Spill Zone by Scott Westerfield

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfield. May 2, 2017. First Second, 211 p. ISBN: 9781596439368.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Three years ago an event destroyed the small city of Poughkeepsie, forever changing reality within its borders. Uncanny manifestations and lethal dangers now await anyone who enters the Spill Zone.

The Spill claimed Addison’s parents and scarred her little sister, Lexa, who hasn t spoken since. Addison provides for her sister by photographing the Zone’s twisted attractions on illicit midnight rides. Art collectors pay top dollar for these bizarre images, but getting close enough for the perfect shot can mean death or worse.

When an eccentric collector makes a million-dollar offer, Addison breaks her own hard-learned rules of survival and ventures farther than she has ever dared. Within the Spill Zone, Hell awaits and it seems to be calling Addison’s name.

Part of series: The Spill Zone (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Smoking, Gore, Horror themes

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 9-12. As he did in the YA favorite Uglies (2005), Westerfeld crafts a world drastically and subtly altered by an extranormal development, then rivetingly explores its practical and psychological consequences. The development in this case is something otherworldly that has “spilled” into a small town in upstate New York. Addison illegally penetrates the spill zone to photograph its disturbing effects on people, animals, and environment and sells the pictures as black-market art to support her little sister, an escapee from the spill zone but not, perhaps, from its effects. When Addison is approached with a shady deal to penetrate the zone more deeply than ever before, she will have to break every rule she’s ever set to buy freedom for her sister and herself. Westerfeld handles the spooky business of the infected town magnificently, spiking the eerie and inexplicable with moments of genuine horror while always keeping the emotional tensions of his highly accessible teenage protagonist at the center. Puvilland provides rough, gritty visuals that deliver on the haunted world of the zone as well as the more realistic world of subterfuge and danger that Addison must navigate. The story breaks at a high-tension moment with plenty left to resolve in book two, but it is nevertheless a terrifically satisfying read.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
This first entry in a creepy, addictively suspenseful graphic novel series makes for compulsive reading. Three years ago, something very strange happened in Poughkeepsie, New York–no one is certain exactly what–but weird things happened in the city and weird things now populate it. Although the entire Spill Zone has been cordoned off, Addie continues to live just inside the checkpoint with her younger sister, Lexa (who doesn’t speak, except to her doll Vespertine), after losing both parents in the Spill. Addie regularly and illegally rides through the Spill Zone on her motorcycle, photographing the bizarre things she witnesses and selling her pictures to a local art dealer. Then a wealthy collector (who, it turns out, has bought up all of Addie’s photographs) makes her an offer she can’t refuse: a million dollars for retrieving a single item from a building inside the Spill Zone. As Addie sets out on her mission, the local authorities discover that she is the rogue motorcyclist; the North Koreans (who are also interested in this item) begin to close in; and, worst of all, Vespertine becomes animated by the same evil presence that permeates the Spill Zone. Puvilland’s dynamic panel layouts, striking use of unexpected colors, and sketchy line work serve the story well while conveying the unsettling mood of the piece. Westerfeld has set up his series with a provocative premise, and as the precise nature of the Spill Zone continues to be revealed, the stakes are sure to be raised accordingly in future volumes. jonathan hunt

About the Author

Scott Westerfeld is a New York Times bestselling author of YA. He was born in the Texas and now lives in Sydney and New York City. In 2001, Westerfeld married fellow author Justine Larbalestier.

His website is www.scottwesterfield.com.

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The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel

The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel. May 2, 2017. Random House Books for Young Readers, 248 p. ISBN: 9781101935873.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.3; Lexile: 400.

The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves—and more to their worlds—than meets the eye. . . .

• The clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, Oona Lee is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine.

• A boy from the poorest slums, An Tzu has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations.

• Star athlete Jax Amboy is beloved by an entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends?

When these three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest, it will take not one, not two, but 5 WORLDS to contain all the magic and adventure!

Part of Series: 5 Worlds (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Fighting

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 4-7. Oona is lucky to have grown up in the relative luxury of Sand Dancer Academy, though she’s clumsy and the last person anyone would expect to have any special powers. An Tzu ekes out a meager life in the slums surrounding the academy, and when Toki rebels from one of the moons making up the five worlds attack the main power station, he and Oona—along with Jax Amboy, an athlete with a serious secret—find themselves unexpectedly at the center of the conflict. Together, they navigate the city under siege, flee Toki forces curiously insistent on capturing Oona, and try to make sense of some enigmatic clues they discover along the way. The Siegels’ immersive series starter drops readers right into the midst of its fully fleshed-out world, a multiplanet system with simmering conflicts that might look awfully familiar to contemporary readers. When those conflicts come to a head, the disarray in the city is terrifying, which only amplifies the suspense of Oona, An Tzu, and Jax’s quest. Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun’s richly detailed panels, filled with fluid shapes, swirling sand, and clearly depicted action, imbue the narrative with vivid, compelling atmosphere, while their figures are refreshingly varied in size, shape, and skin tone. With sensitive writing, gorgeous artwork, and a riveting plot, this is a series to keep an eye on.

