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The purpose of this site is to give you more information and resources about each of the new titles the Media Center adds to its collection monthly.  Each title has its own info page with details about the book itself, the author, reviews, and book trailers and teacher resources if applicable.

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Bang by Barry Lyga

Bang by Barry Lyga. April 18, 2017. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 304 p. ISBN: 978316315500.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 720.

One shot ruined his life. Another one could end it.

Sebastian Cody did something horrible, something no one—not even Sebastian himself—can forgive. At the age of four, he accidentally shot and killed his infant sister with his father’s gun.

Now, ten years later, Sebastian has lived with the guilt and horror for his entire life. With his best friend away for the summer, Sebastian has only a new friend—Aneesa—to distract him from his darkest thoughts. But even this relationship cannot blunt the pain of his past. Because Sebastian knows exactly how to rectify his childhood crime and sanctify his past.

It took a gun to get him into this.

Now he needs a gun to get out.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Accidental shooting of an infant; Suicidal thoughts; Cyberbullying; Islamophobia

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 7-10. Fourteen-year-old Sebastian lives in the past: when he was four years old, he accidentally shot and killed his four-month-old sister. This haunts him, leading to obsessive self-hate and suicidal feelings. He is waiting, in fact, for the voice in his head to tell him it’s time to effect his end. That time seems imminent as his past and future seem to come together, faster and faster—until he meets Aneesa. The two become friends, bonding over a YouTube channel they create that features Sebastian making pizzas. As time passes, Sebastian finds himself falling in love and feeling a strange emotion: hope. “For her,” he thinks, “For her, yes, I could stay.” But does he deserve happiness, and what might happen if she doesn’t return his feelings? Lyga manages his intensely emotional material well, creating in Sebastian a highly empathetic character, though his voice seems far too sophisticated for a 14-year-old. Nevertheless, the psychology that drives his decisions is acutely observed, and his story is highly memorable.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2017)
Ten years ago, when he was just 4, Sebastian accidentally killed his infant sister with his father’s unattended handgun. Now a teen, he struggles to cope with the far-reaching effects of this horrific experience. Though on the surface they’ve moved on with their lives, Sebastian and his family are still lost in their grief. His father moved out many years before, and Sebastian and his mother have eked out a daily routine, but anguish underpins their every move. When his lighthearted, wealthy, white best friend, Evan, leaves for summer camp, Sebastian thinks that the time is almost right to end his own life, as he’s long planned. However, the auspicious arrival of a new neighbor, Aneesa, changes things for him in ways he couldn’t have predicted. Rich characterization anchors this explosive novel, from white Sebastian’s likable, brainy, but at-times acerbic intensity to Aneesa’s upbeat, intelligent kindness. Aneesa is Muslim—her dad is Turkish-American—and she and Sebastian discuss everything from Islamophobia to their families to how to turn his pizza-making hobby into a YouTube Channel. If such details as Sebastian’s love of all types of antiquated pop culture seem odd to some teens, they are rooted in his deep desire to turn time back, and there will be others who appreciate these genuine quirks. Regardless, readers will root for him to find some sort of peace. Heartbreaking and brutally compelling. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Barry Lyga is a recovering comic book geek. According to Kirkus, he’s also a “YA rebel-author.” Somehow, the two just don’t seem to go together to him.

When he was a kid, everyone told him that comic books were garbage and would rot his brain, but he had the last laugh. Raised on a steady diet of comics, he worked in the comic book industry for ten years, but now writes full-time because, well, wouldn’t you?

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl is his first novel. Unsoul’d is his latest. There are a whole bunch in between, featuring everything from the aftermath of child abuse to pre-teens with superpowers to serial killers. He clearly does not know how to stick to one subject.

His website is www.barrylyga.com.

Teacher Resources

Bang Discussion Questions

Around the Web

Bang on Amazon

Bang on Goodreads

Bang on JLG

Bang Publisher Page

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Radio Silence by Alice Osman. March 28, 2017. HarperTeen, 496 p. ISBN: 9780062335715.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

You probably think that Aled Last and I are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and I am a girl.

I just wanted to say—we don’t.

Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying. When she’s not studying, she’s up in her room making fan art for her favorite podcast, Universe City.

Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As. But no one knows he’s the creator of Universe City, who goes by the name Radio Silence.

When Frances gets a message from Radio Silence asking if she’ll collaborate with him, everything changes. Frances and Aled spend an entire summer working together and becoming best friends. They get each other when no one else does.

