Category Archives: April 2018

Facing Frederick by Tonya Bolden

Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, a Monumental American Man by Tonya Bolden. January 9, 2018. Harry N. Abrams, 208 p. ISBN: 9781419725463.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 8.6.

Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) is best known for the telling of his own emancipation. But there is much more to Douglass’s story than his time spent enslaved and his famous autobiography. Facing Frederick captures the whole complicated, and at times perplexing, person that he was. Statesman, suffragist, writer, and newspaperman, this book focuses on Douglass the man rather than the historical icon.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 7-12. Most folks know Frederick Douglass as an escaped slave turned abolitionist. Bolden’s insightful and impeccably researched biography reveals, instead, a multifaceted man who would travel many paths and constantly redefine himself. And instead of commencing with Douglass’ life as a slave, as many biographies do, this account begins after his escape, as he becomes one of the most in-demand speakers for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society and launches his place in history as a great orator against the “twin monsters of darkness,” slavery and racism. It balances Douglass’ personal and financial successes and accolades with his frustrations, controversies, and setbacks, which only encouraged him to question the Constitution and fight harder for freedom, racial justice, and women’s suffrage. Framing the biography are more than a dozen photographs of Douglass from his early twenties to just before his death at age 77, with a note explaining his love for photography, because of its democratizing quality. Many other period photographs, colorful reproductions, and quotes from the media of the time add to the impressive visuals. Author, newspaper owner, lecturer, Underground Railroad conductor, Union army recruiter, abolitionist, and presidential campaigner are just some of Douglass’ roles described here. Bolden’s beautiful, sophisticated narrative demonstrates that throughout all of his responsibilities, Douglass never lost sight of his biggest role—humanitarian.

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 15, 2017)
The story of one of the most iconic and photographed figures in American history.Frederick Douglass wanted to be viewed as more than an escaped slave, and Bolden emphasizes that point by beginning his story when he makes the decision to break with abolitionist publisher William Lloyd Garrison to begin his own newspaper. Douglass’ history is nevertheless revealed as he contemplates changing his course. In his paper, the North Star, he pressed for an end to slavery and was outspoken in favor of women’s suffrage. Once the nation’s struggles between freedom and slavery led to armed conflict, he pushed President Abraham Lincoln to allow black men to fight in the Union cause. After the Civil War, Douglass remained tireless in seeking to improve the lives of African-Americans until the end of his life. This narrative about a well-known figure feels fresh due to Bolden’s skilled storytelling. It fully captures his outsized personality and provides clarity for nuanced episodes such as his disagreements with Garrison, his refusal to support efforts to colonize blacks outside of the United States, and his reservations about John Brown’s raid. Complications in his personal life are handled with sensitivity. In addition, Douglass was a celebrity at the dawn of photography and became the era’s most photographed figure, and this handsome volume includes many, as well as period illustrations. A spirited biography that fully honors its redoubtable subject. (author’s note, timeline, source notes, selected sources, index) (Biography. 10-14)

About the Author

Author and publisher Tonya Wilyce Bolden was born on March 1, 1959, in New York City to Georgia Bolden, a homemaker, and Willie Bolden, a garment center shipping manager. Bolden grew up in Harlem in a musical family and loved to read; she attended Public M.E.S. 146, an elementary school in Manhattan, and then graduated from the Chapin School, a private secondary school, in Manhattan in 1976. Bolden attended Princeton University in New Jersey, and, in 1981, obtained her B.A. degree in Slavic languages and literature with a Russian focus. Bolden was also a University Scholar and received the Nicholas Bachko, Jr. Scholarship Prize.

Upon graduating from Princeton University, Bolden began working as a salesperson for Charles Alan, Incorporated, a dress manufacturer, while working towards her M.A. degree at Columbia University. In 1985, Bolden earned her degree in Slavic languages and literature, as well as a Certificate for Advanced Study of the Soviet Union from the Harriman Institute; after this she began working as an office coordinator for Raoulfilm, Inc., assisting in the research and development of various film and literary products. Bolden worked as an English instructor at Malcolm-King College and New Rochelle School of New Resources while serving as newsletter editor of the HARKline, a homeless shelter newsletter.

