The Road to Epoli by Ben Costa & James Parks

The Road to Epoli: Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo Book 1 by Ben Costa & James Parks. June 6, 2017. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 208 p. ISBN: 9780399556135.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Nimona meets Adventure Time as a singing skeleton searches for his origins in this full-color graphic novel series kickoff!
 
Meet Rickety Stitch . . . a walking, talking, singing skeleton minstrel. He’s the one skeleton in the dungeon who seems to have retained his soul, and he has no idea why.

His only clue to his former identity is a song he hears snippets of in his dreams, an epic bard’s tale about the Road to Epoli and the land of Eem.

His sidekick and sole friend is the gelatinous Goo, who Rickety alone can understand. Together they set out in search of Rickety’s past, with abundant humor and danger galore.

Part of Series: Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, War, Violence, Alcohol, Smoking, Irreverent humor, Bawdy humor

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 5-8. Rickety Stitch is not like the other skeletons. Instead of being a mindless drone, Rickety is a skeleton with a soul, a wisecracking minstrel on a mission to discover his past, how he managed to escape the fate of the other skeletons, and what is so special about the mythical road to Epoli, a place he keeps dreaming about. Coming along on his journey are Gelatinous Goo, a sentient, wobbly blob that only Rickety can understand; a two-headed troll that blackmails Rickety into kidnapping a kindly gnome; an insecure imp; and a host of other fantasy creatures, some of which speak in ill-considered dialects. The world that’s been created is a gorgeously realized homage to fantasy-quest conventions, complete with knights in armor, unicorns, suspicious villagers, and ghostly evil presences, and the artwork reflects that in its bold colors and lively character designs. The jokes, on the other hand, are modern, funny, and sometimes bawdy. The first of a planned trilogy will have readers eagerly awaiting the next installment of Rickety’s adventure.

Kirkus Reviews starred (April 1, 2017)
A minstrel skeleton and his wobbly companion embark upon an epic quest to learn their origins in this gloriously ribald graphic tale. Unlike the other, dronelike skeletons, who never tire and soundlessly work, Rickety Stitch has both a soul and a song in his heart. Cast out from his dungeon into a dark and mysterious wood for his ineffectiveness and nonconformity, he and his faithful companion—a silent, shopping-bag–shaped creature named Gelatinous Goo—soon find themselves tricked by a snarky little imp. Goo is imprisoned by a two-headed giant who demands that the imp and Rickety bring him a pure-hearted gnome to eat. The plan goes awry, and hilarity ensues (along with the more-than-occasional cheerfully caustic joke). Rickety has no memories of his human life, and in addition to rescuing his friend is determined to track down something from his past. Costa and Parks’ script is imaginative and laugh-out-loud funny, unafraid to crack a well-timed, verging-on-naughty joke. Costa’s art is unfalteringly, vibrantly buoyant, with many sight gags that effortlessly turn the profane into something adorably laughable. A cliffhanger ending leaves readers poised for the sequel—they will be clamoring. For those who loved Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona (2015) and have struggled to find something similar, this may scratch that itch. Don’t be fooled by the cheery illustrations; this is irreverent, bawdy, and lots of fun. (Graphic fantasy. 13-adult)

About the Author

Ben Costa is a writer and artist living in the Bay Area. He has self-published two volumes of his award-winning, martial arts historical fiction comic Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk. He has also done work for IDW, Viz Media, and SF Weekly. Throughout his life, he has maintained a steady diet of samurai comics, kung fu movies, spacefaring farmboys, and tabletop RPGs.

James Parks is a speculative fiction writer and graphic novelist living in the Bay Area. James was weaned on monster flicks, ghostbusting, lightsaber duels, samurai cinema, and comics—with a sober dose of Victorian literature and ’80s cartoons. James is also the author of the Southern Gothic horror collection The Gospel of Bucky Dennis, was a staff writer for Campfire Graphic Novels, and is a current member of the Horror Writers Association.

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Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh. July 25, 2017. HarperCollins, 288 p. ISBN: 9780062430083.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.7; Lexile: 680.

We Need Diverse Books founder Ellen Oh returns with Spirit Hunters, a high-stakes middle grade mystery series about Harper Raine, the new seventh grader in town who must face down the dangerous ghosts haunting her younger brother. A riveting ghost story and captivating adventure, this tale will have you guessing at every turn!