But when Aled’s identity as Radio Silence is revealed, Frances fears that the future of Universe City—and their friendship—is at risk. Aled helped her find her voice. Without him, will she have the courage to show the world who she really is? Or will she be met with radio silence?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Underage drinking; Cyberbullying

 

Book Trailer

Excerpt

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 8-11. “I was study machine Frances Janvier. I was going to Cambridge . . . Uni, job, money, happiness. That’s what you do. That’s the formula,” Frances mulls to herself as she spends an uncomfortable evening with friends, trying to relax and enjoy herself. Not that there’s much chance of relaxation or enjoyment, ever. Frances is a superstressed British teen, and the only thing she really loves is drawing and Universe City, a mysterious YouTube podcast with a haunting voice and a story that echoes her pain. Anonymous narrator Radio Silence describes a bleak world, seemingly a university campus that he or she is trying to escape. When Frances is invited to add her online fan art to the podcast, the story moves into high gear. Turns out the creator is neighbor Aled Last, twin brother of Frances’ former friend Carys. What emerges is an intense, highly engaging, well-plotted story of relationships, explorations into gay and bisexual identities, family trauma, a straitjacketlike education system, and, mostly, kids yearning to be their truest selves despite it all. Though a companion title to Oseman’s Solitaire (2015), this story stands alone and features believable characters in a unique setting. Readers this side of the pond will enjoy the school system comparisons and identify with the stress their witty, cyberworldly peers undergo as they hang on for dear life.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
Two teens connect through a mysterious podcast in this sophomore effort by British author Oseman (Solitaire, 2015).Frances Janvier is a 17-year-old British-Ethiopian head girl who is so driven to get into Cambridge that she mostly forgoes friendships for schoolwork. Her only self-indulgence is listening to and creating fan art for the podcast Universe City, “a…show about a suit-wearing student detective looking for a way to escape a sci-fi, monster-infested university.” Aled Last is a quiet white boy who identifies as “partly asexual.” When Frances discovers that Aled is the secret creator of Universe City, the two embark on a passionate, platonic relationship based on their joint love of pop culture. Their bond is complicated by Aled’s controlling mother and by Frances’ previous crush on Aled’s twin sister, Carys, who ran away last year and disappeared. When Aled’s identity is accidently leaked to the Universe City fandom, he severs his relationship with Frances, leaving her questioning her Cambridge goals and determined to win back his affection, no matter what the cost. Frances’ narration is keenly intelligent; she takes mordant pleasure in using an Indian friend’s ID to get into a club despite the fact they look nothing alike: “Gotta love white people.” Though the social-media–suffused plot occasionally lags, the main characters’ realistic relationship accurately depicts current issues of gender, race, and class. A smart, timely outing. (Fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Alice Oseman was born in 1994 in Kent, England. She completed a degree in English at Durham University in 2016 and is currently a full-time writer and illustrator. Alice can usually be found staring aimlessly at computer screens, questioning the meaninglessness of existence, or doing anything and everything to avoid getting an office job.

Her website is www.aliceoseman.com.

Around the Web

Radio Silence on Amazon

Radio Silence on Goodreads

Radio Silence on JLG

Radio Silence Publisher Page

Just a Girl by Carrie Mesrobian

Just a Girl by Carrie Mesrobian. March 28, 2017. HarperCollins, 304 p. ISBN: 9780062349910.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 700.

Senior Rianne Hettrick-Wynne has had her share of hookups and parties in small-town Wereford, Minnesota. Now volleyball season is over and her once-solid friendships are unraveling, while an all-of-a-sudden relationship with Luke Pinsky is weirdly becoming serious. Add to that the possibility of getting kicked out of her house, and Rianne is desperate to make a plan that doesn’t include going to college or working at Planet Tan for the rest of her life.

At the same time, her divorced parents have started cohabiting again without any explanation, making Rianne wonder why they’re so intent on pointing out every bad choice she makes when they can’t even act like adults.

That’s not the only question she can’t answer: How is it that Sergei, a broken-English-speaking Russian who makes his own vodka, is the only one who seems to understand her? And why, when she has Luke, the most unattainable boy in Wereford, all to herself, does she want anything but?

