Category Archives: Fiction

Solo by Kwame Alexander

Solo by Kwame Alexander. July 25, 2017. Blink, 464 p. ISBN: 9780310761839.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 640.

When the heart gets lost, let the music find you.

Blade never asked for a life of the rich and famous. In fact, he’d give anything not to be the son of Rutherford Morrison, a washed-up rock star and drug addict with delusions of a comeback. Or to no longer be part of a family known most for lost potential, failure, and tragedy. The one true light is his girlfriend, Chapel, but her parents have forbidden their relationship, assuming—like many—that Blade will become just like his father.

In reality, the only thing Blade has in common with Rutherford is the music that lives inside them. But not even the songs that flow through Blade’s soul are enough when he’s faced with two unimaginable realities: the threat of losing Chapel forever, and the revelation of a long-held family secret, one that leaves him questioning everything he thought was true. All that remains is a letter and a ticket to Ghana—both of which could bring Blade the freedom and love he’s been searching for, or leave him feeling even more adrift.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Sexual innuendo, Mentions of drug use, Mentions of underage drinking

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (May 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 17))
Grades 9-12. Blade Morrison begins his story by disclosing, “I am / the wretched son / of a poor / rich man.” Master storytellers and poets Alexander (The Crossover, 2014) and Hess (The Day I Met the Nuts, 2009) have joined forces to pen a rhythmic, impassioned ode to family, identity, and the history of rock and roll. The only things 17-year-old Blade can count on as the wealthy but neglected son of famously erratic rock god Rutherford Morrison are his soulful guitar ballads and his girlfriend, Chapel. When Rutherford disappoints Blade one time too many and they end up fighting, Blade’s sister reveals a long-guarded family secret. Suddenly the music leaves him; when Chapel is no longer there to anchor him either, Blade sets out to discover more about his own past. A mix tape of classic rock hits guides him from Los Angeles all the way to the small village of Konko, Ghana, where a delay in his journey brings him unexpected fulfillment. Scattered throughout the novel in verse are some of Blade’s original rock ballads, though every poem feels like a song, pulsing with Alexander’s signature lyrical style. Blade ends up finding much more than what he expects: self-discovery, community, and a deeper understanding of what family means.

Kirkus Reviews starred (May 15, 2017)
The 17-year-old son of a troubled rock star is determined to find his own way in life and love.On the verge of adulthood, Blade Morrison wants to leave his father’s bad-boy reputation for drug-and-alcohol–induced antics and his sister’s edgy lifestyle behind. The death of his mother 10 years ago left them all without an anchor. Named for the black superhero, Blade shares his family’s connection to music but resents the paparazzi that prevent him from having an open relationship with the girl that he loves. However, there is one secret even Blade is unaware of, and when his sister reveals the truth of his heritage during a bitter fight, Blade is stunned. When he finally gains some measure of equilibrium, he decides to investigate, embarking on a search that will lead him to a small, remote village in Ghana. Along the way, he meets people with a sense of purpose, especially Joy, a young Ghanaian who helps him despite her suspicions of Americans. This rich novel in verse is full of the music that forms its core. In addition to Alexander and co-author Hess’ skilled use of language, references to classic rock songs abound. Secondary characters add texture to the story: does his girlfriend have real feelings for Blade? Is there more to his father than his inability to stay clean and sober? At the center is Blade, fully realized and achingly real in his pain and confusion. A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told. (Verse fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times Bestselling author of 21 books, including The Crossover, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Passaic Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. His other works include Surf’s Up, a picture book; Booked, a middle grade novel; and He Said She Said, a YA novel.

Kwame believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his PAGE TO STAGE Writing and Publishing Program released by Scholastic. A regular speaker at colleges and conferences in the U.S., he also travels the world planting seeds of literary love (Singapore, Brazil, Italy, France, Shanghai, etc.). Recently, Alexander led a delegation of 20 writers and activists to Ghana, where they delivered books, built a library, and provided literacy professional development to 300 teachers, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an International literacy program he co-founded.

His website is www.kwamealexander.com.