Harper doesn’t trust her new home from the moment she steps inside, and the rumors are that the Raine family’s new house is haunted. Harper isn’t sure she believes those rumors, until her younger brother, Michael, starts acting strangely. The whole atmosphere gives Harper a sense of déjà vu, but she can’t remember why. She knows that the memories she’s blocking will help make sense of her brother’s behavior and the strange and threatening sensations she feels in this house, but will she be able to put the pieces together in time?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Dark subject matter including allusions to self-harm, Grotesque imagery

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 17))
Grades 4-7. Harper feels it from the second her family moves into the creaky, old house: there is something deeply evil lurking there. She’s always been attune to the spirit world, a fact that has frightened her parents into denial. She even had an encounter with a ghost so terrifying and damaging that she was sent to a mental institution for a while. This relocation to D.C. was supposed to be a fresh start for their family, but Harper soon realizes with horror that her sweet little brother Michael is being possessed by the malevolent ghost of an evil boy who died in the house years before. As Michael grows more and more violent under the spirit’s control, Harper realizes that her family is in grave danger. Can she learn to master her powers and conquer her fears to defeat the spirit before it overtakes her brother completely? Oh’s book is truly and deeply creepy, with increasingly haunting and disturbing imagery culminating in a wonderful and terrifying battle of spirits. Even more impressive than the shiver factor is the way the author skillfully uses the compelling premise to present a strong, consistent message of not rejecting what you don’t understand—a most welcome message.

Kirkus Reviews (May 15, 2017)
A neophyte Korean shaman, or “mudang,” takes center stage in this chilling thriller by Oh, of We Need Diverse Books.The story starts when mixed-race 12-year-old Harper Raine, who is half white and half Korean, moves into a new home in Washington, D.C., that her new Jamaican friend, Dayo, tells her is haunted. Before the Raines left New York City, Harper survived both a fire and a traumatizing illness, but she has blocked all memories of these events. The creepiness ramps up in mind, gut, and heart as readers see Harper’s little brother making a new “friend” in their home. As she witnesses an evil spirit slowly overtaking her brother, Harper’s memories begin to resurface. While Harper selflessly tries to save her brother’s life from multiple evils, she juggles the psychological conflict of her mother’s broken relationship with Harper’s beloved Korean grandmother, who lives nearby. The tension of the life-ending danger stretches across sometimes confusingly paced chapters, as help arrives slowly. While the writing level skews young, the graphic content is gruesome. Readers will not want harm to come to the likable Raine family. The well-rounded and diverse cast provides interesting cultural touchstones of Korean and Jamaican heritage throughout the novel. Korean shamanism, specifically, is explored with respect and curiosity. Combining Korean-American experience with ancient cultural traditions for a new twist on exorcism, this tale’s for beginning horror fans and readers looking for a decent scare. (Horror. 10-14)

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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Spirit Hunters on Goodreads

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Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy. May 9, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 492 p. ISBN: 9780062418357.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 780.

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Criminal culture, Homophobia, Racism

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 9-12. Julie Murphy (Dumplin’, 2015) knows a thing or two about navigating the worlds of girls on the brink of self-discovery. In Ramona Blue, that girl is Ramona Leroux, over six feet tall and sporting blue hair. She’s also one of only two out lesbians in her little town of Eulogy, Mississippi, where she lives with her father and sister in the FEMA trailer they never left after Hurricane Katrina. Her sister, Hattie, recently pregnant, jokes that Ramona can do whatever she wants with her future, but Ramona has no such illusions. “My sport—” she thinks, “the special skill I’ve developed my whole life—is surviving.” Because of this pragmatism, Ramona has never doubted herself. It’s not easy being gay in Eulogy, but it’s a label she owns proudly, until her childhood friend Freddie moves back to town. Freddie’s a straight guy, African American, and well off, but a love of swimming connects the two. Freddie talks Ramona into spending time at the pool, and as she falls more in love with the sport, she realizes she’s falling in love with him, too, questioning everything she knows about herself—everything she’s fought to make her town and family accept. Murphy mines Ramona’s inner workings with particular skill. Ramona’s often-fraught relationships with her family are carefully, lovingly crafted, and her connection with Hattie is an especially important one. Her growing feelings for Freddie come slowly and organically, never feeling contrived. For many teens, Ramona will be a worthy companion as they undergo their own emotional journeys.