Perhaps most confounding is the “easy girl” reputation that Rianne has gotten stuck with by doing the same things that guys do without judgment or consequence. If they’re just being guys, then why can’t Rianne just be a girl?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Drugs; Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 10-12. Rianne’s spent her whole life in Wereford, a small, nothing town in the Midwest, living with her divorced mom, getting up to mild trouble with her friends, casually sleeping around, and not trying terribly hard in school. By the time senior year rolls around, she still doesn’t have any plans for her future, and she finds herself in a relationship with notorious playboy Luke Pinsky, who’s kind of loyal and sweet, if oblivious to her needs. But when she meets Sergei, a 25-year-old Russian man who’s studying agriculture at the community college, she’s immediately entranced by his assured worldliness and, later, the confident way he touches her, which she keeps a secret from everyone, especially Luke. When she’s faced with making a definitive choice about her future, can she decide between what she truly wants and what’s been deemed “good”? Mesrobian is at her best plumbing the depths of what happens between big choices and elevating those potent moments of transition, and she does that beautifully here. Rianne’s rich inner life, especially when it’s at odds with what’s expected of her, is captivatingly full of meaningful, compelling drama, and Mesrobian’s frank, realistic depiction of teenage sexuality is a particular bright spot. There’s nothing simple about being just a girl, and this resonant, thoughtful novel makes that abundantly, stunningly clear.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2016)
A high school senior whose mother has given her an ultimatum that she must leave home immediately after graduation struggles to decide what she will do next. Bright and tough but at times self-loathing, Rianne stumbles into a serious relationship with her hook-up buddy, Luke, during their last few months of school. However, she also has several electrifying sexual encounters with Sergei, a Russian student studying at a nearby college. Despite enjoying a small, tightknit group of friends, Rianne has had to deal with being labeled a slut, and while she recognizes it for the unfair double standard it is, she is still shamed by it. The alcohol- and pot-fueled hangouts that make up a lot of the social scene in their small Minnesota town will ring true to rural teens. Rianne is a complex, conflicted character, and her third-person narrative voice keeps her at a bit of a remove even as she grapples intensely with her thoughts. All of the central characters are white with the exception of Rianne’s friend Kaj, who is Hmong-American, and each is interesting in his or her own right. The unexpected ending may leave some readers wondering, but it’s not a surprise that this slice-of-life novel leaves things slightly ambiguous. An authentic, smart read for older teens. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Carrie Mesrobian teaches writing to teens in Minneapolis, where she lives with her husband and daughter. Her debut novel, Sex & Violence, was named a Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, in addition to being nominated for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award. She has also written Just a Girl, Perfectly Good White Boy, and Cut Both Ways.

Her website is www.carriemesrobian.com.

Around the Web

Just a Girl on Amazon

Just a Girl  on Goodreads

Just a Girl  on JLG

Just a Girl  Publisher Page

Strong Inside (Young Readers Ed.) by Andrew Maraniss

Strong Inside: The True Story of How Percy Wallace Broke College Basketball’s Color Line (Young Readers Edition) by Andrew Maraniss. December  20, 2016. Philomel Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9780399548345.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1170.

The inspirational true story of the first African American to play college basketball in the deeply segregated Southeastern Conference–a powerful moment in Black history.

Perry Wallace was born at an historic crossroads in U.S. history. He entered kindergarten the year that the Brown v. Board of Education decision led to integrated schools, allowing blacks and whites to learn side by side. A week after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Wallace enrolled in high school and his sensational jumping, dunking, and rebounding abilities quickly earned him the attention of college basketball recruiters from top schools across the nation. In his senior year his Pearl High School basketball team won Tennessee’s first racially-integrated state tournament.

The world seemed to be opening up at just the right time, and when Vanderbilt University recruited Wallace to play basketball, he courageously accepted the assignment to desegregate the Southeastern Conference. The hateful experiences he would endure on campus and in the hostile gymnasiums of the Deep South turned out to be the stuff of nightmares. Yet Wallace persisted, endured, and met this unthinkable challenge head on. This insightful biography digs deep beneath the surface to reveal a complicated, profound, and inspiring story of an athlete turned civil rights trailblazer.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts; Discrimination; Violence

 

Book Trailer

Interviews & Documentary

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 7-10. This is the inspiring true story of Perry Wallace, a member of Vanderbilt’s basketball team and the first black basketball player to play in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) during the 1960s civil rights era. The road was far from easy: he received aggressive fouls that went unchallenged, was kicked out of a church, lost his mother to cancer, and his best friend and teammate, also black, was forced to quit. Readers in today’s racially troubled times will recognize Wallace’s plight and the isolation and loneliness he experienced. But Wallace never gave up. After his signature slam dunk was outlawed, he forced himself to become a better player. Author Maraniss doesn’t shy away from the difficulties, not wanting to whitewash history by editing away the ugly epithets that plagued Wallace throughout his career. An author’s note about Wallace’s life after graduation, a bibliography, and black-and-white photos are all included (final source notes and index not seen). This moving biography, a young readers’ edition of Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South (2014), is thought-provoking, riveting, and heart-wrenching, though it remains hopeful as it takes readers into the midst of the basketball and civil rights action. Readers will celebrate Wallace’s refusal to back down, and cheer as he succeeds in paving the way for future players.