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Poe: Stories and Poems by Gareth Hinds

Poe: Stories and Poems by Gareth Hinds. August 1, 2017. Candlewick Press, 120 p. ISBN: 9780763681128.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 960.

In a thrilling adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s best-known works, acclaimed artist-adapter Gareth Hinds translates Poe’s dark genius into graphic-novel format.

It is true that I am nervous. But why will you say that I am mad?

In “The Cask of Amontillado,” a man exacts revenge on a disloyal friend at carnival, luring him into catacombs below the city. In “The Masque of the Red Death,” a prince shielding himself from plague hosts a doomed party inside his abbey stronghold. A prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition, faced with a swinging blade and swarming rats, can’t see his tormentors in “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” a milky eye and a deafening heartbeat reveal the effects of conscience and creeping madness. Alongside these tales are visual interpretations of three poems — “The Raven,” “The Bells,” and Poe’s poignant elegy to lost love, “Annabel Lee.” The seven concise graphic narratives, keyed to thematic icons, amplify and honor the timeless legacy of a master of gothic horror.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, Alcohol, Smoking, Bloody images

 

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Reviews

Booklist (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 8-11. Veteran illustrator Hinds breathes vivid life into seven of Edgar Allan Poe’s most well-known stories and poems in his latest adaptation. Faithfully preserving the gothic tone of the original texts, from the macabre endpapers filled with symbols of death to the twisted anguished faces found throughout its pages, the author never shies away from the darkness found there, instead distilling Poe’s fascination with madness, death, and terror into single haunting images: a sliver of lamplight shines on a milky blue eye in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and a shadowy black raven haunts a solitary figure reminiscent of Poe in its namesake poem. Color is used to full effect in each story; the garish colors of an ill-fated party foreshadow impending doom, while the saturated red surrounding a man about to die only serves to heighten the emotional intensity. Title pages include a key to the main themes and year of publication, while an author’s note provides an overview of Poe’s life and insight into each story and poem. A welcome addition for fans of graphic horror.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2017)
Graphic novelist Hinds (The Odyssey, rev. 11/10; Macbeth, rev. 3/15) continues his tour through the classics as he takes on the work of Edgar Allan Poe, adapting three poems (“Annabel Lee,” “The Bells,” and “The Raven”) and four stories (“The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”). A “Poe Checklist” at the beginning enumerates a dozen common themes and tropes (e.g., “creepy animals,” “premature burial”), and the title page for each entry lists those that are pertinent. As always, Hinds’s adaptations lean heavily on the original language of the text with an eye toward accessibility for the modern reader and an understanding that the illustrations will carry a good portion of the narrative. Hinds’s varied illustrations are a good match for Poe’s atmospheric blend of horror and mystery. The pictures are often dark and shadowy, but color is used judiciously throughout to great effect; “The Masque of the Red Death” has abundant flourishes of red, for example, while “The Raven” is in black and white. Striking imagery, too, catches the eye and the imagination. The final spread of “The Bells” looks up into a bright full moon to see not just the church bell but also the ghouls looking like veritable gargoyles come to life. An appended author’s note gives general background on Poe and additional insight into each story or poem. jonathan hunt

About the Author

Gareth Hinds is the acclaimed creator of the graphic novels Macbeth, The Odyssey, Beowulf, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, and King Lear. Gareth Hinds lives near Washington, D.C.

Her website is www.garethhinds.com

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The First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez

The First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez. August 22, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 336 p. ISBN: 9780425290408.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.2; Lexile: 670.

From debut author and longtime zine-maker Celia C. Perez, The First Rule of Punk is a wry and heartfelt exploration of friendship, finding your place, and learning to rock out like no one’s watching.

There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school–you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malu (Maria Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.

The real Malu loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malu finally begins to feel at home. She’ll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!