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2017)
A sudden attack on the world of Mon Domani and its inhabited moons drives a young dancer, a street urchin, and an illegal android together.Many pages are crowded with sequential panels that are too small to fit the dialogue balloons or convey the hot action discernibly, but the overall plotline is easy enough to follow. Though generally mocked as a poor student of sand dancing—a psychokinetic art that uses hand and body movements to conjure solid “aniforms” from mystic vapors—next to her vanished big sister, Jessa, Oona Lee finds her powers growing as mysterious forces work to prevent the relighting of giant, long-dark Beacons that may stave off the growing environmental instability that is threatening all five worlds. With but little time to address the crisis by learning how to dance up a mighty Sand Warrior aniform and rediscover the lost technique of Beacon lighting, Oona is plunged into a running battle with minions of the Mimic, an ancient shape-changing nemesis. The three illustrators work seamlessly together to place Oona, a thick-bodied but graceful, pale-skinned strawberry blonde, in exotic, elaborately envisioned settings and surround her with a notably variegated cast of green-, blue-, brown-, black-, and pink-skinned allies and adversaries. The climax features a shocking revelation but leaves one Beacon lit with four to go: stay tuned. A headlong, if visually busy, opener for what promises to be a rare adventure. (Graphic science fiction. 10-13)

About the Author

Mark Siegel has written and illustrated several award-winning picture books and graphic novels, including the New York Times bestseller Sailor Twain, or the Mermaid in the Hudson. He is also the founder and editorial director of First Second Books. He lives with his family in New York.

 

 

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The Star Thief by Lindsey Becker

The Star Thief by Lindsey Becker. April 11, 2017. Little, Brown, and Company, 408 p. ISBN: 9780316348560.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.0; Lexile: 920.

Honorine’s life as as maid at the Vidalia mansion is rather dull, dusting treasures from faraway places and daydreaming in front of maps of the world. But everything changes when she catches two brutish sailors ransacking Lord Vidalia’s study, and then follows a mysterious girl with wings out into the night….

Suddenly, Honorine is whisked into the middle of a battle between the crew of a spectacular steamship and a band of mythical constellations. The stars in the sky have come to life to defend themselves against those who want to harness their powers. Much to her surprise, Honorine is the crux of it all, the center of an epic clash between magic and science, the old ways and the new. But can this spirited young girl bring both sides of a larger-than-life fight together before they unleash an evil power even older than the stars?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 5-8. In this adventure of the galactic variety, Honorine’s deepest wish is to know a family. And according to the Mapmaker, a strident and fiercely powerful Mordant, she’ll betray him to gain her deepest longing. Orphaned as a baby, Honorine discovers Lord Vidalia placed her in his home to protect her from unseen powers that literally light up the night sky. One night, Honorine’s life drastically changes when she stumbles upon Mordants—constellations come to life—and is reunited with the only person she’s ever considered family: Lord Vidalia’s son, Francis. The problem? Francis seems to be on the wrong side of the epic battle above, and Honorine is discovering truths about her family that leave her in an extremely sticky situation. Infused with references to constellations and Greek mythological creatures, and stocked with ships that sail through the sky and civilizations succumbing to power and greed over and over again, the invigorating plot ultimately leaves Honorine with only one choice to make. A fun, Rick Riordanesque escapade.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
A debut middle-grade adventure involving constellations that come to life, airships, friendships, revenge, and the fight for survival.In the years just before the turn of the 20th century, Honorine—a white girl with gray eyes and a knack for artifacts and machinery—has lived on the Vidalia Estate for as long as she remembers. For the first years her best friend and playmate was Francis Vidalia, but now he’s in school and her days are filled with household chores. When strangers come looking for a book, her world is turned on its head. Honorine is swept up into a world where living constellations—here known as Mordant—are in a fight for their very survival. Before the book is over Honorine will have been on a fantastical flying island that is really a ship; met the scheming white Capt. Nautilus Olyphant and seen the ingenious device with which he has been capturing the Mordant; dealt with the mysterious and somewhat sinister Mapmaker; found out who her parents are; seen monsters emerge from Hades; and made important decisions involving friendship, family, and loyalty. The pace is fast, the characters believable, and the setting original. Though there are some holes in the story, such as exactly what motivates Nautilus, the breakneck pace will not give readers time to ponder such questions. And they probably won’t mind a bit. Readers enjoying a mix of fantasy, adventure, and a clever heroine will fall for this one. (Fantasy. 9-12)

About the Author

Lindsey Becker writes middle grade fiction about ghosts, monsters, mythical beasts, and daring children who love adventure and magic. The Star Thief is her debut novel.