School Library Journal (January 1, 2017)
Gr 7 Up-Vanderbilt University made a strong statement in 1966 when they recruited Perry Wallace, a local teen basketball star who was African American. Students may not be familiar with Wallace, but after reading this poignant biography, they will not forget him. Readers meet him as a child whose loving family provided him with the care and attention he needed to thrive academically, then follow him onto the court, where he yearned-and then learned-to dunk. Maraniss speeds through Wallace’s senior year at Pearl High, in Tennessee, where recruiters from schools across the country were eager to add him to their rosters. His years at Vanderbilt, where he broke the color barrier in the Southeastern Conference, receive the most attention, with great sports writing meeting heartfelt interludes of Wallace’s efforts to bring about change for his fellow black students. Maraniss does not shy away from the ultimate truth: Wallace experienced vicious racism and countless death threats as well as racial slurs, discrimination, and unfair treatment on and off the court. Wallace is quoted abundantly throughout the text, and the bibliography is packed with primary sources, offering ample research opportunities for those compelled to dig deeper into the civil rights struggle of Wallace and other black athletes. VERDICT This portrait of the fortitude of a young athlete will make a huge impact on teens and is guaranteed to spark serious discussion.-Abby Bussen, Muskego Public Library, WI

About the Author

Andrew Maraniss is a partner at McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations in Nashville, Andrew studied history at Vanderbilt University as a recipient of the Fred Russell – Grantland Rice sportswriting scholarship, graduating in 1992. He then worked for five years in Vanderbilt’s athletic department as the associate director of media relations, dealing primarily with the men’s basketball team. In 1998, he served as the media relations manager for the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays during the team’s inaugural season, and then returned to Nashville to join MP&F. Andrew was born in Madison, Wis., grew up in Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas, and now lives in Brentwood, Tenn., with his wife, Alison, and their two young children.

His website is www.andrewmaraniss.com.

Teacher Resources

Supplement to Strong Inside

Around the Web

Strong Inside on Amazon

Strong Inside on Goodreads

Strong Inside on JLG

Strong Inside Publisher Page

The Football Girl by Thatcher Heldring

The Football Girl by Thatcher Heldring. April  4, 2017. Delacorte Press, 208 p. ISBN: 9780385741835.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 540.

Team Statistics:

Caleb McCleary. QB. Following in his brother’s “baller status” footsteps.

Tessa Dooley. Any position that needs filling. Her motto: “Be afraid.”

The summer before Caleb and Tessa enter high school, friendship has blossomed into a relationship…and their playful sports days are coming to an end. Caleb is getting ready to try out for the football team, and Tessa is training for cross-country.

But all their structured plans derail in the final flag game when they lose. Tessa doesn’t want to end her career as a loser. She really enjoys playing, and if she’s being honest, she likes it even more than running. So what if she decided to play football instead? What would happen between her and Caleb? Or between Tessa and her two best friends, who are counting on her to try out for cross-country with them? And will her parents be upset that she’s decided to take her hobby to the next level?

This summer, Caleb and Tessa figure out just what it means to be a boyfriend, girlfriend, teammate, best friend, and someone worth cheering for.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 8-11. Tessa loves football, and she’s been honing her skills with cute boy-next-door Caleb. She’s always accepted that she’d have to opt for something other than football, like cross-country, to participate in school sports. But now that she’s getting ready for high school, she wants to make some decisions for herself, so in spite of her demanding parents’ wishes, she insists on going to football camp. Heldring alternates between Caleb’s and Tessa’s perspectives, nicely exploring their struggles with self-determination, family conflict, and the importance of teamwork as well as their efforts to balance their burgeoning relationship with the pressures they each encounter regarding Tessa’s football dreams. Meanwhile, Tessa faces extra scrutiny—her mother is running for mayor, so her football aspirations put her at the center of a local media frenzy. Though Caleb and Tessa’s voices occasionally sound quite similar, there’s enough fast-paced football action, realistic family drama, and sweet romance in this slim novel that readers looking for girl-powered sports stories should find plenty to like.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
If any girl can make Pilchuck High School’s football team, it’s fourteen-year-old wide receiver Tessa Dooley. She’s fast, runs good routes, catches well, and knows how to play head games with defenders. But so far all she has played is summer-league flag football. She doesn’t know if she can handle tackle football—she’s never even worn a helmet. As the summer unfolds, she finds herself having to defend her love of the game (her parents want her to concentrate on more serious things); she also finds herself becoming the girlfriend of quarterback Caleb McCleary. In alternating first-person narratives, Tessa and Caleb give voice to their feelings about each other and about football. Though the back-and-forth, he said/she said of the narrative feels like Ping-Pong at times, it does serve to illuminate the appropriately complicated emotions both of a young romance and of pursuing a dream. Heldring writes with insight and restraint, letting complicated feelings remain complicated. There are no heroics in Tessa’s first official school game, but a satisfying performance and a realization that she has been an inspiration for a younger girl who decides she, too, wants to play football someday. Interviewed in the local paper, Tessa says, “I guess what matters is that I have a choice…Whether I play football in high school or not, I’ll never have to wonder what was possible.” As of now (according to the book), sixteen hundred girls across the country are playing high-school football and, like Tessa, pushing themselves to see what’s possible. dean schneider