Black and white illustrations and collage art throughout make The First Rule of Punk a perfect pick for fans of books like Roller Girl and online magazines like Rookie.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

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Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Online))
Grades 4-7. In her story of seventh-grader Malú, debut author Pérez harnesses the spirit of School of Rock and gives it a punk rock spin. Malú isn’t happy about her recent move to Chicago, because it meant leaving her dad (her parents are amicably divorced) and his record store behind. She tries to assume a brave punk attitude, but she can’t help being anxious on her first day of school, especially when she gets on the wrong side of the class mean girl. When Malú learns about the upcoming Fall Fiesta talent show, she decides to form a band, with the hopes of finding “her people” in the process. While this plan hits a few snags, it results in friendships and a Mexican punk mentor. Like any good riot grrrl, Malú finds a creative outlet in making zines, several of which appear in the novel and call attention to Malú’s passions, heritage (she is half Mexican), and private concerns. Pérez delivers an upbeat story of being true to yourself and your beliefs, that tweens will rally behind.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
Malú wants to be totally punk at her new middle school, but her Mexican-American mother would prefer she learn to be a proper señorita. Twelve-year-old María Luisa O’Neill-Morales, aka Malú, loves punk-rock music, hanging out at her father’s indie record store, and making zines. She doesn’t love moving from her home in Gainesville, Florida, to Chicago for her professor mother’s two-year appointment at a university. Although she loves both of her amicably divorced parents, Malú—who favors Chuck Taylors and music T’s—feels closer to her laid-back, artsy white father than her supportive but critical academic mother, whom she calls “SuperMexican.” At Malú’s new majority-Latino school, she quickly makes an enemy of beautiful Selena, who calls her a “coconut” (brown on the outside, white on the inside) and warns her about falling in with the class “weirdos.” Malú does befriend the school misfits (one activist white girl and two fellow “coconuts”) and enlists them to form a band to play a punk song at the Fall Fiesta. Middle-grade readers will appreciate the examples of Malú’s zines and artwork, which delightfully convey her journey of self-discovery. The author surrounds the feisty protagonist with a trio of older women (including her mom, her best friend Joe’s tattooed, punk-loving mother, and his humorous Abuela) who help her embrace being Mexican and punk. A charming debut about a thoughtful, creative preteen connecting to both halves of her identity. (Fiction. 9-13)

About the Author

Celia C. Pérez has been making zines inspired by punk and her love of writing for longer than some of you have been alive. Her favorite zine supplies are a long-arm stapler, glue sticks, and watercolor pencils. She still listens to punk music, and she’ll never stop picking cilantro out of her food at restaurants. Originally from Miami, Florida, Celia lives in Chicago with her family and works as a community college librarian. She owns two sets of worry dolls because you can never have too many. The First Rule of Punk is her first book for young readers.

Her website is celiacperez.com

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Castle in the Stars by Alex Alice

Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869 (Book 1) by Alex Alice. September 12, 2017. First Second, 64 p. ISBN: 9781626724938.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.5.

In search of the mysterious element known as aether, Claire Dulac flew her hot air balloon toward the edge of our stratosphere―and never returned. Her husband, genius engineer Archibald Dulac, is certain that she is forever lost. Her son, Seraphin, still holds out hope.

One year after her disappearance, Seraphin and his father are delivered a tantalizing clue: a letter from an unknown sender who claims to have Claire’s lost logbook. The letter summons them to a Bavarian castle, where an ambitious young king dreams of flying the skies in a ship powered by aether. But within the castle walls, danger lurks―there are those who would stop at nothing to conquer the stars.

