Older than Dirt by Don Brown

Older than Dirt by Don Brown. September 5, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 112 p. ISBN: 9780544805033.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.4; Lexile: 730.

Almost 14.5 billion years ago, it all started with a BIG BANG and what began as a cloud of gas, dust, and rock eventually took shape and bloomed into a molten sphere. Battered by asteroid collisions, ice ages, and shifting tectonic plates, our fledgling planet finally pushed forth continents. But if you think the earth has calmed down since then—think again! Geological activity continues to sculpt the earth’s landscape, sometimes with terrible consequences for its inhabitants: earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis.     In this one-of-a-kind, wild, but true history of Earth, the Sibert Honor medalist Don Brown takes on big concepts with humor and ease.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 5-8. In 100 fact-crammed but surprisingly zippy pages, nonfiction graphic novelist extraordinaire Brown covers 14 billion years of Earth’s development. From the big bang to our planet’s origin to landmass formation to the appearance of life, Brown and scientific consultant Perfit provide an astonishingly comprehensive overview and manage to humanize it with witty asides from the woodchuck and worm who serve as surrogate teacher and student, as well as quick visits with important historical scientists. Brown’s art—loose, easy lines but clear, vivid representations—also strikes a necessary balance between friendly accessibility and accurate portrayal. Comics are not a form naturally inclined to delivery of hard facts, and the speed with which information is conveyed here doesn’t make it ideal for, say, supporting a long-range science curriculum. But comics have always held a strong suit in high accessibility for young readers, and this could serve as a good beginning research source and will be a nifty opportunity for burgeoning geologists or anyone looking for a deeper way to explore the real world. A word of warning, though, that between climate change, gradual landmass upheavals, and the eventual cooking of the planet by the sun, things don’t wrap up on a particularly hopeful note. Appended with three helpful illustrated diagrams and extensive source notes.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2017)
A groundhog and her worm sidekick offer a concise tour of the Earth’s history from the Big Bang to climate change with a glimpse of the bleak, sun-dried future to come—all lightened by frequent humorous asides. Born of the partnership between geology professor Perfit (Univ. of Florida) and prolific graphic novelist Brown, this highly engaging overview briefly introduces a broad range of scientific topics in a vivid and accessible way, for example describing magma as “rock that is so hot that it’s gooey, like chocolate fudge.” Clear illustrations effectively complement the text, rendering the array of subjects memorable and easy to grasp: a cross section of an apple indicates the relative thinness of the Earth’s basalt crust, while a plaid blanket hovering above the planet illustrates the effect on temperatures of excessive carbon dioxide. The groundhog is utterly endearing, and the worm is remarkably expressive considering the absence of limbs and most facial features. Readers will be entertained, informed, and inspired to learn more about whatever piques their curiosity, whether it is uranium, continental drift, glaciers, or one of the featured scientists, such as Marie Tharp. A lengthy bibliography and detailed source notes are an added bonus. A guaranteed hit with science lovers and a best bet for convincing skeptics that science is indeed a grand and exciting adventure. (Graphic nonfiction. 9-14)

About the Author

Don Brown is the award-winning author and illustrator of many picture book biographies. He has been widely praised for his resonant storytelling and his delicate watercolor paintings that evoke the excitement, humor, pain, and joy of lives lived with passion. School Library Journal has called him “a current pacesetter who has put the finishing touches on the standards for storyographies.”

He lives in New York with his family. His website is www.booksbybrown.com

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The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

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

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

Sequel to: The Hammer of Thor

Part of Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard

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

 

Book Trailer

 

About the Author

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

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

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

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

His website is www.rickriordan.com.