In 1990, Bolden wrote her first book, The Family Heirloom Cookbook. In 1992, Bolden co-authored a children’s book entitled Mama, I Want To Sing along with Vy Higginsen, based on Higginsen’s musical. Bolden continued publishing throughout the 1990s, releasing Starting a Business from your Home, Mail-Order and Direct Response, The Book of African-American Women: 150 Crusaders, Creators, and Uplifters, And Not Afraid to Dare: The Stories of Ten African-American Women, American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm and The Champ. Bolden became editor of the Quarterly Black Review of Books in 1994, and served as an editor for 33 Things Every Girl Should Know, in 1998. Bolden’s writing career became even more prolific in the following decade; a partial list of her works include:, Our Souls: A Celebration of Black American Artists, Maritcha: A Nineteenth Century American Girl, MLK: Journey of a King, Take-Off: American All-Girl Bands During World War II, and George Washington Carver, a book she authored in conjunction with an exhibit about the famous African American inventor created by The Field Museum in Chicago.

Her website is www.tonyaholdenbooks.com.

Teacher Resources

Collection of Frederick Douglass Lesson Plans

Around the Web

Facing Frederick on Amazon

Facing Frederick on Goodreads

Facing Frederick Publisher Page

 

Advertisements

The Summer of Owen Todd by Tony Abbott

The Summer of Owen Todd by Tony Abbott. October 17, 2017. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux Books, 217 p. ISBN: 9780374305505.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.1; Lexile: 630.

Owen and his best friend, Sean, are both eleven years old. They’ve lived on Cape Cod all their lives, and now that they’re a little older, they’ll finally be free to spend some time on their own. But Sean’s mother has a different idea–she hires a babysitter to look after Sean. Paul is in his twenties, and a well-liked guy from church.

Paul starts doing things that just feel wrong. Because they’ve always been as close as brothers, Sean tells Owen, and no one else. What’s not certain to Owen is what he should do. Sean warns him not to tell anyone what is happening. But if Owen doesn’t tell, could something even worse happen to Sean?

This harrowing and sensitively told tale of child abuse is a must-read for anyone who might ever be called upon to help a friend in need.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Sexual abuse of a child, Allusion to male genitalia, Allusion to attempted suicide

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2017)
During the summer between fifth and sixth grades, Owen’s best friend is exploited by an adult male babysitter. Narrator Owen Todd is 11, white, living with his parents and 5-year-old sister in a small town on Cape Cod. His father is co-owner with Owen’s uncle of a go-kart business, and his mother makes crafts and volunteers “a couple of places.” Sean Huff, Owen’s best friend from kindergarten, is also white, but he’s diabetic, shorter than Owen, and frequently sits out their baseball games on the bench, and his parents are separated. Sean’s mother has engaged a young white man from their church to “babysit” Sean while she works at a new job in Provincetown. Paul behaves oddly with Sean, failing to close the bathroom door while urinating and, later, “accidently” showing Sean a picture of a naked boy on his cellphone. Sean later reveals to Owen that Paul’s behavior has become aggressive—and includes other men. Abbott handles this escalation with care, demonstrating the ways that a predator can isolate and intimidate a victim. Sean is so wounded and terrified that he convinces Owen he will kill himself if Owen breaks his confidence. Owen acts at last, with a bit of rash courage, but the end of the story is only partly happy. A horror story based on reality, believably and sensitively constructed in the voice of the young protagonist. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-14)

Publishers Weekly (August 28, 2017)
Fifth grade has just ended, and 11-year-old Owen is ready for go-kart racing, baseball, and trips to Cape Cod’s beaches with his best friend Sean. But the summer takes a horrifying turn after Owen learns that Sean is being sexually abused by Paul, a 20-something man from church who Sean’s working mother hired to babysit him, because of her son’s diabetes. As the abuse escalates and video cameras get involved, Owen is desperate but afraid to help his friend; Sean has sworn him to secrecy, not wanting the abuse to become public, and has threatened to kill himself if Owen tells anyone. Abbott (the Copernicus Legacy series) nails the casually jokey relationship between Owen and Sean, the way that it is slowly poisoned by what’s happening (“Every time I get dressed or undressed I think of what Sean told me”), and how trapped and powerless both boys feel. It’s a difficult, important, and possibly lifesaving story of children forced into terrible situations, as well as what real loyalty and friendship look like. Wishing books like this weren’t necessary doesn’t make them less so. Ages 10-14. Agent: Erica Rand Silverman, Stimola Literary Studio. (Oct.)