In Castle in the Stars, this lavishly illustrated graphic novel, Alex Alice delivers a historical fantasy adventure set in a world where man journeyed into space in 1869, not 1969.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Violence, Alcohol, Smoking, Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Booklist (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 5-8. What do you get when you mix steampunk, historic scientific theories, Jules Verne-style adventure, and King Ludwig II of Bavaria? A rollicking good time, that’s what. In 1869, a year after Seraphin’s mother disappeared in her hot air balloon while in search of the mysterious energy source called Aether, an unsigned letter arrives in which the writer claims to have found her logbook. On their way to Bavaria to claim it, Seraphin and his father become entangled with Prussian spies who are also on the hunt for the logbook, hoping that the secret of Aether will help them overthrow King Ludwig II and take over the world. The romantic setting of the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle is the perfect backdrop for this steampunk adventure story, and the author and artists use both interior and exterior views to good advantage. Done in soft watercolors, the illustrations are gorgeously detailed and alive with color and motion, giving the whole book a cinematic feel. This series starter ends on an extreme cliffhanger, so readers will be eager for the sequel.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
Some people will love this fanciful tale of a 19th-century space race so much they never finish it. This graphic novel is filled with distractions. Every scene has a new detail to focus on, usually off in the corner of a panel: a watercraft decorated with golden cherubs or an airship shaped like a swan. When one character holds up a book of blueprints (for a craft that travels “through aether”), readers may be tempted to crane their necks to get a better view of the tiny drawings. The artwork, which combines loose pencil outlines with elaborate watercolors, is that spectacular. Many panels could be framed as paintings, and it would be easy to ignore the text and just stare at the pictures of cloud banks. But that would be a mistake, as it’s a terrific adventure story with disguises and air chases and a plot against Bavarian royalty in the late 1800s. The story is full of digressions, though, and the digressions are the best part, as when the main character (a schoolboy named Seraphin) explains why there must be dinosaurs on Venus. In another, the royal architect shows off the orchestra pit on an airship. This is bad science and bad history (and surely not everyone in Bavaria was white), which makes it fantastic steampunk. Like the best steampunk, this story is one excellent distraction after another, with enough blueprints to hold people’s attention while they’re waiting for Book 2. (Graphic steampunk. 10-16)

About the Author

Alex Alice is a French graphic novelist, working in France and sometimes the U.S. His works have been translated into more than fifteen languages.

Born in 1974, he grew up in the south of France and had the chance to travel around Europe, where he developed a lifelong passion for the ruins and castles of the medieval and romantic ages. This experience influenced his art, from the grim setting of his esoteric thriller The Third Testament (co-written with Xavier Dorison and published by Titan Comics) to the primeval, mythic world found in Siegfried, an operatic re-telling of the northern saga of the great dragon slayer (published by Boom Entertainment). In Castle in the Stars, he draws on Jules Verne and nineteenth-century romanticism to create a watercolor world of adventure and wonder to enchant adults and younger readers alike.

His website is www.alexalice.com

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Battlesong by Lian Tanner

Battlesong by Lian Tanner. August 15, 2017. Fiewel & Friends, 393 p. ISBN: 9781250052186.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.4; Lexile: 720.

The thrilling conclusion to the Icebreaker trilogy, an acclaimed middle-grade fantasy-adventure from Lian Tanner.

Gwin is a Fetcher. With her papa and twin brother, Nat, she travels West Norn, bringing joy to its downtrodden people through song and story. But ever since Mama died, it’s been hard to keep the joy alive.

Proud and defiant, Fetchers have always been hunted by the Devouts for preserving the old ways. So when devious Brother Poosk captures Papa, Gwin must rescue him―whatever the cost.

Meanwhile, the Oyster’s crew and the Sunkers lay siege to the Citadel. But without their Sleeping Captain, can they ever win against the ruthless Devouts? Can Petrel, Fin, Sharkey, and Rain ever bring light back to such a dark world?

Sequel to: Sunker’s Deep

Part of series: Icebreaker (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Reviews

School Library Journal (June 1, 2017)
Gr 5-8-Tanner’s trilogy concludes with a meticulously plotted, rapidly paced adventure that both stands alone and richly satisfies fans of the first two novels. The narrative picks up where Sunker’s Deep left off, with the crews of both the Oyster and the Claw on dry land searching for the captain and the legendary Singer. Enter young Gwin and her family, traveling entertainers called “Fetchers,” whose performances bring moments of pleasure to the downtrodden population while preserving traditional lore and keeping ancient secrets from the Anti-Machinists. Tanner’s unparalleled world-building seamlessly weaves Gwin’s tale into a complex narrative told from multiple perspectives. The author provides just enough backstory to keep new readers engaged and the action moving toward a thrilling ending that unites characters from all three installments. Attentive readers will be intrigued by early plot details that later on return to add significance at pivotal moments. Masterly writing brings the stark landscape to life and reveals characters’ deepest emotions. -VERDICT A first purchase for collections that already have the other volumes in the series; expect interest in them if ordering this third entry on its own.-Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

About the Author

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

Her website is www.liantanner.com.au.