Kirkus Reviews starred (April 1, 2017)
In Murphy’s (Dumplin’, 2015, etc.) third novel, a teenage girl navigates the complexities of romance and identity.Ramona “Blue” Leroux—6 foot 3, white, blue-haired, and gay—has always known who she is and where she is (or isn’t) going. Living in a trailer in post-Katrina Eulogy, Mississippi, Ramona does her best to save and provide for her dad, older sister, Hattie, and soon-to-be niece. One of only three queer kids in town, she’s always been sure she’s attracted to women, and Ramona feels lucky that her coming-out experience was nothing more than “a blip.” But this year, everything is changing. She’s losing her sister to the coming baby and to Hattie’s irresponsible, irritating baby-daddy, who has squeezed into their trailer. Her summer fling with closeted, white out-of-towner Grace may not withstand distance. And then Ramona’s black childhood best friend, Freddie, unexpectedly moves back to Eulogy, and, as they reconnect through their shared history and a passion for swimming, she is surprised to find her desires and feelings for Freddie growing deeper. Ramona’s first-person narration is tender and compelling, and the love she feels for the diverse cast of secondary characters is palpable. Murphy beautifully incorporates conversations about identity and diversity—including the policing of Freddie’s black body, heteronormative expectations, and diverse sexualities (Ramona’s white friend Ruth identifies herself explicitly as homoromantic demisexual)—with nuance and care. An exquisite, thoughtful exploration of the ties that bind and the fluidity of relationships, sexuality, and life. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Julie lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cat who tolerates her. When she’s not writing or trying to catch stray cats, she works at an academic library.

Her website is www.juliemurphywrites.com

 

Around the Web

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Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han. May 2, 2017. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 325 p. ISBN: 9781481430487.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 700.

Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks…until she gets some unexpected news.

Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

Sequel to: P.S. I Still Love You

Part of Series: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (Book 3)

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

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
Grades 9-12. Nostalgia hangs heavy in the air as Lara Jean and Peter wind their way through senior year. Their romance is now solid with well-established pastimes, such as sharing favorite movies and testing Lara Jean’s latest batch of chocolate chip cookies. But next year will bring college and the possibility of separation. The suspense of waiting for word from college admission offices, particularly in a town dominated by a large university, is perfectly rendered. Lara Jean, an insightful and authentic narrator, strives to relish the final moments of high school, while mustering the courage to forge her own path onward. Readers of the first two novels will enjoy these final chapters with Lara Jean, which are short on old drama and long on character growth. Those who are starting the series with this novel may find the pace a bit languid. Nevertheless, Han reveals just enough of old subplots to pique curiosity for new readers and reignite interest for her loyal fans. A must-have conclusion.

Kirkus Reviews (April 15, 2017)
Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han’s nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel’s denouement. An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

About the Author

Jenny Han is the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series; Shug; the Burn for Burn trilogy, cowritten with Siobhan Vivian; and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You. She is also the author of the chapter book Clara Lee and The Apple Pie Dream. A former children’s bookseller, she earned her MFA in creative writing at the New School.

Her website is dearjennyhan.com

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Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. May 30, 2017. HarperCollins, 385 p. ISBN: 9780062290137.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 750.

Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk is the anonymous creator of Monstrous Sea, a wildly popular webcomic, but when a new boy at school tempts her to live a life offline, everything she’s worked for begins to crumble.

Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds meets Nimona in this novel about art, fandom, and finding the courage to be yourself. Features illustrations by the author throughout. Perfect for readers of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, this is the second novel by the acclaimed author of Made You Up.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, smart, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then Wallace Warland transfers to her school, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