About the Author

Tony Abbott is the award-winning author of more than a hundred books for young readers, including FiregirlThe Postcard, and the Secrets of Droon series.

Abbott was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1952. His father was a university professor and had an extensive library of books which became one of Abbott’s first sources of literature. When he was eight years old, his family moved to Connecticut where he went through elementary school and high school.

Abbott attended the University of Connecticut, and after studying both music and psychology, decided to study English and graduated from the University of Connecticut with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. He attended the workshops of Patricia Reilly Giff to further develop his writing after college.

He lives in Connecticut with his family. His website is www.tonyabbottbooks.com

Teacher Resources

The Summer of Owen Todd Teacher’s Guide

Around the Web

The Summer of Owen Todd on Amazon

The Summer of Owen Todd on Goodreads

The Summer of Owen Todd Publisher Page

The Wheel of Life and Death by Julian Sedgwick

The Wheel of Life and Death by Julian Sedgwick. February 1, 2018. Carolrhoda Books, 344 p. ISBN: 9781467775694.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.9; Lexile: 810.

After a close call with an assassin in Barcelona, Danny is more convinced than ever that his parents–star performers in the Mysterium circus–died under suspicious circumstances. He’s also sure that there’s a traitor within the Mysterium. As the troupe heads to Berlin for a circus festival, Danny scrambles to unravel the clues his father left behind. He’ll need his decoding skills–plus some extremely risky circus tricks–to find out what really happened to his parents and who’s still trying to sabotage the Mysterium. Can he expose his parents’ killer before disaster strikes again?

Sequel to: The Palace of Memory

Part of series: Mysterium (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Criminal culture, Murder

 

 

About the Author

Born in rural East Kent in 1966 Julian Sedgwick resolved to become a writer at an early age. He and his brother (writer Marcus Sedgwick) relied on their imaginations, and each other, to entertain themselves – inspired by their father’s love of cinema, theatre and storytelling.

Julian took a long detour whilst working out what and how to write – via a degree and a half at Cambridge University reading Oriental Studies and Philosophy, dying his hair various ill-advised colours, working as a bookseller, painter, therapist and researcher for film and TV – before moving into screenplay development and writing.

A lifelong interest in the arts and culture of China and Japan has influenced much of his work, as has his fascination with performance, street art and circus.

Julian lives near Ely, Cambridgeshire, with his wife and two sons, waiting impatiently for it to get cold enough to go Fen skating.

Her website is http://www.juliansedgwick.co.uk.

Around the Web

The Wheel of Life and Death on Amazon

The Wheel of Life and Death on Goodreads

The Wheel of Life and Death Publisher Page

People Like Us by Dana Mele

People Like Us by Dana Mele. February 28, 2018. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 384 p. ISBN: 9781524741709.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple.

The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Suicide, Homophobic language, Inappropriate relationship between teacher and student

 

Book Trailers

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 7))
Grades 9-12. Murder, mayhem, and unreliable friendships take center stage in Mele’s debut novel. Kay Donovan, a popular girl known for her soccer skills and her biting humor, gets more than she bargained for when she and her friends go to the lake, after a night of dancing, and a girl’s body turns up, frozen and with her wrists slit. When Kay gets an email the day after, things take a dark turn, and she ends up ruining the lives of former friends and classmates in an effort to assuage her own guilt. As she embarks on the digital scavenger hunt in an effort to clear her name, Kay starts to wonder who is actually behind it all. To some extent, the pacing is inconsistent, and certain characters are static in the end, which may lead readers to wonder how certain relationships came to be. Mele, however, manages to weave a tale of mystery, intrigue, and revenge in the style of Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why (2007), but with its own twists to keep readers on their toes.

