Category Archives: Fiction

How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson. October 16, 2018. Viking Books for Young Readers, 160 p. ISBN: 9780425287781.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.7.

Did you drink a glass of water today? Did you turn on a light? Did you think about how miraculous either one of those things is when you did it? Of course not–but you should, and New York Times bestselling author Steven Johnson has. This adaptation of his adult book and popular PBS series explores the fascinating and interconnected stories of innovations–like clean drinking water and electricity–that changed the way people live.

Innovation starts with a problem whose solution sets in motion all kinds of unexpected discoveries. That’s why you can draw a line from pendulums to punching the clock at a factory, from ice blocks to summer movie blockbusters, from clean water to computer chips.

In the lively storytelling style that has made him a popular, bestselling author, Steven Johnson looks at how accidental genius, brilliant mistakes, and unintended consequences shape the way we live in the modern world. Johnson’s “long zoom” approach connects history, geography, politics, and scientific advances with the deep curiousity of inventors or quirky interests of tinkerers to show how innovation truly comes about.

His fascinating account is organized into six topics: glass, cold, sound, clean, time, light. Johnson’s fresh exploration of these simple, single-syllable word concepts creates an endlessly absorbing story that moves from lightning strikes in the prehistoric desert to the herculean effort to literally raise up the city of Chicago to laser labs straight out of a sci-fi movie.

In other words, it’s the story of how we got to now!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Talk

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Adapted for young readers from an adult book and PBS series, this volume explains six innovations that have changed the world: glass, cold, sound, clean (water), time, and light. It explores how these building blocks have inspired technological breakthroughs that have transformed our lives. The discovery of glassmaking, for example, led to the creation of clear glass, eyeglasses, microscopes, telescopes, cameras, fiberglass, laser beams, and fiber optic cables. Readers may be surprised that some technologies common today were actually developed more than 100 years ago, even if they weren’t refined until more recently (electric cars were first developed in the 1890s). Although it mostly features contributions by men from North America and Europe, Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie are mentioned. Not only does this praise scientists’ successful undertakings but it also recounts their erroneous beliefs and failures. Vintage photographs, recommended resources, and further back matter are included. The intriguing information here (Louis XIII didn’t bathe at all until he was seven!) will inform and fascinate report writers and casual browsers.

Kirkus Reviews (September 15, 2018)
Beginning with ideas that emerged thousands of years ago, Johnson tracks a series of innovations that led world culture to where it is now. In an adaption for younger readers of his adult work of the same name (2014), he tracks six pathways arranged along the following themes (which also serve as chapter titles): glass, cold, sound, clean, time, and light. The chapter on glass begins with the discovery of natural glass in the Libyan desert about 10,000 years ago and tracks it through use as jewelry, the creation of windowpanes, the development of glass that was clear, the creation of eyeglasses (necessary as books became more common), the development of other types of lenses and the scientific advances they inspired, and finally to fiber-optic cables in the digital age and creation of a massive telescope in Hawaii. Each engaging chapter remains fully grounded in the fundamental concept that advances inspire further developments, serving to present history in a nutshell that is still shown as a grand sweep of progress. A single minor gripe is that in the chapter on time, a detail on early photography is off by a few years. Excellent backmatter rounds out a balanced and thoroughly engaging presentation. Altogether, a fine exploration of technologies emerging over the eons and their remarkable interconnectedness. (Nonfiction. 11-14)

About the Author

Steven Johnson is the bestselling author of ten books, including Wonderland, How We Got to Now, Where Good Ideas Come From, The Invention of Air, The Ghost Map, and Everything Bad Is Good for You.

The founder of a variety of influential websites, he is the host and co-creator of the PBS and BBC series How We Got to Now. Johnson lives in Marin County, California, and Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and three sons.

His website is www.stevenberlinjohnson.com

Teacher Resources

How We Got to Now Classroom via PBS

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Squirm by Carl Hiaasen

Squirm by Carl Hiaasen. September 25, 2018. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9780385752985.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.5; Lexile: 740.