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Dinner at the Center of the Earth by Nathan Englander

Dinner at the Center of the Earth by Nathan Englander. September 5, 2017. Knopf Publishing Group, 254 p. ISBN: 9781524732738.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 940.

A prisoner in a secret cell. The guard who has watched over him a dozen years. An American waitress in Paris. A young Palestinian man in Berlin who strikes up an odd friendship with a wealthy Canadian businessman. And The General, Israel’s most controversial leader, who lies dying in a hospital, the only man who knows of the prisoner’s existence.

From these vastly different lives Nathan Englander has woven a powerful, intensely suspenseful portrait of a nation riven by insoluble conflict, even as the lives of its citizens become fatefully and inextricably entwined–a political thriller of the highest order that interrogates the anguished, violent division between Israelis and Palestinians, and dramatizes the immense moral ambiguities haunting both sides. Who is right, who is wrong–who is the guard, who is truly the prisoner?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Equal parts political thriller and tender lamentation, the latest from Englander (What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank, 2012) explores, in swirling, nonlinear fashion, Israeli-Palestinian tensions and moral conflicts. The General, who is never named but is clearly former prime minister Ariel Sharon, lies in a coma, his thoughts hovering over past glories and a horrifying gunshot. By his side is Ruthi, his devoted assistant, whose pot-smoking, TV-obsessed son has found a plum job guarding the disappeared Prisoner Z in a secret prison in the Negev. An American spy who in a moment of either moral courage or traitorous intent turned against his Israeli backers, Z was on the run in Europe but tripped up when he fell in love with a fearless waitress from an ultrawealthy Italian family. Discerning the connections between these narratives provides much of the drama, which turns on the logic of human weakness and intractable opposition. Ultimately, Englander suggests that shared humanity and fleeting moments of kindness between jailer and prisoner, spy and counterspy, hold the potential for hope, even peace.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2017)
A prisoner is held for more than a decade in the Israeli desert while, elsewhere, a general in a coma hallucinates about his past life and a young man works to fund the Palestinian resistance.Englander’s (What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, 2012, etc.) latest novel is an odd amalgam: part political thriller, part romance, part absurdist farce, it never quite settles into the story it wants to tell. First, there’s Prisoner Z, who’s been held for 12 years in an undisclosed location in Israel’s Negev Desert. His only human contact has been with his guard. Then, there are flashbacks to Prisoner Z’s time hiding out in Paris. An American intelligence operative, he’s compromised Israeli secrets, and the authorities have it in for him. In the meantime, he starts up a romance with a waitress and they dash around Europe together. There’s also the General, an infamous Israeli leader who’s been in a coma for years; Ruthi, the General’s former assistant and current caretaker; Ruthi’s son, who happens to serve as Prisoner Z’s guard; and Farid, a young Palestinian in Berlin who’s working to fund his brother’s anti-settlement activities. Chapters alternate among these various threads. Unfortunately, Englander fails to fully weave them together. His tone is uneven—sometimes he strains toward humor, sometimes toward drama, without quite reaching either one. The humor sags, and the political intrigue doesn’t quite add up. If it’s a farce, it’s an uneasy one. Toward the end, Englander introduces a second romance, and this one feels rushed, tacked on like a donkey’s tail. Still, there are moments of fine writing throughout. An uneasy blend of political intrigue, absurdity, and romance struggles to establish a steady, never mind believable, tone.

