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ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Click to search this book in our catalog The Serpent King
by Zentner, Jeff

Publishers Weekly Forrestville, Tenn., named after Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest, isn't exactly a welcome place for slightly ouside-the-mainstream folks like friends Dillard, Lydia, and Travis. Dill is a high school senior whose snake-handling preacher father is currently incarcerated; Lydia, a successful fashion blogger, plans on attending NYU after graduation; and Travis, large of body and gentle of soul, loses himself (and the pain of his father's physical and emotional abuse) in a fantasy series called Bloodfall. While Dill finds comfort and beauty in music, Travis's innate kindness belies his circumstances, and Lydia's incandescent, gleefully offbeat personality draws them together. As the novel, Zentner's debut, builds to a shocking act of violence that shatters the friends' world, this sepia-toned portrait of small-town life serves as a moving testament to love, loyalty, faith, and reaching through the darkness to find light and hope. Zentner explores difficult themes head on-including the desire to escape the sins of the father and the fragility of happiness-while tempering them with the saving grace of enduring friendship. Ages 14-up. Agent: Charlie Olsen, Inkwell Management. (Mar.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list In small-town Forrestville, Tennessee, broody musician Dill Early begins his senior year with a general feeling of dread because it means his best friend, Lydia, will be leaving for college once they graduate. As the son of a snake-handling Pentecostal preacher currently in prison, Dill is unable to escape his father's shadow. Lydia, on the other hand, is an outspoken blogger and fashionista, who can't wait to get out of Dodge. Completing their trio is Travis, a gentle giant who carries a staff and is obsessed with fantasy novels. In chapters that shift among the teens' perspectives, Zentner effectively shows the aspirations, fears, and dark secrets they harbor during their final year together. A musician himself, Zentner transitions to prose easily in his debut, pulling in complex issues that range from struggles with faith to abuse to grief. Refreshingly, this novel isn't driven by romance though it rears its head but by the importance of pursuing individual passions and forging one's own path. A promising new voice in YA.--Smith, Julia Copyright 2015 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 9 Up-The son of a snake-handling preacher imprisoned for possessing child pornography, Dill escapes his controlling mother and social ostracism with the help of his two friends, Lydia and Travis. As the trio round out their senior year, it becomes overwhelmingly apparent the different paths their lives are going to take-Travis is content working in a lumberyard and diving into a fantasy world from a book series in his spare time, while Lydia runs a popular fashion blog and is intent on attending New York University. As for Dill, he yearns for more than Forrestville, TN, can offer, but he feels compelled to honor his father's legacy and his mother's domineering wishes. As Dill grapples with a crush on Lydia and a mother who wants him to drop out of high school, a YouTube clip of Dill singing and playing guitar begins to garner attention. Dill must decide among what his heart wants, what his family needs, and his own desire for a life outside of their small town; "If you're going to live," he says, "you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things." Zentner offers a contemporary young adult novel that explores many issues common with teenagers today-bullying, life after high school, and the coming together and breaking apart of high school friendships. Thorough characterization and artful prose allow readers to intimately experience the highs and lows of these three friends. VERDICT Recommended for fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell.-Amanda C. Buschmann, Atascocita Middle School, Humble, TX Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

ALA Notable Books for Children
Click to search this book in our catalog Alfie.
by Thyra Heder