Snakes, grizzlies, a missing dad, a menacing drone… Carl Hiaasen delivers a wickledly funny, slightly subversive tale in his latest New York Times bestseller. 

Some facts about Billy Dickens:
*  He once saw a biker swerve across the road in order to run over a snake.
*  Later, that motorcycle somehow ended up at the bottom of a canal.
*  Billy isn’t the type to let things go.

Some facts about Billy’s family:
*  They’ve lived in six different Florida towns because Billy’s mom insists on getting a house near a bald eagle nest.
*  Billy’s dad left when he was four and is a total mystery.
*  Billy has just found his dad’s address–in Montana.

This summer, Billy will fly across the country, hike a mountain, float a river, dodge a grizzly bear, shoot down a spy drone, save a neighbor’s cat, save an endangered panther, and then try to save his own father.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Cruelty to animals, Mild language, Reference to domestic abuse

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Grades 5-8. Billy Dickens isn’t your typical tween—unless your typical tween has a thing for rattlesnakes. His dad’s been out of the picture for as long as he can remember, but when Billy gets ahold of his address—Montana, not far from Yellowstone—the savvy, brave oddball flies out there solo to track him down. What he finds instead is his stepsister, Summer Chasing-Hawks, and his dad’s new wife, Little Thunder Sky, aka Lil, both Crow Indians. Unfortunately, his dad’s not so easy to track down. As the story spans from Montana to Florida and back, Billy continues to find and lose his father, who’s in a bit of a wild goose chase himself, hunting down rich-boy poacher Lincoln Chumley Baxter. As always, Hiaasen’s latest is richly steeped in the natural world and all the peril it contains, from rattlers to grizzlies. Still, what may be most satisfying for readers are the personal connections Billy makes, whether it’s getting to know his new stepsister or making peace with his dad. Hiaasen’s fan base will relish his latest tale.

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2018)
Billy Dickens is not the kind of kid who suffers bullies or poachers or absent parents. Billy’s dad left when Billy was 3. Checks arrive on the 10th of every month, but Billy’s mom destroys the envelopes to keep the return address from Billy. Shortly before summer vacation, Billy pieces one together and discovers his father’s in Montana, so he leaves Florida to find him. Billy’s tired of his mother’s evasiveness about his father—all he knows is that he’s got a new wife and family—and Billy’s ready for answers. In Montana, Billy meets Lil, his stepmother, and Summer, his stepsister, both members of the Crow Nation. But not his dad. Lil and Summer profess to know as little as his mother about his dad’s actual job, but they don’t mind having Billy wait with them for him to return (they even give him a little primer on U.S.–Native Nations relations). When his father’s truck is found abandoned with slashed tires, they get a message via drone: “See you in Florida.” Billy’s had enough. He tracks his dad down, but that turns out to be just the beginning of his adventure. Hiaasen’s newest wildlife-centered caper for middle graders is characteristically entertaining—and, just as characteristically, genially improbable. Narrator Billy’s white, a sarcastic outsider with a strong sense of justice and a deep affection for snakes. Humorous, self-deprecating narration and convoluted exploits will keep pages turning till the satisfying close. (Fiction. 9-14)

About the Author

Carl Hiaasen was born and raised in Florida. After graduating from the University of Florida, he joined the Miami Herald as a general assignment reporter and went on to work for the newspaper’s weekly magazine and prize-winning investigations team. As a journalist and author, Carl has spent most of his life advocating for the protection of the Florida Everglades. He and his family live in southern Florida.

Her website is www.carlhiaasen.com

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Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak. October 9, 2018. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 544 p. ISBN: 9780375945595.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 650.

The breathtaking story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. As the Dunbar boys love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world, they discover the moving secret behind their father’s disappearance.

At the center of the Dunbar family is Clay, a boy who will build a bridge–for his family, for his past, for greatness, for his sins, for a miracle.

The question is, how far is Clay willing to go? And how much can he overcome?

