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Review: The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century


The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century
Sarah Miller

This YA true crime book is both creepy and addictive. Miller's account of the 1892 murders in Fall River, MA reads like a good TV cop show or Serial for middle schoolers. Miller provides a well-researched play-by-play from the day of the murder through the end of Borden's trial, inviting readers to come to their own conclusion about who was responsible for the grisly deaths. Throughout, Miller finds opportunity to weave in interesting content about life in the Victorian era, addressing the ways gender, race, and class played into public perceptions of the crime.

Mr. Roquet's Rating: 5/5

Grades: 6-8
*some mature content and photographs*

Themes: nonfiction, true crime, history, murder


Review: The Smell of Other People's Houses


The Smell of Other People's Houses
Bonnie Sue Hitchcock

A beautiful coming of age novel set in Alaska in the early 1970's. The book follows four protagonists dealing with shifting family situations, major life changes, and physical danger.  Our four protagonists, whose stories intertwine, look for safety, love, and their own identities in a harsh world that is way out of their control. Hitchcock's writing is warm and empathetic, and her recreation of 1970s Alaska (hard to imagine from 2016 California) is clearly informed by her own childhood. Also, check out that gorgeous cover.

Mr. Roquet's rating: 4/5

Grade: 7-12
*some mature content*

Themes: family, growing up, difficult family situations, alcoholism, historical fiction, runaways, religion

Review: The Wild Robot


The Wild Robot
 Peter Brown

Roz, a robot, is tossed from a cargo ship in a storm and wakes up on a small island with no memories and no idea where she is or what she's supposed to do. Roz gradually builds trust with the animal inhabitants of the island and becomes an important part of the wild community, even adopting an orphaned gosling. Brown's writing is strong and clean; his animal voices feel fresh but genuine. Like Sara Pennypacker's PaxThe Wild Robot touches on important and complex social topics without getting preachy or mired in details.

Mr. Roquet's rating: 5/5

Grades: 3-7

Themes: community, kindness, family, adoption, climate change, robots!, animals