Her website is http://literarylilycate.blogspot.com/

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Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser. June 6, 2017. Bloomsbury Childrens Books, 376 p. ISBN: 9781681192970.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. For generations, her family has been called by the river god, who has guided their wherries on countless voyages throughout the Riverlands. At seventeen, Caro has spent years listening to the water, ready to meet her fate. But the river god hasn’t spoken her name yet—and if he hasn’t by now, there’s a chance he never will.

Caro decides to take her future into her own hands when her father is arrested for refusing to transport a mysterious crate. By agreeing to deliver it in exchange for his release, Caro finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies, with dangerous pirates after the cargo—an arrogant courier with a secret—and without the river god to help her. With so much at stake, Caro must choose between the life she always wanted and the one she never could have imagined for herself.

From debut author Sarah Tolcser comes an immersive and romantic fantasy set along the waterways of a magical world with a headstrong heroine determined to make her mark.

Part of Series: Song of the Current (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol, Criminal culture

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 7-10. Caro Oresteia, daughter of a river wherryman, thinks the river and sailing her family’s small boat is her destiny, and she is disappointed when the river gods don’t speak to her as they have to all her ancestors. She is meant for bigger things; her true fate begins to unfold when she releases a mysterious man from an enchanted box, discovers he is the heir to the Akhaian throne, and decides to protect his life with her own. First-time author Tolcser has created a hearty sea adventure, laced with romance and fantasy, that features a biracial heroine, both self-doubting and brave, and a blue-eyed, black-haired prince with a lot to learn. The flavor of the sea comes through by way of basic sailing terms and techniques, colorful cursing (“Balto’s balls!”), and dialect that feels authentic without being troublesome to read. This is more romantic than L. A. Meyer’s Jacky Faber series but may work with its readers. It can also be handed to fans of Celia Rees’ Pirates! (2003), or for the romance, Sharon Shinn’s Twelve Houses series.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
Caroline Oresteia, a wherryman’s daughter and granddaughter, knows that she’s meant for the river—but at age 17, she has yet to hear the voice of the god at its bottom. When pirates burn several wherries, Caro’s smuggler father is arrested. To gain back his freedom—and maybe attract the god’s attention—Caro agrees to use her father’s wherry to transport a mysterious cargo: a young man named Tarquin Meredios who claims to be a royal courier. Pompous and overbearing, highborn Tarquin sneers at both Caro and wherrymen. But as he and Caro change course from Caro’s contracted destination to one Tarquin insists on, he grows on both her and readers. Caro’s narrative voice is smart and colloquial; worldbuilding details are imparted naturally through dialogue and her reflections on it. Caro describes herself as having a mixed heritage, noting the varying shades of brown in her relatives from her mother’s side. Most of the other, presumably white characters’ skin tones are not described, with pale Tarquin’s “strange foreign coloring” a notable exception. The frogmen, descendants of the river god and a sailor’s daughter, have brownish-green skin; Fee, a taciturn female frogman, works for Caro’s father. Caro’s description of her boat home, the Cormorant, will make even readers unfamiliar with sailing feel as though they belong on the water with her. Tolcser blends the right amount of epic fantasy, sea voyage, and romance for a rollicking, swashbuckling adventure. (Fantasy. 14-18)

About the Author

Sarah Tolcser lives in New Orleans, where she is an elementary technology teacher. A graduate of St. Lawrence University, she double majored in writing and philosophy. She enjoys video games and NBA basketball. She is married, with two cats.

Her website is www.sarahtolcser.com

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Nemesis by Brendan Reichs

Nemesis by Brendan Reichs. March 21, 2017. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 443 p. ISBN: 9780399544934.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 540.

He killed me. He killed me not. He killed me.

It’s been happening since Min was eight. Every two years, on her birthday, a strange man finds her and murders her in cold blood. But hours later, she wakes up in a clearing just outside her tiny Idaho hometown—alone, unhurt, and with all evidence of the horrifying crime erased.

Across the valley, Noah just wants to be like everyone else. But he’s not. Nightmares of murder and death plague him, though he does his best to hide the signs. But when the world around him begins to spiral toward panic and destruction, Noah discovers that people have been lying to him his whole life. Everything changes in an eye blink.

