All posts by NJBiblio

About NJBiblio

I am a high school district library media specialist/wannabe tech guru who is always looking for new and innovative materials, resources, and ways to help the teachers integrate 21st century materials in their classrooms. I myself am a little bit geek, a little bit nerd, but always proud of it!

Pretend She’s Here by Luanne Rice

Pretend She’s Here by Luanne Rice. February 26, 2019. Scholastic, 337 p. ISBN: 9781338298505.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 680.

Mega-bestselling author Luanne Rice returns with a ripped-from-the-headlines story of a girl who is kidnapped by her friend’s family.

Emily Lonergan’s best friend died last year.

And Emily hasn’t stopped grieving. Lizzie Porter was lively, loud, and fun — Emily’s better half. Emily can’t accept that she’s gone.

When Lizzie’s parents and her sister come back to town to visit, Emily’s heartened to see them. The Porters understand her pain. They miss Lizzie desperately, too.

Desperately enough to do something crazy.

Something unthinkable.

Suddenly, Emily’s life is hurtling toward a very dark place — and she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to return to what she once knew was real.

From New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice comes a breathless, unputdownable story of suspense, secrets — and the strength that love gives us to survive even the most shocking of circumstances.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Child abuse, Discussion of alcoholism and opioid addiction

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 8-12. After she loses her best friend, Lizzie, to cancer, Emily’s life takes a series of unimaginable turns—all at the hands of trusted adults. A deranged, suspenseful fate awaits her when she accepts a ride from Lizzie’s grieving parents, who kidnap her and try to turn her into the daughter they lost by dyeing Emily’s hair, forcing her to wear colored contacts, and imprisoning her in a room. Emily lives there in fear for 69 days, enduring the worst kind of emotional trauma and plotting her escape once her kidnappers enroll her in school. Rice has created a masterful narrative full of intrigue and heart-pounding moments that will draw in readers and allow them to experience what could happen when depression drives someone to do the unthinkable. Using flashbacks, rich descriptions, and realistic story elements, Rice weaves together a tense tale of mystery and surreal experiences. Reading like a Emma Donoghue’s Room (2010) with a YA twist, Rice’s latest doesn’t disappoint.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2018)
Nearly a year after the death of her best friend, Lizzie, 15-year-old Emily is abducted by Lizzie’s parents to fill the void in their lives. Emily wakes up in Maine, far from her Connecticut home, to find her hair dyed black and her eyes changed to green by contacts, making her look just like Lizzie. Lizzie’s mother tells her that as long as she cooperates, no harm will come to her or her family. Good behavior earns her a television and meals upstairs. Bad behavior means starvation and isolation. Emily begins to play along, determined to keep her family safe while at the same time finding a way to escape. But with Lizzie’s mother, father, and sister always watching, she fears she will be trapped in this nightmare forever. Then she meets Casey, a musically gifted boy who is legally blind. Together they come up with a plan to help Emily escape her prison. In this psychological thriller that studies the depths of grief, Emily’s empathy for her kidnappers keeps the sensationalism to a minimum by personalizing the betrayal. A preponderance of backstory slows the narrative and deflates the tension. Ultimately this is a story about love and loss threaded through with moments of a tense thriller. All main characters are Irish-American Catholics. An intriguing concept overtaken by thin characters and poor pacing. (Thriller. 12-15)

About the Author

Luanne Rice is the New York Times bestselling author of thirty-two novels including THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF SISTERS, her first YA novel. Five of her books have been made into movies and mini-series, many have been New York Times bestsellers and two of her pieces have been featured in off-Broadway theatre productions. She divides her time between New York City and the Connecticut shoreline.

Her website is www.luannerice.net

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Cicada by Shaun Tan

Cicada by Shaun Tan. January 29, 2019. Arthur A. Levine, 32 p. ISBN: 9781338298390.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.8.

From the visionary Shaun Tan, an inspirational story for older picture book readers and beyond

