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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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Spineless by Juli Berwald

Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone by Juli Berwald. November 7, 2017. Riverhead Books, 352 p. ISBN: 9780735211261.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A former ocean scientist goes in pursuit of the slippery story of jellyfish, rediscovering her passion for marine science and the sea’s imperiled ecosystems.

Jellyfish have been swimming in our oceans for well over half a billion years, longer than any other animal that lives on the planet. They make a venom so toxic it can kill a human in three minutes. Their sting–microscopic spears that pierce with five million times the acceleration of gravity–is the fastest known motion in the animal kingdom. Made of roughly 95 percent water, some jellies are barely perceptible virtuosos of disguise, while others glow with a luminescence that has revolutionized biotechnology. Yet until recently, jellyfish were largely ignored by science, and they remain among the most poorly understood of ocean dwellers.

More than a decade ago, Juli Berwald left a career in ocean science to raise a family in landlocked Austin, Texas, but jellyfish drew her back to the sea. Recent, massive blooms of billions of jellyfish have clogged power plants, decimated fisheries, and caused millions of dollars of damage. Driven by questions about how overfishing, coastal development, and climate change were contributing to a jellyfish population explosion, Juli embarked on a scientific odyssey. She traveled the globe to meet the biologists who devote their careers to jellies, hitched rides on Japanese fishing boats to see giant jellyfish in the wild, raised jellyfish in her dining room, and throughout it all marveled at the complexity of these alluring and ominous biological wonders.

Gracefully blending personal memoir with crystal-clear distillations of science, Spineless is the story of how Juli learned to navigate and ultimately embrace her ambition, her curiosity, and her passion for the natural world. She discovers that jellyfish science is more than just a quest for answers. It’s a call to realize our collective responsibility for the planet we share.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Discussion

Via C-SPAN

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 3))
Jellyfish are so alien to us as spinal cord-bearing, land-based animals that we can’t envision how a brainless blob of jelly can even be alive, let alone move, eat, and behave like an animal. And yet there are several thousand species of jellies in the world’s waters, and their enigmatic lives fuel the fascination of science writer Berwald in her quest to understand their role in the fate of the oceans. The author first became enamored of marine biology during a field course in the Red Sea, but marriage and kids sidetracked her into writing textbooks and science articles. Stumbling across jellyfish while writing for National Geographic, she discovered an obsession that took her around the world to talk to the scientists who study jellies. She swam with jellies, watched how quickly they disintegrate in fishers’ nets, ate them in Japan, and kept them in a home aquarium, and as she revels in these spineless animals, she teaches us to delight in them, too.

Kirkus Reviews (September 15, 2017)
A close look at the biology and behavior of jellyfish combined with a personal history of the author, a former ocean scientist who was pulled back to the sea by these enigmatic creatures.As science writer Berwald notes, details about jellyfish—whose species number in the hundreds—are scant in comparison with what is known about other marine animals despite the fact that they have been on Earth for at least 500 million years. Because they reproduce quickly and can adapt to different environments, they’re notorious for disrupting ocean ecosystems and devastating fishing economies. For beachgoers, they are often just nuisances with a painful sting. But the further the author dives into her research, the more she suspects that jellyfish behavior may provide clues about how the Earth’s changing climate is affecting ocean life. In addition, jellies have sophisticated propulsion systems and collagen-based bodies that may guide bioengineers in developing new products. In this appealing combination of solid science writing, investigative journalism, and memoir, Berwald chronicles her travels around the globe interviewing leading jellyfish experts and viewing all types of jellies in aquariums and native habitats. What the author discovered is that jellyfish science is growing as it becomes more apparent that the animals are a robust source of information about the ocean’s conditions as well as many other facets of the natural world. After years of research, Berwald is convinced that “to research jellyfish is not just to look at a creature unfamiliar and bizarre to most, but to study the planet and our place in it.” While writing this lucid, eye-opening book, the author discovered that her place was, in part, inextricably entangled with jellyfish. In this lovely exploration of the mysterious jellyfish, Berwald both entrances and sounds a warning: pay attention to the messages sent by ocean life, and act to protect their environment, and ours.