Publishers Weekly Alfie is a pet turtle, and his new owner Nia, an African-American girl with braided hair and plenty of curiosity, tries hard to find ways to relate to him. "I taught him my wiggle dance and made him presents," she says, "but he didn't seem to notice." Nia's interest cools somewhat; then, on her seventh birthday, Alfie disappears. After a pause indicated by a spread with no text, the story resumes, now narrated by Alfie. It turns out that he's been paying more attention than anyone knew: "Nia taught me how to dance!" he explains. "She gave me presents! I had never been given presents." Hoping to find the perfect birthday gift for Nia, Alfie sets out on a shopping trip, and Heder's story really begins to shine as Alfie gets help from Toby (the family hound) and a snail in the backyard. Her watercolor spreads are carefully executed with few stylistic mannerisms; all the attention is directed toward the characters. It's a treat watching Alfie deliver Nia the perfect birthday present-albeit a little late. Ages 4-8. Agent: Stephen Barr, Writers House. (Oct.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal PreS-Gr 2-A girl named Nia gets a pet turtle on her sixth birthday. She names him Alfie and the two of them spend a year together with Nia making every effort to include her pet in all her activities. But turtles will be turtles-not being the most playful or cuddly as pets go-and Nia loses interest. Then, on the morning of Nia's seventh birthday, Alfie goes missing. That's when the story changes from Nia's to Alfie's point of view, as the intrepid turtle goes on the hunt for the perfect gift for Nia's birthday. He first explores around the house, encountering the family dog, then ventures out onto the fire escape, down into the yard, and through a sandbox until he grows cold and tired. A friendly snail suggests that Alfie take a nap in the pond in the yard. Readers see the passage of time illustrated through the change in seasons from fall to winter and then spring, when Alfie wakes up from his "nap" and emerges from the pond just in time to celebrate what Alfie believes is Nia's seventh birthday. Readers will delight to see the two reunited and will notice that it is actually Nia's eighth birthday, as the number indicates on her birthday balloon. The beautiful ink-and-watercolor illustrations, which feature an African American child (and her family), offer readers lots of clues and thoughtful details. An author's note tells how the story is based on Heder's real-life pet turtle Alfie that she got when she was six. VERDICT A welcome addition to picture book collections perfect for one-on-one and small group sharing.-Megan Kilgallen, Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list For her sixth birthday, Nia's delighted to receive a pet turtle, Alfie, and shares with him songs, stories, and little gifts. But lacking responses from Alfie, she starts losing interest, until, on her seventh birthday, she notices Alfie has disappeared but to where? Readers then get the story from Alfie's viewpoint as he relates both how happy Nia made him and why he's left his tank: to find her a special present. Eventually, after searching indoors and outdoors, as well as getting advice from a dog, a snail, and a fish, Alfie returns with the perfect gift, and a festive birthday is had. Nia's and Alfie's first-person descriptive accounts are extended by lovely, intricately detailed ink-and-watercolor illustrations that artfully highlight the varying perspectives and amusing moments, as when Nia introduces Alfie to her toys. Although the concept of hibernation may need explaining (Alfie returns on what's revealed to be Nia's eighth birthday), overall, this is a charming story of the bond between child and pet.--Rosenfeld, Shelle Copyright 2017 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Caldecott Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog My Friend Rabbit
by Eric Rohmann

School Library Journal : PreS-Gr 1-A simple story about Rabbit and Mouse, who, despite Rabbit's penchant for trouble, are friends. When Rabbit launches his toy airplane (with Mouse in the pilot seat at takeoff) and it gets stuck in a tree, he convinces his friend that he will come up with a plan to get it down. He does so by stacking animals on top of one another (beginning with an elephant and a rhinoceros) until they are within reach of the toy. The double-page, hand-colored relief prints with heavy black outlines are magnificent, and children will enjoy the comically expressive pictures of the animals before and after their attempt to extract the plane. The text is minimal; it's the illustrations that are the draw here.-Kristin de Lacoste, South Regional Public Library, Pembroke Pines, FL

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

New York Times Bestsellers
Click to search this book in our catalog Spearhead
by Adam Makos