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2017)
For some girls, it’s a killer getting into Bates Academy. For others, attending the elite prep school means getting killed.When Kay Donovan and her popular senior classmates uphold the tradition of skinny dipping in the lake after the Halloween dance, they’re surprised to find the dead body of Jessica Lane, a fellow student. But it’s not the first time Kay has seen a dead body—and someone knows it. As she, her friends, and other acquaintances begin answering questions for the police, the teen also receives an email from Jessica’s account that takes her to a revenge website. There, Kay receives instructions to take down all her friends—this one for doping, that one for sleeping with a professor—or her own secrets will be revealed. The debut novel has all the tropes one would expect from a prep school mystery: plenty of backstabbing, predominantly white young socialites (except for Brie with “smooth brown skin”), and frequent parties with alcohol and sex. Yet this intertwined mystery that has readers figuring out Jessica’s murderer and Kay’s secrets (and their possible connections) is more than these clichés. The characters and their relationships are nuanced, especially bisexual Kay, who has intimate encounters with males and females. The blend of predictable prep school elements with unpredictable suspense makes this a fizzy read for fans of the genre. (Mystery. 14-18)

About the Author

Dana Mele is a Pushcart-nominated writer and a work at home mother. A graduate of Wellesley College, she is a former actor, lawyer, musician, and briefly, associate producer. She prefers tea to coffee, snow to sand, and stars to sunshine, and she lives in the Catskills with her husband and toddler.

Her website is www.danamele.com

Around the Web

People Like Us on Amazon

People Like Us on Goodreads

People Like Us Publisher Page

Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth

Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth. February 6, 2018. Harper, 325 p. ISBN: 9780062690968.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

Two brothers are exposed to the brutal realities of life and the seductive cruelty of power in this riveting debut novel—a story of savagery and race, injustice and honor, set in the untamed frontier of 1880s Australia—reminiscent of Philipp Meyer’s The Son and the novels of Cormac McCarthy.

An epic tale of revenge and survival, Only Killers and Thieves is a gripping and utterly transporting debut, bringing to vivid life a colonial Australia that bears a striking resemblance to the American Wild West in its formative years.

It is 1885, and a crippling drought threatens to ruin the McBride family. Their land is parched, their cattle starving. When the rain finally comes, it is a miracle that renews their hope for survival. But returning home from an afternoon swimming at a remote waterhole filled by the downpour, fourteen-year-old Tommy and sixteen-year-old Billy meet with a shocking tragedy.

Thirsting for vengeance against the man they believe has wronged them—their former Aboriginal stockman—the distraught brothers turn to the ruthless and cunning John Sullivan, the wealthiest landowner in the region and their father’s former employer. Sullivan gathers a posse led by the dangerous and fascinating Inspector Edmund Noone and his Queensland Native Police, an infamous arm of British colonial power charged with the “dispersal” of indigenous Australians to “protect” white settler rights. As they ride across the barren outback in pursuit, their harsh and horrifying journey will have a devastating impact on Tommy, tormenting him for the rest of his life—and will hold enduring consequences for a young country struggling to come into its own.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: 

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 7))
This debut novel is set in Australia in the mid-1880s. A lengthy drought is likely to spell disaster for the McBride family’s cattle ranch, but, just when the situation seems hopeless, rain comes—three solid days of it. It should be a time of great joy for the McBride sons—16-year-old Billy and 14-year-old Tommy—but, instead, with the rain comes tragedy: returning home one day, the boys find their parents have been murdered. Engulfed by rage, they plead with a rival cattle farmer to help them find the people responsible. But how far are the boys willing to go to get revenge? Rich in character and period atmosphere, this effective blend of family saga and historical mystery will please fans of Jeffrey Archer and Wilbur Smith.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2017)
Howarth’s impressive debut is a Wild West saga transported to 19th-century Queensland, Australia. Two brothers come of age during a bloody wilderness manhunt against the background of a shameful era in Australia’s racial history.Brothers Tommy and Billy are the sons of rancher Ned McBride, who’s barely surviving under the thumb of land baron John Sullivan. Sullivan’s local rule is aided by his association with Inspector Edmund Noone, a leader of the Native Mounted Police, which carried out the genocide of Australia’s indigenous people. Racial tensions escalate after the two brothers witness a lynching, and soon afterward they find their parents murdered—apparently by their aboriginal stockman Joseph, whose gun is found nearby. They have no choice but to join forces with Noone and Sullivan, who set out to take revenge on Joseph—or on any other tribal people they encounter on the hunt for him. The story deals unflinchingly with the brutality of Australian rule, and the true circumstances of the parents’ murders are ultimately revealed. But the heart of the story is the complicated relationship between the brothers, as Tommy’s developing conscience threatens his bond with the older Billy, who has committed to Sullivan’s cause. One turning point for Tommy is his attachment to an aboriginal woman whose family has been slaughtered by their posse. While this book has a historical point to make, it also works as a suspenseful mystery and a resonant bildungsroman.