For the planet has a bigger problem. The Anvil, an enormous asteroid threatening all life on Earth, leaves little room for two troubled teens. Yet on her sixteenth birthday, as she cowers in her bedroom, hoping not to die for the fifth time, Min has had enough. She vows to discover what is happening in Fire Lake and uncovers a lifetime of lies: a vast conspiracy involving the sixty-four students of her sophomore class, one that may be even more sinister than the murders.

Part of Series: Project Nemesis (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Underage drinking, Smoking, Murder

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 8-12. It’s no way to celebrate a birthday: every even-numbered year, 16-year-old Min is murdered by an impassive, black-suited man. And then she lives on. Something weird is going on in Min’s isolated Idaho town, and she traces it back to first grade, when everyone in her class was inoculated—but for what? Things are equally catastrophic in the world at large, where everyone is waiting to see if an asteroid, Anvil, is going to hit Earth. The Anvil misses, but the world is battered by earthquakes, tsunamis, and fires. Min begins to realize that perhaps her strange reality and the earth’s convulsions may be linked. She also learns that she’s not the only one enduring her odd existence. There are many overworked adjectives for action books: page-turner, fast-paced, intense. For this book, multiply all of them. Reichs truly keeps readers guessing throughout, with twists on nearly every page. Alternating chapters between Min and fellow student Noah give readers a chance to look at the curious incidents from two points of view, heightening the tension. While some of the characters are more stereotypical than substantial, Min’s witty best friend, Tack, brightens the pages. The book’s ending hints at a sequel, and, though there is more to be discovered, this would have been a fine thriller all on its own.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2016)
Reichs follows up his Virals series (co-written with his mother, Kathy Reichs) with a new series about imminent human extinction.Min is not your average 16-year-old. Living in a trailer park in an isolated town high in the mountains of Idaho, she’s learned to keep pretty much to herself. She has a mother who loves her and a best friend, Tack, who’d like to be more, but she knows they can’t understand what she’s going through. Every two years on her birthday, she’s murdered. And every two years she comes back, completely unharmed. She’s tried to escape the inevitable but knows it’s only a matter of time before the man in black returns for her. Now things are getting worse, with an asteroid headed toward Earth. Will this be it, the real end of her life? Just when she’s found that classmate Noah is having the same strange experiences she’s tried to keep hidden? Reichs varies his narrative structure, opening with Min’s present-day account, interspersed with italicized flashbacks, and then switching to Noah, whose account is punctuated by transcripts with the doctor he shares with Min, before their stories converge in alternating chapters. It’s a pacing strategy that keeps the pages flipping madly. Min, Tack, and Noah are all evidently white. Hooked readers will be tapping their fingers waiting for the sequel. (Thriller. 12-16)

About the Author

Brendan Reichs was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated from Wake Forest University in 2000 and The George Washington University School of Law in 2006. After three long years working as a litigation attorney, he abandoned the trade to write full time. He lives in Charlotte with his wife, son, daughter, and a herd of animals that tear up everything.

His website is www.brendanreichs.com.

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Orphan Train Girl by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Trial Girl: Young Reader’s Edition by Christina Baker Kline. May 2, 2017. HarperCollins, 228 p. ISBN: 9780062445940.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.6.

This young readers’ edition of Christina Baker Kline’s #1 New York Times bestselling novel Orphan Train follows a young foster girl who forms an unlikely bond with a ninety-one-year-old woman. Adapted and condensed for a young audience, Orphan Train Girl includes an author’s note and archival photos from the orphan train era.

Molly Ayer has been in foster care since she was eight years old. Most of the time, Molly knows it’s her attitude that’s the problem, but after being shipped from one family to another, she’s had her fair share of adults treating her like an inconvenience. So when Molly’s forced to help an elderly woman clean out her attic for community service, Molly is wary. Just another adult to treat her like a troublemaker.

But from the very moment they meet, Molly realizes that Vivian, a well-off ninety-one-year-old, isn’t like any of the adults she’s encountered before. Vivian asks Molly questions about her life and actually listens when Molly responds. Molly soon sees they have more in common than she thought. Vivian was once an orphan, too—an Irish immigrant to New York City who was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children—and she can understand, better than anyone else, the emotional binds that have been making Molly’s life so hard. Together, they not only clear boxes of past mementos from Vivian’s attic, but forge a path of friendship, forgiveness, and new beginnings for their future.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racism and racist language, Child neglect and abuse

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 3-6. In this middle-grade adaptation of Kline’s best-selling adult novel, half Penobscot Molly, a modern foster child in rural Maine, finds a kindred spirit in the wealthy nonagenarian Vivian. Caught stealing The Secret Garden from the public library, Molly is forced to help Vivian clean out her attic. Though she’s wary of the elderly lady, she learns the two have something in common. Vivian herself is an orphan, having come to the U.S. from Ireland during the potato famine. When a fire destroys Vivian’s NYC tenement, killing the rest of her family, she’s sent off to Minnesota on an “orphan train.” Third-person passages alternating between Molly and 10-year-old Vivian, born Niamh and renamed by each of the families that takes her in, further flesh out common threads to their experiences. Though the book doesn’t quite pack the powerful emotional punch readers may expect, the muted emotions are situated in the context of the many hardships faced during the Great Depression. Back matter provides further historical context, useful for classroom instruction and enhancing the reading experience. Quietly moving.