Library Journal With his latest work, Makos (A Higher Call) follows Clarence Smoyer, a gunner with the U.S. Army's Third Armored Division, across France in the closing year of World War II. Makos offers a detailed recounting of battles, describing gory scenes of Sherman tanks hit by German Panzers, and German tanks hit by Pershing tanks. A new Pershing was given to Smoyer after multiple Sherman tanks were destroyed, killing several but sparing Smoyer. The author describes how Smoyer and his Pershing dueled with German tank commander Gustav Schraeder's Panzer. At the height of the conflict, they both fired on a speeding car, killing a grocer and his clerk trying to escape the fighting. Along with the battles and deaths of friends that haunted Smoyer, he experienced deep PTSD, although he was not diagnosed until many years later. In 2013, Smoyer met his German counterpart at the Cathedral in Cologne, where they both reflected on the demons of war. The grocer and clerk are buried next to the cathedral, and every year Smoyer puts a yellow rose on the grave. VERDICT This thorough military history is recommended for general readers and younger audiences alike.-Harry Willems, Great Bend, KS Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Historian Makos (A Higher Call) draws on correspondence, secondary sources, and first-person testimony to tell the story of Cpl. Clarence Smoyer and his tank crew as they fought across Europe in the U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Division, nicknamed "Spearhead," in WWII. Losses in the division were so high that tankers stopped naming their vehicles because they were destroyed so quickly. Stroyer's crew was one of only 20 to be selected to man the new, top-secret M-26 Pershing tanks, and it was in an M-26 that the most famous of Smoyer's exploits took place during the 1945 battle for Cologne: a one-on-one showdown against a formidable Panther tank, reminiscent of an American West gunfight, on the streets-all caught on film. Makos also includes the experience of the Panther's German crewman Gustav Schafer-and Smoyer and Schafer's latter-day meeting in the city square in Cologne; they walk the street where their tanks faced each other 70 years before. The tension, death, and courage that were everyday experiences for American tankers fill the pages of Makos's book. This moving story of bravery and comradeship is an important contribution to WWII history that will inform and fascinate both the general reader and the military historian. Agent: David Vigliano, AGI Vigliano Literary. (Feb.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Newbery Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog Breaking Stalins Nose
by Eugene Yelchin

School Library Journal Gr 5-7-Velchin skillfully combines narrative with dramatic black-and-white illustrations to tell the story of life in the Soviet Union under Stalin. Sasha Zaichik, the 10-year-old son of a member of the secret police, is bursting with pride because he is ready to become a Young Pioneer. He is equally excited that his father will be officiating at the ceremony. But then he watches as his father is taken away to prison, turned in by a neighbor vying for bigger living quarters. Sasha joins his peers in taunting Borka Finkelstein, their only Jewish classmate, even though readers sense that he doesn't really want to do it. The question of who is a good Communist underlies much of the plot. The book's intriguing title refers to Sasha's accidentally breaking the nose off a bust of Stalin. Borka, desperate to see his imprisoned parents, confesses to the action, with the hope that he will be taken to prison, too. Sasha does not admit his own guilt. Eventually disillusionment overtakes homeless Sasha as he waits in line to visit his father. Velchin's illustrations are filled with pathos and breathe life into the narrative. Though there are many two-dimensional characters, mostly among the adults, Sasha and Borka are more fully drawn. While the story was obviously created to shed light on the oppression, secrecy, and atrocities under Stalin's regime, Sasha's emotions ring true. This is an absorbing, quick, multilayered read in which predictable and surprising events intertwine. Velchin clearly dramatizes the dangers of blindly believing in anything. Along with Ruta Sepetys's Between Shades of Gray (Philomel, 2011), this selection gives young people a look at this dark history.-Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list Growing up under Stalin, Sasha Zaichik, 10, lives with his widower dad and 48 others in a crowded apartment with one kitchen and one toilet. Sasha's dream is to be like his father, serving the great leader and working in the State Security secret police. Then his dad is arrested: did a neighbor betray him? At school, Sasha is recruited to report on anticommunist activity. The present-tense narrative is true to the young kid's naive viewpoint, but the story is for older readers, especially as the shocking revelations reach the climax of what torture can make you confess. Picture-book illustrator Yelchin was raised in post-Stalinist Russia in the 1960s and left the country when he was 27. In his first novel, he uses the child's innocent viewpoint to dramatize the heartbreaking secrets and lies, and graphite illustrations show the terrifying arrests of enemies of the people, even children, like Sasha's classmate. In an afterword, Yelchin discusses the history and the brutal regime that affected millions.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Picture book author/illustrator Yelchin (Won Ton) makes an impressive middle-grade debut with this compact novel about a devoted young Communist in Stalin-era Russia, illustrated with dramatically lit spot art. Ten-year-old Sasha lives with his father, a State Security secret policeman whom he worships (almost as much as he worships Stalin), and 46 others in a communal apartment. The story opens on the eve of the fulfillment of Sasha's dream-to become a Young Soviet Pioneer-and traces the downward spiral of the following 24 hours, as he resists his growing understanding that his beloved Communist state is far from ideal. Through Sasha's fresh and optimistic voice, Yelchin powerfully renders an atmosphere of fear that forces false confessions, even among schoolchildren, and encourages neighbors and family members to betray one another without evidence. Readers will quickly pick up on the dichotomy between Sasha's ardent beliefs and the reality of life under Stalinism, and be glad for his ultimate disillusion, even as they worry for his future. An author's note concisely presents the chilling historical background and personal connection that underlie the story. Ages 9-12. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Oprah's Book Club
Click to search this book in our catalog River, Cross My Heart
by Breena Clarke

