed to a convent for safety. She is greeted by women who tell her that her mission in the convent is to worship Mortain, the god of death, and therefore, quite frankly, kill people by responding to his wishes. The assignments she gets often reflect political justice against the enemies of Brittany. She is meant to go into this walk of life because her mother tried to abort her pregnancy and she survived it; she also escapes all of the brutalities of her arranged marriage, as shown in the very beginning.

Now that the intriguing setting has been set, LaFevers brings us briefly to Ismae, the main character, training as a nun who worships death. She skips three years ahead to the day in which Ismae gets her first assignment: to kill someone who has betrayed her Duchess. This goes fine, as do the next two assignments to murder wrongdoers under Mortain’s will. There is only one problem: on her last mission, Ismae meets a mysterious man whom she mentions to her sisters at the convent. They are suspicious as well. Then, this very man walks into the room and tells them that he is suspicious of Ismae, having seen her on both of her missions. They explain their convent’s mission, and then decide to send Ismae and this man on a mission together to seek justice for their government. Things really take off from here, and there is a lot of excellent character development between Ismae and Duval, her partner, as they slowly develop forbidden affection for each other. Mind you, Ismae is still assigned to possibly kill Duval for suspicion of betrayal. This all builds into an intense, suspenseful, and nicely layered plot. The pair has a journey together that is beautifully told by the author, with a detailed plot structure that is wonderfully flavored with politics. Ismae begins to question the purpose of her convent as she progresses in her life as a nun assassin. The subject matter is so interesting that it makes the book very unique compared to all of the other adventure/love combination stories out there today for teens. It is evident that the author was influenced by the writers who came before her and has a deep passion for storytelling.

The only thing about this book was that for having such interesting ideas, it tended to move quite slowly in some areas. However, I could count on being engaged by the end of each chapter, thanks to the author’s great writing skills.

This is an intelligent adventure book with a lot of moral questions of government and religion, but I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys suspense, romance, history, or adventure, because it is such a great mix of all of these and stands out from its contenders. (Teen Fiction LAF)

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wasanLove & Leftovers: A Novel in Verse

Reviewed by Rubab H.
McCracken Middle School

The romantic book Love & Leftovers by Sarah Tregay is a story in poems. It’s about a young girl named Marcie who has been dragged away from Idaho (her home) for the summer to the family summerhouse in New Hampshire. She’s left behind her friends, a group of geeks called the Leftovers, her emo-rocker boyfriend Linus, and her father. Her mom is in depression because her father surprised them by coming out and admitting he is gay.

Marcie is in love with her boyfriend Linus, who sings and plays the guitar. However, as Marcie spends her summer in New Hampshire, an extremely cute local guy named J.D. drops by, swooning her with surprises. Despite the distance and attention, will Marcie stay with Linus? You’ll have to read to find out!

Love & Leftovers by Sarah Tregay was completely amazing and I loved it. I would rate this book a 9.5 out of 10. I just wish it was longer! I recommend this book for ages 13 and up. (Youth Junior High Fiction TRE)

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sorettiLucky Fools

Reviewed by Justin D.
Fairview South School

Lucky Fools by Coert Voorhees is about a high school student named David. He loves and is very talented at acting, but gets in a tough situation when he has a kissing scene with another girl that is not his girlfriend. At the same time as all of this, he and his girlfriend are trying to get a scholarship to an extremely good college, Juilliard. Unfortunately, there is only one spot open for someone, but his girlfriend wants to get in just as much as he does. As their relationship wavers, a prankster at school threatens their hopes for the future. You will have to read to find out what happens to David, his girlfriend, and his future in acting.

This book shows a lot about the issues people face when they are in high school and is very gripping. However, I would recommend this book to mature readers only, because of some of the language, references, and actions they use in the book. (Youth Junior High Fiction VOO)

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ileanaThe Masterwork of a Painting Elephant

Reviewed by Chris S.
McCracken Middle School

The charming tale The Masterwork of a Painting Elephant by Michelle Cuevas takes the reader on a philosophical journey through some of the wonders of nature and their beauties. At the beginning of the book, the place is somewhere in America where the narrator, Pigeon, who has abnormally large ears, is abandoned by his parents as a baby for fear of his well being. His parents were former circus members and never were very sane, so they decided it was better if someone else raised him. When they reluctantly left Pigeon on the doorstep of an orphanage, Pigeon, being adventurous from birth, crawled away to a nearby tree. There he met an elephant whose name was Birch because his skin and tusks looked like the bark of a Birch tree. Birch was a caring and protective animal, so he decided to raise the baby himself. He picked Pigeon up and put him on his back. Birch loved Pigeon so much he never allowed him to leave his back, just in case something was to happen. Pigeon lived his life happily on Birch’s back until age 10, when the story resumes. Birch said he had taught Pigeon everything he knew and now Pigeon would have to go to school. This is where the adventures begin.