About the Author

Paul Howarth was born and grew up in Great Britain before moving to Melbourne in his late twenties. He lived in Australia for more than six years, gained dual citizenship in 2012, and now lives in Norwich, United Kingdom, with his family.

In 2015, he received a master’s degree from the University of East Anglia’s creative writing program, the most prestigious course of its kind in the UK, where he was awarded the Malcolm Bradbury Scholarship.

Around the Web

Only Killers and Thieves on Amazon

Only Killers and Thieves on Goodreads

Only Killers and Thieves Publisher Page

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. January 30, 2018. Flatiron Books, 368 p. ISBN: 9781250147905.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

Part of series: The Hazel Wood (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Underage drinking, Smoking, Gore

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 6))
Grades 9-12. Some fairy tales ask to be lived in. They involve enchanted forests and handsome princes, talking animals, kind maidens, and wishes come true. Others are darker. Others have teeth. The Hinterland is one such savage place, not that Alice would know—she hasn’t read Tales from the Hinterland, the book penned by a grandmother she’s never met. They aren’t children’s stories, her mother, Ella, says, and besides, the book itself is infamously elusive. Alice, quick to anger with a heart of ice, has spent her 17 years in constant motion; trailed by bad luck, she and Ella move from place to place, never staying anywhere long enough to put down roots. But when Ella is taken suddenly, the lines between the real world and the Hinterland start to blur. Faced with the loss of the only person she’s ever loved, Alice must rely on Ellery Finch, the kind of Tales from the Hinterland superfan she’s always avoided, to help her track down the world she thought existed only in her grandmother’s imagination. In this unsettling debut, Albert takes familiar stories and carefully pulls them apart; the end result is a sort of deconstructed fairy tale that, despite its familiarity, gets under the skin. Highly literary, occasionally surreal, and grounded by Alice’s clipped, matter-of-fact voice, it’s a dark story that readers will have trouble leaving behind.

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 15, 2017)
A ferocious young woman is drawn into her grandmother’s sinister fairy-tale realm in this pitch-black fantasy debut.Once upon a time, Althea Proserpine achieved a cult celebrity with Tales from the Hinterland, a slim volume of dark, feminist fairy tales, but Alice has never met her reclusive grandmother nor visited her eponymous estate. Instead, she has spent her entire 17 years on the run from persistent bad luck, relying only on her mother, Ella. Now Althea is dead and Ella has been kidnapped, and the Hinterland seems determined to claim Alice as well. The Hinterland—and the Stories that animate it—appear as simultaneously wondrous and horrific, dreamlike and bloody, lyrical and creepy, exquisitely haunting and casually, brutally cruel. White, petite, and princess-pretty Alice is a difficult heroine to like in her stormy (and frequently profane) narration, larded with pop-culture and children’s-literature references and sprinkled with wry humor; her deceptive fragility conceals a scary toughness, icy hostility, and simmering rage. Despite her tentative friendship (and maybe more) with Ellery Finch, a wealthy biracial, brown-skinned geek for all things Althea Proserpine, any hints of romance are negligible compared to the powerful relationships among women: mothers and daughters, sisters and strangers, spinner and stories; ties of support and exploitation and love and liberation. Not everybody lives, and certainly not “happily ever after”—but within all the grisly darkness, Alice’s fierce integrity and hard-won self-knowledge shine unquenched. (Fantasy. 16-adult)

About the Author

Melissa Albert is the founding editor of the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog and the managing editor of BN.com. She has written for McSweeney’sTime Out Chicago, MTV, and more. Melissa is from Illinois and lives in Brooklyn, New York. The Hazel Wood is her first novel.