With pages from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Suicide

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 9-12. Eliza’s eponymous monsters are twofold: they are the stars of her viral webcomic, but they are also the anxiety and depression that keep her identity as the webcomic’s creator shielded behind a wall of anonymity. As LadyConstellation, she has written and illustrated Monstrous Sea, inspiring a devoted online fandom worldwide. At school, however, she’s just cripplingly shy Eliza Mirk: an average student who prefers a digital social life to a real one. She meets her match when Monstrous Sea fan-fiction writer Wallace transfers to her school and is too shy to even speak out loud. Through simple, tender notes passed back and forth, the two form a fast bond. But Eliza keeps her identity as LadyConstellation a secret even from Wallace, a decision that could cost her his trust forever. In her sophomore novel, Zappia (Made You Up, 2015) gracefully examines Eliza’s complicated struggle with anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts, as she recognizes, “The thought is still there, but the seriousness of it comes and goes.” In addition to a vibrant fictional fandom akin to the Simon Snow following in Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (2013), this is peppered with detailed illustrations from Eliza’s webcomic, drawn by Zappia herself. A fervent celebration of online fandom, sure to leave readers craving an actual Monstrous Sea comic.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
Creator of an astonishingly successful webcomic—or a nonentity of a high school senior?Eliza Mirk is an anxiety-plagued weirdo, shuffling silently through the corridors of her Indiana high school without a single friend. She’s also beloved LadyConstellation, creator of the comic Monstrous Sea, “a combination of the Final Fantasy video games and the Faust Legend.” On the Monstrous Sea forums, she’s the queen to millions of passionate fans; in school she’s “Creepy Don’t-Touch-Her-You’ll-Get-Rabies Eliza.” Eliza’s parents, athletes with no understanding of the internet age, mishandle their beloved—but frighteningly baffling—daughter. Though terrified by human interaction, Eliza finds her voice long enough to defend a new student who’s being mocked for writing Monstrous Sea fanfiction. Wallace and Eliza develop an intense, if unusual, friendship: Wallace’s selective mutism means the majority of their conversations are carried on in writing. Eliza, meanwhile, wonders if she can reveal her online identity to Wallace, one of the most well-known fans of Monstrous Sea, without destroying his feelings for her. The deepening relationship of these two white teens, interspersed with pages from the comic and Wallace’s fanfiction prose retelling of it, exposes the raw, self-absorbed pain of mental illness amid the helplessness many high schoolers experience. A wrenching depiction of depression and anxiety, respectful to fandom, online-only friendships, and the benefits and dangers of internet fame. (Fiction. 13-17)

About the Author

Francesca Zappia lives in central Indiana. When she is not writing, she’s drawing her characters, reading, or playing video games. She is also the author of Made You Up and Eliza Mirk’s favorite, The Children of Hypnos, a biweekly serial novel posted on Tumblr and Wattpad.

Her website is www.francescazappia.com

 

Around the Web

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Seven Wonders of the Solar System by David A. Aguilar

Seven Wonders of the Solar System by David A. Aguilar. May 30, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 80 p. ISBN: 9780451476852.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 8.9; Lexile: 1070.

Travel the near and far reaches of the solar system in this lively, beautifully illustrated Smithsonian nonfiction book!

Ready for a wondrous celestial journey? How about a trip to our close neighbor Mars, home to the largest volcano in the solar system? Or to Europa, a watery lunar world with a really deep ocean? Or beyond the beyond to mysterious Planet 9, an unseen giant lurking in the far outer regions of space?

This extraordinary book puts you right there: breaking through colorful gaseous hazes; exploring the surface of red-hot or ice-cold planets; hurtling through rings of flying, frozen ice chunks; and rocketing on out to deep space. Astronomer David Aguilar is our navigator on these seven wonderful trips through our solar system—journeys that someday may actually happen!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

 

About the Author

David A. Aguilar  is an astronomer, artist, author of several notable books on space for children, including Cosmic Catastrophes: Seven Ways to Destroy a Planet Like Earth. He is the former Director of Science Information for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. As a member of the New Horizons Spacecraft Team, he handled the media coverage of the Pluto fly-by. He lives with his wife outside Aspen Colorado, where he’s built his own observatory. Asteroid 1990 DA was named in his honor by the International Astronomical Union.

David and wife Shirley reside outside Aspen, CO.

His website is davidaguilar.org.

Around the Web

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The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein. May 2, 2017. Disney-Hyperion, 326 p. ISBN: 9781484717165.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 860.

Before Verity…there was Julie.

When fifteen-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart wakes up in the hospital, she knows the lazy summer break she’d imagined won’t be exactly like she anticipated. And once she returns to her grandfather’s estate, a bit banged up but alive, she begins to realize that her injury might not have been an accident. One of her family’s employees is missing, and he disappeared on the very same day she landed in the hospital.

Desperate to figure out what happened, she befriends Euan McEwen, the Scottish Traveller boy who found her when she was injured, and his standoffish sister, Ellen. As Julie grows closer to this family, she experiences some of the prejudices they’ve grown used to firsthand, a stark contrast to her own upbringing, and finds herself exploring thrilling new experiences that have nothing to do with a missing-person investigation.