Birch always told Pigeon a story before sending him to bed. A story that he often told was a true story of Birch’s own past. It was a love story between an acrobat and Birch. Unfortunately, the story ends abruptly when Birch has to leave the circus and the woman of his dreams. He lives his life from then on washing cars for a mysterious man known as the Ringleader, also a former circus performer. For Pigeon’s birthday, he asks Birch if they can go on a quest to find his lost lover. They travel to many parts of the globe in an effort to find the acrobat.

This witty book contains many twists and turns. The author captures the emotions of her characters in a unique and clever fashion. Birch and Pigeon meet many people on their way, each with a different story to tell. It is a short and enchanting read, expressing numerous views of life from people and animals all over North America and Europe. But will they find Birch’s lost love? You will have to read The Masterwork of a Painting Elephant by Michelle Cuevas to find out. (Youth Fiction CUE)

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cameronMe and Earl and the Dying Girl

Reviewed by Sheridan W.
McCracken Middle School

In the book, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews a boy named Greg is a friendly but not very popular boy in high school. Years ago, he had a somewhat girlfriend named Rachel. Suddenly, now Rachel is diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer that is slowly spreading through her body. Greg primarily doesn’t want to have anything to do with Rachel, but when Greg’s mom finds out about Rachel’s disease, she tries to make her feel better by forcing Greg to befriend her once again. Rachel knows that the only reason he is doing this is because he thinks that she is going to die. Greg and his friend Earl become good friends for Rachel and, although neither of them fall deeply in love with her, they still develop a strong connection. What will happen with their friendship as Rachel is forced to go through tons of treatment?

In my opinion, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was a great book. The author writes with realistic thoughts and actions that take place, which is something that I personally like about this book. Some might expect a love story, however, and they might be disappointed. But in a way, you learn to love Greg even though he’s not the best kid in the world, because you know he means well. You will laugh and cry in the book. Overall, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews is a good realistic book that is very, very interesting. You won’t want to put it down! (Teen Fiction AND)

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thomasNever Fall Down: A Boy Soldier’s Story of Survival

Reviewed by Dina B.
Chute Middle School

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick is an extraordinary piece of realistic fiction. Arn is just an ordinary 11-year-old boy living in Cambodia. All he wanted is a normal life, and maybe a bit more money. That is not what he received. When soldiers arrive in his town, what happens is what he least expected. The soldiers separate him from his family, and force him along with hundreds of others to work in rice paddies. Every day he witnesses an abundance of deaths, caused by sickness, fatigue, famine, or the cruelness of the soldiers. He must master that art of feeling completely and utterly numb when necessary.

The soldiers ask if any of the children can play an instrument. Although Arn never has, he volunteered. Arn learns that through out his entire life to survive he must stand out, and be a celebrity.

This book was a difficult one to read. The subject matter was very intense. Overall it was really truly good. The use of different similes made it interesting to read. I have only one criticism. The language used is as if it was Arn writing, and had “broken” English. Although it definitely added more to the book, at times it got confusing: “My dad the star, my mom also the star. In our house, big house on main side of the road, before the show it was all singer and musician staying with us, getting ready.” To understand what he was trying to say you had to read it a few times over.

This book is not for everyone. I would recommend it to middle school aged kids, who can handle a book that has many upsetting pages. Overall, I thought this book was tremendous, I learned a lot, and am very glad I got to read it. (Youth Junior High Fiction MCC)

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aimeeThe One and Only Ivan

Reviewed by Ben B.
McCracken Middle School

The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, is a short novel about a gorilla that lives his life in a circus-themed mall. He lives in a large “domain” (a glorified cage) and has a stray dog and elephant named Stella, who also lives in the mall, as his companions. Ivan is a talented artist and makes a special connection to Julia, the daughter of the janitor of the mall, who wants to be an artist when she grows up.