Teacher Resources

Magnus Chase Discussion Guide

Norse mythology Teaching Resources

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Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

His website is www.franciscostork.com

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The Quarterback Whisperer by Bruce Arians

The Quarterback Whisperer by Bruce Arians. July 11, 2017. Hachette Books, 256 p. ISBN: 9780316432269.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

What is an elite NFL QB and what separates that player from the others? One answer is the coach they share. In the recent history of the biggest game on earth, one man is the common thread that connects several of the very best in the sport: Peyton Manning; Ben Roethlisberger; Andrew Luck; and the resurgent Carson Palmer. That coach is Bruce Arians.

A larger than life visionary who trained under the tutelage of Bear Bryant, Arians has had a major impact on the development and success of each of these players. For proof beyond the stats, go to the sources.

Known around the game as the ‘quarterback whisperer’, Arians has an uncanny ability to both personally connect with his quarterbacks and to locate what the individual triggers are for that player to succeed. No two quarterbacks are the same. And yet with Arians they always share success. In this book Arians will explain how he does it

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

 

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About the Author

Bruce Arians is currently the head coach of the NFC powerhouse the Arizona Cardinals. In three years he has taken the team from last place in their division to the NFC Championship. He has also guided quarterback Carson Palmer to the best results of his long career. He has twice been named the NFL’s Head Coach of the Year.

His website is www.ariansfamilyfoundation.com

Around the Web

The Quarterback Whisperer on Amazon

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The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. June 6, 2017. William Morrow Paperbacks, 503 p. ISBN: 9780062654199.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 820.

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, Discrimination, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Suicidal thoughts

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Library Journal (June 1, 2017)
In May 1947, Charlotte “Charlie” St. Clair and her mother have crossed the Atlantic so the unwed Charlie can discreetly end her pregnancy in a Swiss clinic. A chance to search for her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared during World War II, gives Charlie the courage to break free and head to London. Rose may have been involved in the French Resistance, and her last known connection was a woman named Eve, who carries her own war secrets. Even with the background detail given at the novel’s outset, there is so much more to learn as these characters are thoughtfully developed through interior decision making and the actions they take. Allowing Charlie to describe present events, while Eve shares her experience as an English spy for the real-life Alice Network during World War I, creates a fascinating tension that intensifies as the finale approaches. VERDICT A compelling blend of historical fiction, mystery, and women’s fiction, Quinn’s (“Empress of Rome” series) complex story and engaging characters have something to offer just about everyone. [See “Summer Escapes,” LJ 5/15/17.]-Stacey Hayman, Rocky River P.L., OH

About the Author

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with “The Alice Network.” All have been translated into multiple languages.

Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox. Her website is www.katequinnauthor.com

Teacher Resources

The Alice Network Discussion Questions

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The Magician and the Spirits by Deborah Noyes

The Magician and the Spirits by Deborah Noyes. August 22, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 160 p. ISBN: 9780803740181.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 8.9; Lexile: 1250.

A century ago, the curious idea that spirits not only survive death but can be contacted on the “other side” was widespread. Psychic mediums led countless seances, claiming to connect the grieving with their lost relations through everything from frenzied trance writing to sticky expulsions of ectoplasm.

The craze caught Harry Houdini’s attention. Well-known by then as most renowned magician and escape artist, he began to investigate these spiritual phenomena. Are ghosts real? Can we communicate with them? Catch them in photographs? Or are all mediums “flim-flammers,” employing tricks and illusions like Houdini himself?

Peopled with odd and fascinating characters, Houdini’s gripping quest will excite readers’ universal wonderment with life, death, and the possibility of the Beyond.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Murder, Suicide