Cicada tells the story of a hardworking little cicada who is completely unappreciated for what he does. But in the end, just when you think he’s given up, he makes a transformation into something ineffably beautiful. A metaphor for growing up? A bit of inspiration for the unappreciated striver in all of us? Yes, yes, and more.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 8))
Grades 6-9. From award-winning Tan comes another nonpareil picture book. Tan’s eponymous Cicada is a mistreated office worker in a grim office building, employed by a company truly Kafkaesque in its brutal devotion to minutiae. “Seventeen year,” says our protagonist. “No promotion. Human Resources say Cicada not human. Need no resources. Tok Tok Tok!” We see the Cicada retire quietly from its mundane, thankless job, homeless and impoverished—a pathos evenly played in Tan’s deft hand. Tan juxtaposes the heartrending despondency of the story with a new sense of wonder as we see the cicada begin anew outside of his dreary office, just as the muted tones of the man-made office building are ignited by the verdant, gleaming cicada itself. As Tan’s books often do, this seems to defy categorization—its themes, admittedly, are perhaps too mature for the standard picture-book crowd. But for older readers drawn to unusual narrative formats, this book could work wonders with its nuanced, hopeful depiction of individuality. Illustrated with graceful restraint, this book is a stirring vignette of a life lived against the grain.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2018)
Tan’s narratives often critique traditional office culture; this one features the inhumane treatment of the protagonist, a cicada dressed in a four-armed gray suit, complete with tie and pocket square. Oriented vertically, the insect does not reach the top of his human co-workers’ desks, thus skewing the perspective so their heads are not visible. The green data entry clerk works in a gray maze of cubicles. Despite his exceptional performance and strong work ethic, he must walk blocks to a bathroom and is physically bullied. Readers will recognize forms of marginalization throughout, i.e., the elevator buttons are too high, poverty forces residency in the office wall. Cicada language is primitive and rhythmic: “Seventeen year. No promotion. / Human resources say cicada not human. / Need no resources. / Tok Tok Tok!” The last line is a refrain following each brief description, suggesting both the sound of a clock (time passing) and the notion of cicada “talk.” Upon retiring, he ascends the long stairway to the skyscraper’s ledge. The oil paintings of shadowy, cramped spaces transition to a brightened sky; a split in Cicada’s body reveals a molten glow. An orange-red winged nymph emerges and joins a sky full of friends flying to the forest, where they have the last laugh. No Kafkaesque conclusion here; metamorphosis brings liberation and joy. Simultaneously sobering and uplifting, it will lead thoughtful readers to contemplate othering in their own lives. (Picture book. 12-adult)

About the Author

Shaun Tan (born 1974) is the illustrator and author of award-winning children’s books. After freelancing for some years from a studio at Mt. Lawley, Tan relocated to Melbourne, Victoria in 2007. Tan was the Illustrator in Residence at the University of Melbourne’s Department of Language Literacy and Arts Education for two weeks through an annual Fellowship offered by the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust. 2009 World Fantasy Award for Best Artist.
2011 he won his first Oscar in the Category Best Short Animated Film for his work The Lost Thing.

His website is www.shauntan.net

Teacher Resources

Cicada Teacher Resources

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Stolen Girl by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Stolen Girl by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. February 26, 2019. Scholastic Press, 208 p. ISBN: 9781338233049.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.9; Lexile:.

Nadia is haunted by World War II. Her memories of the war are messy, coming back to her in pieces and flashes she can’t control. Though her adoptive mother says they are safe now, Nadia’s flashbacks keep coming.

Sometimes she remembers running, hunger, and isolation. But other times she remembers living with a German family, and attending big rallies where she was praised for her light hair and blue eyes. The puzzle pieces don’t quite fit together, and Nadia is scared by what might be true. Could she have been raised by Nazis? Were they her real family? What part did she play in the war?

What Nadia finally discovers about her own history will shock her. But only when she understands the past can she truly face her future.

Inspired by startling true events, Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch delivers a gripping and poignant story of one girl’s determination to uncover her truth.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Harsh realities of war, Antisemitism

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 5-8. After the conclusion of WWII in Europe, Nadia and her adoptive parents arrive in Canada for a new life. Despite being in a new country, Nadia is haunted by memories that reveal glimpses of her life before the war. She remembers being hungry and running to escape something, yet she also remembers living with a German family and being praised for her Aryan complexion. Confused by these memories, Nadia fears the truths that they may hold as she tries to adapt to a world where she can live without fear. Skrypuch’s latest novel is a companion to Making Bombs for Hitler (2017). Filled with historical detail, it highlights a forgotten and horrifying aspect of WWII where children were stolen from various parts of Europe by the Nazis in order to build a master race. Because of the flashbacks, readers are provided with glimpses into the horrors of Nadia’s past but can perceive themes of discovery and healing. A fascinating, compelling read.

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2018)
A 12-year-old Ukrainian girl arrives in Canada after World War II and struggles to make sense of her jumbled memories of battle-scarred Germany. After five years in a displaced persons camp, Nadia Kravchuk arrives in Brantford, Ontario, accompanied by her adoptive mother, Marusia. When Nadia’s fellow classmates are convinced by her blonde hair and blue eyes that she is a Nazi, Marusia repeatedly assures Nadia that’s not the case. Eventually, Nadia safely relives her trauma in order to solve the puzzle of who she really is—not Nadia Kravchuk nor Gretchen Himmel, the German identity she assumed to survive, but someone else entirely…Larissa, the younger sister of Lida, the protagonist of Skrypuch’s Making Bombs for Hitler (2016). The author once again deftly sheds light on lesser-known aspects of the Ukrainian experience during WWII. Via flashbacks and nightmares, she gradually fleshes out Nadia’s painful history of abduction from her original family and subsequent placement in a German household. As further explained in the author’s note, this was part of the Lebensborn program, an effort to identify and mark blond and blue-eyed Ukrainian children as Aryans and force them to live with Nazi families in order to augment the building of a master race. A gripping exploration of war-induced trauma, identity, and transformation. (author’s note)(Historical fiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch is the acclaimed author of 20+ books for young people including her popular WWII Making Bombs for Hitler novel trilogy and her non-fiction like Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival.