Her memory of that day returns to her in pieces, and when a body is discovered, her new friends are caught in the crosshairs of long-held biases about Travellers. Julie must get to the bottom of the mystery in order to keep them from being framed for the crime.

Prequel to:  Code Name Verity

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 9-12. Those who had their hearts broken by Julie in Code Name Verity (2012) will relish this prequel opportunity to meet the brash girl who grew into the brave spy. Julie, almost 16, is returning for the final cleanup of her family’s Scottish estate, about to be turned into a boy’s school to pay off its debt. Before her mother knows she’s returned, Julie is conked on the head and winds up in the hospital, missing a few days of memory. Out of this singular event come knotted ropes of story that overlap and intertwine. One strand is the introduction of siblings Euan and Ellen, locally despised Travellers who enlighten and complicate Julie’s life. Another is the disappearance of a cache of glowing river pearls originally found in the estate’s waters. Hanging over everything, like a moldering net, is the death of a scholar cataloging the estate’s holdings, a death Julie may have witnessed. Yet, for all the story’s mystery and history—some of it quite ancient—two other elements take hold: the intriguing characters, brimming with life, and the evocative language seeded with Scottish words and phrasings that forces the audience to read the book as carefully as it deserves. A finely crafted book that brings one girl’s coming-of-age story to life, especially poignant for those who already know her fate.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
Wein’s fans will revel in the return of Julie Beaufort-Stuart, the co-narrator of Code Name Verity (2012). Billed as a prequel to that Printz Honor book, this is no mere back story to Julie’s role in World War II but a stand-alone mystery. The 15-year-old white minor noble returns from boarding school in the summer of 1938 to the Scottish country estate of her late grandfather, the Earl of Strathfearn. Her luggage lost, Julie dons “a mothy tennis pullover which left my arms daringly bare and a kilt that must have been forgotten some time ago by one of my big brothers….I was David Balfour from Kidnapped again, the way I’d been the whole summer I was thirteen.” After a blow to the head leaves her unconscious, Julie becomes tangled up in a web of events that includes a missing antiquities scholar, a body found in a river, and the theft of the family’s heirloom river pearls, all seemingly connected to a band of Travellers with ancestral ties to Strathfearn reaching back as far as Julie’s. Well-developed characters highlight the class differences that Julie chafes against while struggling with her family’s place in a changing world. Her plainspoken, charming narrative voice establishes her own place with the same strength of character, on a smaller scale, that she showed in Code Name Verity. Another ripping yarn from a brilliant author. (Historical fiction. 13-adult)

About the Author

Elizabeth Wein was born in New York City, grew up abroad, and currently lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. She is an avid flyer of small planes, and holds a PhD in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. Elizabeth is the author of Code Name Verity, winner of the Edgar Award in the Young Adult category and a Printz Medal Honor Book; Rose Under Fire, winner of the Schneider Family Book Award; and Black Dove, White Raven, winner of the Children’s Africana Book Award.

Her website is www.elizabethwein.com

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The Pearl Thief on Amazon

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The Pearl Thief

Amazon Adventure: How Tiny Fish Are Saving the World’s Largest Rainforest by Sy Montgomery

Amazon Adventure: How Tiny Fish Are Saving the World’s Largest Rainforest by Sy Montgomery. July 4, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 80 p. ISBN: 9780544352995.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.7; Lexile: 1050.

Considered the “lungs of the world,” the Amazon provides a full fifth of the world’s oxygen, and every year unsustainable human practices destroy 2.7 million acres. What can be done to help? That’s where Project Piaba comes in.
Join the award-winning author Sy Montgomery and the photographer Keith Ellenbogen as they traverse the river and rainforest to discover how tiny fish, called piabas, can help preserve the Amazon, its animals, and the rich legacy of its people. Amazon Adventure is an eye-opening—and ultimately hopeful—exploration of how humanity’s practices are affecting and shaping not only the Amazon, but our entire environment.

