Monthly Archives: January 2017

How to Survive in the North by Luke Healy

How to Survive in the North by Luke Healy. November 15, 2016. Nobrow Press, 192 p. ISBN: 9781910620069.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.6; Lexile: 230.

With stunning narrative skill, this compelling graphic novel intricately weaves together true-life narratives from 1912, 1926 and a fictional story set in the present day. How To Survive in the North is an unforgettable journey of love and loss, showing the strength it takes to survive in the harshest conditions.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Racial taunts; Discrimination; Strong sexual themes; Alcohol; Starvation

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Three intertwined stories make up comics artist and colorist Healy’s first graphic novel. Two are fact-based narratives of arctic expeditions taking place in the early twentieth century, and the third is the fictional story of a New Hampshire college professor who’s studying the expeditions in the present day. Each arctic-bound exploration experiences insurmountable difficulties, losing men and making castaways of Healy’s real-life heroes on separate trips, Robert Bartlett and Ada Blackjack, in the process. In 2013, Sully’s happy for a distraction. He’s been accused, correctly, of carrying on with a student, and the library is the perfect place to spend his forced sabbatical, focusing on disasters that aren’t his. Healy’s artwork, composed in many small panels, is extremely appealing, clever, and emotive, with different cool, primary-pastel palettes clearly defining each separate story and simplified figures that are quickly identifiable from dress and stature. Centering his story on real people, Healy lights his contemplation of the lure of inhospitable places and the often regrettable decisions they inspire men and women to make from an intriguing angle.

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2016)
Two early-20th-century expeditions intertwine with a 21st-century story in Healy’s debut graphic novel.Retellings of the Arctic adventures of Robert Bartlett, a white ship’s captain, and Ada Blackjack, an “Eskimo” seamstress, unspool alongside the present-day midlife crisis of Sully Barnaby, a white university professor who is researching the two figures. In 1913, Capt. Bartlett resignedly sets sail from Nome, Alaska, at the behest of the overzealous (and irresponsible) explorer Vilhjamur Stefansson and a bevy of scientists with their sights set on the Arctic. In 1921, also in Nome, Ada Blackjack agrees to be the seamstress on an expedition to claim an Arctic island for Canada, leaving her ailing son behind, in the hope of earning enough money to get him treatment. And in 2013, Sully’s affair with a male student has been sussed out, and the middle-aged professor reluctantly begins his mandatory sabbatical by exploring Stefansson’s papers and learning about Bartlett’s and Blackjack’s journeys. The novel alternates among the three strands, overlapping people and events, fact and fiction, in an intricate narrative pattern of challenge, crisis, and survival for each of the three protagonists. Healy’s command of visual storytelling coupled with a palette of pastels reminiscent of the northern lights provides the thread of continuity that holds the weave together. Two parts historical, one part invention, a quiet contemplation and celebration of the tenacity of the human spirit. (afterword, author’s note) (Graphic novel. 14 & up)

About the Author

Luke Healy was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland. He received an MFA in Cartooning from The Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. His comics work has been published in several anthologies and he has also worked as a coloring assistant with Lucy Knisley on her book Something New.

His website is www.lukewhealy.com.

Teacher Resources

Polar Expeditions Lesson Plan

Polar Exploration Lesson Plans

Around the Web

How to Survive in the North on Amazon

How to Survive in the North on JLG

How to Survive in the North on Goodreads

 

Swarm by Scott Westerfield

Swarm by Scott Westerfield. September 27, 2016. Simon Pulse, 464 p. ISBN: 9781481443395.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

They thought they’d already faced their toughest fight. But there’s no relaxing for the reunited Zeroes.

These six teens with unique abilities have taken on bank robbers, drug dealers, and mobsters. Now they’re trying to lay low so they can get their new illegal nightclub off the ground.

But the quiet doesn’t last long when two strangers come to town, bringing with them a whole different kind of crowd-based chaos. And hot on their tails is a crowd-power even more dangerous and sinister.

Up against these new enemies, every Zero is under threat. Mob is crippled by the killing-crowd buzz—is she really evil at her core? Flicker is forced to watch the worst things a crowd can do. Crash’s conscience—and her heart—get a workout. Anon and Scam must both put family loyalties on the line for the sake of survival. And Bellwether’s glorious-leader mojo deserts him.

Who’s left to lead the Zeroes into battle against a new, murderous army?