Marsha is dyslexic and didn’t learn to read until she was 9. The first book that she read and understood was Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens and reading that book over the course of a year when she was in grade 4 for the second time was a life-transforming experience. It taught her that reading wasn’t just a subject in school, but an immersive pleasure. By grade 8 she had read all of the big fat novels in the children’s department of the Brantford Public Library whose authors’ last names started with either A, B, C or D. By grade 9 she had figured out better ways to choose books.

Marsha now considers dyslexia to be a gift that helps her write the kinds of books that she does — about people plunged in war whose stories haven’t been told before and from perspectives rarely seen in children’s literature. Marsha has deep respect for the intelligence and compassion of her young readers and she writes the books she wishes she could have found to read when she was a kid.

Marsha loves speaking with students of all ages, especially those who are struggling academically or who feel “different”.

Her website is www.calla.com

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The Edge of Anarchy by Jack Kelly

The Edge of Anarchy: The Railroad Barons, the Gilded Age, and the Greatest Labor Uprising in America by Jack Kelly. January 8, 2019. St. Martin’s Press, 320 p. ISBN: 9781250128867.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

The dramatic story of the explosive 1894 clash of industry, labor, and government that shook the nation and marked a turning point for America.

The Edge of Anarchy by Jack Kelly offers a vivid account of the greatest uprising of working people in American history. At the pinnacle of the Gilded Age, a boycott of Pullman sleeping cars by hundreds of thousands of railroad employees brought commerce to a standstill across much of the country. Famine threatened, riots broke out along the rail lines. Soon the U.S. Army was on the march and gunfire rang from the streets of major cities.

This epochal tale offers fascinating portraits of two iconic characters of the age. George Pullman, who amassed a fortune by making train travel a pleasure, thought the model town that he built for his workers would erase urban squalor. Eugene Debs, founder of the nation’s first industrial union, was determined to wrench power away from the reigning plutocrats. The clash between the two men’s conflicting ideals pushed the country to what the U.S. Attorney General called “the ragged edge of anarchy.”

Many of the themes of The Edge of Anarchy could be taken from today’s headlines―upheaval in America’s industrial heartland, wage stagnation, breakneck technological change, and festering conflict over race, immigration, and inequality. With the country now in a New Gilded Age, this look back at the violent conflict of an earlier era offers illuminating perspectives along with a breathtaking story of a nation on the edge.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 5))
In 1894, workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company near Chicago went on strike against their powerful employer, George Pullman. This set off the greatest labor action in U.S. history, one that threatened a true national strike. Kelly explores this event in all its conflict and confrontation. Workers, led by the indomitable Eugene V. Debs, rebelled against a company that had dictated their living conditions as well as their working conditions. George Pullman really believed he was a model employer, but he would not respond to workers’ grievances. Unrest spread from Chicago across the nation, particularly into California. Realizing the threat this posed to the economy if not the body politic itself, President Cleveland called out troops against the counsel of Illinois governor John Peter Altgeld. Yet even army troops’ loyalty was tested when they were asked to fire on their fellow countrymen. The strike may have failed and Debs was jailed, but legislation followed that protected worker rights. Kelly vividly portrays the personalities involved, from elected officials to labor leaders, and makes the tensions of the time quite contemporary.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2018)
In which the robber barons earn their spurs—and their sobriquets.George Pullman (1831-1897) should be remembered as an innovator in the transportation sector. He was, as Kelly (Heaven’s Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal, 2016, etc.) writes, an entrepreneur who “knew how to gather resources, command men, and negotiate deals,” and even if credit for his long-distance railroad sleeper cars really goes to someone else, Pullman put it all together. At the height of the Gilded Age, he was well on the way to holding a monopoly, carving up the sector with other moguls. Put supply, demand, and sole ownership together, and you have a recipe for suppressed wages and labor unrest, personified here by firebrand organizer Eugene Debs, who called a strike when an economic recession shook the railroad industry, causing wages to fall. The railroad barons were quick to call on a reluctant President Grover Cleveland to intervene, while Debs scored early victories in the negotiations, and Pullman, who “had successfully fought against unions during his entire career,” found himself confronting a powerful movement to organize. As Kelly notes, there were many flashpoints during the unrest, as when strikes stranded trains in midcourse and “women and children were left for up to twenty hours with no water or food.” Debs renounced violence, but episodes of violence followed, most at the hands of law enforcement and the military. There are memorable moments throughout this fluid account, as when stock in the railyards of Chicago goes up in a wall of flames before which were, as one contemporary report put it, “men and women dancing with frenzy.” In the end, the strikes broken, workers’ families starved, Pullman refused to reduce his own salary: “ ‘We cannot,’ Pullman murmured, ‘do everything at once.’ ” He remained rich, but he is not well-remembered today, while Progressive Era reforms soon followed to reduce the barons’ power. Kelly’s vigorous narrative serves well to set down the facts of a turbulent, little-known history.