Part of Series: Scientists in the Field

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
Grades 5-8. Sibert Medal–winning Montgomery returns to the impressive Scientists in the Field series with this narrative account of one little fish. The Amazon, an essential part of the earth’s ecosystem, is teeming with life; new species are still regularly discovered there. Montgomery and photographer Keith Ellenbogen join forces with Boston aquarist Scott Dowd in search of piaba, a bright, shy fish that plays a large role in the preservation of the Amazon. Sold as valuable pets, the gathering of these fish has led to a flourishing trade: piabeiros who gently fish for piabas from canoes. Removing the piabas from their natural habitat may seem detrimental, but overcrowding during the dry season means almost 90 percent of piabas are stranded. Furthermore, piabeiros rely on their trade and protect their industry, keeping this stretch of the Amazon free of the industries that pollute other areas; the fishery becomes not only sustainable but mutually beneficial. Montgomery thoroughly mines the social and economic effects the piabas have on locals, alongside an in-depth exploration of the Amazon River and its ecosystems. The science and sociology are interesting and unusual, and the narrative itself enthralling: a nerve-racking section detailing the most dangerous inhabitants of the Amazon River, just before Ellenbogen submerges himself, will have readers holding their breath (those dangers are, mostly, debunked several pages later). A true-to-form installment in a valuable series.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
Called piaba (“which roughly translates to ‘small-fry’ or ‘pip-squeak’”) by locals, several hundred fish species are harvested from the Amazon basin using methods that have developed into a model of environmental sustainability, organized to protect the critically important Amazon ecosystems while remaining economically viable. In Brazil, author Montgomery travels up the Río Negro to the town of Barcelos with a group organized by Project Piaba, a venture that has partnered with Barcelos’s residents to promote sustainable practices. Leading the tour is Scott Dowd of the New England Aquarium, a lifelong freshwater fish enthusiast. Montgomery shares her endless zeal and scientific curiosity with readers as she meticulously details her adventures: snorkeling to see fish that “dazzle and shimmer” in the tannin-stained river, the gorgeous and elaborate costumes and floats of the annual Festival of the Ornamental Fish, and the care taken by scientists to treat fish diseases as well as teach the fishers (piabeiros) best practices in keeping the fish healthy during transport to freshwater aquariums. Inviting photographs of people, fish, and the beautiful Amazon flora bring the experience to life. Text boxes interspersed throughout the main account include profiles of other animals of the Amazon (including dangerous piranhas, electric eels, and anacondas) and an extended look at how Ellenbogen manages to produce such beautiful photographs on and under such a dark and murky river. Appended with a bibliography, websites, and an index. danielle j. ford

About the Author

Part Indiana Jones, part Emily Dickinson, as the Boston Globe describes her, Sy Montgomery is an author, naturalist, documentary scriptwriter, and radio commentator who has traveled to some of the worlds most remote wildernesses for her work. She has worked in a pit crawling with 18,000 snakes in Manitoba, been hunted by a tiger in India, swum with pink dolphins in the Amazon, and been undressed by an orangutan in Borneo. She is the author of 13 award-winning books, including her national best-selling memoir, The Good Good Pig. Montgomery lives in Hancock, New Hampshire.

Her website is symontgomery.com

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Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman

Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman. May 2, 2017. Sourcebooks Fire, 350 p. ISBN: 9781492646860.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves .

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

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 9-12. Anise has few needs in life. Just the surf, her board, and her tight-knit posse of friends. Then Anise’s aunt is in a terrible car accident and needs them to come help care for her children in landlocked Nebraska. One place her younger cousins enjoy is the skate park, where Anise meets a handsome black skater boy, Lincoln. After Anise claims that surfing is harder that skateboarding, Lincoln challenges her to give skating a try. It’s a fiasco, but Anise becomes determined to learn to skateboard, and Nebraska slowly grows on her. Debut novelist Silverman realistically captures Anise’s love for her surfing life and the terrible sacrifice she makes when leaving it behind for a whole summer, and her relationships with her family are bittersweet and loving, giving her depth of character. Meanwhile, Lincoln is a charmer, and thanks for Silverman’s excellent portrayal of a boy who is not defined by his disability, like Anise, readers will easily forget that he is missing an arm. Hand to fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
Silverman’s debut offers several takes on a good question: “Why do so many people equate growing up with leaving?” Unlike her mother, who enters and exits her life at whim, white, 17-year-old Anise has lived—and surfed—in Santa Cruz her whole life. Her easygoing father and a diverse group of friends provide stability—especially Eric, her white best friend, who’s turning into something more. As the friends plan their last summer together before college, Anise’s plans are shattered. Her aunt has been in a car accident, and Anise and her dad will be spending the summer in Nebraska caring for her aunt and high-spirited cousins. Anise’s reluctance to leave, rooted in worries of forgetting home and being forgotten, will resonate with readers who’ve ever been homesick. While babysitting her cousins, she meets Lincoln, a black, smart, handsome, witty one-armed skateboarder whose personality quirks are rattled off in lists rather than revealed through interactions. As Anise trades surfing for skating, she gradually matures, feeling a responsibility to her cousins and sympathy for her aunt and father. Nomadic, nature-obsessed Lincoln, whose only flaws seem to be a messy glove compartment and an inability to sing, is an ever patient teacher, showing Anise how to adapt to new places and call them home. A quick summer read to reassure teens who worry about college or blooming where they’re planted. (Romance. 14-18)