Sequel to: Zeroes

Part of series: Zeroes

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Underage drinking

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2016 (Online))
Grades 8-11. The Zeroes, a group of six superpowered teen friends, discover that they aren’t the only ones with talent when a new guy, who can meld a crowd into a deadly killing machine, comes to town with murder on his mind. One of the Zeroes, Kelsie, aka Mob, is afraid it’s only a matter of time before she becomes just like this malevolent stranger, but the more immediate issue is how to stop him. In their sequel to Zeroes (2015), Westerfeld, Deborah Biancotti, and Margo Lanagan offer readers a story marked by nonstop action, a little romance, and a few dismemberment scenes. Reading the first book isn’t essential, but helps in instances like knowing that Bellwether is also “Glorious Leader,” since the latter becomes his moniker in the second book. This is standard but solidly written teen-superhero fare, although the final chapters stand apart for their moving treatment of the forgotten Zero, Anon, and for the cliff-hanger ending that will make trilogy fans itch for the third book.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2016)
After the disastrous events of Zeroes (rev. 11/15), the diverse team of supernaturally gifted teens has set up the aptly named Petri Dish, a nightclub/social experiment where they can test and eventually master their powers in relative safety. It’s the perfect place, since many of the Zeroes’ abilities — such as leader Nate’s influence on the emotions of a crowd — depend upon connecting energetically to a large group of people. Perfect, that is, until two superpowered strangers wreak havoc at the Dish with their own crowd-manipulating abilities. Wanting to prevent any more chaos, the Zeroes track down the strangers, only to learn of a much bigger threat. Now that readers know the main players, their powers, and their abilities’ pitfalls, this second volume accelerates the pace and ups the stakes of the first book. Lots of action sequences, including a handful of truly scary scenes that would be right at home in a zombie flick, add to the suspense. (Spoiler: you really don’t want to encounter a “swarm.”) But it’s not nonstop near-escapes and explosions. The authors develop the teens’ platonic and romantic interpersonal dynamics (including one blossoming same-sex relationship), and it’s these connections that both endanger the Zeroes and, ultimately, save them. A cliffhanger ending will leave fans eagerly awaiting the Zeroes’ next adventure.

About the Author

Scott Westerfeld is a New York Times bestselling author of YA. He was born in the Texas and now lives in Sydney and New York City. In 2001, Westerfeld married fellow author Justine Larbalestier.

His website is www.scottwesterfield.com.

Around the Web

Swarm  on Amazon

Swarm on JLG

Swarm on Goodreads

 

Undefeated by Steve Sheinkin

Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin. January 17, 2017. Roaring Brook Press, 288 p. ISBN: 9781596439542.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.8.

Jim Thorpe: Super athlete, Olympic gold medalist, Native American
Pop Warner: Indomitable coach, football mastermind, Ivy League grad

Before these men became legends, they met in 1907 at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, where they forged one of the winningest teams in American football history. Called “the team that invented football,” they took on the best opponents of their day, defeating much more privileged schools such as Harvard and the Army in a series of breathtakingly close calls, genius plays, and bone-crushing hard work.

Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team is an astonishing underdog sports story―and more. It’s an unflinching look at the U.S. government’s violent persecution of Native Americans and the school that was designed to erase Indian cultures. Expertly told by three-time National Book Award finalist Steve Sheinkin, it’s the story of a group of young men who came together at that school, the overwhelming obstacles they faced both on and off the field, and their absolute refusal to accept defeat.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 6-9. Though arguably best remembered as a supremely gifted track-and-field star, Native American Jim Thorpe was also a preternaturally gifted football player, as the award-winning Sheinkin demonstrates in this biography of the sports phenomenon. Sharing the stage is Pop Warner, the man who would ultimately become his coach at Pennsylvania’s Carlisle Indian Industrial School. The first part of the book is devoted to biographical material about Thorpe and Warner and colorful contextual information about Carlisle, its football team, and the state of the sport at the time (i.e., the early years of the twentieth century). With that established, the book hits its stride as Thorpe arrives at Carlisle and meets Warner. The result is history. Though never a good or willing student, Thorpe—between his prowess on the football field and his triumphs at the 1912 Olympics—became, as Sheinkin ­succinctly puts it, “the best athlete on the planet.” He evidences this with stirring accounts of Thorpe’s games, especially his white-knuckle coverage of a symbolically important 1912 matchup with Army. But even better are the psychological insights he offers into Thorpe’s character. Containing a generous collection of black-and-white period photographs, this is a model of research and documentation, as well as of stylish writing that tells an always absorbing story

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2016)
Young readers of this biography may be surprised that Jim Thorpe, an athlete they may never have heard of, was once considered “the best athlete on the planet.” Most students at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania were shocked by the treatment they received under superintendent Richard Henry Pratt, who believed white American culture was superior and to “help” his students meant to “kill the Indian in him, and save the man.” New students were given new names, new clothes, and haircuts and were allowed to speak English only. It was a harsh, alien world, and only a small percentage of students ever graduated. The child of a Sac and Fox/Irish father and Potawatomi/French-Canadian mother, Jim Thorpe grew up in a mix of white and Indian culture and was better prepared than many when he entered Carlisle at the age of 15. Sheinkin weaves complicated threads of history—the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the story of Carlisle, the early days of football, and the dual biographies of Thorpe and his coach Pop Warner—with the narrative skills of a gifted storyteller who never forgets the story in history. He is unflinchingly honest in pointing out the racism in white American culture at large and in football culture, including headlines in the newspapers (“INDIANS OUT TO SCALP THE CADETS”), preferential officiating, and war whoops from the stands. Sheinkin easily draws a parallel in the persisting racism in the names of current football teams, such as the Braves and Redskins, bringing the story directly to modern readers. Superb nonfiction that will entertain as it informs. (source notes, works cited, acknowledgments, photo credits, index) (Nonfiction. 10-16)

