“All the way to the top: How one girl’s fight for Americans with disabilities changed everything” by Annette Bay Pimentel; pictures by Nabi H. Ali

All the way to the top

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Sourcebooks. To be published March 2020. Includes a foreword by Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins as well as back matter with “The road to the top” (information on activism), “Life before and after the ADA,” a Timeline, and a Bibliography.

Now that she was finally old enough, Jennifer couldn’t wait for kindergarten to start. Unfortunately, because she was in a wheelchair, she was denied admittance to school. At the next school she was allowed to attend – but only if she came after lunch. Jennifer and her family join a group of activists, determined to find a way to change the law to allow better access to public spaces for those with disabilities. Courageously Jennifer and the activists took their protests to Washington D.C., where they abandoned their wheelchairs and crawled up the Capitol steps to make Congress aware of why they were protesting.

Bright, full-color illustrations, as well as information about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and those who fought for its passage, make this an important book to have in all public and school libraries. I was moved by the crawl up the steps of the Capitol, and Jennifer’s determination on the YouTube video of the event is clear to see.

Highly recommended for ages 7 to 12.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

“White bird: A Wonder story” by R. J. Palacio

White BirdRated 5 stars ***** ARC. 2019. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers. 220 p. (Includes “Afterword,” “Author’s Note,” “Glossary,” “Suggested reading list,” “Organizations and Resources,” and a “Bibliography.”)

Julian interviews his grandmother for a school project about her childhood growing up in France during World War II. She tells him what it was like going from being a happy, pampered child to being marked as a Jew when Nazis showed up in her small town when she was about 14 years old. She still didn’t realize her life could really change until soldiers came to her school to remove all the Jewish children.

Though her life was in danger, instead of fleeing with the others she hid in the building. She was saved by Julien, an extremely kind classmate who had been bullied at school for years because of polio’s crippling effect on him. The story of their friendship, how she survived this terrible period in human history, and how it applies to today’s world is the story of “White bird.”

Told in graphic novel format, and from the point of view of a Jewish child hiding from the Nazi’s, Palacio’s deeply moving story is an excellent introduction to the Holocaust for middle schoolers. It should be placed in every middle and high school library, as well as every public library.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.


“The golden tower” Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

The golden towerRated 5 stars ***** 2018. Magisterium book #5. Scholastic 239 p.

When Call got into a chaos fight with Alex Strike back in book #4, Aaron helped keep him from dying. He returned the piece of Call’s soul that he’d been lent, so now Aaron is inside Call’s head. They both know Aaron needs a new body, but aren’t sure where to get him one.

Meanwhile Alex has risen from the void to become a Devoured of Chaos. Now Alex is stronger than ever, and is challenging the Mage world to a fight. As the only Maker left, Call is the only one who can stop him. He, Aaron, Jasper and Tamara unite once more to figure out how to rid the Mage world of Alex, and how to get Aaron a body so he can live once again.

Action, adventure, humor and suspense fill this last book of the series, along with a big error. On page 229 of book #4 Havoc had the chaos knocked out of him by the alkahest. It said his eyes are “…a deep, steady gold.” On page 2 of book #5 it says “It was still weird to see Havoc with regular green wolf eyes…” Why did Havoc’s eyes go from gold to green? An editor should have caught that mistake.

This was supposed to be the last book of the Magisterium series, but I have a feeling we’ll be seeing these characters again. The authors dropped some pretty solid hints about this on page 239 when they wrote, “Aaron smiled and there was something in his gaze, something odd in those eyes that hadn’t always belonged to him.” There’s something “odd” in his eyes? Hmmmm… Another hint is when Call looks at Aaron and promises they’ll never steal a body. “He smiled at Aaron, pushing down his flicker of doubt. He was a good person now. They were both good people now. They just had to stay that way.” Why is he having doubts? HINTS!

Recommended for ages 12-15.



“The silver mask” by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Rated 5 stars ***** 2017. Magisterium book #4. Scholastic 232 p.

The Silver MaskWe last saw Callum in a magical prison, where Mages had placed him after traitorous Alex killed Aaron. While imprisoned Anastasia Tarquin promised to find a way to release him, believing Call is her dead son Constantine.

Call has spent 6 months in prison, enduring daily interrogations and wondering what was happening with his father, Havoc and Tamara. He’s sure everyone hates him, and doesn’t know what the Assembly plans to do to him. On the day Jasper surprises him by coming to visit, the prison catches fire. Outside everything is chaos. They’re rescued by Anastasia, bundled into a van, and taken to a secret location. Upon arrival Call discovers that Tamara was the driver and had orchestrated the prison escape with Anastasia.

