Staff Picks

Youth Services Librarian
The Secret of Dreadwilow Carse
Farrey, Brian
Algonquin Young Readers

The queen is dying and twelve-year-old Princess Jeniah is preparing for her new role as queen. Close to the kingdom is a frightening forest known as the Dreadwillow Carse. Jeniah knows one thing for certain: If any monarch enters Dreadwillow Carse, then the Monarchy will fall. What she does not know is why. When she tries asking, no one can give her an answer. Princess Jeniah wants nothing more than to be a great and beloved queen, like her mother, but how can she be when she doesn't know everything about her kingdom?

Aon lives in the village near the Carse. Four times a year the Crimson Hoods visit a village to select a villager to work in service of the Monarchy. This time the Crimson Hoods arrive in Aon's village, and select her father. To be chosen is a great honor, and life quickly moves on for everyone but Aon. She is the only person in her village capable of feeling anything but happiness, and she refuses to accept that her father is gone.

After a chance meeting, Princess Jeniah and Aon team up to learn the secrets of Dreadwillow Carse. If Aon will explore the Carse and report everything back to Jeniah, then Jeniah will return Aon's father. Can Aon survive the Carse long enough to learn its secrets? Brian Farrey's fairy-tale-esque story is sure to keep you turning the pages as you follow along with these two brave girls who are trying to find their place in the world.



Youth Services Librarian
Hoge, Robert
J 362.4092 HOGE
Viking, 2015.

Ugly is the autobiography of Australian author Robert Hoge.  Hoge begins Ugly by having the reader think about sculpting an infant’s face out of clay. Before finishing the sculpted face, he asks the reader to imagine another person smooshes the baby’s face with a large ball of clay inserted in the forehead.  The imaginary clay baby face is now malformed and twisted out of shape.  The clay face is a representation of what Robert Hoge looked like when he was born with severe craniofacial deformities.  Hoge was also born with deformities to his legs, requiring amputations.  

After his birth, Hoge’s frightened parents can’t decide whether or not to keep him.  But a decision is made after consulting the whole family including Hoge’s four siblings: Baby Robert is a part of the family.  After a month in the hospital, Hoge is brought home. 

Robert Hoge doesn’t let his face or his legs stop him.  Despite being self-admitted “ugly” and having to endure multiple, painful surgeries, Hoge grows up determined.  He goes to school, plays pranks, and tries out for sports. The latter is a struggle, but he finds out that lawn bowling is the perfect sport for him.  When he is a teenager, Hoge makes an important decision about his future (to be revealed to the reader at the end of the book).

For readers who loved the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio, the real-life story of Robert Hoge will strike a chord.  Like the fictional character Augie in Wonder, Robert states that “we all have scars only we can own.”  Recommended title for kids fourth grade on up.

Librarian Assistant - Youth Services
Twelve Minutes to Midnight
Edge, Christopher

Feisty Penelope Tredwell is not your average thirteen year old living in London during the late 1800’s.  She also has a secret. Penelope is the famous author of the Penny Dreadful magazine. Penny has to hide this from everyone so she hires a British actor to play the supposed author Montgomery Flinch, affectionately known as the Master of Macabre. (Thirteen year olds were not considered smart enough to do much other than cook and clean back in those days.)

The story begins when Penelope (or rather Montgomery Flinch) is asked to come to the Royal Bethlem Asylum (called Bedlam by the towns folks) by the Physician Superintendent.  The asylum has a little problem with some of the inmates.  It seems that every night at twelve minutes to midnight certain inmates rise from their beds and begin to write.  They write with anything they can find and scribble words until midnight.  These people appear to be in a trance and later have no recollection of what they wrote.  They write tales of fantastic things like no one has ever seen.  The Superintendent wants Flinch to help him solve the riddle before it is too late.

This means, of course, that Penny must solve the mystery.  The books is filled with great descriptions of the creepy sanitarium and the actions taking place. This is a great good versus evil book with Penny and her best friend, Alfie using their brains and wits to decipher the clues.  

Youth Services Librarian
Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho!
Cronin, Doreen.
Atheneum, 2015

It is Christmas Eve on Farmer Brown’s farm and all the animals ready for Christmas, when Farmer Brown hears a noise on the roof.  Farmer Brown thinks it must be Santa!  Instead of Santa, it is farmer’s mischievous duck.  When duck tries to go down the chimney, he gets stuck. One by one all the farm animals try to help get duck unstuck, only to find themselves stuck too!  This turns into a bigger problem when the real Santa arrives. Will he be able help all the animals get unstuck?