About the Author

A former textbook writer, Steve Sheinkin is now making amends by writing history books that kids and teens actually want to read. His award-winning, non-fiction thrillers include Bomb, The Port Chicago 50, Most Dangerous, The Notorious Benedict Arnold, and Lincoln’s Grave Robbers. His newest book, Undefeated, tells the story of the astonishing rise of Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School football team. Steve lives with his family in Saratoga Springs, NY.

His website is www.stevesheinkin.com

Teacher Resources

Indian Boarding Schools Resources

Around the Web

Undefeated on Amazon

Undefeated on JLG

Undefeated on Goodreads

 

Sunker’s Deep by Lian Tanner

Sunker’s Deep by Lian Tanner. August 16, 2016. Feiwel & Friends, 304 p. ISBN: 978125002179.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.3; Lexile: 720.

Sharkey is a Sunker; he was born on a fortunate tide, and everyone on the giant submersible ‘Rampart’ knows it. He’s a hero, a future admiral, beloved by the ancestors. The trouble is, his life is based on a lie, and it’s about to fall apart. Sharkey’s been a fake hero for years, but when the Sunkers are attacked, he must become a real one.

Meanwhile above water, Petrel, Fin and the crew of the ‘Oyster’ have come ashore to defeat the Devouts, a group of fanatical Anti-Machinists who want to reclaim a secret weapon. Now, both crews must work together to fight for their lives.

Sequel to: Icebreaker

Part of Series: The Icebreaker Trilogy

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination; Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2016 (Online))
Grades 6-9. This sequel to Icebreaker (2015) finds the girl Petrel, her companions the talking rats Mister Smoke and Missus Slink, the Captain (a mechanical boy with a silver face), and assorted shipmates from the icebreaker Oyster on dry land. Their mission: to bring knowledge back to the world in the wake of the devastation caused by the Luddite Devouts. While the stalwarts are away, the Oyster’s chief engineer leads a mutiny, leaving them stranded. Meanwhile, 200 miles northeast, the Devouts have managed to sink the giant submersible Rampart, leaving only that rapscallion young Sharkey and his small crew of children alive aboard the smaller submersible Claw. The plot will soon bring the two ragtag groups together, but to what end? How can they overcome the more numerous and stronger Devouts, and will the Captain ever find the Singer and the Song that are destined to bring knowledge back to the downtrodden? Adventures abound in this exciting page-turner that will keep readers on the edge of their seats as they await volume three.

School Library Journal (August 1, 2016)
Gr 5-8-Three crises get the action started quickly in this second installment of Tanner’s “Icebreaker” trilogy. There’s mutiny aboard the Oyster, which strands returning characters Petrel, Fin, Krill, and the captain in hostile territory controlled by a radical sect of Anti-Machinists. The friends’ only chance to get back to their ship lies with Sharkey, young captain of a submersible facing troubles of his own: with dwindling resources, he must rescue the last of his people, the Sunkers, from an Anti-Machinist prison. Tanner skillfully weaves the three plotlines together in a tense narrative that not only explores the characters’ often conflicting motives but keeps pages turning. Solid structure parallels key elements from the first volume and clearly lays the groundwork for the next book. The action takes place on land as well as in water, giving readers a fuller picture of the characters’ stark dystopian world. As the previous book was Petrel’s tale, this installment belongs to Sharkey, whose growth from false bravado to true heroism makes him a compelling central character. Suspenseful and thought provoking, this offering stresses the importance of education and knowledge as weapons against fear and tyranny. VERDICT Readers unfamiliar with the first novel may have trouble keeping track of the many characters and alternating perspectives, but fans will relish this return adventure.-Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

About the Author

Lian Tanner has been dynamited while scuba diving and arrested while busking. She once spent a week in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, hunting for a Japanese soldier left over from the Second World War. She likes secrets, old bones, and animals that are not what they seem. Nowadays she lives by the beach in southern Tasmania with her cat, Harry-le-beau, who has his own blog at vampiremice.wordpress.com.

Her website is www.liantanner.com.au.

 Around the Web

Sunker’s Deep on Amazon

Sunker’s Deep on JLG

Sunker’s Deep on Goodreads

 

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu. October 11, 2016. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 336p. ISBN: 9780399167850.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 800.

