Category Archives: Fiction

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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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 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 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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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 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

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To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer

To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer. February 12, 2019. Dial Books, 304 p. ISBN: 9780525553236.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.9.

From two extraordinary authors comes a moving, exuberant, laugh-out-loud novel about friendship and family, told entirely in emails and letters.

Avery Bloom, who’s bookish, intense, and afraid of many things, particularly deep water, lives in New York City. Bett Devlin, who’s fearless, outgoing, and loves all animals as well as the ocean, lives in California. What they have in common is that they are both twelve years old, and are both being raised by single, gay dads.

When their dads fall in love, Bett and Avery are sent, against their will, to the same sleepaway camp. Their dads hope that they will find common ground and become friends–and possibly, one day, even sisters.

But things soon go off the rails for the girls (and for their dads too), and they find themselves on a summer adventure that neither of them could have predicted. Now that they can’t imagine life without each other, will the two girls (who sometimes call themselves Night Owl and Dogfish) figure out a way to be a family?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 12))
Grades 5-8. Two popular writers team up for a Where’d You Go, Bernadette–esque tale for the middle-school set. An entire country lies between anxious New Yorker Avery Bloom and adventurous Bett Devlin, but there’s something powerful connecting them: their dads are in love. At first horrified at the prospect of becoming—gulp—sisters, the two surprise themselves by bonding at a summer sleepaway camp while their dads motorcycle their way across China. But when their dads’ relationship sours, they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get them back together. Even if the target readership eschews email these days, they’ll be hard-pressed not to be laughing out loud at the witty, clever email and letter repartee among the girls, their dads, and the rest of the supporting cast. Though the story lacks the emotional depth of more true-to-life novels dealing with blended families, such as Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick’s Naomis Too (2018), its escalating stakes and Parent Trap–like setup is sure to appeal to both authors’ fan bases. Alternately heartwarming and hilarious.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2018)
The Parent Trap gets a modern makeover in this entertaining and endearing middle-grade novel about two 12-year-old girls, one camp, and a summer that will bond them for a lifetime. Avery, an aspiring writer from New York, and Bett, a California surfer girl, are the lights of their respective single father’s lives—and each is very much used to it. So the news that their gay dads fell in love at a conference and have been secretly dating for three months does not sit well with either of them. Worse still, the girls are bundled off to a nerd camp where they are expected to bond like family while their dads head off on an eight-week motorcycle adventure in China. Sloan and Wolizter make strategic use of their tale’s epistolary (or rather email) format to create two disparate yet familiar-feeling three-dimensional characters who are from very different worlds. That they will eventually become sisters feels inevitable, but that does not diminish the enjoyment of watching Avery and Bett bond over animals at camp, gradually growing toward each other and then with each other. Their increasing closeness is tracked in the evolution of their correspondence, which becomes littered with nicknames and discussions of everything from periods and pet phobias to boys. Bett is African-American and was carried by a Brazilian surrogate, and Avery has both white and Jewish heritages. A sweet and amusing tale that celebrates diversity while reinforcing the power of love and the importance of family. (Fiction. 10-13)

About the Authors

Holly Goldberg Sloan was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and spent her childhood living in California, the Netherlands, Istanbul, Washington, DC, and Oregon (where she graduated from high school). She wrote the screenplay for Angels in the Outfield and directed The Big Green, as well as a number of other successful family feature films.

The mother of two sons, Holly lives with her husband (the writer/illustrator Gary Rosen) in Santa Monica, California.

Her website is hollygoldbergsloan.com/

Meg Wolitzer is the New York Times–bestselling author of The Interestings, The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, The Wife, and Sleepwalking. She is also the author of the young adult novel Belzhar. Wolitzer lives in New York City.