About the Author

Juli Berwald received her Ph.D. in Ocean Science from the University of Southern California. A science textbook writer and editor, she has written for a number of publications, including The New York TimesNatureNational Geographic, and Slate.

She lives in Austin with her husband and their son and daughter. Her website is www.juliberwald.com

Teacher Resources

Jellyfish Lesson Plans

Around the Web

Spineless on Amazon

Spineless on Goodreads

Spineless Publisher Page

Hellwalkers by Alexander Gordon Smith

Hellwalkers by Alexander Gordon Smith. November 7, 2017. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 p. ISBN: 9780374301743.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 810.

In the third and final book of Alexander Gordon Smith’s Devil’s Engine series, Marlow and Pan are in hell. Literally in hell. Faced with the awful truth of being trapped in the underworld for an eternity―of Pan being trapped―Marlow makes a final deal with the Devil, a deal to go home. But when Marlow and Pan return to Earth, they cannot close the door behind them. And all hell breaks loose. It is a war to end all wars―demonic creatures spill into the streets of New York, monsters haunt the shadows. Only the Hellraisers stand in their way, and they’re not sure this is a battle they can win. They have no powers, they have no weapons. But they have each other, and they have hope, and they know how to kick ass.

Only one thing’s for sure: One way or another, it all ends here.

Sequel to: Hellfighters

Part of series: The Devil’s Engine (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Grotesque violence

 

 

About the Author

Alexander Gordon Smith is the author of the Escape from Furnace series of young adult novels, including Lockdown and Solitary. Born in 1979 in Norwich, England, he always wanted to be a writer. After experimenting in the service and retail trades for a few years, Smith decided to go to University. He studied English and American Literature at the University of East Anglia, and it was here that he first explored his love of publishing. Along with poet Luke Wright, he founded Egg Box Publishing, a groundbreaking magazine and press that promotes talented new authors. He also started writing literally hundreds of articles, short stories and books ranging from Scooby Doo comic strips to world atlases, Midsomer Murders to X-Files. The endless research for these projects led to countless book ideas germinating in his head. His first book, The Inventors, written with his nine-year-old brother Jamie, was published in the U.K. in 2007. He lives in England.  His website is www.alexandergordonsmith.com.

Around the Web

Hellwalkers on Amazon

Hellwalkers on Goodreads

Hellwalkers Publisher Page

Just Friends by Dyan Sheldon

Just Friends by Dyan Sheldon. February 13, 2018. Candlewick Press, 288 p. ISBN: 9780763693541.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Can chasing the wrong girl lead down the right path? Witty as ever, best-selling author Dyan Sheldon maps the agonizing distance between “like” and “love.”

Josh has never really thought twice about girls before. He’s usually too busy watching old movies with his friends Sal and Carver, petitioning for more vegetarian options in the school cafeteria, or flailing in yoga class with his best friend Ramona. But when new girl Jena Capistrano walks into school, Josh loses his heart faster than he’s ever lost his balance on a double downward dog. Not that he has any real aspirations, of course: he knows Jena is completely out of his league. And then, against all odds — they become friends. The closer they get, the more infatuated Josh becomes, and the more he wonders if just maybe Jena might like him back. There’s only one way to find out. But it’s not exactly easy to put your heart on the line.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 6))
Grades 7-10. Josh Shine is hardly in the cool crowd, and he likes it that way. He’d rather play his guitar, watch old movies with his buddies, and hang out with Ramona, his other best friend. Enter new girl Jena Capistrano, and Josh thinks it’s love at his first sight. Alas, Jena is also now the new best friend of Queen Bee Tilda Kopel, enough to quash any thought of romance. But miracles do happen, and Jena and Josh become friends. Josh struggles to stay in the friend zone, but sometimes he gets an inkling that Jena feels more than friendship. He knows that the only way to find out is to ask her, but he’s afraid to take the risk. Josh is a sympathetic, likable character, and his circle of off-kilter friends complements him well. The narrative breaks free of the typical plot of an “uncool” boy winning the heart of a popular girl by exploring the dynamics of relationships and what participants really want. Funny, sweet, and refreshing, this is a teen romance with substance.