Written in powerfully inventive language and bursting with heart, Bridge of Clay is signature Zusak.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Underage smoking, Domestic abuse, Sexual harassment, Homophobia

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 10-12. Here are the five Dunbar brothers: reliable Matthew, the oldest and the eloquent narrator of this extraordinary book; incorrigible Rory; Puck, with a pair of fists; Henry, who—with a talent for making money—knows the odds; Clay, the fourth son and protagonist, is “the best of us,” according to Matthew; and youngest Tommy, the animal collector. Their mother is dead, and their father has fled, until, one day, he returns to ask for help building a bridge. Only Clay agrees to help, and their bridge quickly assumes symbolic value. Zusak (The Book Thief, 2006) offers up a narrative that is really two stories: one of the present, the story of the bridge and of Clay’s love for the girl across the street; and the second of the past, occupied by the boys’ childhood and stories that Clay loves—The Iliad, The Odyssey. The tone is sometimes somber and always ominous, leaving readers anxious about the fates of these characters whom they have grown to love. Zusak pushes the parameters of YA in this gorgeously written novel: a character has scrap-metal eyes; rain is like a ghost you could walk through. In the end, it always comes back to Clay, that lovely boy, as a neighbor calls him. A lovely boy and an unforgettably lovely book to match.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2018)
Years after the death of their mother, the fourth son in an Australian family of five boys reconnects with his estranged father. Matthew Dunbar dug up the old TW, the typewriter his father buried (along with a dog and a snake) in the backyard of his childhood home. He searched for it in order to tell the story of the family’s past, a story about his mother, who escaped from Eastern Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall; about his father, who abandoned them all after their mother’s death; about his brother Clay, who built a bridge to reunite their family; and about a mule named Achilles. Zusak (The Book Thief, 2006, etc.) weaves a complex narrative winding through flashbacks. His prose is thick with metaphor and heavy with allusions to Homer’s epics. The story romanticizes Matthew and his brothers’ often violent and sometimes homophobic expressions of their cisgender, heterosexual masculinity with reflections unsettlingly reminiscent of a “boys will be boys” attitude. Women in the book primarily play the roles of love interests, mothers, or (in the case of their neighbor) someone to marvel at the Dunbar boys and give them jars to open. The characters are all presumably white. Much like building a bridge stone by stone, this read requires painstaking effort and patience. (Fiction. 16-adult)

About the Author

Markus Zusak is the author of six books, including The Book Thief, which spent more than a decade on the New York Times bestseller list, and has been translated into more than forty languages.

Zusak’s books The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, Getting the Girl, I Am the Messenger, and The Book Thief have received numerous honors including literary prizes and readers’ choice awards.

In 2013, The Book Thief was adapted to film by Twentieth Century Fox. In 2014, Zusak received the American Library Association’s Margaret Edwards Award, for his body of work.

Markus Zusak grew up in Sydney, Australia, and still lives there with his wife and two children.

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Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. October 2, 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 514 p. ISBN: 9780316341714.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The highly anticipated, thrilling sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer, from National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy.
 
Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.
She believed she knew every horror, and was beyond surprise.
She was wrong.
In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.
Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice–save the woman he loves, or everyone else?–while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.
As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?

Sequel to: Strange the Dreamer

Part of Series: Strange the Dreamer (Book #2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong sexual themes; Mild language

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2018)
At the end of Strange the Dreamer (rev. 3/17), godspawn Sarai plunged to her death from the floating blue citadel overlooking the city of Weep; now the vengeful Minya, still intent on invading Weep, is holding Sarai’s soul in thrall. In interspersed chapters, in another world, another young woman is dealing with her own trauma. After being rejected by the Mesarthim, forcibly separated from her beloved sister, and married off to the highest bidder, Nova uses her own formidable powers to regain control of her destiny. By the time Nova appears in the main narrative, readers have learned how her story fits among the puzzle pieces of the plot. The only thing that remains is to figure out how both Minya and Nova can find a measure of healing, redemption, and peace. As always, Taylor’s prodigious imagination is on full display: marvelous world-building, suspenseful plotting, complex characterization, finely crafted prose, and grand thematic flourishes make her one of the most formidable contemporary writers in the YA fantasy genre. jonathan hunt