Kirkus Reviews (March 15, 2017)
In a young readers’ version of Kline’s Orphan Train (2013), sixth-grader Molly, a foster child on the coast of Maine, helps an elderly woman, Vivian, sort through boxes of keepsakes in her attic.Molly, quietly introspective, is performing community service, assigned (surprisingly) for trying to steal a battered paperback from the public library. In Vivian, she discovers a kindred spirit. The elderly white woman is an orphan too and traveled west in 1929 on an orphan train. In the attic, Molly unwraps objects from Vivian’s childhood, each providing the vehicle for a transition to Vivian’s arduous experiences, first in New York, then on the orphan train, and finally in Minnesota, where she’s shunted from one desperate foster home to another. By comparison, Molly’s experiences under the care of her emotionally abusive foster mother, Dina, seem almost mild. The tale is painted with a broad brush, lacking the gentle nuance of the adult version. Molly, half Penobscot Indian and half white, prefers goth dress and is a vegetarian, but it’s never quite clear why angry, white, unnuanced Dina so dislikes her. Vivian’s more richly evoked story of immigration, poverty, and occasional kindness is more compelling but also simplistic, partly because her character is only about 10 or 11, even at the end of her story. Although interesting, this effort may leave readers wishing to explore unplumbed depths. (Fiction. 10-12)

About the Author

Christina Baker Kline is the author of New York Times instant bestseller A Piece of the World (2017), about the relationship between the artist Andrew Wyeth and the subject of his best-known painting, Christina’s World. Kline has written six other novels — Orphan Train, Orphan Train Girl, The Way Life Should Be, Sweet Water, Bird in Hand, and Desire Lines— and written or edited five works of nonfiction. Her 2013 novel Orphan Train spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller list, including five weeks at # 1, and was published in 40 countries. More than 100 communities and colleges have chosen it as a “One Book, One Read” selection. Her adaptation of Orphan Train for young readers is Orphan Train Girl (2017). She lives near New York City and on the coast of Maine.

Her website is www.christinabakerkline.com.

Teacher Resources

Orphan Train Discussion Questions

Orphan Trail Reading Guide

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Ashes to Ashville by Sarah Dooley

Ashes to Ashville by Sarah Dooley. April 4, 2017. G.P. Putnam & Sons, 243 p. ISBN: 9780399165047.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 800.

Two sisters take off on a wild road trip in this poignant tale for fans of Counting by 7s and Fish in a Tree

After Mama Lacy’s death, Fella was forced to move in with her grandmother, Mrs. Madison. The move brought Fella all sorts of comforts she wasn’t used to at home, but it also meant saying goodbye to her sister Zoey (a.k.a. Zany) and her other mother, Mama Shannon. Though Mama Shannon fought hard to keep Fella, it was no use. The marriage act is still a few years away and the courts thought Fella would be better off with a blood relation. Already heartbroken, Fella soon finds herself alone in Mrs. Madison’s house, grieving both the death of her mother and the loss of her entire family.

Then one night, Zany shows up at Mrs. Madison’s house determined to fulfill Mama Lacy’s dying wish: to have her ashes spread over the lawn of the last place they were all happy as a family. Of course, this means stealing Mama Lacy’s ashes and driving hundreds of miles in the middle of night to Asheville, North Carolina. Their adventure takes one disastrous turn after another, but their impulsive journey helps them rediscover the bonds that truly make them sisters.

A heartrending story of family torn apart and put back together again, Ashes to Asheville is an important, timely tale.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Smoking; Car theft