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2017)
Unrequited love is always a painful trip, especially if you’re a teenager who falls pretty far outside the popular crowd.Josh Shine is excellent at math, short, and outspoken—which means he doesn’t get along well with the popular people at his school. When he first sees Jenevieve Capistrano, he can’t imagine what Jena would ever see in him, but once they start serendipitously talking after her dad finds him in a tree, it turns out they have more in common than is evident at first glance. A comfortable friendship ensues, but Josh wants more—he just doesn’t know how to tell her. It’s hard for Josh to be her fallback friend, and it’s hard for his real friends to watch him bend over backward to please her. Descriptions give the impression of a mostly white cast of characters sharing the narrative, which bounces disconcertingly from point of view to point of view. While there is no new ground being explored in this book, Sheldon again proves herself adept at conveying the confusion and gnawing self-doubt that characterize the lives of teenagers, who are all trying to see themselves and one another as clearly as they can. A fairly sweet addition to a fairly crowded genre. (Fiction. 12-15)

About the Author

Dyan Sheldon is the author of many novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, which was made into a major motion picture. Her other books include The Crazy Things Girls Do for Love, One or Two Things I Learned About Love, and The Truth About My Success.

Dyan Sheldon was born in Brooklyn, New York, and now lives in North London. Her website is www.dyansheldon.co.uk

Around the Web

Just Friends on Amazon

Just Friends on Goodreads

Just Friends Publisher Page

Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson

Spaek: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson. February 6, 2018. Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, 374 p. ISBN: 9780374300289.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.4.

The modern classic Speak is now a graphic novel.

“Speak up for yourself-we want to know what you have to say.”

From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless–an outcast–because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. Through her work on an art project, she is finally able to face what really happened that night: She was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Violence, Underage drinking, Smoking, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Rape, Attempted sexual assault, Self-harm, Realities of mental illness and PTSD

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 8-12. Anderson’s searing debut novel, Speak (1999), about Melinda, a high-school freshman dealing with the traumatic aftermath of rape, is filled with deep feeling, empowering triumph, and moments of startling horror. Not only is Melinda trying to forget her rape—a challenge when her rapist freely wanders the halls of their school—she’s flailing in her classes and an outcast among her peers, until an art-class assignment and some slow-building friendships give her the courage to speak up. Carroll, well-known for her horror comics, does an excellent job of bringing the vignettes of Anderson’s novel to the graphic format. In fine-lined grayscale artwork, Carroll powerfully evokes moods with creeping, smudgy shadows; faces with missing eyes and mouths; and jagged panel borders. Grasping hands reach down from tree branches until trees and hands are tumbled together in a juddering haystack of overlapping lines. Those moments are striking, but they’re even more striking when set against scenes of Melinda’s quiet, isolated day-to-day reality, as well as her gradual growth and steps toward recovery. Carroll strikes a deft balance, gracefully juggling the acute terror of Melinda’s rape, the pernicious paranoia that follows her in its wake, the swirling rumors and bullying surrounding her, and glimmering moments of hope and comfort. With spellbinding artwork, this exceptional adaptation masterfully does justice to its source material while adding new depth and nuance.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2018)
Anderson’s timeless and important tale of high-school sexual assault and its aftermath undergoes a masterful graphic novel transformation.Melinda, a nascent freshman, is raped at a party shortly before the beginning of school. In an attempt to report the crime, Melinda calls 911, and the party is shut down. When the semester begins, Melinda has become a pariah who spends her days silent. In addition to internalizing the emotional aspects of the assault, Melinda is relentlessly bullied by her peers and often runs into her attacker—a popular senior—who delights in terrorizing her. Although Anderson’s novel came out nearly 20 years ago, this raw adaptation feels current, even with contemporary teenage technological minutiae conspicuously absent. Melinda relies upon art to work as a vulnerary; this visual adaptation takes readers outside Melinda’s head and sits them alongside her, seeing what she sees and feeling the importance and power of her desire to create art and express herself. Carroll’s stark black-and-white illustrations are exquisitely rendered, capturing the mood through a perfectly calibrated lens. With the rise of women finding their voices and speaking out about sexual assault in the media, this reworking of the enduring 1999 classic should be on everyone’s radar. Powerful, necessary, and essential. (Graphic novel. 13-adult)

About the Author

Laurie Halse Anderson is the New York Times-bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous ALA and state awards. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists.