There was once a time when darkness shrouded the world, and the darkness had a queen.

Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but with each conquest her cruelty only grows. The darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy all she’s gained.

When a new danger appears, Adelina’s forced to revisit old wounds, putting not only herself at risk, but every Elite. In order to preserve her empire, Adelina and her Roses must join the Daggers on a perilous quest—though this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu concludes Adelina’s story with this haunting and hypnotizing final installment to the Young Elites series.

Sequel to: The Rose Society

Part of Series: The Young Elites (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Discrimination; War; Violence; Mild sexual themes; Alcohol

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 9-12. Lu brings her Young Elites trilogy to a thunderous close with this final installment. Illusion-weaver Adelina Amouteru has gained more power—and a crueler reputation—than she’d ever dreamed. Now a conqueror queen, she unleashes her brutal justice on a society that once debased people like her: those who bear the scars (and, occasionally, mystical powers) left by a deadly disease. Adelina’s beloved sister, Violetta, has fled to the Elites, who once sheltered and trained Adelina before she betrayed them, and Adelina wants her back. But Adelina’s powers are faltering; her illusions cause her to weaken, she hears terrible voices in her head, and she’s plagued with vicious nightmares. The powers of the Elites are failing, too, and when Violetta falls mysteriously ill, Adelina must once again join forces with them to save both her sister and the world she’s hated. Lu puts the final pieces of this world into place here; the scope only grows as her beautifully developed characters prepare to take on the gods themselves. The Rose Society (2015) remains the strongest volume of this trilogy—some readers might find Adelina too easily forgiven as her dark heart thaws and her redemption arc begins—but this is a worthy, bittersweet end. More than ever, it is the bond between sisters and the struggle to be human that take center stage in this heartrending finale.

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2016)
The affecting conclusion to the Young Elites trilogy relishes ardent emotion but is never mawkish. Adelina Amouteru, once a hated malfetto, is now fast becoming the queen of the known world. Her Kenettran army has conquered Domacca, northern Tamoura, and finally Dumor. Inquisitors enforce her harsh rule, and the tables have been turned: survivors of the blood fever who were tortured and burned as malfettos under the old powers are known as those marked by the gods and have free rein to maltreat their former tormentors. Even Adelina’s beloved, Magiano, thinks she’s become too cruel, but invisible voices plague Adelina, whispering that her closest allies are plotting with her enemies. The superpowered Young Elites are all struggling with powers gone awry; invulnerable Teren has wounds that will not heal, and storm-bringer Sergio is endlessly thirsty. There is an imbalance in the world, and it can only be fixed if the Young Elites work together. The multinational characters are primarily olive- or brown-skinned, with a few pale Beldish redheads scattered throughout; Adelina seems to see brown-skinned Magiano as exotic, with his “mess of long braids” and “smile full of white teeth.” The primary romantic pairing is between Adelina and Magiano, but among the background liasons, one potential same-sex relationship ends in tragedy and another in happiness. Like many a classic antihero’s, Adelina’s trajectory is both sobering and satisfying. (Fantasy. 13 & up))

About the Author

Marie Lu is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels Legend, Prodigy, and Champion, as well as The Young Elites. She graduated from the University of Southern California and jumped into the video game industry, working for Disney Interactive Studios as a Flash artist. Now a full-time writer, she spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing Assassin’s Creed, and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles, California (see above: traffic), with one husband, one Chihuahua mix, and two Pembroke Welsh corgis.

Her website is www.marielu.org.

Around the Web

The Midnight Star on Amazon

The Midnight Star on JLG

The Midnight Star on Goodreads

Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick

Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick. September 27, 2016. Scholastic Press, 272 p. ISBN: 9780545863247.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile 860.

It’s not easy being Claire. (Really.)

Claire’s life is a joke…but she’s not laughing. While her friends seem to be leaping forward, she’s dancing in the same place. The mean girls at school are living up to their mean name, and there’s a boy, Ryder, who’s just as bad, if not worse. And at home, nobody’s really listening to her—if anything, they seem to be more in on the joke than she is.

Then into all of this (not-very-funny-to-Claire) comedy comes something intense and tragic—while her dad is talking to her at the kitchen table, he falls over with a medical emergency. Suddenly the joke has become very serious—and the only way Claire, her family, and her friends are going to get through it is if they can find a way to make it funny again.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Book Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 19))
Grades 7-10. Claire feels left behind when her best ballet-school friends are unexpectedly elevated to a higher class. She spends the first day of eighth grade coping with menstrual cramps, a zit on her nose, and sniping classmates. But the worst is yet to come: her father has a stroke, making speech and movement difficult. After months of looking inward and trying to carry on normally, Claire realizes she’s been avoiding the obvious: she has a role to play in her father’s recovery. Although tentative at first, her response enables her to get beyond paralysis, weather the next storm, and move forward with her life. Sonnenblick has a knack for smart, droll first-person narration, and that’s as true here as in his earlier books featuring male protagonists. He portrays a diverse group of middle-school kids as interesting individuals, while creating a believable web of relationships among them. From her driven-to-perfection older brother to a vindictive teacher to a mean-girl classmate, the characters and their dialogue are convincing and often entertaining. The book’s beginning sounds so much like other, sunnier novels that readers, like Claire, will feel a jolt when the first crisis comes. But they’ll stay with her every step of the way.