About the Author

Thatcher Heldring grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where he taught himself to write and play sports—though not at the same time. Heldring has had several jobs in publishing. He has also worked as a grocery bagger, a ditchdigger, a small forward, a goalie, a scorekeeper, a coach, a rabid fan, a benchwarmer, and a shortstop. He lives with his wife and son in Seattle, a good place for indoor sports.

He is the author of Toby Wheeler: Eighth-Grade Benchwarmer, Roy Morelli Steps Up to the Plate, The League, and The Football Girl.

Her website is www.spitballinc.com.

Around the Web

The Football Girl on Amazon

The Football Girl  on Goodreads

The Football Girl on JLG

The Football Girl  Publisher Page

The Enemy: Detroit, 1954 by Sara Holbrook

The Enemy: Detroit, 1954 by Sara Holbrook. MArch 7, 2017. Calkins Creek, 224 p. ISBN: 9781629794983.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.0; Lexile: 740.

Set in 1954, this compelling historical novel tells the story of a young girl’s struggles and triumphs in the aftermath of World War II. The war is over, but the threat of communism and the Cold War loom over the United States. In Detroit, Michigan, twelve-year-old Marjorie Campbell struggles with the ups and downs of family life, dealing with her veteran father’s unpredictable outbursts, keeping her mother’s stash of banned library books a secret, and getting along with her new older “brother,” the teenager her family took in after his veteran father’s death. When a new girl from Germany transfers to Marjorie’s class, Marjorie finds herself torn between befriending Inga and pleasing her best friend, Bernadette, by writing in a slam book that spreads rumors about Inga. Marjorie seems to be confronting enemies everywhere—at school, at the library, in her neighborhood, and even in the news. In all this turmoil, Marjorie tries to find her own voice and figure out what is right and who the real enemies actually are.

Includes an author’s note and bibliography.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Racism; Prejudice; Xenophobic epithets; Descriptions of World War II atrocities

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2017)
Poet Holbrook brings back the Cold War in her debut novel for middle grades. White sixth-grader Marjorie has lots to worry about in the late winter of 1954. Her father came back from World War II jumpy and abrupt. She’s not a fan of Frank, the 18-year-old orphan her father took in, or Carol Anne, her skittish 6-year-old sister. She’s best friends with Bernadette, also white, who rules the sixth grade and would make the world’s worst enemy, and she just got assigned to share a school desk with Inga, a “displaced person” whom Bernadette has decided to hate. Inga came to Detroit from Canada, but she speaks, sounds, and looks German. Marjorie is drawn to Inga, who’s sunny, determined, and kind, but she’s afraid to befriend her. Meanwhile Sen. Joe McCarthy’s national hunt for Communists has led to the banning of many books from public libraries; in defiance of her husband’s direct orders, Marjorie’s mother hides a box of rescued banned books under Marjorie’s bed. Holbrook pulls elements of the story from her own multicultural childhood in Detroit after the war. She’s ace at delineating the petty jealousies and tyrannies of middle school girls, and her evocation of the era feels absolutely true. Marjorie’s cowardice and ultimate courage lead to a rousingly satisfying ending that, if it doesn’t quite tie up all the plot threads, will resonate with readers. A solid fictional examination of a time rarely depicted for this age group. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Publishers Weekly (January 16, 2017)
As 12-year-old Marjorie Campbell navigates the standard awkwardness and small cruelties of sixth-grade life in 1954, she is increasingly plagued by questions. Should she befriend the new girl in school, who claims to be from Canada but seems undeniably German? Should she participate in the slam book her supposed best friend Bernadette has initiated? What about the books her college-educated, independent-thinking mother smuggled out of the library and stashed under Marjorie’s bed? Does wearing a red scarf make her a Commie sympathizer, as Bernadette asserts? And what’s worse, anyway, a Nazi or a Commie? Holbrook (Weird? [Me, Too!] Let’s Be Friends) brings home the complexities of the Cold War era in a multicultural Detroit neighborhood where neighborliness and name-calling coexist. With a WWII veteran father with PTSD and an annoying fatherless teenage boy living in her family’s basement, Marjorie is a sympathetic character whose struggles to understand fear and prejudice, as embodied in her friends and family, resonate sharply in today’s political climate. An author’s note explains Holbrook’s personal connections to the story and offers further historical detail about the era. Ages 10-14. (Mar.)