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
Love and hatred haunt survivors in this otherworldly sequel. It’s been 15 years since the people of Weep slaughtered the gods and godspawn in the seraph-shaped citadel, an event known as the Liberation by the citizens of Weep…and the Carnage by the five godspawn who secretly survived. But an explosion revealed their existence and killed 17-year-old Sarai. Yet she remains, anchored by malevolent Minya and still in love with Lazlo Strange. Grief-stricken Lazlo experiments with his newfound smith powers and reunites with Sarai in exotic, erotic dreams. Also sharing narrative duty: fellow blue-skinned, magically gifted godspawn Ruby, Feral, and Sparrow—absorbed in their own romantic triangle—Minya, literally haunted by lives lost in the Carnage, and the mysterious Nova, fleeing a wintry wasteland in pursuit of her sister Kora and revenge. Freed from isolation, the godspawn struggle to connect, wondering about their parents—both Mesarthim “gods” and unwilling Weep humans—and their missing fellow godspawn. Taylor (Strange the Dreamer, 2017, etc.) dances between fantasy and sci-fi, indulging in gods, magic, alchemy, and lost desert civilizations, only to subvert them with spaceships, interdimensional travel, and alien worlds. Depending on readers’ tastes, this is ornate, emotionally charged, and poetic—or florid, overdone, overstuffed, and angst-y. The people of Weep are brown-skinned, but godspawn turn blue when they are in contact with mesarthium. A sequel that surpasses the original. (Fantasy. 14-18)

About the Author

Laini Taylor is the New York Times bestselling author and a National Book Award finalist. She is the author of the global sensation the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight, and Dreams of Gods & Monsters, and the companion e-novella, Night of Cake & Puppets. She is also the author of the Dreamdark books Blackbringer and Silksinger, and the highly acclaimed Lips Touch: Three Times. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, and their daughter Clementine.

Her website is www.lainitaylor.com.

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The Word is Murder by David Horowitz

The Word Is Murder by David Horowitz. June 5, 2018. Harper, 390 p. ISBN: 9780062676788.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 740.

SHE PLANNED HER OWN FUNERAL. BUT DID SHE ARRANGE HER OWN MURDER?

New York Times bestselling author of Magpie Murders and Moriarty, Anthony Horowitz has yet again brilliantly reinvented the classic crime novel, this time writing a fictional version of himself as the Watson to a modern-day Holmes.

One bright spring morning in London, Diana Cowper – the wealthy mother of a famous actor – enters a funeral parlor. She is there to plan her own service.

Six hours later she is found dead, strangled with a curtain cord in her own home.

Enter disgraced police detective Daniel Hawthorne, a brilliant, eccentric investigator who’s as quick with an insult as he is to crack a case. Hawthorne needs a ghost writer to document his life; a Watson to his Holmes. He chooses Anthony Horowitz.

Drawn in against his will, Horowitz soon finds himself a the center of a story he cannot control. Hawthorne is brusque, temperamental and annoying but even so his latest case with its many twists and turns proves irresistible. The writer and the detective form an unusual partnership. At the same time, it soon becomes clear that Hawthorne is hiding some dark secrets of his own.