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 4-7. Five years have elapsed since 12-year-old Fella and her teenage sister, Zany, left Asheville, and now they’re headed back, sneaking out late at night with Mama Lacy’s ashes and racing to get there in time for what would have been her fortieth birthday. They left Asheville for West Virginia to be near family as Mama Lacy battled pancreatic cancer, but after Lacy’s death, Fella’s biological grandmother fought for her in court and won, separating her from Zany and Mama Shannon. Now the two girls are essentially on the lam. A chance meet-up with a stranger who steals Lacy’s ashes turns into an unexpected friendship with Adam, whose own father is on his deathbed—dying of cancer, too. There’s so much unspoken between the two sisters, but particularly painful for Zany is the financial ease that Fella lives in with Mrs. Madison, while she and Mama Shannon struggle to get by. Dooley’s portrait of two sisters still struggling with grief and huge life changes makes for a powerful, absorbing read. As their road trip turns treacherous, readers will anxiously turn the pages, hoping for a happy ending. The court battle for Fella’s custody shows the extent to which state battles over same-sex marriage create fissures in families and have an enduring and tragic impact on the lives of young people. A tender, touching, and timely read.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
Two sisters make an unauthorized expedition to their former hometown and in the process bring together the two parts of their divided family.Dooley packs plenty of emotion into this eventful road trip, which takes place over the course of less than 24 hours. Twelve-year-old Ophelia, nicknamed Fella, and her 16-year-old sister, Zoey Grace, aka Zany, are the daughters of a lesbian couple, Shannon and Lacy, who could not legally marry. The two white girls squabble and share memories as they travel from West Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, where Zany is determined to scatter Mama Lacy’s ashes in accordance with her wishes. The year is 2004, before the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, and the girls have been separated by hostile, antediluvian custodial laws. Fella’s present-tense narration paints pictures not just of the difficulties they face on the trip (a snowstorm, car trouble, and an unlikely thief among them), but also of their lives before Mama Lacy’s illness and of the ways that things have changed since then. Breathless and engaging, Fella’s distinctive voice is convincingly childlike. The conversations she has with her sister, as well as her insights about their relationship, likewise ring true. While the girls face serious issues, amusing details and the caring adults in their lives keep the tone relatively light. Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when Fella’s family figures out how to come together in a new way. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Sarah Dooley is the critically acclaimed author of Free Verse. She has lived in an assortment of small West Virginia towns, each of which she grew to love. Winner of the 2012 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship, she has written two additional novels for middle-grade readers, Body of Water and Livvie Owen Lived Here. Sarah is a former special education teacher who now provides treatment to children with autism. She lives in Huntington, West Virginia, where she inadvertently collects cats. She’s a 2006 graduate of Marshall University.

Her website is www.dooleynotedbooks.com.

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A Soldier’s Sketchbook by John Wilson

A Soldier’s Sketchbook: The Illustrated First World War Diary of R.H. Rabjohn by John Wilson. March 7, 2017. Tundra Books, 112 p. ISBN: 9781770498549.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.0; Lexile: 990.

A unique First World War diary, illustrated with more than a hundred stunning pencil sketches, for children learning history and also for adults interested in a new perspective on the War and authentic wartime artefacts.

Russell Rabjohn was just eighteen years old when he joined up to fight in the First World War. In his three years of soldiering, he experienced the highs and lows of army life, from a carefree leave in Paris to the anguish of seeing friends die around him. Like many soldiers, he defied army regulations and recorded everything he saw and felt in a small pocket diary.

Private Rabjohn was a trained artist, and as such he was assigned to draw dugouts, map newly captured trenches, and sketch the graves of his fallen comrades. This allowed him to carry an artist’s sketchbook on the battlefield–a freedom he put to good use, drawing everything he saw. Here, in vivid detail, are images of the captured pilot of a downed German biplane; the horrific Flanders mud; a German observation balloon exploding in midair; and the jubilant mood in the streets of Belgium when the Armistice is finally signed. With no surviving veterans of the First World War, Rabjohn’s drawings are an unmatched visual record of a lost time.

Award-winning author John Wilson brings his skills as a historian and researcher to bear, carefully curating the diary to provide context and tell the story of Private Rabjohn’s war. He has selected each of the diary entries and the accompanying images, and has provided the background that modern-day readers need to understand what a young soldier went through a century ago. The result is a wonderfully detailed and dramatic account of the war as seen through an artist’s eyes.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war, Xenophobic epithets