About the Author

Jack Kelly is a journalist, novelist, and historian, whose books include Band of Giants, which received the DAR’s History Award Medal, and Heaven’s Ditch. He has contributed to The Wall Street Journal, and other national periodicals, and is a New York Foundation for the Arts fellow. He has appeared on The History Channel and been interviewed on National Public Radio. He lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.

His website is jackkellybooks.com

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The Spy Runner by Eugene Yelchin

The Spy Runner by Eugene Yelchin. February 12, 2019. Henry Holt & Company, 352 p. ISBN: 9781250120816.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.5.

An illustrated middle grade novel set in the 1950s in which 12-year-old Jake gets caught in Red Scare paranoia when his mother takes in a peculiar lodger who may or may not be a Russian spy.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Author Video

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 4-7. There aren’t many noir thrillers out there for middle-graders, but Newbery Honor Book winner Yelchin (Breaking Stalin’s Nose, 2011) has turned out a humdinger. It’s 1953, the Cold War’s in full swing, and kids are being inculcated with anti-Communist sentiments on the news, at school, and even in their comic books. Like his classmates, 12-year-old Jake McCauley is dedicated to American values, but he also has a secret mission: to find his father, who went MIA during WWII. Jake’s two causes become bewilderingly intertwined when his mom rents their spare room to a Russian man named Shubin. Convinced Shubin is a Communist spy, Jake decides to expose the man for what he is. Yelchin builds tension into every chapter as Jake dodges suspicious characters, discovers top-secret documents, tangles with danger, and starts questioning what he’s been taught. Grainy black-and-white photos, as might be taken with a spy camera, pepper the text, further enhancing the story’s mysterious atmosphere. The action never stops, and readers will be gripped as the narrative thunders to a satisfying conclusion.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 15, 2019)
It’s 1953, and Jake just knows that the new boarder is a Communist spy. The 12-year-old fan of Commie-fighting comics hero Spy Runner has no trouble finding plausible evidence, either, from the unkempt stranger’s comment that his parents were Russian to mysterious phone calls in the night and a scary interview with a pair of heavies who claim to be FBI agents. But suspicion proves (then, as now) contagious, and suddenly Jake’s own best friend is shunning him, he’s ostracized at school, and a black car is following him around Tucson. On top of all that comes the emotionally shattering discovery that his mom, solitary since his dad was declared MIA in World War II, has let the stranger into her room. At this point, having set readers up for a salutary but hardly unique tale about prejudice, misplaced suspicion, and the McCarthy era, Yelchin briskly proceeds to pull the rug out from under them by pitching his confused, impulsive protagonist into an escalating whirl of chases, crashes, threats, assaults, abductions, blazing gunplay, spies, and counterspies—along with revelations that hardly anyone, even Jake’s mom, is what they seem. The author includes a number of his own blurred, processed, black-and-white photos that effectively underscore both the time’s fearful climate and the vertiginous quality of Jake’s experience. The book assumes a white default. An imagined adventure turned nightmarishly real leads to exciting, life-changing results. (Historical adventure. 10-13)

About the Author

Eugene Yelchin is the author and illustrator of The Haunting of Falcon House, Arcady’s Goal, and the Newbery Honor Book Breaking Stalin’s Nose. He has also illustrated several books for children, including CrybabyWho Ate All the Cookie Dough?, and Won Ton. He lives in California with his wife and children.

His website is eugeneyelchinbooks.com/

 

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The Electric War by Mike Winchell

The Electric War: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Light the World by Mike Winchell. January 22, 2019. Henry Holt & Company, 272 p. ISBN: 9781250120168.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The spellbinding true account of the scientific competition to light the world with electricity.

In the mid-to-late-nineteenth century, a burgeoning science called electricity promised to shine new light on a rousing nation. Inventive and ambitious minds were hard at work. Soon that spark was fanned, and a fiery war was under way to be the first to light―and run―the world with electricity. Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of direct current (DC), engaged in a brutal battle with Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse, the inventors of alternating current (AC). There would be no ties in this race―only a winner and a loser. The prize: a nationwide monopoly in electric current. Brimming with action, suspense, and rich historical and biographical information about these brilliant inventors, here is the rousing account of one of the world’s defining scientific competitions.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Cruelty to animals, Violence

 

Related Video

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 7-10. Welcome to the late 1880s and the war of the currents, a furious battle over the viability and future of electricity. The combatants were, in one corner, the legendary inventor Thomas Edison, the inveterate champion of direct current (DC); in the other corner, the eccentric Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla and his partner, the formidable George Westinghouse, champions of alternating current (AC). It was an epic battle, for the stakes were enormous, being, in short, who would light and power America. It was a battle royal with the venerable Edison emerging as the villain of the piece. But will the good guys win? In his first book, Winchell does a fine job of investing his story with considerable drama; yes, his subject is occasionally a bit wonkish, but it will delight techies. As for his style: it’s serviceable but suffers when he reaches for colorful figures of speech; thus, a building “lit up like a mushroom on fire.” Nevertheless, readers will be electrified by his three main characters and further enlightened by numerous period photographs.