About the Author

Sara Holbrook is the author of multiple poetry books for children published by WordSong/Boyds Mills Press, including Zombies! Evacuate the School!, Weird? (Me, Too!), and Wham! It’s a Poetry Jam. This is her first novel. She lives in Mentor, Ohio.

Her website is www.saraholbrook.com.

Around the Web

The Enemy: Detroit, 1954 on Amazon

The Enemy: Detroit, 1954 on Goodreads

The Enemy: Detroit, 1954 on JLG

The Enemy: Detroit, 1954 Publisher Page

The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie

The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie. April 18, 2017. Flux, 281 p. ISBN: 9781635830002.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 870.

Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to ruthless pirate-queen Santa Elena and set free Bao, the sea monster Reckoner she’d been forced to train. The days as a pirate trainee are long and grueling, but it’s not the physical pain that Cas dreads most. It’s being forced to work with Swift, the pirate girl who broke her heart. But Cas has even bigger problems when she discovers Boa is not the only a monster swimming free. Other Reckoners illegally sold to pirates have escaped their captors and are taking the NeoPacific by storm, attacking ships at random and ruining the ocean ecosystem. As a Reckoner trainer, Cas might be the only one who can stop them. But how can she take up arms against the creatures she used to care for and protect? Will Cas embrace the murky morals that life as a pirate brings or perish in the dark waters of the NeoPacific?

Sequel to: The Abyss Surrounds Us

Part of Series: The Abyss

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Strong sexual themes; Underage drinking; Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Three weeks have passed since Cassandra lost her Reckoner monster Durga, her life as a trainer, and her heart to a pirate girl. In this sequel to The Abyss Surrounds Us (2016), Santa Elena, pirate queen and captain of the Minnow, has retreated to the freezing waters of the NeoAntarctic, fleeing another Reckoner beast gone wild. Cas is stuck when she realizes that the illegal monsters stolen by a greedy agent are all loose in the ocean, attacking ships and people with no trainers to guide them: she grew up as a trainer and is attached to the beasts. On the other hand, she’s now a pirate on the receiving end of their wrath, and she wants the threat neutralized. This is a new kind of adventure book—sci-fi piracy at its finest—and Skrutskie has penned another winner. There is definite closure in this second book of a planned duology, but enough open ends mean that Skrutskie could certainly return to this world, and readers will surely hope she does.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2017)
The sequel to The Abyss Surrounds Us (2016) finds this world’s post-apocalyptic future threatened by rogue genetically engineered sea monsters.Cas Leung, once an aspiring trainer of the savage, gargantuan Reckoners that protect the world’s maritime traffic from pirates, now bears the tattoo of pirate captain Santa Elena’s Minnow. It’s the only way, she figures, she can pursue the double-dealing Reckoner agent who has been selling unlicensed pups to pirates. When the Minnow tangles with one that’s now grown and on the loose, Cas realizes the NeoPacific’s fast-dwindling fisheries are being consumed by these Hellbeasts, and global environmental catastrophe looms again. Even as Santa Elena convenes the Salt, the treaty organization of the NeoPacific’s pirates, to address this threat, the relationship begun previously between Cas and fellow trainee Swift continues to evolve, physical attraction and affection ever in conflict with the ruthless competition for supremacy that defines a pirate trainee’s life. Skrutskie deftly balances introspection and action, making for a page-turning, thoughtful read. Her worldbuilding envisions a brutal and diverse future: gender is no barrier to success—kick-ass women abound, most notably brown-skinned Santa Elena and white Swift—and neither, for the most part, is race, although differences are both acknowledged and celebrated. Chinese-American Cas’ moment with a plate of siumai, ordered in her “best Canto,” is “pure bliss” with “food that is so thoroughly mine.” A dazzling, satisfying sequel. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Emily Skrutskie is six feet tall. She was born in Massachusetts, raised in Virginia, and forged in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado. She holds a B.A. in Performing and Media Arts from Cornell University, where she studied an outrageous and demanding combination of film, computer science, and game design.

Her website is skrutskie.com.

Around the Web

The Edge of the Abyss on Amazon

The Edge of the Abyss on Goodreads

The Edge of the Abyss on JLG

The Edge of the Abyss Publisher Page

Sea Otter Heroes by Patricia Newman

Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem by Patricia Newman. January 1, 2017. Millbrook Press, 56 p. ISBN: 9781512426311.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.2; Lexile: 1060.