Publishers Weekly (July 4, 2016)
After the trauma of witnessing her father have a stroke, 13-year-old Claire Goldsmith and her family struggle with their new reality. Claire must simultaneously navigate dance-class drama, getting braces (which still manages to feel like the worst day of her life even after her father’s affliction), and boys, including former friends and her frustratingly perfect older brother. Told from Claire’s perspective, Sonnenblick’s story delivers an achingly vivid portrayal of her wide range of emotions as her father returns home still recovering, suffering from aphasia and having trouble with simple tasks like eating with a fork. Claire is a bluntly honest narrator, never holding back even when anger turns to depression and her father starts to waste away (“If I were being a hundred percent honest, I couldn’t really say I was thankful he was alive in this condition”). But Sonnenblick (After Ever After) incorporates a message of hope, too: Claire’s ordeal gives her new appreciation for the power of music and a more empathetic view of those around her. It’s a powerful and profound look at a family coping with unexpected change. Ages 12-up.

About the Author

Jordan Sonnenblick attended amazing schools in New York City. Then he went to an incredible Ivy League university and studied very, very hard there. However, due to his careful and well-planned course selection strategies, he emerged in 1991 with a fancy-looking diploma and a breathtaking lack of real-world skills or employability.

Thank goodness for Teach for America, a program which takes new college graduates, puts them through ‘teacher boot camp’, and places them in teaching positions at schools in teacher shortage areas around the country. Through TFA, Mr. Sonnenblick found his place in the grown-up world, teaching adolescents about the wonders and joys, the truth and beauty, of literature.

Mr. Sonnenblick lives in Bethlehem, PA with the most supportive wife and lovable children he could ever imagine. Plus a lot of drums and guitars in the basement.

His website is www.jordansonnenblick.com.

Around the Web

Falling Over Sideways on Amazon

Falling Over Sideways on JLG

Falling Over Sideways on Goodreads

 

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

The Hammer of Thor: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book Two by Rick Riordan. October 4, 2016. Disney-Hyperion, 480 p. ISBN: 9781423160922.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.1; Lexile: 690.

Thor’s hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon–the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn’t just lost, it has fallen into enemy hands. If Magnus Chase and his friends can’t retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer’s return is the gods’ worst enemy, Loki–and the price he wants is very high.

Sequel to: The Sword of Summer

Part of Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination; Violence; Mild sexual themes; Reference to drugs; Allusions to abuse

 

Book Trailer

Book Tour

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 6-9. Death has been pretty good to Magnus Chase, son of Norse god Frey. After a victory against Fenris Wolf, preventing Ragnarok (for now), Magnus has started to settle into his (after)life in Valhalla. But nothing is quiet for long when gods are involved: Thor’s hammer is missing again (shh); two of Magnus’ best friends have disappeared; Valkyrie Samirah, a daughter of Loki, is being forced into marriage with a giant king; and Loki himself might be behind it all. It’s a good thing Magnus has allies—even if they include a talking sword with a penchant for Top 40 songs. Riordan combines Norse mythology with a number of social issues: gender fluidity (Alex, a child of Loki, was born male but predominately identifies as female), disability (elf Hearthstone is deaf, and several characters know ASL), and race and religion (Samirah balances her Muslim faith with her Valkyrie duties). There’s some crossover with characters from Riordan’s other series, and the ending promises more overlap in future installments. A surefire hit.

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2016)
It’s the end of the world as they know it, and Magnus Chase and his godly cohorts are back for another round of sword fighting and wisecracking.With Ragnarok rapidly approaching, Magnus and his friends are charged with retrieving Thor’s magical hammer in time to stop giants from invading the human world. This latest installment in Riordan’s Nordic-themed fantasy series is a fast-paced adventure narrative featuring snappy dialogue and a diverse cast of well-developed characters. The author possesses a singular talent for re-creating contemporary teenspeak. In his capable hands, Magnus’ cocksure attitude and pithy observations further establish him as completely distinct from other Riordan protagonists as he races from Newbury Street in Boston to Provincetown, Massachusetts, searching for the elusive hammer, which is still missing after the events of series opener The Sword of Summer (2016). The author effectively interposes racial and sexual complexity into the typically all-white Norse mythological world through the addition of Alex Fierro—Muslim Valkyrie Sam’s shape-shifting gender-fluid half sibling—who may or may not be a double agent for their father, Loki. He also deepens the mythology surrounding the Chase family’s connection to the various gods, neatly connecting this series with the exploits of Percy Jackson’s Greco-Roman heroine Annabeth Chase. An entertaining sequel that will whet fans’ appetites for the next installment. (Fantasy. 10-14)

About the Author

Rick Riordan is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the Kane Chronicles, and the Heroes of Olympus. He is also the author of the multi-award-winning Tres Navarre mystery series for adults.