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 5-8. Plenty has been written about Houdini’s iconic escape routines and stage magic, but in this biography, Noyes focuses on a lesser-known facet of his career: his mission to debunk spiritualists. After his mother died, Houdini wanted to believe in the possibility of contact from beyond the grave. But his career gave him singular insight into tricks mediums deployed during seances, and, angered by the thought of mediums swindling grief-stricken people, he became determined to reveal the fakery of spiritualism. While describing Houdini’s campaign to unmask fraudulent mediums, Noyes offers compelling tidbits about the many ways spiritualists performed their tricks, and helpful historical context for the popularity of spiritualism. Houdini’s feud with avowed spiritualist Arthur Conan Doyle is particularly fascinating, though the details of their clash get a bit lost. Still, there’s plenty of intriguing information here, often in eye-catching inset boxes with additional background, and Noyes’ attention to Houdini’s outsize personality—a key component of his campaign against spiritualists—adds compelling depth. A worthwhile addition to any nonfiction section, and ideal for kids intrigued by historical oddities.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
There was a time, not long ago, when many people believed that death was no barrier to staying connected with loved ones. The idea was enthusiastically embraced by none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the logically minded Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle saw nothing illogical in the ability of psychic mediums to connect the grief-stricken with their lost relations. A true believer and zealous evangelist for spiritualism, Conan Doyle believed such phenomena as automatic writing, frenzied trances, disembodied voices, levitating tables, ghost photography, and oral expulsions of ectoplasm were real and perfectly rational. Conan Doyle’s friend Harry Houdini was dubious. The most renowned magician and escape artist of his time knew plenty about tricking audiences, and his investigations into these spiritual phenomena convinced him that mediums used trickery and illusion to dupe people like his friend. Noyes’ engaging narrative explores how Houdini’s public crusade to expose spiritualism as bunk and mediums as frauds strained his relationship with Conan Doyle. The account is illustrated with archival material and densely populated with odd, outrageous characters such as D.D. Home, whose levitation acts saw him sailing out windows feet first, and Eva C. who expelled “ectoplasm” from her mouth during séances. Sidebars take readers down numerous, entertaining detours. A compelling true story of magic, ghosts, science, friendship, deception, feuding, and sleuthing told with great flair. (photos, source notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Deborah Noyes is the author of nonfiction and fiction for young readers and adults, including Ten Days a MadwomanEncyclopedia of the End, One Kingdom, and The Ghosts of Kerfol. She has also compiled and edited the short story anthologies Gothic!, The Restless Dead, and Sideshow. 

She lives in Massachusetts with her family. Her website is www.deborahnoyes.com

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Sinking the Sultana by Sally M. Walker

Sinking the Sultana by Sally M. Walker. October 10, 2017. Candlewick Press, 208 p. ISBN: 9780763677558.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 8.1.

The worst maritime disaster in American history wasn’t the Titanic. It was the steamboat Sultana on the Mississippi River — and it could have been prevented.

In 1865, the Civil War was winding down and the country was reeling from Lincoln’s assassination. Thousands of Union soldiers, released from Confederate prisoner-of-war camps, were to be transported home on the steamboat Sultana. With a profit to be made, the captain rushed repairs to the boat so the soldiers wouldn’t find transportation elsewhere. More than 2,000 passengers boarded in Vicksburg, Mississippi . . . on a boat with a capacity of 376. The journey was violently interrupted when the boat’s boilers exploded, plunging the Sultana into mayhem; passengers were bombarded with red-hot iron fragments, burned by scalding steam, and flung overboard into the churning Mississippi. Although rescue efforts were launched, the survival rate was dismal — more than 1,500 lives were lost. In a compelling, exhaustively researched account, renowned author Sally M. Walker joins the ranks of historians who have been asking the same question for 150 years: who (or what) was responsible for the Sultana’s disastrous fate?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, War, Violence, Criminal culture, Graphic descriptions of burn victims

 

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Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Grades 7-12. It may surprise many to learn that the worst maritime disaster in American history was not the sinking of the Titanic. It happened 47 years prior, but the story begins during the Civil War, when the prisoner exchange system ended and the Andersonville prison camp swelled with Union soldiers. Once the war ended, these prisoners needed to be returned home, and transporting troops became a lucrative business for steamboats along the Mississippi River. Walker sets the scene for the Sultana disaster as she describes the captain’s greed (allowing 2,400 passengers when the legal capacity was 376), the chief engineer’s decision to repair rather than replace a deteriorating boiler, the flooded river, and other factors that would come into play. She tells the story through the lens of select soldiers and paying passengers, who each met different fates aboard the steamer. The author not only relates the aftermath of the tragedy that claimed 1,537 lives but also why it was almost forgotten. History buffs, and even adults, will be the biggest fans of this crossover YA title.