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2018)
The war of the currents and its larger-than-life personalities are illuminated by a flickering light. In the 1870s and 1880s, two competing systems of electrical current were backed by three very different men. Thomas Alva Edison, the “Wizard of Menlo Park,” advocated for direct current, while inventor Nikola Tesla, a Serbian immigrant, and George Westinghouse were leading proponents of alternating current. The potential for acclaim and riches was high, but it all came down to which system—direct or alternating current—would prevail. Edison had the name recognition but a flawed system, while Tesla and Westinghouse were confident in alternating current’s superiority, even when it was branded too dangerous in the press. It took a world’s fair, court battles, and worldwide financial panic to yield a winner in the war of the currents. Although the men and the historical events provide plenty of drama, Winchell (Been There, Done That: School Daze, 2016, etc.) blunts the impact by spending too much time at the beginning of the book on the development of the electric chair and its first victim. Black-and-white photographs and technical drawings supplement the text, which is based on extensive primary and high-quality secondary sources. There is unfortunately no mention of influential African-American inventor and Edison employee Lewis Latimer, who patented the carbon filament. The appeal of the events shines through despite a shaky start. (timeline, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Mike Winchell is a veteran English teacher with a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. He is the creator & editor of the BEEN THERE, DONE THAT anthology series, and the author of the middle grade narrative nonfiction GILDED AGE series, beginning with THE ELECTRIC WAR: EDISON, TESLA, WESTINGHOUSE, AND THE RACE TO LIGHT THE WORLD (January 22, 2019), and followed by THE ROUGH RODE: THE GILDED AGE RISE OF THE ROUGH RIDERS (2020).

He lives in upstate New York with his wife and two children. His website is www.mikewinchellbooks.com.

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The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders. February 12, 2019. Tor Books, 368 p. ISBN: 9780765379962.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

“If you control our sleep, then you can own our dreams… And from there, it’s easy to control our entire lives.”

January is a dying planet–divided between a permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other. Humanity clings to life, spread across two archaic cities built in the sliver of habitable dusk.

But life inside the cities is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside.

Sophie, a student and reluctant revolutionary, is supposed to be dead, after being exiled into the night. Saved only by forming an unusual bond with the enigmatic beasts who roam the ice, Sophie vows to stay hidden from the world, hoping she can heal.

But fate has other plans–and Sophie’s ensuing odyssey and the ragtag family she finds will change the entire world.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Disturbing imagery, Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Underage drinking, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 7))
Night and day are places, not changes occasioned by the rotation of the planet; the only two human settlements are treacherously far apart; and life is harsh, bound by incineration and impossible cold. Mouth is an outsider in the city of Xiosphant, part of a traveling band of trader-smugglers, the Resourceful Couriers, and the only survivor of the nomadic Citizens. In Xiosphant, time and sleep are tightly regulated. Sophie, who has made it into the university and has always had trouble sleeping during the shuttered times, becomes part of a group of student revolutionaries. Caught, sentenced to be executed, and forced to climb Old Mother Mountain, Sophie encounters a deadly, tentacled indigenous life-form that saves her from bone-shattering cold and, communicating through thought transference, befriends her. Violence, politics, betrayal, love, friendship, encounters with alien predators, and experiences in a dying city entwine to create a conflicted world in an even stronger novel than Anders’ Nebula Award–winning All the Birds in the Sky (2016); a tale that can stand beside such enduring works as Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965), and Dan Simmons’ Hyperion (1989).