Potentially Sensitive Areas:Strong language, Suicide, Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 15))
Actually, the word is not murder, it’s ingenious. Horowitz, who out-Christied Christie in Magpie Murders (2017), now out-Doyles Doyle by inserting himself (his actual self) into the story as the Watson-like narrator of a murder investigation he is drawn into by a brilliant and eccentric detective, Daniel Hawthorne. No one arranges her own funeral at 11 a.m. on a beautiful spring day and then gets herself murdered a mere six hours later in her own home, right? Well, Diane Cowper manages to do just that. No CCTV footage, fingerprints, or DNA traces, and no sign of a break-in, so the only clue to go on is that the victim must have opened the door to her assailant. Hawthorne has been called in as a consultant by the police and invites Horowitz to tag along because he wants the author to write a book about him. Horowitz, who started out as a television screenwriter, creating both the acclaimed Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War, finds real crime unlike anything he ever experienced while holding a cleverly devised script on a carefully designed set. Not to mention a dangerous one. A masterful meta-mystery.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2018)
Television writer/Christie-loving Sherlock-ian Horowitz (Magpie Murders, 2017, etc.) spins a fiendishly clever puzzle about a television writer/Christie-loving Sherlock-ian named Anthony Something who partners with a modern Sherlock Holmes to solve a baffling case. Six hours after widowed London socialite Diana Cowper calls on mortician Robert Cornwallis to make arrangements for her own funeral, she’s suddenly in need of them after getting strangled in her home. The Met calls on murder specialist Daniel Hawthorne, an ex-DI bounced off the force for reasons he’d rather not talk about, and he calls on the narrator (“nobody ever calls me Tony”), a writer in between projects whose agent expects him to be working on The House of Silk, a Holmes-ian pastiche which Horowitz happens to have published in real life. Anthony’s agreement with Hawthorne to collaborate on a true-crime account of the case is guaranteed to blindside his agent (in a bad way) and most readers (in entrancingly good ways). Diana Cowper, it turns out, is not only the mother of movie star Damian Cowper, but someone who had her own brush with fame 10 years ago when she accidentally ran over a pair of 8-year-old twins, killing Timothy Godwin and leaving Jeremy Godwin forever brain-damaged. A text message Diana sent Damian moments before her death—“I have seen the boy who was lacerated and I’m afraid”—implicates both Jeremy, who couldn’t possibly have killed her, and the twins’ estranged parents, Alan and Judith Godwin, who certainly could have. But which of them, or which other imaginable suspect, would have sneaked a totally unpredictable surprise into her coffin and then rushed out to commit another murder? Though the impatient, tightfisted, homophobic lead detective is impossible to love, the mind-boggling plot triumphs over its characters: Sharp-witted readers who think they’ve solved the puzzle early on can rest assured that they’ve opened only one of many dazzling Christmas packages Horowitz has left beautifully wrapped under the tree.

About the Author

Anthony Horowitz is perhaps the busiest writer in England. He has been writing since the age of eight, and professionally since the age of twenty. He writes in a comfortable shed in his garden for up to ten hours per day. In addition to the highly successful Alex Rider books, he has also written episodes of several popular TV crime series, including Poirot, Murder in Mind, Midsomer Murders and Murder Most Horrid. He has written a television series Foyle’s War, which recently aired in the United States, and he has written the libretto of a Broadway musical adapted from Dr. Seuss’s book, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. His film script The Gathering has just finished production. And — oh yes — there are more Alex Rider novels in the works. Anthony has also written the Diamond Brothers series.

Her website is www.anthonyhorowitz.com

Teacher Resources

The Word is Murder Discussion Questions

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The Island of Monsters by Ellen Oh

The Island of Monsters by Ellen Oh. July 31, 2018. HarperCollins, 256 p. ISBN: 9780062430113.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.9; Lexile: 700.

Harper Raine faces new challenges ahead when her parents take the whole family to a remote tropical island for vacation. As Harper starts to have visions of the resort’s history of disappearances and discovers more about the island’s dark and fabled past, she must use her newly acquired spirit hunting talents to save everyone on the island from murderous spirits on the attack.

Sequel to: Spirit Hunters

Part of series: Spirit Hunters(Book #2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Mention of C-section childbirth

 

 

About the Author

Originally from New York City, Ellen Oh is the founder of We Need Diverse Books and the author of the Prophecy trilogy (ProphecyWarrior, and King) for young adults. Spirit Hunters is her fourth book and her first for middle grade readers. A former adjunct college instructor and lawyer with an insatiable curiosity for ancient Asian history, Ellen lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with her husband and three daughters and has yet to satisfy her quest for a decent bagel.