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 7-10. Russell Hughes Rabjohn was only 18 when, in 1916, he enlisted in the Canadian armed forces to fight in WWI. Following some eight months of training, he was shipped to the French front. Already a trained artist, he was assigned to map trenches, draw dugouts, and sketch the graves of his fallen comrades. As Wilson notes, this gave him leave to carry a sketchbook to the front (soldiers were normally forbidden to sketch, paint, or photograph close to fighting). The more than 100 beautifully rendered pencil sketches contained in this fascinating book are, therefore, a rare visual record of one soldier’s vivid and often chilling experiences of war. The sketches are accompanied by excerpts from Rabjohn’s diaries, five of which Wilson serendipitously discovered in the Canadian War Museum. The entries are enhanced by Wilson’s contextual commentary, and each of the six sections into which the book is divided are introduced by his more discursive background information. The result is a captivating introduction to the realities of the Great War.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2017)
A young Canadian soldier’s reminiscences from the western front.In this unusual memoir, historian Wilson describes being shown Rabjohn’s diary, published privately in 1977, by Rabjohn’s Canadian great-niece. Wilson has transformed the diary into a compelling account of World War I, compiled from Rabjohn’s diary and sketchbooks and supplemented with contextual information about the war. Just 18 when he enlisted in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force in 1916, Rabjohn saw direct action in major battles, including the assault on Vimy Ridge, the Battle of Arras, and the muddy horror show that was the Third Battle of Ypres, or Passchendaele. The extracts from the diary describe intimate wartime experiences of death and destruction in gruesomely dispassionate terms. Apart from a blissful two-week leave in Paris, it’s a story of unmitigated horror, highlighting more than any textbook the futility of war. As a trained artist, Rabjohn was allowed to bring sketchbooks onto the battlefield and thus created a unique portfolio of accurate pencil sketches of trenches, dugouts, and graves. He also depicted scenes of soldiers, buildings, and devastated landscapes, which he reworked and supplemented when he came home. Endpaper maps of Western Europe and the parts of France and Belgium where Rabjohn saw action help situate readers. This unique compilation of firsthand impressions of the Great War will be a valuable resource for adults and teens with an interest in this turning point in world history. (index, timeline, further reading) (Nonfiction. 12-adult)

About the Author

John Wilson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and moved to Canada after university to work as a geologist. Eventually he began to write full time, and today he is one of Canada’s best-known authors of historical fiction and nonfiction for kids, teens, and adults. He’s published more than forty books, including several novels set during the First World War: Wings of War, Dark Terror, And in the Morning and Shot at Dawn. His books have won or been shortlisted for numerous prizes, including the Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Text, the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People, the Red Maple and White Pine Awards, the Hackmatack Children’s Choice Award, the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize, and the prestigious Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction. John Wilson lives in Lantzville on Vancouver Island.

Her website is www.johnwilsonauthor.com.

Teacher Resources

World War I Resources from the NEA

Around the Web

A Soldier’s Sketchbook on Amazon

A Soldier’s Sketchbook on Goodreads

A Soldier’s Sketchbook on JLG

A Soldier’s Sketchbook Publisher Page

10 Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac

10 Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac. February 28, 2017. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 320 p. ISBN: 9780399556258.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 560.

Think positive.
Don’t worry; be happy.
Keep calm and carry on.

Maeve has heard it all before. She’s been struggling with severe anxiety for a long time, and as much as she wishes it was something she could just talk herself out of, it’s not. She constantly imagines the worst, composes obituaries in her head, and is always ready for things to fall apart. To add to her troubles, her mom—the only one who really gets what Maeve goes through—is leaving for six months, so Maeve will be sent to live with her dad in Vancouver.

Vancouver brings a slew of new worries, but Maeve finds brief moments of calm (as well as even more worries) with Salix, a local girl who doesn’t seem to worry about anything. Between her dad’s wavering sobriety, her very pregnant stepmom insisting on a home birth, and her bumbling courtship with Salix, this summer brings more catastrophes than even Maeve could have foreseen. Will she be able to navigate through all the chaos to be there for the people she loves?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol, Name-calling, Homophobia, Drug addiction

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2016)
A white teen with severe anxiety struggles to manage her mental health and finds joy in a budding relationship with a new girlfriend. Most people worry, but Maeve has always done so to the extreme. With her severe anxiety and panic disorder, she is constantly working to balance her spiraling, catastrophizing thoughts—without the help of any medication. When her mom decides to spend six months in Haiti, Maeve is forced to move to live with her father and his family in Vancouver, disrupting her otherwise relatively stable life. In Vancouver, Maeve feels she has plenty to be anxious about: from her pregnant stepmother’s home-birth plan to the possibility her father might start drinking and using again. But when already-out Maeve meets Salix, a violin-busking “friend of Dorothy,” and their mutual attraction grows, she begins to find unexpected happiness in Vancouver. Mac crafts a beautifully awkward and affecting budding relationship between Maeve and Salix—one that neither miraculously cures Maeve nor leaves her entirely unchanged. With Maeve, Mac provides a realistic portrayal of the ways that anxiety can affect all relationships and permeate every aspect of life—demonstrated at times with humor through sardonic obituaries regularly composed by Maeve throughout the first-person narrative. With Maeve, Mac delivers a character who’s heartwarmingly real and sympathetic, and her story provides a much needed mirror for anxious queer girls everywhere. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Publishers Weekly (December 12, 2016)
Everyone tells Maeve that things will be fine, but they don’t know what it’s like to have an anxiety disorder, to visualize possible disasters constantly. Spending six months in Vancouver with her father and stepfamily is terrifying for nearly 17-year-old Maeve-she could die on the way, for one thing. Even after arriving safely, she finds cause for worry. Her father may be drinking again, the home birth her pregnant stepmother is planning is risky, and being around Salix-the girl she likes-is nerve-racking. But to Maeve’s surprise, Salix likes her. Even more surprising: when some of Maeve’s fears come to pass, she’s upset, but not helpless. Mac (The Way Back) is good at showing how a dread-filled mind works and how Salix, whom Maeve sees as wholly confident, also has to fight nerves. Mac’s not interested in villains: there is no evil stepmother, no homophobia. Instead, the struggles are internal, like Maeve’s anxiety and her father’s relapse, and relational, as people try to forgive and be honest with each other. The result is a low-key but affecting story. Ages 14-up. (Feb.)