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2018)
After environmental sci-fi/fantasy (the award-winning All the Birds in the Sky, 2016) and pop-culture dystopia (Rock Manning Goes for Broke, 2018), Anders shifts gears for this sweeping work of anthropological/social sf. In the distant future, the descendants of a colony spaceship have settled precariously on the hostile planet of January, swarming with vicious predators and dangerous weather patterns. One side of the planet continually faces the sun, while the other faces the frozen dark of space. Humans have built two main cities on the light side: the rigidly rules- and caste-bound Xiosphant, where guards wait to seize you for the slightest infraction, and the more licentious Argelo, run by various warring gangs. In Xiosphant, shy, working-class student Sophie idolizes her upper-crust roommate, Bianca, who loves parties and seeking power. But Bianca’s flirtation with revolution drives Sophie first into the brutal hands of the police, and then into the saving pincers and tentacles of January’s nightside-living, sentient native species, dismissed by the colonists as brute beasts. But these creatures, whom Sophie dubs the “Gelet,” develop a psychic bond with her, and their willingness to share understanding and friendship changes her forever. One person the new Sophie slowly manages to influence is Mouth, a smuggler and survivor of an otherwise extinct nomadic band, who’s desperately seeking both a connection to her lost past and a reason to forge a future. But ultimately, Sophie can’t exert a similar influence over Bianca; despite Bianca’s claims of caring for her, she chooses to exploit Sophie’s vulnerabilities instead of granting her the understanding and acceptance Sophie craves. In our world, Bianca would represent the worst kind of faux “woke” liberal. She’s an angry woman who thinks she’s making a difference, but she doesn’t really want to help people or even listen to them; she just wants to be the one in charge and profit from it. Watching Sophie come into her own and gradually (and almost too late) realize that the Bianca she loves doesn’t exist is inevitable, sad, and, eventually, empowering. Anders contains multitudes; it’s always a fascinating and worthwhile surprise to see what she comes up with next.

About the Author

Charlie Jane Anders’ latest novel is The City in the Middle of the Night. She’s also the author of All the Birds in the Sky, which won the Nebula, Crawford and Locus awards, and Choir Boy, which won a Lambda Literary Award. Plus a novella called Rock Manning Goes For Broke and a short story collection called Six Months, Three Days, Five Others. Her short fiction has appeared in Tor.com, Boston ReviewTin HouseConjunctions, the Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionWired Magazine, Slate, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Lightspeed, ZYZZYVA, Catamaran Literary Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and tons of anthologies. Her story “Six Months, Three Days” won a Hugo Award, and her story “Don’t Press Charges And I Won’t Sue” won a Theodore Sturgeon Award.

Charlie Jane also organizes the monthly Writers With Drinks reading series, and co-hosts the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct with Annalee Newitz.

Her website is charliejane.com/

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Dreaming in Code by Emily Arnold McCully

Dreaming in Code: Ada Byron Lovelace, Computer Pioneer by Emily Arnold McCully. March 12, 2019. Candlewick Press, 176 p. ISBN: 9780763693565.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

This illuminating biography reveals how the daughter of Lord Byron, Britain’s most infamous Romantic poet, became the world’s first computer programmer.

Even by 1800s standards, Ada Byron Lovelace had an unusual upbringing. Her strict mother worked hard at cultivating her own role as the long-suffering ex-wife of bad-boy poet Lord Byron while raising Ada in isolation. Tutored by the brightest minds, Ada developed a hunger for mental puzzles, mathematical conundrums, and scientific discovery that kept pace with the breathtaking advances of the industrial and social revolutions taking place in Europe. At seventeen, Ada met eccentric inventor Charles Babbage, a kindred spirit. Their ensuing collaborations resulted in ideas and concepts that presaged computer programming by almost two hundred years, and Ada Lovelace is now recognized as a pioneer and prophet of the information age. Award-winning author Emily Arnold McCully opens the window on a peculiar and singular intellect, shaped — and hampered — by history, social norms, and family dysfunction. The result is a portrait that is at once remarkable and fascinating, tragic and triumphant.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: References to drug use

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 13))
Grades 7-10. Interest in Ada Byron Lovelace and other female pioneers of science has soared of late. This young adult biography is a particularly exemplary example of the burgeoning genre and should find a home in all libraries. Caldecott medalist McCully is careful to show Lovelace as a complex, and sometimes troubled, child, teen, and woman whose love of math was as passionate as love of poetry was to her famous father, the Romantic poet Lord Byron. While Lovelace’s mother, a controlling figure who reviled Lord Byron, was rather distant, she did cultivate her daughter’s intellect. She also introduced Lovelace to Charles Babbage, a well-known figure in England who was developing a protocomputer called the Analytical Engine. It was Lovelace who foresaw its implications and who ultimately wrote “code” for its use. While her life was tragically short, she is now generally acknowledged as “the first computer programmer.” McCully’s work is eminently readable, with short chapters and lavish illustrations. It also includes meaty appendixes and source notes for teen scholars. A worthy addition to biography bookshelves.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2019)
A biography of Ada Lovelace, widely celebrated as the first computer programmer. McCully juxtaposes the analytical genius of her subject with her humanizing flaws and personality, painting a portrait of a turbulent soul and a visionary intellect whose promise was cut short by early death. After the acrimonious end of Lord and Lady Byron’s relationship, the intelligent Lady Byron sought to distance Ada from both her father himself and his unstable tendencies by giving her a challenging education focused on rational pursuits, math, and science. Lady Byron’s portrayal is complex—she’s cold and self-centered but determined to provide academic opportunities for her daughter. The book follows Ada’s education with her marriage and death from uterine cancer, but both the book and Ada focus on her collaborator, Charles Babbage. A temporary textual shift to focus on Babbage provides necessary context, establishing how advanced and revolutionary Babbage’s Difference Engine and Analytical Engine designs were. And yet, Ada was able to see far beyond his visions, conceptualizing the potential of modern computers and predicting such programming techniques like loops. McCully demonstrates that although Ada had the potential to achieve more, she was hampered by sexism, ill health, and a temperament akin to her father’s. Appendices summarize Lovelace’s notes on the Analytical Engine and present the British Association for the Advancement of Science’s rationale for refusing to support its construction. A sophisticated yet accessible piece that humanizes a tragic, brilliant dreamer. (source notes, glossary, bibliography, index [not seen]) (Biography. 10-14)