Her website is www.ellenoh.com

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For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig

For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig. September 25, 2018. Greenwillow Books, 512 p. ISBN: 9780062380814.  Int Lvl: YA.

A young woman with a dangerous power she barely understands. A smuggler with secrets of his own. A country torn between a merciless colonial army, a terrifying tyrant, and a feared rebel leader.

The first book in a new trilogy from the acclaimed Heidi Heilig blends traditional storytelling with ephemera for a lush, page-turning tale of escape and rebellion. For a Muse of Fire will captivate fans of Sabaa Tahir, Leigh Bardugo, and Renée Ahdieh.

Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick—a trade secret, they say. In truth, Jetta can see the souls of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood.

But ever since the colonizing army conquered their country, the old ways are forbidden, so Jetta must never show, never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad Emperor has a spring that cures his ills—and could cure Jetta’s, too. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues her.

But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined—and safety will never seem so far away.

Heidi Heilig creates a vivid, rich world inspired by Asian cultures and French colonialism. Her characters are equally complex and nuanced, including the bipolar heroine. Told from Jetta’s first-person point-of-view, as well as with chapters written as play scripts and ephemera such as telegrams and letters, For a Muse of Fire is an engrossing journey that weaves magic, simmering romance, and the deep bonds of family with the high stakes of epic adventure.

Part of Series: For a Muse of Fire (Book #1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Harsh realities of war, Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Racism

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. Jetta has lost much since her people, the Chakrans, were colonized by the Aquitans. After her brother, conscripted for an Aquitan war, disappeared, Jetta grew closer with her parents as they traveled across the country, putting on shadow-puppet shows. That Jetta’s puppets seem almost supernaturally independent is something the family must be coy about: Jetta can bind the souls of the dead, old magic that the Aquitans despise. Jetta hopes to use her skill to win a cure for her mental illness. But unrest simmers, and, as she makes her way through a treacherous, darkly fantastical world, joining forces with a smuggler who has motives of his own, Jetta learns more about her family, her powers, and the place she inhabits. This series starter is action-packed, sometimes overly so; it’s occasionally hard to keep up with the many twists and turns. Still, a girl dealing with bipolar disorder is a welcome heroine in a fantasy novel, and theatrical elements, rich world building, and loose ties to the French colonization of Southeast Asia add fascinating depth.

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2018)
Sixteen-year-old shadow puppeteer Jetta Chantray performs with her family’s traveling troupe, the Ros Nai. The dark-skinned, dark-haired Chakrans have been colonized by the pale, blond Aquitans who prize their sugar and sapphires, and their shadow theater too. But Jetta has a secret—instead of sticks and strings, she binds souls with blood magic and tucks them inside her puppets. Jetta is desperate to impress the Aquitan general and win passage to Aquitan, where she hopes to find a cure for her mental illness. When the Ros Nai collides with Chakran guerrillas, Jetta and her family are plunged into the chaos of the rebellion. Thus begins an action-packed journey that takes readers from a sultry cabaret to a subterranean tunnel, tropical jungle, putrid midden, shining city, and stone prison. Jetta discovers the dark side of her gift, long-held family secrets, and truths about the horrors and lies of war. There’s a somewhat thin romance with a mixed-race smuggler, and the plot occasionally gets tangled in the weeds of imagery. But readers will be rewarded with vividly drawn settings reminiscent of Hawaii and Southeast Asia, exciting action scenes, and a complex protagonist who contends not only with her malheur, but also ambition, anger, and family loyalty. Ephemera, including telegrams, letters, and scenes from plays, enhance the story. A brooding fantasy with a diverse cast, rarely-seen setting, and compelling heroine who struggles with bipolar disorder. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 14-18)

About the Author

Heidi grew up in Hawaii where she rode horses and raised peacocks, and then she moved to New York City and grew up even more, as one tends to do. Her favorite thing, outside of writing, is travel, and she has haggled for rugs in Morocco, hiked the trails of the Ko’olau Valley, and huddled in a tent in Africa while lions roared in the dark.