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2017)
The worst maritime disaster in American history, one that could have been easily prevented, is comprehensively recounted in this briskly paced narrative. On April 27, 1865, the Sultana, a Mississippi River side-wheel steamboat, exploded just north of Memphis on the Mississippi River. The boat, which had a capacity of 376, was carrying over 2,000 passengers, most of them Union soldiers recently released from prisoner-of-war camps. When the Sultana’s boilers exploded, passengers were bombarded with red-hot iron fragments, burned by scalding steam or fire, and flung overboard into the cold, churning Mississippi River. Despite rescue efforts, over 1,500 lives were lost. The narrative focuses on five survivors. Walker chronicles their experiences in battle and as prisoners of the Confederates, their ordeals in the disaster and rescue, and what became of them after. She also discusses the official investigation into the disaster. The cause of the explosion was a damaged boiler that had not been properly repaired. Bribery was responsible for the gross overcrowding aboard the Sultana, but no one was ever held responsible or punished. In addition to archival illustrative material, Walker makes extensive use of primary sources, such as diaries and newspaper reports, although it is surprising more use is not made of the survivors’ recollections Chester Berry collected and published in 1892. Quibbles aside, a finely detailed, well-researched chronicle of a little-known disaster. (maps, glossary, source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Sally M. Walker is the author of the Sibert Medal winner Secrets of a Civil War Submarine as well as many other nonfiction books, including Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud and Divided a Nation. Sally M. Walker lives in Illinois.

Her website is sallymwalker.com

Teacher Resources

Sinking the Sultana Discussion Questions

Sinking the Sultana Teachers’ Guide

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Sinking the Sultana on Goodreads

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Saving Marty by Paul Griffin

Saving Marty by Paul Griffin. September 19, 2017. Dial Books for Young Readers, 208 p. ISBN: 9780399539077.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Lexile: 650.

Fans of Because of Winn Dixie will adore this warm and heart-wrenching story of the friendship between a boy and a pig who thinks it’s a dog.

Eleven-year-old Lorenzo Ventura knows heroes are rare–like his father, who died in the war, or his friend Paloma Lee, who fearlessly pursues her dream of being a famous musician. Renzo would never describe himself as a hero, but his chance comes when he adopts Marty, a runt piglet.

Marty is extraordinary–he thinks he’s a dog and acts like one too–and his bond with Renzo is truly one of a kind. At first, the family farm seems like the perfect home for Marty, but as he approaches 350 pounds, it becomes harder for Renzo to convince his mom that a giant pig makes a good pet. So when Marty causes a dangerous (and expensive) accident, Renzo knows Marty’s time is up. He’d do anything and everything for his best friend, but will everything be enough to save Marty?

Paul Griffin masterfully melds the heartrending and the hopeful in this unforgettable story about the power of friendship . . . and the unsung heroes all around us

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Violence, Discussion of war, Discussion of suicide, Racism