Mother of four and wife of one, Laurie lives outside Philadelphia. Her website is http://madwomanintheforest.com/

 Around the Web

Speak: The Graphic Novel on Amazon

Speak: The Graphic Novel on Goodreads

Speak: The Graphic Novel Publisher Page

Checked by Cynthia Kadohata

Checked by Cynthia Kadohata. February 6, 2018. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 416 p. ISBN: 9781481446617.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.9; Lexile: 760.

Hockey is Conor’s life. His whole life. He’ll say it himself, he’s a hockey beast. It’s his dad’s whole life too—and Conor is sure that’s why his stepmom, Jenny, left. There are very few things Conor and his dad love more than the game, and one of those things is their Doberman, Sinbad. When Sinbad is diagnosed with cancer, Conor chooses to put his hockey lessons and practices on hold so they can pay for Sinbad’s chemotherapy.

But without hockey to distract him, Conor begins to notice more. Like his dad’s crying bouts, and his friend’s difficult family life. And then Conor notices one more thing: without hockey, the one thing that makes him feel special, is he really special at all?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 5-8. “Hockey is in my soul,” says Conor, whose father actually played in the NHL for three weeks. Conor’s Japanese American mother died when he was two, but his recently divorced dad completely supports Conor’s devotion to the sport, though it means driving him to private lessons that aren’t easy to afford on a policeman’s salary. A stable, reliable kid, 11-year-old Conor is shaken when he learns that his dog, a Doberman named Sinbad, has cancer and requires expensive treatment. To save money, Conor gives up lessons and starts doing odd jobs for neighbors, but hearing his father cry at night makes him wonder if he’s still asking too much. Immediately engaging, this perceptive novel focuses on the intricacies of Conor’s day-to-day life, while exploring his unusually close relationships with Dad and Sinbad, his attempts to cope during a period of ongoing crisis, and the alternate universe that is the ice during lessons, practices, and games. Even when the story begins to veer toward drama, it soon returns to everyday routine. Yet, the first-person narrative becomes increasingly absorbing throughout the novel, as the characters reveal themselves more fully. Kadohata offers a vivid, memorable portrayal of a boy within his family, his sport, and his gradually broadening world.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
An 11-year-old elite hockey player struggles with multiple real-world issues while sidelined from pursuing his dream of playing in the NHL.Conor MacRae, who is half-white, half-Japanese, and wise beyond his years, lives with his dad, Keith, a white cop, and his dog, Sinbad. Conor’s mom died many years ago, and he is estranged from his Japanese grandparents. When Sinbad is diagnosed with cancer, the treatments are so costly that Conor cuts back on ice time to help save money. The list of adult responsibilities that Conor manages is formidable for such a young boy, and the more time he spends off the ice, the more he notices the tougher parts of life. Kadohata weaves a parallel between Sinbad’s cancer and a concussion Conor suffers in the second half of the book, with boy and dog functioning at less than 100 percent. The dog is not only companion and protector, but a beloved comfort in a tough world, a relationship as tenderly realized as that between Conor and his dad. The Korean traditions of his best friend, Jae-won, highlight Conor’s distance from his Japanese heritage. As the season progresses, Conor grows in maturity and strength, learning more from mistakes than successes. Strong readers will enjoy a robust identity story that takes an unvarnished look at life. Zorat’s chapter-head illustrations help set the tone. Best for dog lovers, hockey fans, and elite athletes. (Fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Cynthia Kadohata is a Japanese American writer known for writing coming of age stories about Asian American women.

She spent her early childhood in the South; both her first adult novel and first children’s novel take place in Southern states. Her first adult novel was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Her first children’s book, Kira-Kira, won the 2005 Newbery Medal. Her first published short story appeared in The New Yorker in 1986.

Her website is www.cynthiakadohata.com

Around the Web

Checked on Amazon

Checked on Goodreads

Checked Publisher Page

The Creativity Project by Colby Sharp

The Creativity Project: An Awesomtastic Story Collection edited by Colby Sharp. March 13, 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9780316507813.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.9.

Book advocate Colby Sharp presents more than forty beloved, award-winning, diverse and bestselling authors and illustrators in a creative challenge! 