For fifteen years, Rick taught English and history at public and private middle schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Texas. In 2002, Saint Mary’s Hall honored him with the school’s first Master Teacher Award.

While teaching full time, Riordan began writing mystery novels for grownups. His Tres Navarre series went on to win the top three national awards in the mystery genre – the Edgar, the Anthony and the Shamus. Riordan turned to children’s fiction when he started The Lightning Thief as a bedtime story for his oldest son.

Rick Riordan now writes full-time. He lives in Boston with his wife and two sons.

His website is www.rickriordan.com.

Teacher Resources

Magnus Chase Discussion Guide

Norse mythology Teaching Resources

Around the Web

The Hammer of Thor on Amazon

The Hammer of Thor on JLG

The Hammer of Thor on Goodreads

 

You in Five Acts by Una LaMarche

You in Five Acts by Una LaMarche. November 1, 2016. Razorbill, 352 p. ISBN: 9781101998939.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 910.

It’s always been you—you know that, right?

At a prestigious New York City performing arts school, five friends connect over one dream of stardom. But for Joy, Diego, Liv, Ethan and Dave, that dream falters under the pressure of second-semester, Senior year. Ambitions shift and change, new emotions rush to the surface, and a sense of urgency pulses between them: Their time together is running out.

Diego hopes to get out of the friend zone. Liv wants to escape, losing herself in fantasies of the new guy. Ethan conspires to turn his muse into his girlfriend. Dave pines for the drama queen. And if Joy doesn’t open her eyes, she could lose the love that’s been in front of her all along.

An epic ensemble piece in the vein of Fame and Let’s Get Lost, You in Five Acts is a eulogy for a friendship—the heartbreaks, the betrayals, the inside jokes, the remember-whens. And the tragedy that changed everything.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes; Drugs; Underage drinking; Racist violence; Homophobic slur

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2016)
Five teenagers live for their art in this coming-of-age story of achievement, ambition, and heartache.LaMarche’s latest novel (Don’t Fail Me Now, 2015, etc.), which chronicles the tribulations of a group of friends in their senior year at a prestigious New York arts conservatory, is a pleasing mix of Fame and Gossip Girl. Each character narrates a section, addressing it to the titular “you,” who changes depending on the narrator: Joy, the black ballerina and a passionate perfectionist terrified of failure; Liv, a Puerto Rican actress whose party-girl ways have tragic consequences; Ethan, the nerdy, white Russian immigrant’s son, a playwright with Broadway ambitions; Dave, a white teen celebrity desperate for a fresh start away from his mistakes in LA; and Diego, a Latino dancer for whom ballet is a ticket to a better life. The author knows her subject matter well, and she effectively captures the essence of teenagerhood, from the hormones and the slang to the heartbreak and paralyzing self-doubt. As in a Shakespeare play, everyone is in love with the wrong person, and it takes most of the novel and some dramatic events for everyone’s feelings to be sorted out correctly. Of the five storylines, Joy’s—in which she copes with body shaming and other indignities that have kept the rarefied world of ballet largely off-limits to black women—is the most compelling. Given the current political climate, the characters’ struggles with the white establishment create a poignant and timely socially conscious narrative. (Fiction. 14-18)

School Library Journal (October 1, 2016)
Gr 8 Up-Joy, Diego, Liv, Ethan, and Dave are students at Janus Academy, the highest-rated arts school in New York City. They are all friends, but more than that, they have one thing in common-they are all tired. Joy is tired of struggling to be recognized as a serious contender for prima ballerina by her parents and teachers. Diego is sick of always being seen as just a friend-especially by the one girl he wants the most. Liv yearns for some escape from her daily life. Ethan has had enough of the girl of his dreams always looking through him. Dave is tired of his past successes defining his future. None of the five realize that their world is changing, and it’s all coming down to one pivotal moment that spirals out of their control. LaMarche crafts the novel in five parts, each narrated by one of the main characters. The protagonists are diverse, intelligent, and solidly teen in their perspectives. Each voice is distinct and recognizable. From the beginning, the story is counting down to a culminating event, and the author is able to develop suspense but also keep the book humorous and romantic. The conclusion is heartrending and timely but also unexpected and fresh. Different points of view keep the work moving at a fast pace and add to its compulsive readability. VERDICT Purchase for all libraries that serve teens.-Morgan Brickey, Arlington Public Library, TX

About the Author

Una LaMarche is the author of two young adult novels, Five Summers and Like No Other, and Unabrow: Misadventures of a Late Bloomer, a collection of humor essays based on some of her more questionable life choices. She is also a contributing writer for The New York Observer and The Huffington Post, and blogs at The Sassy Curmudgeon. Una lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.