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Grades 4-7. On the heels of the acclaimed When Friendship Followed Me Home (2016), Griffin returns with another story celebrating the deep bond between man and animal. In rural western Pennsylvania, Lorenzo Ventura, who’s large for his 11 years, forges a deep connection with a pig that thinks he’s a dog. Lorenzo names the pig Marty after the deceased father he never met, but unfortunately his mother, struggling to keep their household afloat, says Marty’s got to go. As Marty grows and grows, his girth causing a number of problems large and small, Lorenzo presses for information about his father. Though slight, Griffin’s novel packs a powerful punch, particularly when Lorenzo receives some unexpected news—his father, struggling with PTSD, had in fact committed suicide. A bit unfocused at the beginning, the story gains momentum midway, culminating in an emotional and heartrending climax. Griffin captures a slice of Americana—the flyover farms of middle America—rarely depicted so sensitively in contemporary middle-grade fiction. Hand this one to fans of animal-centered stories.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2017)
A failing peach farm and a mountain of bills force 12-year-old Lorenzo Ventura’s mother to consider selling his best friend, Marty—a pig who thinks he is a dog. The only things Renzo has to remember his father by are his Bronze Star, some letters, and his guitar. When new and conflicting details about his father’s death emerge, the white middle schooler is anxious to know the truth. But his mother and her father, Double Pop, are distracted with saving their home. When Paloma Lee, Renzo’s mixed-race (Korean and Colombian) friend, leaves for music camp, Renzo is left alone with his questions and Marty, whose size and enthusiasm are becoming dangerous. Renzo’s search for answers leads him to some profound truths: love is complicated, and people will continually surprise and sometimes disappoint you. But whether they are working single parents, military veterans, or simply friends willing to go the distance, heroes come in many types, and Renzo’s story is a celebration of them all. Renzo is a gentle-hearted dreamer who learns that there are some things worth fighting for. And Marty is the pig who guides him toward the man he is growing to be. Smart, honest, and heart-achingly real. (Fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Paul Griffin lives, writes, and trains dogs in New York City. His previous novel, The Orange Houses, was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults Top Ten, an International Reading Association 2010 Notable Book for a Global Society, a Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best Book of 2009, and an Amelia Bloomer Project Award winner.

His website is www.paulgriffinstories.net

Around the Web

Saving Marty on Amazon

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You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins. September 12, 2017. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 320 p. ISBN: 9780374304904.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 720.

Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve Bengal tigers and her Bengali identity–award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial prejudice

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 7-11. How do you make a sweeping family saga feel present and relevant for a teen audience? Jump across time and space and highlight just those pivotal adolescent moments that are as unifying as they are unique: starting a new school, claiming one’s faith, embracing one’s identity, or falling in love. Perkins has created a resonant and memorable tale that is both episodic and wholly unified. Sonia and Tara Das immigrate to New York City with their parents in the 1970s. They are swept into the culture of the vibrant city and quickly push back at their mother Ranee’s traditional expectations of good Indian girls, while their more permissive father encourages Tara’s acting, Sonia’s activism, and independence for both. Twenty year later, their decisions echo in the lives of their own daughters. Sonia’s daughter, Chantal, challenges her family to understand her biracial identity, while Tara’s daughter, Anna, takes a stand to defend her rights in a creative and stylish way. It is Anna and Chantal who ultimately bring Ranee’s character to life as the granddaughters, foils for each other, bear witness to Ranee’s personal awakening after the 9/11 attacks. Full of sisterhood, diversity, and complex, strong women, this book will speak to readers as they will undoubtedly find a kindred spirit in at least one of the Das women.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2017)
Perkins’ latest, inspired by the author’s own experience as the youngest of three sisters who arrived in the United States in the 1970s, is told in alternating voices across three generations. This saga tells the intertwined stories of Ranee Das, the matriarch, who uproots her family from Ghana (and then the United Kingdom) to find fortune in the United States; Sonia and Tara, her daughters, who struggle with identity and acceptance; and Anna and Chantal, Ranee’s granddaughters, who fight injustices at home and in their communities. As in the author’s other books, this novel features inspiring South Asian girl and women protagonists grappling with love, faith, and culture, as well as the intersections among their personal, communal, and national histories. The chapters from Ranee’s point of view, highlighting her redemptive transformation from racist mother-in-law to doting grandmother to a half-black grandchild, and those told in Sonia’s and Tara’s voices, including their turns from awkward and aspiring immigrant teenagers to New York Times reporter and Bollywood star respectively, are lushly drawn and emotionally resonant. The final third of the book, however, from the points of view of Anna and Chantal, is less so; its plotlines—Anna’s quest to redecorate her elite private school’s locker rooms and Chantal’s wrecking of her rich, white boyfriend’s Porsche—seem contrived and hastily written. While “issues” permeate the book (war, migration, racism, colorism, body positivity, environmentalism), they are more deftly woven into the narrative in the earlier, historical chapters than the later, contemporary ones. Although the book loses steam and heart toward the end, the earlier chapters, moving and rich in character and setting, make up for it. (Historical fiction/fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Mitali Perkins has written several novels for young readers, including You Bring the Distant Near (nominated for the National Book Award) Rickshaw Girl (a NYPL best 100 Book for children in the past 100 years), Bamboo People (an ALA Top 10 YA novel), and Tiger Boy, which won the South Asia Book Award for Younger Readers.