Colby Sharp invited more than forty authors and illustrators to provide story starters for each other; photos, drawings, poems, prose, or anything they could dream up. When they received their prompts, they responded by transforming these seeds into any form of creative work they wanted to share. 

The result is a stunning collection of words, art, poetry, and stories by some of our most celebrated children book creators. A section of extra story starters by every contributor provides fresh inspiration for readers to create works of their own. Here is an innovative book that offers something for every kind of reader and creator! 

With contributions by Sherman Alexie, Tom Angleberger, Jessixa Bagley, Tracey Baptiste, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Peter Brown, Lauren Castillo, Kate DiCamillo, Margarita Engle, Deborah Freedman, Adam Gidwitz, Chris Grabenstein, Jennifer L. Holm, Victoria Jamieson, Travis Jonker, Jess Keating, Laurie Keller, Jarret J. Krosoczka, Kirby Larson, Minh Lê, Grace Lin, Kate Messner, Daniel Nayeri, Naomi Shihab Nye, Debbie Ohi, R.J. Palacio, Linda Sue Park, Dav Pilkey, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Dan Santat, Gary Schmidt, John Schu, Colby Sharp, Bob Shea, Liesl Shurtliff, Lemony Snicket, Laurel Snyder, Javaka Steptoe, Mariko Tamaki, Linda Urban, Frank Viva, and Kat Yeh.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 13))
Grades 4-6. This experiment is the brainchild of Sharp, educator and cofounder of the Nerdy Book Club, among other online book-related endeavors. Wanting to show both young people and teachers how the creative process begins and blossoms, Sharp asked authors and illustrators to send him story prompts and then respond to the prompts of fellow participants. The result is a fanciful, often unexpected, sometimes uneven mix of stories, artwork, and poetry. Andrea Davis Pinkney’s prompt is a photo of a difficult-to-discern animal. Linda Sue Park decides it’s a fox and writes an evocative poem about a fox and a trap. And then writes a note telling readers she knows it’s not a fox but that’s what sparked her imagination—and after all, that’s how creativity begins. Kate DiCamillo, Lemony Snicket, Grace Lin, Sophie Blackall, and Sherman Alexie are just some of the well-known names who participate. There’s plenty here to ignite kids’ imaginations and provide both laughs and food for thought. In the final pages, the participants offer prompts directly to the readers.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2017)
A guide that encourages young writers to experiment and create. Well-known writers and illustrators here collaborate on a volume of writing prompts and the stories that result. Sharp invited contributors to submit creative prompts (“poems, photographs, drawings, anything”), and then each contributor used another’s prompt to create something—a story, a poem, a comic, an illustration. The experiment in “the way ideas can be story seeds that take root and blossom” must have been fun for the creators, but the fruits of their play have not yielded a collection that’s particularly useful to young writers. Many of the prompts are silly or vague, and the resulting stories, poems, and illustrations are, for the most part, lacking in substance. Kate DiCamillo leads off with a solid idea—using overheard dialogue for a short story told in dialogue. But Lemony Snicket’s response feels dashed off, a flip story likely to fall flat with readers. John Schu’s prompt, “My school librarian turned into a fly on the fifth day of fourth grade,” might sound Kafka-esque, but Sherman Alexie’s resultant poem feels like so much free association rather than a constructed work. A proliferation of exclamation points seemingly intended to boost enthusiasm may further act as a turnoff. An earnest attempt, but readers will find both better guides to creative writing and better short stories, poems, etc., elsewhere. (contributor biographies, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

About the Editor

Colby Sharp is a co-founder of the online community Nerdy Book Club and its off-shoot conference, Nerd Camp, two popular monthly Twitter chats, #Titletalk, #SharpSchu, and The Yarn, a podcast about bookmaking and the creative process.

His website is www.mrcolbysharp.com.