About the Author

Nathan Englander is a Jewish-American author born in Long Island, NY in 1970. He wrote the short story collection, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., in 1999. The volume won widespread critical acclaim, earning Englander the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Malamud Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Sue Kauffman Prize, and established him as an important writer of fiction.  His website is www.nathanenglander.com

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Too Shattered for Mending by Peter Brown Hoffmeister

Too Shattered for Mending by Peter Brown Hoffmeister. September 12, 2017. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 384 p. ISBN: 9780553538076.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 680.

“Little” McCardell is doing all he can just to keep it together after the disappearance of his grandfather “Big” and the arrest of his older brother, JT. He’s looking out for his younger cousin, trying to stay afloat in school, working in the town graveyard for extra cash, and in his spare time he’s pining after Rowan–the girl JT was dating until he got locked up. When the cops turn up asking questions about Big, Little doesn’t want to get involved in the investigation–he’s already got enough to deal with–but he has no choice. Especially not after the sheriff’s deputy catches him hunting deer out of season and threatens to prosecute unless he cooperates.

Soon Little finds himself drowning in secrets, beholden to the sheriff, to JT, to Rowan, and to Big’s memory, with no clear way out that doesn’t betray at least one of them. And when Little’s deepest secret is revealed, there’s no telling how it could shatter their lives.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Suicide, Physical abuse

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. As in This Is the Part Where You Laugh (2016), Hoffmeister’s latest depicts a teenager trying to endure his relatives and life in poverty. Sixteen-year-old Little is trying to survive after his grandfather Big disappears. He looks after himself and his cousin while also controlling romantic feelings for his brother’s girlfriend, Rowan. Believing Little knows something about the disappearance, police continually try to glean information from him. It’s not long before Little is smothered in the secrets of others, all of whom want his loyalty. This is a raw and gritty book depicting someone attempting to thrive in harsh conditions. It is deliberately paced only until one becomes accustomed to the structure, wherein sporadic flashbacks provide information about what happened to Big, and readers begin to put the pieces together to understand what occurred. Hoffmeister’s Mexican heritage is reflected through the main character. A compelling new work by Hoffmeister.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2017)
When 16-year-old Little McCardell’s grandfather disappears, it is up to him to clean up the mess that’s left behind. Hunger, violence, drugs, and hopelessness haunt the citizens of his impoverished Idaho town. But Little is determined to break free from his family’s legacy. Desperate to find stronger roots, he even begins learning Spanish in hopes of feeling closer to his estranged Mexican father. He is determined to graduate and find a way to care for his young cousin, but his dyslexia is a constant battle. When an obsessed sheriff’s deputy begins asking questions about his grandfather’s whereabouts, Little must dig for information or risk becoming entangled in a dangerous world. Drugs, abuse, child pornography, casually crude language, drinking, and rape orient readers to the ample challenges that Little faces. But the unfolding mystery, lyrical language, and empathy for the characters make Hoffmeister’s a story worth investing in. Little’s determination, passion, and genuine love for the broken people in his life keep this narrative from falling into despair. Short chapters, a sparse setting, and evocative characters combine to create a story that is more than the sum of its parts. Proof that even in the darkness, there can be light. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Peter Brown Hoffmeister is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Graphic The Valley, the memoir The End of Boys, the nonfiction text Let Them Be Eaten By Bears, and the forthcoming YA novels This Is The Part Where You Laugh and Too Shattered For Mending (Random House, Knopf).

A former troubled teen, Hoffmeister was expelled from three high schools, lived for a short while in a Greyhound bus station, was remanded to a recovery and parole program, and completed a wilderness experience for troubled teens. He now runs the Integrated Outdoor Program, serving teens of all backgrounds, taking them into wilderness areas to backpack, climb, spelunk, orienteer, and whitewater raft.

He lives with his wife and daughters in Eugene, Oregon. His website is www.peterbrownhoffmeister.com

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Too Shattered For Mending on Amazon

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Too Shattered For Mending Publisher Page

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu. September 19, 2017. Roaring Brook Press, 330 p. ISBN: 9781626726352.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 840.

Moxie girls fight back!