 

Around the Web

The Hazel Wood on Amazon

The Hazel Wood on Goodreads

The Hazel Wood Publisher Page

The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco

The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco. March 20, 2018. Sourcebooks Fire, 400 p. ISBN: 9781492635857.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In The Bone Witch, Tea mastered resurrection―now she’s after revenge…

No one knows death like Tea. A bone witch who can resurrect the dead, she has the power to take life…and return it. And she is done with her self-imposed exile. Her heart is set on vengeance, and she now possesses all she needs to command the mighty daeva. With the help of these terrifying beasts, she can finally enact revenge against the royals who wronged her―and took the life of her one true love.

But there are those who plot against her, those who would use Tea’s dark power for their own nefarious ends. Because you can’t kill someone who can never die…

War is brewing among the kingdoms, and when dark magic is at play, no one is safe.

Sequel to: The Bone Witch

Part of series: The Bone Witch Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol, Transphobia

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. Chupeco’s beautifully crafted world from The Bone Witch (2017) expands in this sequel, which joins dark asha Tea on her crusade of revenge. With an army of the dead and monsters known as daeva, she wrests control of kingdoms that would oppose her. But this is far more than a power grab. A mysterious sleeping sickness is afflicting royal families, and the cure appears to lie with the old Heart Forger and bringing down the remaining Faceless leaders. As in The Bone Witch, the narrative alternates between Tea’s recollections, which she tells the bard, and his own account of her terrifying campaign. Chupeco places the reader in the middle of the action, and they must puzzle through Tea’s motivations and the circumstances that brought her there—things that are gradually revealed through her conversations with the bard, and often seem at odds with one another. Tea is a wonderfully complex character who knowingly assumes the mantle of villain, but Chupeco deftly exposes her admirable qualities alongside her flaws. Readers will benefit from starting with the first book, which meticulously lays out Tea’s world and her training as a bone witch, but Chupeco incorporates enough of these details in her action-driven sequel that newcomers can still find their footing. Dark and entrancing, with a third volume to come.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2018)
With a thirst for vengeance, a band of terrifying daeva at her command, and her resurrected lover by her side, Tea is ready to face her adversaries in this sequel to The Bone Witch (2017).Continuing the established plot, Prince Kance of Odalia falls unconscious due to a mysterious sleeping sickness; the old Heartforger—who might know of a cure—is nowhere to be found; and broody and loyal Deathseeker Kalen still expresses an aversion to Tea and her infatuation with the charming prince. Meanwhile, the sinister Faceless Aenah tries to persuade Tea—who is struggling to control the Dark’s influence over her—to join the even darker side. While necromancy, spellcasting, and political intrigue permeate the narrative as in the previous book, romance (falling in love, surprise engagements, and the sharing of heartsglasses) is the clear catalyst here. Chupeco’s time-hop storytelling style, established in Book 1, is still imperfect, as the intense progression of both the past and present plots results in two seemingly divergent stories (and versions of Tea). But from the sweet banter between two lesbian ashas to Fox’s hilarious sarcasm (even when his arm is dangling by threads of flesh), readers will find Chupeco’s dynamic characters and their interactions with one another refreshing, contributing light and liveliness to a story centered on dark magic and impending war. The world, explicated in the backmatter, is a racially diverse one; Tea and Fox both have brown skin. A sequel that builds in both thrills and enchantment. (Fantasy. 13-adult)

About the Author

Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband.

Her website is www.rinchupeco.com.

