Posted in Fantasy/Science Fiction, Michael Printz Award Winner, Middle Grade Fiction, Young Adult Fiction


Title: Scythe

Author: Neil Schusterman

ISBN: 978-1442472426

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (November 22, 2016)

Age Range: 12 and up


In the future, we know everything. All knowledge is stored in the Thunderhead- all anyone has to do is ask. Death is nonexistent. The world no longer experiences war. To control population growth, some people are ordained as Scythes, who are charged with randomly selecting people for death. Citra and Rowan have been chosen to compete against each other to become the next junior Scythe. As they progress through the program, they quickly realize that all is not as it seems within the Scythdom. The two must decide what they believe in, and make a stand against corruption in a society where corruption supposedly doesn’t exist.

My Impressions:

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a refreshing change of pace from the typical dystopian novels available to youth today. There are so many discussion topics hidden within these pages. This novel with cause readers to THINK- which is not something that all stories can boast these days.  Furthermore, the characters are extremely likable, the plot- thrilling and action packed. Events in the story were not easy to predict, making Scythe an enjoyable read even for adults. Likewise, the main plot was not overwhelmed by teen romance, which is rather refreshing. Yes, it is there, but it never becomes the main plot to the story.  I could not put this book down.  The teacher side of me kept thinking about what a fantastic middle grade read aloud this book would make. Young readers will not be able to get enough of this entrancing future world, and teachers will have a blast inciting moral discussion and debate in their students. I highly recommend this read.


Gr 8 Up—In a world in which humanity has conquered death (no aging, no disease, no poverty, no war), ruled by the Thunderhead, an omniscient evolution of today’s cloud, Scythes are the only ones who are allowed to take a human life. They are considered to be the best humanity has to offer, and they roam the world “gleaning” people in order to keep the population in check. Scythes are treated like royalty and feared. The last thing Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch want is to become Scythes, but when they are chosen by Scythe Faraday to become his apprentices, they are thrown into a life in which they need to master the art of death. They prove to be apt pupils, but when Scythe Faraday mysteriously gleans himself and Citra and Rowan are apprenticed to two other fearsome Scythes, they will have to put their skills to the test against each other. Intertwined with the fascinating concept of humanity conquering death and the idea of Scythes is the prospect that perhaps this is not the ideal world in which to live. Humanity has perfected itself—so what does that leave it to accomplish? Shusterman starts off this series in dramatic fashion as he creates an engrossing world that pulls readers in and refuses to let them go. VERDICT A truly astounding, unputdownable read and a fast-paced beginning to an excellent sci-fi series. A must-have.—Tyler Hixson, School Library Journal

“Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likeable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions. A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Posted in Elementary Fiction, Fantasy/Science Fiction, Module 5

Module 5: Doll Bones

Title: Doll Bones

Author: Holly Black

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6398-1

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books


Poppy and her friends love to write adventure stories and role play with their dolls. One day, Zach’s dad decides that he is too old to be playing with dolls, and throws all of Zach’s figures away. Instead of telling Poppy, Zach claims that he no longer wants to play the game. Poppy is crushed and angry, and begs Zach to play one last time. That night, Poppy dreams that her mother’s antique porcelain doll tells visits her in her sleep and begs her for help. She claims that the doll is made of a young girl’s bones, and her spirit cannot rest until her bones are buried in the cemetery with her family. Poppy begs her friends to help her lay the doll’s bones to rest, and the three friends embark on an adventure to discover the identity of the spirit. They soon discover the story of a girl who was said to have been murdered by her uncle. The three friends uncover the mystery behind the murder, and find the cemetery where the spirit wants to be buried. They bury the doll’s bones where they belong, and continue home to resume their lives.

Black, H. (2013). Doll bones. United States: Margaret K. McElderry Books.

My Impressions:

This is a unique story that most middle grade readers will enjoy. It’s not my favorite of Holly Black’s books, but the characters are dynamic, and they deal with their problems in very believable ways. For example, Zach’s reaction to his father throwing away his action figures is completely believable of a boy his age. So is Poppy’s reaction to Zach’s withdrawal from the game. Furthermore, the plot is interesting and flows smoothly from event to event. There do not seem to be any plot elements that are left untied. The ghost story is compelling, and leaves the reader guessing until the climax of the story. The ending of the story leaves the reader wondering if there ever really was a ghost, or can the events of the story be chalked up to a little girl’s over active imagination.  It isn’t overly scary, so even readers who shy away from ghost stories will likely enjoy this title. Overall, I would recommend this title to readers looking for a good ghost story, but not an epic scare.