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. Vivian’s mom was a rebel. In the nineties, she followed her favorite punk-rock bands across the Pacific Northwest and championed the Riot Grrrl movement. When Vivian’s father died a few months after Vivian was born, her mom returned home. Vivian, raised in East Rockport, Texas, where high-school football stars are king and their bad behavior is excused by a blind-eyed administration, is a mild-mannered good girl. But when she witnesses a sexist incident in class, she is disturbed. One trip to a copy store later, and Moxie is born: an anonymous, Riot Grrrl–inspired zine that contains both a diatribe and a call to action. These actions start small, but as more girls become involved, the movement grows, protesting everything from an unfairly enforced dress code to sexual harassment. The novel’s triumphs—and there are many—lie in the way the zine opens Vivian’s eyes to the way girls are treated, and to the additional roadblocks that her classmates of color face. Though the novel presents plenty of differing opinions, it never once pits girl against girl, and Vivian struggles with how to navigate a burgeoning relationship with a well-intentioned boy who doesn’t always understand what she’s fighting for. From an adult perspective, some of the ripped-from-the-headlines issues might seem like old news, but for teens like Vivian, who are just discovering how to stand up—and what to stand up for—this is an invaluable revelation.

Booklist starred (July 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Vivian’s mom was a rebel. In the nineties, she followed her favorite punk-rock bands across the Pacific Northwest and championed the Riot Grrrl movement. When Vivian’s father died a few months after Vivian was born, her mom returned home. Vivian, raised in East Rockport, Texas, where high-school football stars are king and their bad behavior is excused by a blind-eyed administration, is a mild-mannered good girl. But when she witnesses a sexist incident in class, she is disturbed. One trip to a copy store later, and Moxie is born: an anonymous, Riot Grrrl–inspired zine that contains both a diatribe and a call to action. These actions start small, but as more girls become involved, the movement grows, protesting everything from an unfairly enforced dress code to sexual harassment. The novel’s triumphs—and there are many—lie in the way the zine opens Vivian’s eyes to the way girls are treated, and to the additional roadblocks that her classmates of color face. Though the novel presents plenty of differing opinions, it never once pits girl against girl, and Vivian struggles with how to navigate a burgeoning relationship with a well-intentioned boy who doesn’t always understand what she’s fighting for. From an adult perspective, some of the ripped-from-the-headlines issues might seem like old news, but for teens like Vivian, who are just discovering how to stand up—and what to stand up for—this is an invaluable revelation.

About the Author

I’m an English teacher, writer, wife, and mom who writes books for and about young adults.

My favorite things include chocolate, pepperoni pizza, and this super hilarious 1980s sitcom about four retired women called The Golden Girls. I can basically quote every episode.

I live in Texas with my husband, son, and dog!

When it comes to what I read, I love realistic young adult fiction (duh), creative nonfiction, super scandalous tell-all memoirs and unauthorized biographies, and basically anything that hooks me on the first page. My website is www.jennifermathieu.com

Around the Web

Moxie on Amazon

Moxie on Goodreads

Moxie on JLG

Moxie Publisher Page

The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

The Ship of the Dead  by Rick Riordan. October 3, 2017. Disney-Hyperion, 423 p. ISBN: 9781423160939.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.4; Lexile: 710.

Magnus Chase, a once-homeless teen, is a resident of the Hotel Valhalla and one of Odin’s chosen warriors. As the son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus isn’t naturally inclined to fighting. But he has strong and steadfast friends, including Hearthstone the elf, Blitzen the dwarf, and Samirah the Valkyrie, and together they have achieved brave deeds, such as defeating Fenris Wolf and battling giants for Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. Now Magnus and his crew must sail to the farthest borders of Jotunheim and Niflheim in pursuit of Asgard’s greatest threat. Will they succeed in their perilous journey, or is Ragnarok lurking on the horizon?

Sequel to: The Hammer of Thor

Part of Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Violence, Racism and racist language, Anti-Islamic sentiment, Child abuse, Terrorism

 

Book Trailer

 

About the Author

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

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

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

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

His website is www.rickriordan.com.