Teacher Resources

About The Creativity Project

Around the Web

The Creativity Project on Amazon

The Creativity Project on Goodreads

The Creativity Project Publisher Page

The Gnawer of Rocks by Louise Flaherty

The Gnawer of Rocks by Louise Flaherty. November 30, 2017. Inhabit Media, 56 p. ISBN: 9781772271652.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

While everyone is busy preparing for the coming winter, two girls wander away from their camp, following a path of strange, beautiful stones. Each stone is lovelier than the last, and the trail leads them farther and farther away from camp. But what starts out as a peaceful afternoon on the land quickly turns dangerous when the girls find themselves trapped in the cave of Mangittatuarjuk—the Gnawer of Rocks! Based on a traditional Inuit legend, this graphic novel introduces readers to a dark and twisted creature that haunts the Northern landscape and preys on unsuspecting children…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Allusion to cannibalism, Depiction of severed heads

 

About the Author

Louise Flaherty grew up in Clyde River, Nunavut. Early on, Louise was fortunate to be surrounded by great storytellers. Her grandparents instilled in her a passion for Inuktitut, and an understanding that speaking Inuktitut is a fundamental part of Inuit identity. In 2005, Louise co-founded Inhabit Media Inc., an independent publishing house dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Inuit knowledge and values, and the Inuktitut language. Inhabit Media has since published dozens of books and Inuktitut resources that are used in classrooms throughout Nunavut.

Around the Web

The Gnawer of Rocks on Amazon

The Gnawer of Rocks on Goodreads

The Gnawer of Rocks Publisher Page

Elementals: Ice Wolves by Amie Kaufman

Elementals: Ice Wolves by Amie Kaufman. March 27, 2018. HarperCollins, 352 p. ISBN: 9780062457981.  Int Lvl: 3-6.

Everyone in Vallen knows that ice wolves and scorch dragonsare sworn enemies who live deeply separate lives.

So when twelve-year-old orphan Anders takes one elemental form and his twin sister, Rayna, takes another, he wonders whether they are even related. Still, whether or not they’re family, Rayna is Anders’s only true friend. She’s nothing like the brutal, cruel dragons who claimed her as one of their own and stole her away.

In order to rescue her, Anders must enlist at the foreboding Ulfar Academy, a school for young wolves that values loyalty to the pack above all else. But for Anders, loyalty is more complicated than obedience, and friendship is the most powerful shapeshifting force of all.

Part of Series: Elementals (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Theft

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 4-7. Orphan twins Anders and Rayna question their shared parentage when a routine pickpocket run lands them both in the public trials for admission into Ulfar Academy, training center for Vallen’s Wolf Guard—those with the rare ability to transform into ice wolves and defend the land from deadly dragonfire. Both unexpectedly transform: Anders into an ice wolf, and his twin, impossibly, into a scorch dragon, anathema to the wolves. As Rayna is seemingly kidnapped by dragons, Anders realizes the way to his sister is through Ulfar and their technology artifacts, and it must be before the wolves declare war on the dragons. Kaufman, coauthor of the Starbound Trilogy and Illuminae Files, struts her stuff as a solo author with a rousing middle-school adventure speaking to family (both born and made), trust, friendship, and determination. Despite a few instances of overstated writing, Kaufman creates a well-rounded fantasy world graced by scenic touches and relatable characters who transition from human to animal (and back). This is Anders’ story, and there are hints aplenty that Rayna’s is next.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2017)
Twelve-year-old twins discover that they have opposing elemental powers that could change the fate of the entire realm.Homeless, orphan twins Rayna and Anders have spent most of their lives stealing and picking the pockets of rich tourists to survive. Pickings are good at the Trial of the Staff, when the entire village of Holbard gathers to see which of its 12-year-old members have the elemental power to shape-shift into an ice wolf and qualify for the Ulfar Academy. At this event, both twins discover elemental powers: Anders has ice wolf blood and Rayna, dragon blood—but dragon and wolf are enemies. They are separated when Rayna, in dragon form, flees the Wolf Guard, later to be captured by other dragons. Now Anders has no choice but to join Ulfar Academy in order to learn what the Wolf Guard teaches about dragons, as it is imperative that he locate and save his twin sister. As Anders grows close to the members of the Wolf Guard, he discovers secrets about the true relationship between dragons and wolves. Both twins have brown skin and black, curly hair, and Holbard is a genuinely diverse community. What a treat to have a magical world full of diverse characters in which any young person can imagine themselves as powerful shape-shifters. This engaging page-turner honestly earns its forthcoming sequel. An engaging world and cliffhanger ending leave readers wanting more. (Fantasy. 10-14)

About the Authors

Amie Kaufman is the New York Times and internationally bestselling co-author of The Illuminae Files (Illuminae, Gemina) and the Starbound Trilogy (These Broken Stars, This Shattered World, Their Fractured Light.) Her award-winning books are published in almost 30 countries, and she is based in Melbourne, Australia, where she lives with her husband, their rescue dog, and an extremely large personal library.