One day at the mall, a new elephant arrives; it is a baby elephant named Ruby. Stella becomes a mother-figure to Ruby and the head of the mall forces Ruby to learn tricks for many hours a day. Ivan promises to Stella that he will find Ruby a better place to live.

I would recommend this book, based on the reading level, to younger children. However, this book’s message is touching for all ages (I apologize for the cliché, but it’s true.) This book touched me and it was a very good read regardless of the low reading level. This book took me a couple hours to read; it is three hundred pages, but there are relatively few sentences per page. (Youth Fiction APP)

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Reviewed by Dakota E.
Chute Middle School

I read a piece of science fiction by author Dan Wells. This book is entitled Partials. This book focused on post-apocalyptic Earth after 99.9% of the human population had died. The humans were nearly wiped out in a war, which they fought with their own invention of war, known as Partials, which turned against them. Humans then found they were unable to repopulate their planet due to a virus, which kills all of their babies at birth. Kira Walker lives in this dying population with no cure for the virus. Nothing is working to stop the virus so Kira takes it upon herself to find the cure. She finally comes up with an idea that might just work, but she needs a Partial.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s a great work of science fiction where there’s always something going on. It had a good plot and was written with great detail. I think the author did a great job keeping me reading. Just as I thought things would get boring, something new happened. I thought this was a great book but I think there’s a lot of information important to the story that is left out. One of the main things that was missing was more detail about how human society collapsed. Despite the one flaw I liked this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction and adventure. I hope anyone who thinks they might like this book will give it a try when it is published. (Teen Fiction WEL and Youth Junior High Fiction WEL)

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benThe Peculiars

Reviewed by Elizabeth J.
Old Orchard Junior High School

If you met or were told about somebody that had weird hands or feet, would you consider them to be without a soul? Back in the late 1800s, the story was different. In The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry, Lena Mattacascar is considered to be part goblin because she has extremely long fingers and toes. Her mother is normal, but she doesn’t know who her father really is. When Lena turned eighteen, Lena’s mother gives her a letter that contains money and important papers. Lena wants to find the father who left her so long ago, and decides to go to Scree, the mysterious region where only a few people live—a few people and, apparently, Peculiars. Peculiars are people who are considered to be soulless because they look different and have flaws such as wings, tails, or…elongated hands or feet like Lena.

When Lena reaches Scree, she meets Thomas Saltre, a handsome man who asks her for a favor once she tells him about her quest: he tells her to spy on Tobias Beasley—apparently a librarian who lives in a Zephyr House—and report everything back to him. She agrees, hoping that in return, he will be her guide. She is reluctant though because she doesn’t know his motives. At Zephyr House, she finds Jimson Quiggley and the adventures begin.

This book is amazing. It shows the controversy between science and magic, how more modern things have influenced our lives and how a choice can change our life. The beginning is hard but it gets really exciting after that. I love this book and would recommend it for anybody’s bookshelf.  (Youth Junior High Fiction MCQ)

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seanRuby Redfort Look Into My Eyes

Reviewed by Emma M-G.
Chute Middle School

In the book Ruby Redfort: Look Into My Eyes by Lauren Child, 13-year-old Ruby Redfort is not an ordinary kid. She is super smart. At age 7 she was offered a full scholarship to Harvard University. She did not want to go to college; she did not want to be a “freak.”

As the book goes on Ruby discovers a secret, something she can’t tell anyone not even her best friend Clancy Crew. Clancy is smart, but not as smart Ruby. Ruby is a good liar, but how can she lie to her best friend. These are only little problems Ruby faces. She also has to deal with a bank robbery while lying to her friends, her life is in danger and her parents are just plain dumb. Read this book to find out how she copes.