Teacher Resources

Magnus Chase Discussion Guide

Norse mythology Teaching Resources

Around the Web

The Ship of the Dead on Amazon

The Ship of the Dead on Goodreads

The Ship of the Dead on JLG

The Ship of the Dead Publisher Page

Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork

Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork. September 26, 2017. Arthur A. Levine Books, 329 p. ISBN: 9780545944472.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 710.

Four months ago: Sara Zapata’s best friend disappeared, kidnapped by the web of criminals who terrorize Juàrez.

Four weeks ago: Her brother, Emiliano, fell in love with Perla Rubi, a girl whose family is as rich as her name.

Four hours ago: Sara received a death threat…and her first clue her friend’s location.

Four minutes ago: Emiliano was offered a way into Perla Rubi’s world—if he betrays his own.

In the next four days, Sara and Emiliano will each face impossible choices, between life and justice, friends and family, truth and love. But when the criminals come after Sara, only one path remains for both the siblings: the way across the desert to the United States.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 10-12. As a reporter for El Sol newspaper in Juárez, Mexico, Sara tirelessly writes reports on las desaparecidas—girls who suddenly vanish from their homes. It’s more than just a job: her best friend, Linda, disappeared several months ago. Meanwhile, her younger brother, Emiliano, is hard at work earning what he can from small jobs to help support Sara and their mother. When an opportunity arises to increase his family’s finances, he jumps at the chance, only to find out that his dreams of a better life lay in the town’s most lucrative industry—the drug trade. Both siblings find out how much danger they are in when Sara receives threats on her life that may involve Emiliano’s potential business partners. Together, the siblings flee to safety toward the U.S. border. The plight of las desaparecidas is all too real for girls all over Mexico, and Stork does not shy away from the facts of human trafficking, the drug industry, and the senseless violence that accompanies them. Stork uses parallel story lines to flesh out the two protagonists and then slowly brings them together to a harrowing climax. Not only does this result in a riveting story, it also highlights the harsh complexity of young Mexicans’ lives. Readers will find this thrilling as well as eye-opening.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
Sara Zapata’s best friend is missing. Kidnapped. Sara, a rising-star reporter at Juarez, Mexico’s El Sol newspaper, is determined to find her and shine a light on Juarez’s missing and murdered girls, the Desaparacidas. Sara tells her boss Felipe, “Someone has to keep the memory of these girls alive…If we don’t care about them, then who will?” But as she unearths the State Police’s deep connection to sex slavery, she receives a death threat that puts her family in danger. Her younger brother Emiliano is an entrepreneur on the cusp of success; he’s finally making connections to make a better life for their family and be considered worthy of his wealthy girlfriend. Unlike his father, he doesn’t plan to leave his family behind and move to the United States. But when the lines between right and wrong blur, who can you trust? How do you keep your soul while trying to survive? This emotional thriller–which takes place over the course of seven harrowing days and includes betrayal, desperate escapes, and a perilous trek across the desert to cross the border into the U.S.–tackles these questions and more. In chapters that alternate between Sara’s and Emiliano’s perspectives, Stork beautifully explores the strong ties to one’s home along with the darker pervasiveness of Juarez’s corruption (“this city is like a spiderweb. Every thread is connected directly or indirectly to every other thread”); the lure of power; and the strength necessary to dream, hope, and make positive change in such crushingly dangerous and difficult circumstances. alia jones

About the Author

Francisco X. Stork was born in Mexico. He moved to El Paso Texas with his adoptive father and mother when he was nine. He attended Spring Hill College, Harvard University and Columbia Law School. He worked as an attorney for thirty-three years before retiring in 2015. He is married and has two grown children and two beautiful granddaughters. He loves to discover new books and authors. His favorite books are those where the author’s soul touches his. He does not read reviews to his books so you should feel free to write whatever you want. Also, he is genuinely interested in learning about books and life from his friends on this site. He would love it if you find his books worthy to be read, but that’s not why he wants to be your friend.

His website is www.franciscostork.com

Around the Web

Disappeared on Amazon

Disappeared on Goodreads

Disappeared on JLG

Disappeared Publisher Page