Her website is megwolitzer.com/

Teacher Resources

To Night Owl from Dogfish on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

To Night Owl from Dogfish on Amazon

To Night Owl from Dogfish on Barnes and Noble

To Night Owl from Dogfish on Goodreads

To Night Owl from Dogfish on LibraryThing

To Night Owl from Dogfish Publisher Page

Lovely War by Julie Berry

Lovely War by Julie Berry. March 5, 2019. Viking Books for Young Readers, 480 p. ISBN: 9780451469939.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile:.

Read the novel New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network Kate Quinn called “easily one of the best novels I have read all year!” A sweeping, multi-layered romance set in the perilous days of World Wars I and II, where gods hold the fates–and the hearts–of four mortals in their hands.

They are Hazel, James, Aubrey, and Colette. A classical pianist from London, a British would-be architect-turned-soldier, a Harlem-born ragtime genius in the U.S. Army, and a Belgian orphan with a gorgeous voice and a devastating past. Their story, as told by goddess Aphrodite, who must spin the tale or face judgment on Mount Olympus, is filled with hope and heartbreak, prejudice and passion, and reveals that, though War is a formidable force, it’s no match for the transcendent power of Love.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war, Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Racism, Sexual assault, Violence, Racial slurs

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2019)
Love’s enduring power faces off against the horrors of war in this sumptuous Greek mythology–inspired romantic page-turner. In a Manhattan hotel on the eve of World War II, Hephaestus catches his wife, Aphrodite, in a compromising position with his brother Ares. To exonerate herself of the crime of adultery, she weaves an intricate tale of mortal love during wartime that demonstrates the endurance of the human spirit. Vacillating between the present and the past, the goddess’s narrative centers on Aubrey, an African-American musician; Colette, a Belgian singer; Hazel, a wide-eyed British pianist; and her paramour, James, an aspiring architect (the latter three are white), who are all brought together by happenstance during the First World War. The resulting interweaving story is an epic of Shakespearean emotional depth and arresting visual imagery that nonetheless demonstrates the racism and sexism of the period. Scheherazade has nothing on Berry (The Emperor’s Ostrich, 2017, etc.), whose acute eye for detail renders the glittering lights of Paris as dreamlike in their beauty as the soul-sucking trenches on the French front are nightmarishly real. The mortal characters are all vibrant, original, and authentic, but none is more captivating than the goddess of love herself, who teaches her husband that love is an art form worthy of respect and admiration. An unforgettable romance so Olympian in scope, human at its core, and lyrical in its prose that it must be divinely inspired. (Fiction. 13-adult)

Publishers Weekly (December 24, 2018)
Berry (The Passion of Dolssa) brings to life wartime horrors and passions with commentary from Olympian gods in this love story filled with vivid historical detail. To show her husband, Hephaestus, the real meaning of love and its connection to war and art, Aphrodite (with the help of Apollo, Hades, and Ares) tells the emotion packed WWI saga of two besotted couples drawn together by music and war: British pianist Hazel and soldier James; African American jazz musician Aubrey and Colette, a Belgian war orphan with a remarkable singing voice. After James reports to duty, Hazel follows, taking a wartime volunteer position in France. There, she meets Colette, who is still reeling from her wartime losses, and introduces her to Aubrey, who quickly steals Colette’s heart. James and Aubrey witness horrors on and off the battlefield, and Hazel and Colette cling to each other during the best of times, such as when Hazel has the opportunity for a brief reunion with James, and the worst, as when Aubrey goes missing. Berry’s evocative novel starts slow but gains steam as the stories flesh out. Along the way, it suggests that while war and its devastation cycles through history, the forces of art and love remain steady, eternal, and life sustaining. Ages 12&up.

About the Author

Julie Berry is the author of the 2017 Printz Honor and Los Angeles Times Book Prize shortlisted novel The Passion of Dolssa, the Carnegie and Edgar shortlisted All the Truth That’s in Me, and many other acclaimed middle grade novels and picture books. She holds a BS from Rensselaer in communication and an MFA from Vermont College. She lives in Southern California with her family.