She currently writes and resides in San Francisco. Her website is www.mitaliperkins.com

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You Bring the Distant Near Discussion Questions

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13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough

13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough. October 3, 2017. Flatiron Books, 352 p. ISBN: 9781250123855.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Natasha’s sure that her friends love her. But does that mean they didn’t try to kill her?

Natasha doesn’t remember how she ended up in the icy water that night, but she does know this—it wasn’t an accident, and she wasn’t suicidal. Her two closest friends are acting strangely, and Natasha turns to Becca, the best friend she dumped years before when she got popular, to help her figure out what happened.

They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when you’re a teenage girl, it’s hard to tell them apart.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking, Slur against mentally disabled people

 

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Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. Becca and Tasha were childhood best friends, but now, in sixth form, Tasha is the ringleader of a trio of popular mean girls Becca dismissively calls the Barbies. Yet when Becca hears that Tasha is in the hospital after being revived from near drowning, she goes to see her former friend. Oddly, Tasha now wants to reconnect with her, even confiding in Becca that she suspects the Barbies are complicit in Tasha’s brush with death. The intrigue unfolds through a third-person narrative that alternates with snippets from therapy sessions, text conversations, news reports, and Tasha’s diary entries. Although the tone and vocabulary of these narrative voices could be interchangeable, it’s a device that facilitates some dandy plot twists. Pinborough gets the overwrought drama of teen friendships right, capturing both Becca’s intense feelings and her keen intelligence as she struggles to make sense of a string of seemingly unrelated tragic events. Readers drawn to the kind of debauched chicanery made popular in novels such as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (2012) will tear through this edgy thriller.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2017)
Tasha doesn’t remember the circumstances following her near drowning, so she enlists Becca’s help in investigating whether foul play was involved.Tasha’s the undisputed queen of the trio of sixth-form girls known around school as the Barbies for their focus on appearances and their general mean-girl behaviors. So it’s surprising that it’s Becca, Tasha’s former best friend, ostracized years ago for her weight, whom Tasha gathers to her side after the drowning. That a near-death experience might cause Tasha to re-examine her friendships seems plausible, especially considering the suspicious behaviors of the other two Barbies, Jenny and Hayley. Transcripts of the girls’ text messages even reveal—to readers—that Jenny and Hayley are far from real friends to Tasha. This initially detracts from the suspense as readers will quickly decide Jenny and Hayley are guilty. But soon Becca and Tasha’s investigation into the world of white, middle-class teen insecurities, betrayals, manipulations, sex, and drug use becomes darkly fascinating on its own. Characters’ desperation for attention lead them to accept treating others badly as the cost of winning Tasha’s affection (or at least avoiding her scorn). And when another student’s sudden death prompts Becca to take the investigation in a surprising new direction, the mystery’s tension ratchets up again. Red herrings lead to a satisfying conclusion in this British import. (Mystery. 14-18)

About the Author

Sarah Pinborough is the award-winning, New York Times and internationally bestselling author of Behind Her EyesBehind Her Eyes was praised by Stephen King, Joe Hill, Harlan Coben, and The New York Times Book Review, among others. 13 Minutes has been optioned by Netflix.

Sarah lives in London. Her website is www.sarahpinborough.com

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