About the Author

Emily Arnold McCully was born left-handed in Galesburg, Illinois. She was a dare-devil tree-climber and ball-player who loved to write stories and illustrate them. Her family moved to New York City and then to a suburb, where she attended school. After college at Brown University, she earned a Master’s degree at Columbia University in art history. She worked as a freelance illustrator for magazines, advertisements and book publishers until a radio station commissioned a series of posters showing children playing. The first appeared in subway cars, where it was seen by a children’s book editor. It launched a long career, first as an illustrator, then as author/illustrator of picture books. McCully won a Caldecott Medal in 1993. She has two grown sons, one grandson and lives in New York City and Columbia County, N.Y., where she grows flowers and vegetables.

Her website is emilyarnoldmccully.com

Around the Web

Dreaming in Code on Amazon

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Dreaming in Code on LibraryThing

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The Giver (Graphic Novel) by Lois Lowry

The Giver (Graphic Novel) by Lois Lowry. February 5, 2019. HMH Books for Young Readers, 185 p. ISBN: 9780544157880.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The Giver is a modern classic and one of the most influential books of our time.

Now in graphic novel format, Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal–winning classic story of a young boy discovering the dark secrets behind his seemingly ideal world is accompanied by renowned artist P. Craig Russell’s beautifully haunting illustrations. 

Placed on countless reading lists, translated into more than forty languages, and made into a feature film, The Giver is the first book in The Giver Quartet that also includes Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

In this new graphic novel edition, readers experience the haunting story of twelve-year-old Jonas and his seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment, through the brilliant art of P. Craig Russell that truly brings The Giver to life.

Witness Jonas’s assignment as the Receiver of Memory, watch as he begins to understand the dark secrets behind his fragile community, and follow the explosion of color into his world like never before.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Violence

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 14))
Grades 5-8. Color is a potent and central symbol in Lowry’s modern classic. Its absence defines the sameness of Jonas’ future world, in which everyone’s life is neatly prescribed for them, right down to career and family. When Jonas is appointed the receiver of all humanity’s memories, the appearance of color signifies his sense of discovery and, ultimately, his escape. Russell masterfully preserves the flow of story within this world of sameness through clean lines and compositional variation. But he, too, centralizes color. A limited palette of cool blues and somber grays strikes the emotionally sterile tone of Jonas’ community, while humanity’s memories come to the receiver in various hues: the gentle pink of a flower, the saturating red-orange of war. The relief and sometimes shock of these colors allow the power of the memories to reach readers in a way beyond mere sight, and thus the wonder of Lowry’s story is made palpable in a startling new way. Includes illuminating interviews with Lowry and Russell on the adaptation process.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2018)
An eerie graphic version of the Newbery Award–winning classic. Russell (Murder Mysteries and Other Stories, 2015, etc.) pays no more attention than Lowry (Looking Back, 2016, etc.) did to continuity of detail or to justifying the counterintuitive notion that memories can be shed by transmitting them, but without taking significant liberties he skillfully captures the original’s full, creeping horror. By depicting human figures with uncommonly precise realism, bearing calm, smiling demeanors and moving through tidy 1950s style settings, he establishes an almost trite air of utopian normality at the outset…then proceeds to undermine it with disquieting (to say the least) incidents capped by an explicit view of Jonas’ serene dad “releasing” a supernumerary newborn by ramming a hypodermic into its head. He also neatly solves the color issue by composing his many small sequential scenes in blue pencil outlines with occasional pale washes—which makes Jonas’ disturbing ability to “see beyond,” from the red in an apple and a classmate’s hair to the garish orange memories the Giver downloads to his brain, startlingly vivid and presages the polychrome wilderness into which he ultimately vanishes. Jonas and the rest of the cast are uniformly light-skinned and generically European of feature, but that is explicitly established as part of the hideous scenario. A first-rate visual reframing: sensitive, artistically brilliant, and as charged as its enigmatic predecessor with profound challenges to mind and heart. (interviews with the creators) (Graphic dystopian fantasy. 12-14)

About the Author

Lois Lowry is known for her versatility and invention as a writer. She was born in Hawaii and grew up in New York, Pennsylvania, and Japan. After studying at Brown University, she married, started a family, and turned her attention to writing. She is the author of more than forty books for young adults, including the popular Anastasia Krupnik series. She has received countless honors, among them the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the California Young Reader’s Medal, and the Mark Twain Award. She received Newbery Medals for two of her novels, NUMBER THE STARS and THE GIVER. Her first novel, A SUMMER TO DIE, was awarded the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award. Several books have been adapted to film and stage, and THE GIVER has become an opera. Ms. Lowry now divides her time between Maine and Florida.