She holds an MFA from New York University in Musical Theatre Writing, of all things, and she’s written books and lyrics for shows including The Time Travelers Convention, Under Construction, and The Hole. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, her son and their pet snake. Her website is www.heidiheilig.com

Around the Web

For a Muse of Fire on Amazon

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For a Muse of Fire on Goodreads

For a Muse of Fire Publisher Page

The Opposite of Innocent by Sonya Sones

The Opposite of Innocent by Sonya Sones. September 4, 2018. HarperTeen, 272 p. ISBN: 9780062370310.  Int Lvl: YA.

Poignant and chilling by turns, The Opposite of Innocent is award-winning author Sonya Sones’s most gripping novel in verse yet. It’s the story of a girl named Lily, who’s been crushing on a man named Luke, a friend of her parents, ever since she can remember.

Luke has been away for two endless years, but he’s finally returning today. Lily was only twelve when he left. But now, at fourteen, she feels transformed. She can’t wait to see how Luke will react when he sees the new her. And when her mother tells her that Luke will be staying with them for a while, in the bedroom right next to hers, her heart nearly stops.

Having Luke back is better than Lily could have ever dreamed. His lingering looks set Lily on fire. Is she just imagining them? But then, when they’re alone, he kisses her. Then he kisses her again. Lily’s friends think anyone his age who wants to be with a fourteen-year-old must be really messed up. Maybe even dangerous. But Luke would never do anything to hurt her…would he?

In this powerful tale of a terrifying leap into young adulthood, readers will accompany Lily on her harrowing journey from hopelessness to hope.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Rape, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2018 (Online))
Grades 9-12. It seems like Lily’s always been in love with Luke, her dad’s handsome, young business partner. Now that she’s 14, imagine her excitement knowing that Luke, who has been away, will return to her hometown and stay with her family until he gets his own place. Lily’s fevered crush on Luke will pull in romance fans right away, but they will notice, well before Lily does, that something about his attentions isn’t right. In her signature verse style, Sones weaves a pulse-quickening tale of sexual abuse from a young victim’s view, made all the more compelling by her innocence and thrill at first “love” as Luke gradually becomes more controlling. By the time Lily recognizes Luke’s menace, she feels hollowed out and trapped—a portrait of suffering that will break readers’ hearts. Friends try to help, but she can’t bring herself to reveal the depth of the crisis. When she does find a way to make that call for help, readers will be able to breathe again. A chilling portrait of predatory abuse.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2018)
A young woman is sexually abused by a close family friend in this latest novel in verse from veteran poet Sones (Saving Red, 2016, etc.). Fourteen-year-old Lily has long harbored a crush on her father’s friend Luke and is thrilled to learn that he is going to stay with her family upon his return from a research trip to Kenya. She fervently hopes that he’ll see she is no longer a little kid, “Now / I feel more like a butterfly— / a butterfly who can’t decide / which wings to wear.” Initially, Lily is thrilled when he seems to be returning her interest, but this gives way to palpable dread and shame as he pushes her into progressively more threatening situations. Factors that often play into sexual abuse emerge within this harrowing story, including Luke’s grooming of Lily from a young age and his use of threats to keep her from telling anyone. She becomes isolated from her best friends, Rose and Taylor, and she is already accustomed to her father’s hurtful emotional absence from her life. While realistic, these details sometimes feel a bit rote. All of the main characters seem to be white by default; Luke is English, Taylor is gay, and a caring teacher of Lily’s is described as having brown skin. A quick moving and emotionally charged but ultimately underdeveloped novel that explores an important subject. (Verse novel. 14-18)

About the Author

Sonya Sones has written five YA novels-in-verse: To Be Perfectly Honest (A Novel Based on an Untrue Story)Stop PretendingOne of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies, What My Mother Doesn’t Know, and its companion, What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know. Her books have received many honors, including a Christopher Award, the Myra Cohn Livingston Poetry Award, and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize nomination. But the coolest honor she ever got was when What My Mother Doesn’t Know made it onto the American Library Association’s list of the Top 100 Most Banned Books of the Decade (to see why, see p.46).