Her website is www.unalamarche.com.

Teacher Resources

Writing Tips from Una LaMarche

Around the Web

You in Five Acts on Amazon

You in Five Acts on JLG

You in Five Acts on Goodreads

 

Fannie Never Flinched by Mary Cronk Farrell

Fannie Never Flinched: One Woman’s Courage in the Struggle for American Labor Union Rights by Mary Cronk Farrell. November 1, 2016. Harry N. Abrams, 56 p. ISBN: 9781419718847.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.3; Lexile: 1020.

Fannie Sellins (1872–1919) lived during the Gilded Age of American Industrialization, when the Carnegies and Morgans wore jewels while their laborers wore rags. Fannie dreamed that America could achieve its ideals of equality and justice for all, and she sacrificed her life to help that dream come true. Fannie became a union activist, helping to create St. Louis, Missouri, Local 67 of the United Garment Workers of America. She traveled the nation and eventually gave her life, calling for fair wages and decent working and living conditions for workers in both the garment and mining industries. Her accomplishments live on today.

This book includes an index, glossary, a timeline of unions in the United States, and endnotes.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Murder; Anti-Semitism

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 4))
Grades 5-8. The author may be addressing this stirring story of early union activist Fannie Sellins (1872–1919) to middle-schoolers, but the rigor of her approach yields a book with solid scholarly features: a non-condescending glossary, a time line for historical context, recommendations for further reading, and a helpful index. In 1902, Sellins was a widowed mother of four working in a St. Louis sweatshop to support her family when she first heard about the United Garment Workers of America, then in its infancy. She helped to organize her fellow seamstresses, most of whom were recent immigrants working 10 to 14 hours 6 days a week for the grand sum of $5 ($145 in today’s currency), into Ladies’ Local 67. The threat of a strike resulted in a grudging doubling of wages, and within a few years Sellins was traveling to hot spots around the country to spread the word. She ultimately landed in Pennsylvania coal country, the site of egregious abuses, where her fervor proved fatal: pegged as an agitator, she was shot in the back while trying to herd children away from a melee. Her story, richly illustrated with vintage photographs and documents, fairly leaps off the page, driving home the message that the work she fought for is far from over.

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2016)
Farrell chronicles Fannie Sellins’ life as a garment worker, organizer, and martyr for workers’ rights at the turn of the 20th century.After Fannie’s husband died, leaving her with four children, she sewed in a St. Louis sweatshop. Women and girls worked 10 to 14 hours daily, six days a week, locked in deafening factories where tuberculosis ran rampant. Hearing of the United Garment Workers of America’s successes elsewhere, Fannie began organizing co-workers during breaks. In 1902, she helped form the Ladies Local 67 of the UGWA. In 1909, a worker’s punishment engendered a walkout, a lockout, a strike, and a boycott. As the local’s president, Sellins traveled on the workers’ behalf, raising strike fund money in union halls and successfully advancing the boycott. Next, Sellins helped coal miners fight brutal owners in West Virginia, where she was arrested and jailed. Organizing in western Pennsylvania, she was murdered during a fight between strikers and armed deputies. Farrell’s text and annotated timeline demonstrate that the early struggle for fair wages, hours, and benefits was rife with setbacks and bloodshed, as owners, government officials, and law enforcement colluded to break strikes and unions. Acknowledging the paucity of material on Sellins, Farrell includes well-captioned period photos and primary documents that deepen readers’ context for the workers’ exploitation and resistance. A cogent, well-documented, handsomely designed treatment of a heretofore forgotten hero of labor. (author’s note, glossary, timeline, quotation notes, sources, websites, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

I’m an award-winning author of Children’s/YA books and former journalist with a passion for stories about people facing great adversity with courage. Writing such stories has shown me that in our darkest moments we have the opportunity to discover our true identity and follow an inner compass toward the greater good.

Both my fiction and non-fiction titles feature little-known true stories of history based on thorough research. Most include an author’s note, bibliography and further resources, but they are not dry, scholarly tomes! Confronting grief, adversity and failure in my own life, enables me to write stories with an authentic emotional core.

My books have been named Notable Social Studies Book for Young People, SPUR Award for Best Juvenile Fiction about the American West, Bank Street College List of Best Children’s Books, and NY Public Library Best Books for Teens. My journalistic work has received numerous awards for excellence from the Society of Professional Journalists and two Emmy nominations.