Marine biologist Brent Hughes didn’t think sea otters and sea grass had much in common. But his research at Elkhorn Slough, an estuary on Monterrey Bay in northern California, revealed a new and surprising connection between the two. The scientist expected this estuary to be overrun with algae due to the fertilizer runoff from surrounding fields. But it wasn’t. Why?

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Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 5-8. Though the cover of promises photographs of adorable, fluffy-faced otters, this volume packs a substantial amount of scientific detail as well. The main narrative follows marine biologist Brent Hughes and his study of Elkhorn Slough, which grew healthy seagrass while other inlets in similar conditions suffered. Eventually, careful research revealed that it was the presence of sea otters, the local apex predator, that allowed the slough to flourish. In four chapters, Newman details Hughes’ research processes and examines the workings of ecosystems in general and how its inhabitants affect it at every level. Illustrations include not only those irresistible otter photos but also scientific diagrams and photographs of Hughes’ experiments. A final chapter on conservation explains the often-damaging effect humans can have on ecosystems, while back matter includes relevant experiments, extensive secondary resources, and ways in which young people can help the environment on a daily basis. Not just an exploration of one particular discovery in marine biology, this is a comprehensive explanation of the scientific process as well.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2017)
A young scientist’s doctoral research reveals a surprising relationship between sea grasses and sea otters in a California bay.Valuable sea grasses in Elkhorn Slough, in Northern California, were thriving in spite of heavy nutrient pollution from nearby Salinas Valley farms. When Brent Hughes began his investigation of this mystery, he looked at things directly affecting sea-grass growth, such as weather patterns. It wasn’t until he compared sea grass cover with otter population that he found a match. In discussions with other researchers, the young white biologist learned that otters like to eat big, meaty crabs, which feed on sea hares, a type of sea slug that in turn feeds on algae growth that smothers the grasses. Following usual procedures, he then designed experiments to prove his hypothesis that the thriving otter population made the sea grass flourish. This intriguing description of the problem he saw and his research process is a model of the scientific method. Interspersed with chapters describing the mystery, the development of the hypothesis, the proof, and the larger idea of “trophic cascades” (interactions among predators and prey that begin at the top of the food chain) are sections about otters and about sea-grass science in general. A map, ample photographs, and an attractive design add appeal, and there are sensible suggestions for environmental protection. A thoughtfully organized and attractively presented example of science in the field. (source notes, glossary, bibliography, suggested resources, index). (Nonfiction. 11-16)

About the Author

Writing for children is the hardest thing I’ve ever done—the field is intensely competitive. But I write because I can’t imagine not writing. I write for myself and for the kids who read my work. I write for the joy of seeing a kid sitting in the front row at a school visit, hand stretched high to answer my questions. I write for the kid who tells me he already owns one of my books and has read it 15 times.

Her website is www.patriciamnewman.com.

Teacher Resources

Sea Otter Heroes Teachers Guide

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A Dog in the Cave by Kay Frydenborg

A Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human by Kay Frydenborg. March 14, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 256 p. ISBN: 9780544286566.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1400.

We know dogs are our best animal friends, but have you ever thought about what that might mean?

Fossils show we’ve shared our work and homes with dogs for tens of thousands of years. Now there’s growing evidence that we influenced dogs’ evolution—and they, in turn, changed ours. Even more than our closest relatives, the apes, dogs are the species with whom we communicate best.

Combining history, paleontology, biology, and cutting-edge medical science, Kay Frydenborg paints a picture of how two different species became deeply entwined—and how we co-evolved into the species we are today.