She lives near the beach in southern California, and only tells the occasional fib.  Her website is www.sonyasones.com

Around the Web

The Opposite of Innocent on Amazon

The Opposite of Innocent on Barnes and Noble

The Opposite of Innocent on Goodreads

The Opposite of Innocent Publisher Page

Castle in the Stars: The Moon-King by Alex Alice

Castle in the Stars: The Moon-King (Book 2) by Alex Alice. September 4, 2018. First Second, 64 p. ISBN: 9781626724945.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.8.

What if man journeyed into space in 1869, not 1969? In The Moon-King, the second volume in this breath-taking fantasy graphic novel series, Alex Alice draws on Jules Verne and nineteenth-century romanticism to create a watercolor world of adventure and wonder to enchant adults and younger readers alike.

In anticipation of their maiden voyage, Seraphin and the Knights of Aether had prepared for everything―except treason. The villainous chamberlain wants to overthrow King Ludwig and claim the electro-aetheric technology for Prussia. The only escape for the king and his companions lies in the frosty skies above Bavaria.

The aethership’s first flight is asuccess, but their respite is short-lived. As long as the chamberlain is free to spread his lies, these travelers will find no safe harbor. To save the king’s throne, they must push the ship even farther―out of the sky . . . and into the stars!

Sequel to: The Space Race of 1869

Part of Series: Castle in the Stars (Book #2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Underage smoking, Violence

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2018)
Alice knows a lot about the moon, and most of it isn’t true. An entire page of this graphic novel, a French import, is devoted to popular historical theories about the moon, and because the story is set in 1870, all of them are wonderfully archaic. “Everyone knows that giant vultures…live on the moon!” one character explains. Another person mentions a scientist who believed the moon was shaped like an egg. These ideas (inspired by Lucian of Samosata and Eratosthenes, among others) are so charming that when the characters actually land on the moon, a few pages later, it’s a bit of a letdown. The landscape is mostly pale, unvarying mountains and caverns, and even though they’re painted beautifully, the story features page after page of hiking. Occasionally, though, the images are just as gorgeous as in the first volume of the series. When the aeronauts come across an orrery (an enormous model of the planets), it’s breathtaking, and the steampunk designs—like a spacesuit with a bird of prey on its breastplate—are always inventive. The prose is less masterful, at least in this translation, with sentences along the lines of, “An ingenious Regnault & Reiset system absorbed harmful gases and replenished the oxygen.” The skin tones of the cast are also mostly pale and unvarying. Readers who enjoyed the first book may remain invested in the fates of the characters. Other people might prefer to look up archaic stories about the moon. (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

Around the Web

The Moon-King on Amazon

The Moon-King on Barnes & Noble

The Moon-King on Goodreads

The Moon-King Publisher Page

Lab 101: Mission Alert by Benjamin Hulme-Cross

Lab 101: Mission Alert by Benjamin Hulme-Cross. August 1, 2018. Darby Creek Publishing, 72 p. ISBN: 9781541525818.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.5; Lexile: 740.

Tom and Zilla are on a field trip to a robotics lab–and on a secret mission to uncover its true purpose. But soon the situation gets out of control. If they want to survive, they’ll have to face off against an army of robots. Can secret agents find out the lab’s sinister purpose and save themselves?

Part of Series: Mission Alert

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

About the Author

Ben Hulme-Cross has written over thirty books for struggling readers, including the Dark Hunter series. Ben is currently the director for Iffley Publishing in the United Kingdom and lives in Oxford.

 

Around the Web

Lab 101 on Amazon

Lab 101 on Barnes & Noble

Lab 101 on Goodreads

Lab 101 Publisher Page