Her website is www.loislowry.com/

Teacher Resources

The Giver (Graphic Novel) on Common Sense Media

The Giver (Graphic Novel) Educator’s Guide

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The Giver (Graphic Novel) on Amazon

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The Giver (Graphic Novel) on Goodreads

The Giver (Graphic Novel) Publisher Page

The Perfect Horse by Elizabeth Letts

The Perfect Horse by Elizabeth Letts. February 12, 2019. Delacorte Press, 272 p. ISBN: 9780525644767.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.5; Lexile: 1080.

In this inspiring young readers adaptation of Elizabeth Letts’ New York Timesbestseller, one American troop will save the world’s most precious horses during the final stretch of World War II.

When a small troop of American soldiers capture a German spy, they uncover an unexpected secret: Hitler has kidnapped the world’s finest purebred horses and hidden them in a secret Czechoslovakian breeding farm. But, starving Russian troops are drawing closer and the horses face the danger of being slaughtered for food. With little time to spare, Colonel Hank Reed and his soldiers cross enemy lines to heroically save some of the world’s most treasured animals.

In this thrilling young readers’ edition of her New York Times bestselling book, Elizabeth Letts details the terrifying truth of Hitler’s eugenics program during World War II and shares the story of the courageous American troop dedicated to stopping it.

Highlighting bravery in the face of incredible odds, this tale will shed light on a little-known piece of our past and speak to history fans and animal lovers of every age.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Cruelty to animals

 

Author Talk

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 7))
Grades 4-8. In this young-readers’ edition of her New York Times best-seller, Letts captivates readers from beginning to end. Even before WWII, Hitler’s Nazi agenda to make everything German “the best” involved confiscating champion horses from countries in Eastern Europe. Thoroughbred Arabians and Lipizzaners were especially prized. Under the leadership of Gustav Rau, Hitler’s choice for leading a eugenics horse-breeding program, the horses were held in Hostau, Czechoslovakia. As the war’s end approached, the Germans in charge of the horses realized that in order to protect them they must surrender the horses to the Americans. The glitch in this arrangement was that the Americans couldn’t cross into Czechoslovakia, but, under the command of Colonel Hank Reed (with General George Patton’s tacit approval), they did. Letts traces the dangerous mission of rescuing the horses, transporting them to the U.S., and transferring the horses to the Department of Agriculture, after which they were sold to private owners. This account of the heroism and cooperation of unlikely people to protect these horses is spellbinding. The author’s impeccable attention to detail and exhaustive sources make this a must-read.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2018)
Letts adapts her bestselling 2016 work of the same title for young readers. As World War II sweeps across Europe, the fates of several master horsemen become entwined. In Poland, Andrzej Kristalovich, head of the national stud farm, sees his life’s work disappear when Russian soldiers capture his horses. Nazi Germans, invading next, restore some of the animals in order to breed them for the Third Reich. Meanwhile, in Vienna, Olympic medalist Alois Podhajsky is desperately trying to care for the Lipizzan stallions at the famed Spanish Riding School even as the invading Germans capture the Lipizzan stud farms and move most of the horses to Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile, at an American Army base in Kansas, Maj. Hank Reed is overseeing the cavalry’s transition from horses, no longer useful in warfare, to mechanized vehicles. These threads come together at the end of the war when Reed orchestrates a complex rescue of both sets of horses. This is not a particularly successful adaptation. It’s shorter than the original, but both the storyline and timeline are fragmented, making it difficult for the putative audience of 8- to 12-year-olds to follow, and extraneous details fail to advance the main narrative. Aside from a map and archival images (both not seen), there is no timeline or other visual aid to help organize the narrative. Characters are all white. If readers can make sense of this story, they’re likely able to tackle the original instead. (author’s note, characters, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Elizabeth Letts is an award winning and bestselling author of both fiction and non-fiction. The Perfect Horse was the winner of the 2017 PEN USA Award for Research Non-fiction and a #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller. The Eighty-Dollar Champion was a #1 New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2012 Daniel P Lenehan Award for Media Excellence from the United States Equestrian Foundation. She is also the author of two novels, Quality of Care and Family Planning, and an award-winning children’s book, The Butter Man. She lives in Southern California and Northern Michigan.

Her website is www.elizabethletts.com

Teacher Resources

The Perfect Horse Discussion Questions

Around the Web

The Perfect Horse on Amazon

The Perfect Horse on Barnes and Noble

The Perfect Horse on Goodreads

The Perfect Horse Publisher Page