In my opinion this book starts out very slow. The ending is amazing, but you have to be patient because the build up takes a while. I would recommend this book to girls or boys age ten to thirteen because it is an easy read with some adventure and mystery. Overall, I would give this book a three out of five stars since it starts very slow but ends well. (Youth Fiction CHI)

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tylerSmart Girls Get What They Want

Reviewed by Margaret S.
Old Orchard Junior High School

Smart Girls Get What They Want is a brilliant orchestration of a chick-lit novel. With snappy dialogue and engaging characters, this book grabs your attention and doesn’t let it go. The book doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, and contains a lot of small references and instances of supreme self-awareness. Those quick moments will have any reader who is familiar with the genre laughing.

The plot is hilariously twisted, full of the typical high school shenanigans: a student council election, ski tournaments, Romeo and Juliet, and of course, lots and lots of romance. But undeniably the cornerstone of this book is the powerful friendship between the three female leads, Gigi and her two friends, Bea and Neerja. As they face their fears and challenges together, their bond never wavers.

This book is a great read. It is fun, breezy, and hilarious. Anyone who has ever been labeled a “smart girl” should read this book! (Youth Junior High Fiction STR)

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Reviewed by Lily S.
McCracken Middle School

The futuristic society in Starters by Lissa Price is made up of seniors, called Enders, as well as teenagers and younger children, who are called Starters. An epidemic had struck one year earlier, and only Enders and children were vaccinated, so the rest died. Now, children who do not have parents or grandparents to claim and take care of them are either shut up in horrible institutions or are running away from the marshals. Sixteen-year-old Callie and her seven year old brother Tyler, who is very sick, as well as their friend Michael are amongst the runaways who are barely scraping by.

So, Callie goes to Prime Destinations, nicknamed “the body bank,” which is a huge institution where many unclaimed teen Starters go for a huge amount of money. A chip is planted into the Starters brain that is connected to the Ender’s brain, and while the Starter is put to sleep, the Ender has complete control over the Starters body for a short period of time, so they can go out and enjoy the world of a teen. After the Starter is rented three times, the chip is taken out and they get their exorbitant amount of money. Desperate for money, Callie agrees to rent herself out.

Callie’s first two rentals go smoothly, and now, it is time for her final rental. But, something in the system goes wrong, and Callie wakes up at a club three weeks early with a mysterious voice in her head telling her to not return to Prime. Callie soon discovers that the woman, Helena, who was renting her, was planning murder. After several times of gaining control of her body and losing it again, Callie manages to stay awake and in control, but with Helena always whispering in her mind. Through this connection, Callie discovers that there is a much bigger plot going on at Prime Destinations, and that she must put it to a stop.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I thought it was very interesting and had a very unique twist to it, and you were always surprised at what happened next. I thought it always kept you at the edge of your seat, and was not predictable at all. I recommend Starters by Lissa Price for anyone who is in their teen years and likes science fiction. (Teen Fiction PRI and Youth Junior High Fiction PRI)

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Reviewed by Casey S.
Fairview South School

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if your mom was with you but was away at the same time? Well Cass in Sway, by Amber McRee Turner, has to deal with that when her mom leaves to help the people out in Florida after a natural disaster. Cass’s mom, Toodi, is a storm rescuer. This is someone who helps people when a storm, such as a hurricane, leaves the town or community underwater. Toodi helps the people get back to normal and helps them get to safety when they are in danger. Her dad struggles with trying to fulfill both roles of mother and father while her mother is gone. Now, Cass is excited about her mother coming home after her last rescue mission. When her mother returns she brings a surprise that will change Cass for a while. What happens with Cass and her dad? Where will Toodi be going next? You will find out in Sway by Amber McRee Turner.

I would recommend this book because it is an easy read. Also, the author wrote it in a descriptive way, so that it was easy to get interested in the story. You can’t tell what’s going to happen next, so that way you’re always wondering what will be coming next! That’s why I recommend Sway. (Youth FIction TUR)

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jimmyTen Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have)

Reviewed by Tina A.
McCracken Middle School

In the book, Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have) by Sarah Mlynowski, a girl named April and her father are supposed to move to Ohio. April doesn’t want to leave her boyfriend Noah behind, so she convinces her father to let her live with her friend Vi. April’s parents are divorced, and her mother and brother live in France.

Later on in the book, Vi and April have to lie to April’s father in order for April to live with Vi. Vi pretends to be her mother, and emails April’s father. Two teenage girls living in a house without parents turns out to be a recipe for trouble. At least, before April and her boyfriend have sexual activity, April goes on birth control pills. But when April visits her doctor after having sexual activity, she finds out that she has chlamydia, which is a sexually transmitted disease! How does April have chlamydia? You have to read the book to find out!

Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have) by Sarah Mlynowski is one amazing book. If you’re looking for a book about romance, you should definitely read it. I wouldn’t recommend this for readers under the age of 12, since it has very mature topics. (Teen Fiction MLY)

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sonjaTiger Lily

Reviewed by Stacey H.
Old Orchard Junior High School

“She couldn’t be drowned and was guarded by the crows.” This is what the native Sky Eater children said about Tiger Lily in Jody Lynn Anderson’s book of the same name. Those few words summarize the entire book in one little sentence.

Tiger Lily is a very strong-willed girl who couldn’t care less about what others thought of her, even though others didn’t think very kindly. In this addition to the Peter Pan story, Tiger Lily’s tribe, the Sky Eaters, and the pirates, under the control of Captain Hook, both hate Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. So when Tiger Lily stumbles upon the Lost Boys’ home while hunting and becomes part of their unconventional family, it’s a shock to all who know her. And to all those who know one tiny fairy named Tinkerbell, the story is told as she sees it happen to her friend, Tiger Lily. Peter Pan and Tiger Lily fall in love, but then Wendy and other Englanders come to Neverland and ruin their way of life. Tiger Lily starts to feel betrayed by Neverland and those who live in it, because everyone seems to do whatever the new Englanders say to do.

The story ends with the part we all know: Tiger Lily is caught by the pirates and stranded on a rock in the middle of the lagoon, and Wendy and Peter have to save her as the tide rises up on all three of them. It’s the same as always, but with a little surprise ending. I LOVED this book and recommend it to everyone. It was interesting and thought-provoking, and really took the story of Peter Pan to a higher level. It was an overall fantastic book and I loved reading every word of it. (Youth Junior High Fiction AND)

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tessaThe Wicked and the Just

Reviewed by Tenzin W.
McCracken Middle School

The book The Wicked and the Just, by J. Anderson Coats is a marvelous read for medieval-times buffs. It’s a fine tale woven together by the views of two girls living in medieval Wales. (1293-1294 to be exact.) Cecily is a bratty and rich English girl, and is one of the two protagonists of the novel. Cecily and her father lived among the wealthy in Edgeley Hall, back in her homeland England. But when her uncle becomes the next heir, rather than her father, they move to Caernarvon in occupied Wales. Before leaving for Caernarvon, two of Cecily’s friends hand her an alter cloth that took them a year to sew. After a tearful and long good bye, Cecily rides on a wooden cart to the foreign land. She is saddened and disappointed with the move, but is cheerful once she sees the manor that will be her new home. Her mood brightens even more when her father tells her that she will be the lady of the house. Being the bratty little girl she is, she immediately orders a servant girl for a glass of wine. When the girl does nothing but sit stone still and glare, Cecily pouts, and her father is needed to calm her down. This is when we meet the other protagonist, Gwenhwyfar (also known as Gwinny). Gwinny is a Welsh girl whose family once was at the height of their power, until the “nasty and filthy” Englishmen came and occupied Wales. She is hateful towards the English, and despises Cecily. After all, Gwinny has lived in the house for far longer than Cecily, and is the rightful lady of the house.

After Cecily moves in to the manor, she realizes that most of the people around are English as well, but she cannot get over the fact that she is not at home. She soon gets into mischief, including trading/shopping on the wrong day, almost getting her cousin arrested, and so on. This causes Cecily to hate Caernarvon, and for her to long to go back home to England. She also wants “revenge” on the people who have wronged her, and wishes that the Welsh would also drop dead. Gwinny on the other hand wants nothing more than for the English to get out of her home, and claim what is rightfully hers.

The book mostly focuses on Cecily’s point of view, but switches off between her and Gwenhwyfar. Gwenhwyfar’s chapters are shorter, and Cecily’s opinions and views take up more than two thirds of the book. Something interesting about this book is although the two protagonists are both from completely different backgrounds, they both want justice, and are driven by rage (different types of justice and rage, though).