Now imprisoned in Master Joseph’s fortress, he insists Call must raise Aaron from the dead for them to be freed, and teach Alex how to do it. To do so would mean they could be free and he’d have his best friend back, but it would also mean he’d be practicing an evil form of magic and playing into Master Joseph’s plans to go to war against the Magisterium. Everything is at stake.

Though the theme of war on the Mages is serious business, “The silver mask” still manages to throw humor into the mix. Jasper is his usual annoying self, but his and Call’s reactions to each other causes me to laugh out loud.

I felt that earlier books in the series were fine for 10 year olds, as there was lots of adventure and humor; however, this book seems geared towards older readers. Call and his friends are older, about 15 years old, and Call is thinking and acting on his romantic tendencies towards Tamara. Thus I find this book to be more for middle and high school readers.

Highly recommended for ages 11 to 16.

“The bronze key” by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Rated 5 stars ***** 2016. Magisterium. Book #3. Scholastic. 249 p.

The bronze keyCallum is back at school in the Magisterium for his Bronze year after his encounter with Master Joseph in “The copper gauntlet.” All his classmates and the Masters think he and his friends are heroes for killing Constantine, not realizing Constantine has been dead for years but his soul lives in Call.

The Masters believe there is a spy in the Magisterium and, soon, a series of accidents proves someone is trying to kill him. Despite warnings from Master Rufus not to attempt any actions on their own, Call, Aaron, Tamara and Jasper start plotting ways to catch the spy. Unfortunately events take a terrible turn, and Call finds himself in the middle of his worst nightmare.

I could not put this book down, and know my students will be just as enthralled. If it weren’t already 12:25 in the morning I’d be starting book #4 “The silver mask” right now! I’ll have to wait until the real morning to start reading. Don’t wait! Go grab this series ASAP, and start reading. You won’t be sorry.

Highly recommended for ages 10-14.

“The copper gauntlet” by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Rated 5 stars ***** 2015. Magisterium. Book #2. Scholastic. 264 p.

The copper gauntletWhen we left twelve-year-old Callum Hunt in book #1 “The iron trial,” he’d found out that he was possessed by the soul of the Enemy of all Mages, Constantine Madden. Somehow, during the Cold Massacre when Call’s mother had been killed, Constantine had invaded the body of the real baby Callum, killing his soul so Constantine’s could live.

Call suspects his father knows the truth about him so, when he finds a prison in his basement and written plans to have his soul removed through a strange device, he believes his father wants to kill him. Later, while at the Magisterium, he discovers the device he’d seen in the plan is called an Alkahest and his father is accused of stealing it. The Masters plan to kill his father because of this traitorous act, but Call is determined to save him.

He sneaks away from the Magisterium with his friends and Jasper, an annoying classmate who was going to tattle on them, to find his father. Pursued by the Masters, the four of them manage to survive attacks by magical creatures and Master Joseph, the Enemy’s Second-in-Command. With time running out Call will have to make a difficult decision that could cost him his life.

This series is very interesting, and has so many twists and turns it will be sure to keep even the most reluctant reader interested. I can’t wait to start book #3 “The bronze key.”

Highly recommended for ages 10-14.

“The iron trial” by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Rated 5 stars ***** 2014. Magisterium. Book #1. Scholastic. 295 p.

The iron trialTwelve-year-old Callum Hunt always thought he was ordinary, despite having to walk with a limp because of multiple leg surgeries. His ordinary life changed when his father told him he was a Mage, capable of wielding magical power from the elements, that his mother had died in a Mage war, and that there was a school for young magicians to train their powers. As the child of a magician Call was expected to audition to become an apprentice to the Masters at this Magisterium school. However, his father expected him to fail the auditions because the school was evil, Call could die, and only by failing could Call survive.

Despite having the lowest scores at the audition Call is shocked to still be chosen by a Master and, despite his father’s protests, was sent to the Magisterium. Call expected to hate it there but, gradually, began to enjoy learning magic and having friends for the first time in his life. Soon Call finds hidden secrets at the Magisterium that, when revealed, cause him to make decisions that will forever change his life and those of his friends.

I thought “The iron trial” was a Young Adult book but, once I started reading it, was disappointed to find it was for middle school. I find most middle school books to be boring, but I actually enjoyed reading this one. With Cassandra Clare as one of the authors I purchased the series because I thought it would be about the Shadowhunter world, but it has nothing to do with her books. Holly Black is the main author, so the characters and storylines are all hers. I can definitely see my higher reading 5th graders enjoying this book. I’m looking forward to reading book #2 “The copper gauntlet.”

Highly recommended for ages 10-14.