Her website is http://www.amiekaufman.com.

Around the Web

Ice Wolves on Amazon

Ice Wolves on Goodreads

Ice Wolves Publisher Page

 

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich. November 14, 2017. Harper, 263 p. ISBN: 9780062694058.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Twenty-six-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant.

Though she wants to tell the adoptive parents who raised her from infancy, Cedar first feels compelled to find her birth mother, Mary Potts, an Ojibwe living on the reservation, to understand both her and her baby’s origins. As Cedar goes back to her own biological beginnings, society around her begins to disintegrate, fueled by a swelling panic about the end of humanity.

There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women. Of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. Flickering through the chaos are signs of increasing repression: a shaken Cedar witnesses a family wrenched apart when police violently drag a mother from her husband and child in a parking lot. The streets of her neighborhood have been renamed with Bible verses. A stranger answers the phone when she calls her adoptive parents, who have vanished without a trace. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.

A chilling dystopian novel both provocative and prescient, Future Home of the Living God is a startlingly original work from one of our most acclaimed writers: a moving meditation on female agency, self-determination, biology, and natural rights that speaks to the troubling changes of our time.

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Cedar Hawk Songmaker, the adopted Native American daughter of two white “Minnesota liberals,” is secretly pregnant when she discovers that her birth name is Mary Potts. With this slash of wry cultural irony, Erdrich (LaRose, 2016) launches a breakout work of speculative fiction in which a sudden reversal of evolution is underway, threatening the future of humankind and life itself. The disintegrating, increasingly fascist and evangelical government is rounding up and incarcerating pregnant women, so Cedar heads to her Ojibwe birth mother’s reservation. But no place is safe and she is soon on the run. Throughout her harrowing, often darkly funny ordeal, she keeps a journal for her child—whom she knows she has little chance of raising—recounting, with exceptional sensory and psychological precision, the horrors of her predicament, the wild courage of the underground network helping fugitive mothers-to-be, and, in stark contrast to the violent chaos, the miraculous growth of her fetus.In this feverish cautionary tale, Erdrich enters the realm of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), Emily Schultz’s The Blondes (2015), Edan Lepucki’s California (2014), Laura van den Berg’s Find Me (2015), and Claire Vaye Watkins’ Gold, Fame, Citrus (2015), infusing her masterful, full-tilt dystopian novel with stinging insights into the endless repercussions of the Native American genocide, hijacked spirituality, and the ongoing war against women’s rights. A tornadic, suspenseful, profoundly provoking novel of life’s vulnerability and insistence.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2017)
The idea that evolution could suddenly move backward may seem like an incredible fantasy, but in this dreamlike, suspenseful novel, it’s a fitting analogue for the environmental degradation we already experience. A biological apocalypse has animals suddenly appearing in trippy, shocking manifestations—a dragonfly with a 6-foot wingspan, “golden-green eyes the size of softballs,” for example. Humans aren’t immune to “life dissolving into its mineral components,” which is why the new American government, the Church of the New Constitution, expands the original intent of the Patriot Act and requires all pregnant women to report to birthing centers. During a biological apocalypse set two months in the future, when the borders between Mexico and Canada are sealed off, Cedar Hawk Songmaker—26, pregnant, and with a burning independent streak—eventually learns why the government will do anything to ensure she has her baby under strict surveillance. Not all the pregnant women are as useful to the authorities as Cedar is, because they think she has a rare “normal,” unaltered fetus in her womb. Born Ojibwe but adopted by earnest white liberals in Minneapolis, Cedar is a flinty, determined, spiritual woman whose hesitance to trust others comes in handy in a world where suddenly no one should be trusted. And Cedar has three worlds to navigate: the one she was raised in and the Ojibwe family she is just coming to know, not to mention a United States ruled by a religious government in which a creepy, all-seeing, robotic figure named Mother hunts for Cedar. Framed as a letter to Cedar’s unborn child, this novel is bracing, humane, dedicated to witnessing the plight of women in a cruel universe, and full of profound spiritual questions and observations. Like some of Erdrich’s (LaRose, 2016, etc.) earlier work, it shifts adroitly in time and has a thoughtful, almost mournful insight into life on a Native reservation. If Erdrich hasn’t previously ventured into tropes normally employed by sci-fi writers, she doesn’t show the inexperience here. There is much to rue in this novel about our world but also hope for salvation: “I think we have survived because we love beauty and because we find each other beautiful,” as the novel’s protagonist puts it. “I think it may be our strongest quality.”