For Use in the Library:

This book has a rather compelling cover, and would work great as a book to put on display on a Halloween reads shelf. It will draw readers toward the display, and likely cause them to spend some time perusing the other titles on the shelf as well.


Gr 4-7–At 12 years old, lifelong friends Zach, Poppy, and Alice are ferociously clinging to their childhoods. Using old Barbies, pirate action figures, dolls from Good Will, and their imaginations, they have created an exciting world of characters in an elaborate game. Figuring heavily in their plotline is the Queen, an antique doll ofbone china that belongs to Poppy’s mother and is strictly off-limits to the kids. She’s also incredibly creepy. When Zach’s dad throws away his action figures, the boy is so devastated that he ends the game abruptly, leaving the girls hurt and confused. Shortly thereafter, Poppy reveals that the Queen is made of the bones of a dead girl named Eleanor who has been communicating with her at night. The doll appears to be filled with Eleanor’s ashes, and she has promised Poppy that she will make their lives miserable if they don’t journey to Ohio, find her grave, and bury her properly. After much persuading, Zach and Alice agree to the journey. The Queen gets scarier and scarier as unexplained events begin to occur along the way. Black has created protagonists who readers will care about, and amusing secondary characters, like a pink-haired librarian and a crazy bus passenger who seems to be able to see Eleanor. This novel is a chilling ghost story, a gripping adventure, and a heartwarming look at the often-painful pull of adulthood. Black-and-white illustrations actually tone down the scare factor a little, making this a perfect starter story for budding horror fans.

Laferriere, M. (2013). [Review of the book Doll bones, by H. Black]. School Library Journal, 59(6), 112. Retrieved from

Posted in Fantasy/Science Fiction, Michael Printz Award Winner, Module 3, Young Adult Fiction

Module 3: Ship Breaker

Title: Ship Breaker

Author: Paolo Bacigalupi

ISBN: 978-0316056199

Publisher: Little Brown & Company


This is an edgy dystopian adventure in which the main currency is salvaged goods. Nailer and his friends must work together to salvage metal from tankers. Nailer discovers just how dangerous it is when he falls into a pit of hidden oil and almost drowns. He learns that he must think carefully about who he can trust, and finds that every decision he makes could change his future.

Bacigalupi, P. (2010). Ship breaker. New York, NY: Little Brown & Company.

My Impressions:

This book wasn’t for me. It was well written, but there was too much dialogue and world building, and not enough plot advancement. I found my mind wandering throughout the dialogue, wondering when something was going to happen. I was mostly unable to relate to the characters-they all seemed kind of gray and flat. I was unable to picture most of the scenes in my head, possibly because I have absolutely no past experience with boating, or working with scrap metal. I was intrigued by the idea, the alternate world that this story offered, and I do think there are a lot of readers who could really get into this one, but I was not one of them. I would recommend this book to readers with a tad bit of background experience in boating, or living out at sea. It would probably make a good recommendation to a male reader interested in a dystopian/post-apocalyptic adventure story Gr. 8-12.

For Use in the Library:

Ship Breaker would probably make a great read for a high school boy’s book group. It’s edgy, and I think it could really appeal to that age group. It could also be a good recommendation for a reader who is looking for a dystopian adventure story.


Teenaged Nailer is living in a dystopian fixture America where climate change and humankind have wreaked havoc on the land and society. Nailer works as a ship breaker, scavenging copper wiring from the insides of abandoned oil tankers being disassembled along the Gulf Coast. A lifealtering, near-death experience—he gets trapped in a chamber filled with oil (“I’m going to drown in goddamn money”)—is just the beginning of Nailer’s adventures as he survives a hurricane and then discovers a wrecked clipper ship and its sole survivor, a rich girl named Nita. Nailer chooses to protect her from harm and help her find her family even though it means leaving hehind the only home—and means of survival—he’s ever known. With Nailer’s menacing and ahusive father, vicious half-men, and a corrupt shipping company all after them. Nailer and Nita journey to the drowned city of Orleans in the hope of rescue. Nebula Award winner Bacigalupi’s debut YA novel vividly depicts a bleak vision: a “whole waterlogged world.. .torn down by the patient work of changing nature.” It is difficult for characters to know who to trust as money and greed separate the haves from the have-nots and dictate loyalty. ‘This thriller will grab and keep readers’ attentions as Nailer and Nita “crew up” in their fight to survive.

Ritter, C. K. (2010). [Review of the book Ship breaker, by P. Bacigalupi]. Horn Book Magazine, 86(4), 98-99. Retrieved from