 

Around the Web

The Heart Forger on Amazon

The Heart Forger on Goodreads

The Heart Forger Publisher Page

Stef Soto, la Reina del Taco (Stef Soto, Taco Queen) by Jennifer Torres

Stef Soto, la Reina del Taco (Stef Soto, Taco Queen) by Jennifer Torres. February 27, 2018. HarperCollins Espanol, 176 p. ISBN: 9781418597863.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.8; Lexile: 780.

Estefania “Stef” Soto just wants to be a typical seventh grader. She wants to have friends. She wants to fit in, and she wants a bit of independence from her overprotective immigrant parents. Stef knows enough not to expect to be able to take a city bus to school, the way her former friend Julia does, but even a school bus is deemed too risky by her parents. Her papi insists on picking her up every day in Tia Perla, his beat-up taco truck. Each day, he asks, “¿Aprendiste algo?” (Did you learn something?) Then they find a spot for her father to drum up business while Stef does her homework. Deep down, she’s proud of her parents and knows they are working hard to provide for her, but she’s also resentful of the ease with which some of her classmates, especially Julia, get things—like tickets to see Vivian Vega in concert. Even if she could earn the money for tickets, she knows her parents would never let her go. This earnest debut features a relatable narrator, stalwart friends, and caring parents who are working hard and struggling. (Spanish Language Version)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 5))
Grades 3-6. Stef Soto is tired of feeling babied by her parents, and she’s especially tired of being known as the Taco Queen because of her dad’s food truck, called Tía Perla. She wants them to give her a little more freedom, but she’s having trouble working out how to prove she’s mature enough. When her family’s livelihood is threatened by new food truck codes, Stef wants to speak out in defense of Tía Perla, but she’s not quite sure where to begin. This cheery, relatable story features short and sweet chapters with plenty of Spanish words and phrases sprinkled in and a cheer-worthy main character in Stef, a happy, funny girl who adores art above all. It’s her outlet for everything she feels, and when she finally realizes how her love of art can help her parents’ business, she also learns how to better communicate her feelings and needs. While the tone here is often lighthearted, this will also be relevant to any kid whose parents have moved to another country to seek a better life.

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2017)
Estefania “Stef” Soto wants nothing more than for her parents to stop treating her like she’s a little kid. That means letting her walk home from school alone instead of having her dad pick her up in her family’s unsightly food truck, Tía Perla (which ex-best friend Julia Sandoval has convinced her makes her smell like tacos). It also means allowing her to go to the Viviana Vega concert that everyone in the entire world is attending. When new regulations threaten to shut down her father’s business, Stef thinks it isn’t the worst thing in the world. No Tía Perla means no food truck waiting for her after school and maybe even some freedom from her overprotective parents. But when a power failure almost ruins the school’s fundraiser, Stef realizes that Tía Perla might not put such a cramp in her style after all. Torres perfectly captures what it’s like to be a young person seeking independence and learning about responsibility. She breathes life into the old food truck, which becomes another character. We meet her in the school parking lot: “Tía Perla, huffing and wheezing and looking a little bit grubby no matter how clean she actually is.” Young readers will feel a kinship with Stef as she struggles to spread her wings in this engaging and relatable middle-grade novel about growing up. celia c. pérez

About the Author

Jennifer works at the Universidad del Pacífico where she leads a campaign to promote early literacy. Before joining the university team, Jennifer worked as a reporter for the newspaper Record, covering issues of education, children and families, and continues to write for local and national magazines. Originally from southern California, she has lived in the Central Valley for the past 10 years with her husband, David, and daughters Alice and Soledad.

Her website is jenntorres.com

Around the Web

Stef Soto, la Reina del Taco on Amazon

Stef Soto, la Reina del Taco on Goodreads

Stef Soto, la Reina del Taco Publisher Page

Spineless by Juli Berwald

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

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

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

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

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Discussion

Via C-SPAN

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

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

Teacher Resources

Jellyfish Lesson Plans

Around the Web

Spineless on Amazon

Spineless on Goodreads

Spineless Publisher Page

Hellwalkers by Alexander Gordon Smith

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

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

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

Sequel to: Hellfighters

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Grotesque violence

 

 

About the Author

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

Around the Web

Hellwalkers on Amazon

Hellwalkers on Goodreads

Hellwalkers Publisher Page