About the Author

Laura Silverman is a writer, editor, and publishing consultant. She is a lover of all things bookish. Silverman suffers from chronic pain and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Her website is laurasilvermanlovesbooks.tumblr.com

 

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Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay. June 13, 2017. HarperCollins, 306 p. ISBN: 9780062362599.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

From the bestselling author of Bad Feminist: a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself

I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
More than once, Gay, author of essays (Bad Feminist, 2014), short stories (Difficult Women, 2017), and crime fiction (An Untamed State, 2014), refers to writing this memoir as the hardest thing she’s ever done. Readers will believe her; it’s hard to imagine this electrifying book being more personal, candid, or confessional. At 12, Gay survived a devastating sexual assault, a point on her time line that would forever have a before and an after. She focused the trauma inward, and, as a frequent refrain goes, she doesn’t know, or she does, how her body came to be “unruly,” “undisciplined,” and the kind of body whose story is “ignored or dismissed or derided.” The story of her body is, understandably, linked to the story of her life; she tells both, and plumbs discussions about both victims of sexual violence and people whose bodies don’t adhere to the ideal of thinness. In 88 short, lucid chapters, Gay powerfully takes readers through realities that pain her, vex her, guide her, and inform her work. The result is a generous and empathic consideration of what it’s like to be someone else: in itself something of a miracle.

Kirkus Reviews starred (May 15, 2017)
A heart-rending debut memoir from the outspoken feminist and essayist.Gay (Bad Feminist, 2014, etc.) pulls no punches in declaring that her story is devoid of “any powerful insight into what it takes to overcome an unruly body and unruly appetites.” Rather than a success story, it depicts the author, at 42, still in the throes of a lifelong struggle with the fallout from a harrowing violation in her youth. The author exposes the personal demons haunting her life—namely weight and trauma—which she deems “the ugliest, weakest, barest parts of me.” Much of her inner turmoil sprang from a devastating gang rape at age 12. “I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe,” she writes. Gay painfully recalls the “lost years” of her reckless 20s as a time when food, the anonymity of the internet, and creative writing became escapes and balms for loneliness. The author refers to her body as a “cage” in which she has become trapped, but her obesity also presents itself as a personal challenge to overcome the paralyzing psychological damage caused by rape. Broken into clipped, emotionally resonant chapters, Gay details a personal life spent grappling with the comfort of food, body hyperconsciousness, shame, and self-loathing. Throughout, the author is rightfully opinionated, sharply criticizing the media’s stereotypical portrayal of obesity and Oprah Winfrey’s contradictory dieting messages. She is just as engaging when discussing her bisexuality and her adoration for Ina Garten, who taught her “that a woman can be plump and pleasant and absolutely in love with food.” Gay clearly understands the dynamics of dieting and exercise and the frustrations of eating disorders, but she also is keenly in touch with the fact that there are many who feel she is fine just as she is. The author continues her healing return from brokenness and offers hope for others struggling with weight, sexual trauma, or bodily shame. An intense, unsparingly honest portrait of childhood crisis and its enduring aftermath.

About the Author

Roxane Gay’s writing has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, West Branch, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, Salon, The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy culture blog, and many others. She is the co-editor of PANK and essays editor for The Rumpus. She teaches writing at Eastern Illinois University. Her novel, She is the author of three books–Ayiti, An Untamed State, and Bad Feminist. She very much wants a tiny baby elephant.

Her website is www.roxanegay.com

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Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body Discussion Questions

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