Her website iswww.julieberrybooks.com

Around the Web

Lovely War on Amazon

Lovely War on Barnes and Noble

Lovely War on Goodreads

Lovely War on LibraryThing

Lovely War Publisher Page

Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith

Field Notes on Love  by Jennifer E. Smith. March 5, 2019. Delacorte Press, 288 p. ISBN: 9780399559433.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The bestselling author of Windfall and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight returns with a meet-cute romance about Hugo and Mae, two teens who are thrown together on a cross-country train trip that will teach them about love, each other, and the futures they can build for themselves.

It’s the perfect idea for a romantic week together: traveling across America by train.

But then Hugo’s girlfriend dumps him. Her parting gift: the tickets for their long-planned last-hurrah-before-uni trip. Only, it’s been booked under her name. Nontransferable, no exceptions.

Mae is still reeling from being rejected from USC’s film school. When she stumbles across Hugo’s ad for a replacement Margaret Campbell (her full name!), she’s certain it’s exactly the adventure she needs to shake off her disappointment and jump-start her next film.

A cross-country train trip with a complete stranger might not seem like the best idea. But to Mae and Hugo, both eager to escape their regular lives, it makes perfect sense. What starts as a convenient arrangement soon turns into something more. But when life outside the train catches up to them, can they find a way to keep their feelings for each other from getting derailed?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. Hugo’s used to not having anything that’s really his own: as one of the semifamous Surrey Six, he and his five sextuplet siblings have secured a scholarship to the local university. But before he commits to the foreseeable future in England, Hugo’s going to have one little slice of freedom: a train trip he’s taking across America with his girlfriend. But then Margaret dumps him. And suddenly Hugo is left with two train tickets in her name that he can’t use—unless he finds another Margaret Campbell. Enter Mae, who has just been rejected from USC’s film school. Hugo’s ad seems crazy, but at her grandmother’s urging, Mae finds herself lying to her dads and boarding a train, where she hopes she’ll find material for a new film. Smith returns to the conceit that made The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (2012) succeed: travel as a vehicle for romance. Both Hugo and Mae’s alternating viewpoints are rich and introspective, and this will appeal to any teen that appreciates a thoughtful love story.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2018)
Hugo Wilkinson, one of the “Surrey Six” sextuplets from Surrey, England, has been looking forward to a train trip across America with his girlfriend, Margaret Campbell. It would be a rare moment away from his siblings and the public scrutiny that will only get worse when they all enter university on a scholarship from a wealthy alumnus. But Hugo is blindsided when Margaret breaks up with him and he realizes her name is the only one on all their nonrefundable, nontransferable tickets and reservations. Margaret “Mae” Campbell lives in Hudson Valley, New York, with two loving gay dads and a doting Nana and was rejected by her dream film school. Discovering Hugo’s post seeking another Margaret Campbell to travel with, she applies to join him. After some initial awkwardness, the two form a connection. Hugo is loyal to his siblings, but he secretly wants something different for himself. Mae, who appears confident, has kept a part of herself hidden. As they travel, she interviews passengers, and their revelations spark a change in her. This warm, romantic, never overly sentimental story is told with humor and heart, the cinematic narrative easily moving between the two likable, charming protagonists. The well-portrayed supporting cast members, especially Hugo’s siblings and Mae’s Nana, appear in texts and video calls, providing insight into the protagonists. Hugo is biracial (black and white), and Mae is white. A deeply satisfying read about a life-changing journey full of poignant moments. (Romance. 12-18)

About the Author

Jennifer E. Smith is the author of seven novels for young adults, including The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and her work has been translated into thirty-three languages. She lives in New York City.

Her website is www.tinaconnolly.com.

Around the Web

Field Notes on Love on Amazon

Field Notes on Love on Barnes & Noble

Field Notes on Love on Goodreads

Field Notes on Love on LibraryThing

Field Notes on Love Publisher Page