Her website is www.marycronkfarrell.net.

Teacher Resources

American Labor Studies Center Labor History Lesson Plans

Fannie Sellins Labor Marker & Biography Video

Around the Web

Fannie Never Flinched on Amazon

Fannie Never Flinched  on JLG

Fannie Never Flinched  on Goodreads

 

American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin

American Heiress: the Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes, and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin. August 2, 2016. Doubleday, 384 p. ISBN: 9780385536714.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile 1110.

On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst, a sophomore in college and heiress to the Hearst family fortune, was kidnapped by a ragtag group of self-styled revolutionaries calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army. The already sensational story took the first of many incredible twists on April 3, when the group released a tape of Patty saying she had joined the SLA and had adopted the nom de guerre “Tania.”

The weird turns of the tale are truly astonishing—the Hearst family trying to secure Patty’s release by feeding all the people of Oakland and San Francisco for free; the bank security cameras capturing “Tania” wielding a machine gun during a robbery; a cast of characters including everyone from Bill Walton to the Black Panthers to Ronald Reagan to F. Lee Bailey; the largest police shoot-out in American history; the first breaking news event to be broadcast live on television stations across the country; Patty’s year on the lam, running from authorities; and her circus-like trial, filled with theatrical courtroom confrontations and a dramatic last-minute reversal, after which the term “Stockholm syndrome” entered the lexicon.

The saga of Patty Hearst highlighted a decade in which America seemed to be suffering a collective nervous breakdown. Based on more than a hundred interviews and thousands of previously secret documents, American Heiress thrillingly recounts the craziness of the times (there were an average of 1,500 terrorist bombings a year in the early 1970s). Toobin portrays the lunacy of the half-baked radicals of the SLA and the toxic mix of sex, politics, and violence that swept up Patty Hearst and re-creates her melodramatic trial. American Heiress examines the life of a young woman who suffered an unimaginable trauma and then made the stunning decision to join her captors’ crusade.

Or did she?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Racial taunts; Violence; Strong sexual themes; Drugs; Alcohol; Criminal culture

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 21))
On February 4, 1974, two women and one man burst into the Berkeley, California, apartment that Patricia Hearst, heir to the fortune of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, shared with her fiancé, Steven Weed. They clubbed Weed and dragged a thrashing, screaming, 19-year-old Hearst into the trunk of their car. This was the start of a prolonged, violent, and sometimes absurd cross-country odyssey that led from cramped, filthy safe houses to isolated rural farmhouses. The kidnapping, travels, and trials of Hearst and her “companions” would draw in a variety of willing and unwilling characters, including a radical sports journalist; a greedy, alcoholic, but brilliant defense attorney; and even a high-school baseball player. The saga transfixed the nation as key moments played out on national television, including a horrific shootout and fire in which some of the kidnappers died, and during which Hearst, rebellious and unhappy about her impending marriage, appeared to embrace the cause espoused by her abductors, members of the Symbionese Liberation Army. With access to previously off-limit documents, best-selling Toobin (The Oath, 2012), New Yorker staff writer and senior legal analyst for CNN, has written an outstandingly detailed and insightful account of the Hearst case and its impact.

Library Journal (August 1, 2016)
The bones of Patty Hearst’s story are relatively well known-pampered heiress kidnapped by radicals joins their ranks, famously helping them rob a bank at gunpoint-but as Toobin (The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson) here shows, the details that flesh out the saga of Hearst and the group calling themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) are weirder and more compelling than any work of fiction. For instance, while the group was among the most wanted in America, SLA leader Donald DeFreeze decided to recruit new members by going door to door in San Francisco’s Western Addition Neighborhood. (Not only did no one he spoke to report him to the police, but he actually brought on board people who would turn out to be crucial allies.) The narrative is peppered with appearances by such recognizable names as Jim Jones, Joan Baez, future judge of O.J. Simpson’s criminal trial Lance Ito, and Sara Jane Moore, who would later attempt to assassinate President Gerald Ford. Toobin’s meticulous research is the book’s bedrock, but his flair for dramatic storytelling makes it a pleasure to read. Though the author never states directly whether he believes Hearst’s conversion was real, he provides all of the pieces needed for readers to assemble the puzzle for themselves. VERDICT An essential purchase. Stephanie Klose, Library Journal.

About the Author

Jeffrey Toobin is a staff writer at The New Yorker, senior legal analyst at CNN, and the bestselling author of The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court, The Nine, Too Close to Call, A Vast Conspiracy, The Run of His Life and Opening Arguments. A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, he lives with his family in New York.

His website is www.jeffreytoobin.com.

 

Teacher Resources

American Heiress Discussion Questions

Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst Full HD Documentary

Patty Hearst Case on the FBI’s Famous Cases

Around the Web

American Heiress on Amazon

American Heires on JLG

American Heiress on Goodreads