About the Author

I live with my partner and two children in East Van, overlooking the shipyards and with a great view of the crows flying home to roost.

Or:

When Carrie Mac was born, her right eye gawked off in one direction while her left eye looked the other way. Well meaning adults thought she was a changeling and so they wrapped her up and put her on the porch for the fairies to take back, please and thank you. It was snowing. It was dark. No fairies came. The same well meaning adults decided she’d catch her death out there. So they brought her in and kept her after all.

She’s read millions of books, and has sat happily at the feat of a legion of storytellers. She is equally fascinated by disaster and grace. car wrecks, hurricanes, plagues, and genocides on the one hand, small and stunning everyday miracles on the other. She sometimes wishes she were a pirate. She’d often wished she’d run away and joined the circus when she had the chance. She spends a great deal of time in the company of her imagination, and when she isn’t, she’s wide eyed and awed by this planet and the people running amok all over it. Her website is www.carriemac.com.

Around the Web

10 Things I Can See From Here on Amazon

10 Things I Can See From Here on Goodreads

10 Things I Can See From Here on JLG

10 Things I Can See From Here Publisher Page

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. April 18, 2017. Doubleday, 352p. ISBN: 9780385534246.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

From New Yorker staff writer David Grann, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.

In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. The book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward Native Americans that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly riveting, but also emotionally devastating.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts; Discrimination; Violence; Alcohol; Criminal culture

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
During the early 1920s, many members of the Osage Indian Nation were murdered, one by one. After being forced from several homelands, the Osage had settled in the late nineteenth century in an unoccupied area of Oklahoma, chosen precisely because it was “rocky, sterile, and utterly unfit for cultivation.” No white man would covet this land; Osage people would be happy. Then oil was soon discovered below the Osage territory, speedily attracting prospectors wielding staggering sums and turning many Osage into some of the richest people in the world. Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, 2010) centers this true-crime mystery on Mollie Burkhart, an Osage woman who lost several family members as the death tally grew, and Tom White, the former Texas Ranger whom J. Edgar Hoover sent to solve the slippery, attention-grabbing case once and for all. A secondary tale of Hoover’s single-minded rise to power as the director of what would become the FBI, his reshaping of the bureau’s practices, and his goal to gain prestige for federal investigators provides invaluable historical context. Grann employs you-are-there narrative effects to set readers right in the action, and he relays the humanity, evil, and heroism of the people involved. His riveting reckoning of a devastating episode in American history deservedly captivates..

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2017)
Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding “headrights” that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the “Reign of Terror.” Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn’t stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann’s crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs. Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

About the Author

David Grann is a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine. He has written about everything from New York City’s antiquated water tunnels to the hunt for the giant squid to the presidential campaign.
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, published by Doubleday, is Grann’s first book and is being developed into a movie by Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company and Paramount Pictures.

Grann’s stories have appeared in several anthologies, including What We Saw: The Events of September 11, 2001; The Best American Crime Writing, of both 2004 and 2005; and The Best American Sports Writing, of 2003 and 2006. A 2004 finalist for the Michael Kelly award for the “fearless pursuit and expression of truth,” Grann has also written for the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, and The New Republic.

Before joining The New Yorker in 2003, Grann was a senior editor at The New Republic, and, from 1995 until 1996, the executive editor of the newspaper The Hill. He holds master’s degrees in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy as well as in creative writing from Boston University. After graduating from Connecticut College in 1989, he received a Thomas Watson Fellowship and did research in Mexico, where he began his career in journalism. He currently lives in New York with his wife and two children.

His website is www.davidgrann.com.

Teacher Resources

Killers of the Flower Moon Discussion Questions

Around the Web

Killers of the Flower Moon on Amazon

Killers of the Flower Moon on Goodreads

Killers of the Flower Moon on JLG

Killers of the Flower Moon Publisher Page