The Wicked and the Just, by J. Anderson Coats would be a great read for girls 12 to 15 and for medieval enthusiasts. The vocabulary and dialogue is very “medieval” and “old,” and to understand some of the phrases may need a small amount of prior knowledge. It only takes a day or two of vigorous reading, and is intensely captivating, especially during the revolt. This novel would also be recommended if you wanted something a little bit on the challenging side, in terms of vocabulary. I would give it 2.5 out of 4 stars, only because it was a little bit confusing during the constant switching in one section, and some of the descriptions of war were a little bit too “vivid.” Aside from that, it was a fantastic read. (Youth Junior High Fiction COA)

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ianThe Wild Queen: The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen of Scots

Reviewed by Abbie W.
Chute Middle School

The Wild Queen by Carolyn Meyer is about a girl named Marie Stuart who became Queen of Scotland at birth when her father died. England was trying to take over Scotland, so her mother arranged for her to move to France and marry Francois Dauphin and become Queen of France. When Marie and the Dauphin got married she signed a document saying that if she dies without having children Scotland will be given to England. So when Marie was widowed, she had to find a new husband to give her children so that she could keep her country and her people safe. How will she do this? Who will she marry?

I did not enjoy this book very much. The novel starts out very slow. This book is set in the 1500s in Europe. I do not know a lot about the past Kings and Queens in Europe and how their government worked. Therefore this book’s setting and parts of the plot were a little confusing, and I could not really connect to it. All of her uncles and stepbrothers in the story made it very confusing because I did not know about their places in European government, and they did not really affect the story or matter to me.

However, the part of the story when Marie needed to decide what to do with her life was my favorite because I am a person who enjoys romance novels and that part was a romance. Marie was trying to find a husband to have kids with so she could keep her country safe. Unfortunately this book did not capture my attention. I would not recommend this book to anyone unless they want to read about Europe’s past and have a better understanding of it. (Youth Junior High Fiction MEY)

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Reviewed by Emily R.
McCracken Middle School

The Impassable Wilderness, as it is called by locals, is a dense, tangled forest in the middle of Portland, Oregon, where Wildwood by Colin Meloy takes place. The locals have many stories about it. One such story tells how a teen’s older brother ventured into the Impassable Wilderness and came back a week later with a full white beard, the most obvious reason that he had aged immensely. The other stories say different yet similarly weird things. All that’s known for sure is that no one has entered the Impassable Wilderness and came out to tell the tale.

Prue McKeel has lived an ordinary life in Portland until one day when a murder of crows captures her baby brother on her watch. She watches in horror from the little park as her sibling is flown into the Impassable Wilderness. She contemplates her options. “Going to the police was out; they’d undoubtedly think she was crazy…She could run away-this was a legitimate option…A chill came over her as she realized her only option. She had to go after him. She had to go into the Impassable Wilderness and find him.”

So begins Prue’s journey. Along the way, she encounters help (of a sort); her school friend Curtis. Together they travel into the Impassable Wilderness and find a secret world in upheaval. This world is full of strange beings at war, peaceful prophets, and persons of power with evil intent. What starts out as a “simple” rescue mission becomes a quest far greater. Prue and Curtis get tangled in a fight for freedom from the wilderness. The locals there call this place Wildwood.

The exposition tried my patience and, sadly, I quickly became disinterested. I flipped a few chapters ahead and realized how important the stuff in the break was. I reread the beginning and went on to finish. Wildwood was pretty good for a debut novel. Colin Meloy, lead singer of the Decemberists, is a unique and inventive storyteller. In addition, the artwork by award-winning Carson Ellis added to the beauty of the book. I’d recommend this book to elementary and middle school students. (Youth Fiction MEL)

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‘UNDER the COVER: Book Reviews by Teens’ is published by Skokie Public Library in partnership with middle school students and their teachers. In this issue...

Chute Middle School. Daisha Fox, Language Arts/Reading teacher; Evelyn Delgado-Levin, Reading/Language Arts & Spanish Heritage Teacher

Fairview South School. Sarah Florea, 7th Grade Core Teacher

McCracken Middle School. Tori Gammeri, Director of Learning Center; Judy Kopp, Assistant Director of Learning Center; Annie Monak, Technology Specialist

Old Orchard Junior High School. Rose Schreier, Library Media Center Director

Skokie Public Library. Linda Sawyer, Youth Services Programming Coordinator; Ruth Sinker, Youth Services Technology Coordinator