About the Author

Karen Louise Erdrich is a American author of novels, poetry, and children’s books. Her father is German American and mother is half Ojibwe and half French American. She is an enrolled member of the Anishinaabe nation (also known as Chippewa). She is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant Native writers of the second wave of what critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renaissance.

 

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Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough. March 6, 2018. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 304 p. ISBN: 9780735232112.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A debut novel based on the true story of the iconic painter, Artemisia Gentileschi.

Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father’s paint.

She chose paint.

By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome’s most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.

He will not consume
my every thought.
I am a painter.
I will paint.

I will show you
what a woman can do.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 10-12. McCullough’s exquisite debut, a novel in verse, follows the heartbreaking but inspiring true story of gifted Roman painter Artemisia Gentileschi. Raised since she was 12 solely by her volatile, abusive, and less talented artist father, Artemisia spends her days as her father’s apprentice, grinding pigments and completing most of his commissions. At first, she thinks she has found solace with her charming new painting instructor, Agostino Tassi, who awakens a dormant passion in her. In carefully arranged, sophisticated verse, McCullough deftly articulates Artemisia’s growing fear of Tassi as he asserts control over and ultimately rapes her. Woven through Artemisia’s poems are short prose chapters featuring Susanna and Judith, bold ancient Roman heroines from her mother’s stories. The strong females’ stories guide Artemisia through her harrowing trials with Tassi, show her how to paint her truth, and eventually inspire most of her iconic paintings. With dazzling surrealist overtones, McCullough manages to vividly capture a singularly brave, resilient feminist who became an icon during a time when women had almost no agency. Her story and the stunning verse in which it is told will resonate just as strongly with readers today. A captivating and impressive book about a timeless heroine.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
Baroque artist and feminist icon Artemisia Gentileschi is given voice in a debut verse novel.Only 17, Artemisia is already a more gifted painter than her feckless father. But in 17th-century Rome, the motherless girl is only grudgingly permitted to grind pigment, prepare canvas, and complete commissions under his signature. So when the charming Agostino Tassi becomes her tutor, Artemisia is entranced by the only man to take her work seriously…until he resorts to rape. At first broken in body and spirit, she draws from memories of her mother’s stories of the biblical heroines Susanna and Judith the strength to endure and fight back the only way she can. Artemisia tells her story in raw and jagged blank verse, sensory, despairing, and defiant, interspersed with the restrained prose of her mother’s subversive tales. Both simmer with impotent rage at the injustices of patriarchal oppression, which in the stories boils over into graphic sexual assault and bloody vengeance. While the poems (wisely) avoid explicitly depicting either Artemisia’s rape or subsequent judicial torture, the searing aftermath, physical and mental, is agonizingly portrayed. Yet Artemisia’s ferocious passion to express herself in paint still burns most fiercely. Unfortunately, those who lack familiarity with the historical facts or context may emerge from this fire scorched but not enlightened. McCullough’s Rome is a white one. A brief note in the backmatter offers sexual-violence resources. Nonetheless, an incandescent retelling both timeless and, alas, all too timely. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Joy McCullough writes books and plays from her home in the Seattle area, where she lives with her husband and two children. She studied theater at Northwestern University, fell in love with her husband atop a Guatemalan volcano, and now spends her days surrounded by books and kids and chocolate. Blood Water Paint is her debut novel.

Her website is www.joymccullough.com.

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