Library Journal: YA-Set in Georgetown, this poignant coming-of-age story begins with the drowning death of six-year-old Clara Bynum. Johnnie May, at 12, was supposed to be minding her the morning the children went down to the river, knowing they were not allowed to play near it, much less swim in it. The Bynums had come to Washington, DC, from North Carolina looking for a better life, and life for the colored in Georgetown in the 1920s was better: plenty of work and good schools for the children. But Johnnie May's independent spirit causes trouble from the beginning. She is always asking why-why couldn't she swim in the pool on Volta Place, right across from Aunt Ina's house? Why does she always have to mind her little sister and clean up after her? Johnnie May is a natural leader, and "knowing her place" is a struggle. The story, which follows the Bynum family and friends in Georgetown for about a year, ends in triumph as Johnnie May wins a swim meet held in the new pool built for black people. Much of the book describes Johnnie May's relationships with her mother, her relatives, and her friends, painting a revealing picture of a river, a family, and a community.-Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA

Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

Publishers Weekly: Debut writer and Washington, D.C., native, Clarke has written a novel as lyric and alternately beguiling and confounding as its title. It is the story of the drowning of a six-year-old child, and the tragedy's ramifications for her family and neighbors in the black area of Georgetown in 1925 D.C. Clarke's scene-building skills are the novel's strengths and occasionally its weaknesses, as each chapter is an intense set piece that sometimes provokes more questions than answers. The story is ultimately that of the effects of Clara Bynum's death on her 12-year-old sister, Johnnie Mae, who was babysitting Clara at the time she fell into the river. Johnnie Mae suffers guilt, fear and loss, endures dreams, imaginings and confusion as she sees visions of her sister everywhere: in a trauma-stung classmate who wears braids like Clara's, and the vapor from a boiling pot of green beans that resembles her sister's face. Against a felt, poignant and meticulously detailed panorama of the African-American (then called "colored") community of Georgetown, Johnnie Mae struggles to find her bearings, to cope with institutional and family expectations, and with puberty and race. Johnnie Mae ultimately derives strength from her element, the water, as she becomes a talented swimmer, but her parents Alice and Willie struggle with inextinguishable grief. From the first vivid description of the Potomac, liquid elements provide themes and narrative tension in this plangent coming-of-age story, granting the reader a necessary, if temporary, distancing from the blunt fact of a dead child. Indeed, Clarke's research about African-American Georgetown in the early 20th century revisits a time and place as intricate as any, but so remote from most memories that the historical details are fascinating footnotes to an era. While authorial asides are sometimes intrusive, this is a haunting story. Agent, Cynthia Cannell.

Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

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