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Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 8-12. With vast scope and thorough research, Frydenborg (Wild Horse Scientists, 2012) explores the evolution of humans and their most constant companions. Dogs, she says, have been our most enduring partners since our earliest days, and as we tamed and domesticated them, they changed the course of our own development. Despite our long relationship with dogs, this co-evolution has been little discussed. Frydenborg begins in the Paleolithic era, explaining how fossils and cave paintings depict the first dogs, before moving on to examine the genetic history of wolves (and their fraught history with humans), the circumstances that may have led to the early partnering of canines and humans, and the ways in which dogs may have kept ancestors of the modern human from going extinct, as the Neanderthals did. Occasional insert sections provide details on some of the more scientific processes (radiocarbon dating, MRIs) and historical and modern anecdotes (the “dog fancy” that swept Victorian England; a wolf named Romeo who became friendly with residents of an Alaskan town), and full-color photos offer glimpses of scientific processes and ancient artwork, alongside images of wolves and dogs today. The tone is inviting and accessible, the topic high interest, and the research impeccable. This narrative blend of history and science belongs on all shelves.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2017)
“Humankind’s best friend,” as Frydenborg amends the phrase, has been relatively understudied in scientific circles, but recent developments– particularly the 1994 discovery of dog tracks that rewrote the evolutionary timeline, DNA testing that allows us to more fully explore the connections between modern species and ancient ones, and MRI technology that allows us to monitor brain activity–have led to an increase in dog research across a variety of fields and disciplines. Those discoveries help us wonder, speculate, and understand how dogs evolved from wolves and how those dogs also helped us evolve into humans, a complicated dance of a process known as co-evolution. After setting the stage, Frydenborg goes back for a deep dive into some of these disciplines, most notably paleontology, genetics, and psychology, but she also takes frequent digressions into history and biology, some confined to sidebars, others woven into the main narrative. Evident throughout are the author’s passion and curiosity. Full-color photographs (not seen) are interspersed, while a glossary, source notes, a bibliography, and an index are appended. jonathan hunt

About the Author

Kay Frydenborg lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two dogs. She’s the author of numerous books for young readers including ChocolateWild Horse Scientists, They Dreamed of Horses, and Animal Therapist.

Her website is www.kayfrydenborg.com.

 

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The Book of Chocolate by HP Newquist

The Book of Chocolate by HP Newquist. March 21, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 160 p. ISBN: 9780670015740.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.7; Lexile: 1120.

Chocolate . . .

– Its scientific name means “food of the gods.”
– The Aztecs mixed it with blood and gave it to sacrificial victims to drink.
– The entire town of Hershey, Pennsylvania was built by Milton Hershey to support his chocolate factory. Its streetlights are shaped like chocolate Kisses.
– The first men to climb to the top of Mount Everest buried a chocolate bar there as an offering to the gods of the mountain.
– Every twenty-four hours, the U.S. chocolate industry goes through eight million pounds of sugar.
– Its special flavor is created by a combination of 600 to 1000 different chemical compounds

Join science author HP Newquist as he explores chocolate’s fascinating history. Along the way you’ll meet colorful characters like the feathered-serpent god Quetzalcoatl, who gave chocolate trees to the Aztecs; Henri Nestle, who invented milk chocolate while trying to save the lives of babies who couldn’t nurse; and the quarrelsome Mars family, who split into two warring factions, one selling Milky Way, Snickers, and 3 Musketeers bars, the other Mars Bars and M&M’s. From its origin as the sacred, bitter drink of South American rulers to the familiar candy bars sold by today’s multi-million dollar businesses, people everywhere have fallen in love with chocolate, the world’s favorite flavor.

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Reviews

School Library Journal Xpress (June 1, 2017)
Gr 9 Up-This comprehensive history of chocolate summarizes its evolution from its origins as a Mesoamerican spicy drink to its contemporary status as the worldwide confection of choice. Much of the book concentrates on the efforts to change that bitter drink into an edible sweet food, describing how entrepreneurs such as John Cadbury and Milton S. Hershey experimented for years to balance ingredients and create processes that resulted in a stable product with mass appeal, making fortunes and sparking development of further goods, such as chocolate chips, Reese’s peanut butter cups, and M & M’s. The passages on the business of chocolate (the formation of corporations, modern factory production, chocolate chemistry, and contemporary trends in chocolate products) are somewhat dry. Newquist discusses European exploitation of the regions where cocoa beans were and are grown and the role of historical and contemporary slavery and the mistreatment of workers in cocoa production but doesn’t explore these themes in depth. Illustrations are small and colorful, mostly consisting of reproductions of period art and advertising for chocolate products. This book is more attractive and positive about chocolate and those who produce it than Kay Frydenborg’s Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets of the World’s Favorite Treat, which includes more coverage of slavery and the environmental and ecological costs of chocolate production. VERDICT Chocolate lovers may nibble at this book, but most won’t consume the entire thing.-Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO

About the Author

HP Newquist’s books and articles have been published all over the world, and his writing has been translated into languages from kanji to farsi.

All told, he has written more than two dozen books and hundreds of articles, along with numerous awards and citations.

His writing spans a vast array of interests and issues. In the late 1980s and 1990s he wrote extensively about artificial intelligence (AI), compiling a body of work that is arguably the most extensive coverage of the AI business created to date.

Newquist’s books cover the same array of topics as his magazine articles, from brain science and space exploration to legendary guitarists and the strangeness of the Internet. To date, he has written over two dozen books. And he’s already committed to writing many more.

His website is www.newquistbooks.com.

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