Tag Archives: action

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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Guys Read: Heroes & Villains by Jon Scieszka

Guys Read: Heroes & Villains by Jon Scieszka. April 4, 2017. Walden Pond Press, 288 p. ISBN: 9780062385611.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.2.

Heroes and Villains, the seventh volume in Jon Scieszka’s Guys Read Library of Great Reading, is chock-full of adventure featuring an array of characters—with and without capes.

Featuring ten all-new, original stories that run the gamut from fantasy to comics to contemporary adventure to nonfiction, and featuring eleven of the most acclaimed, exciting writers for kids working today, this collection is the perfect book for you, whether you use your powers for good—or evil.

Authors include Laurie Halse Anderson, Cathy Camper and Raúl Gonzalez, Sharon Creech, Jack Gantos, Christopher Healy, Deborah Hopkinson, Ingrid Law, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Lemony Snicket, and Eugene Yelchin, with illustrations by Jeff Stokely.

Part of Series: Guys Read

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence

 

 

 

Teacher Resources

Guys Read website

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Masterminds: Payback by Gordon Korman

Masterminds: Payback by Gordon Korman. March 7, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062300058.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.0.

The thrilling finale to the New York Times-bestselling Masterminds series from middle grade star author Gordon Korman. Perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and James Patterson.

After a serious betrayal from one of their former friends, the clones of Project Osiris are on the run again. Now separated into pairs, Eli and Tori and Amber and Malik are fighting to survive in the real world.

Amber and Malik track down the one person they think can help them prove the existence of Project Osiris, notorious mob boss Gus Alabaster, also known as Malik’s DNA donor. But as Malik gets pulled into the criminal world—tantalized by hints of a real family—his actions put him and Amber into greater danger.

Part of Series: Masterminds (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 4-7. Korman’s action-packed caper series comes to a satisfying close in this final installment. After facing a surprising double-cross at the end of the last book (Criminal Destiny, 2016), Eli and Tori get separated from Amber and Malik, but that doesn’t stop each pair of kids from continuing to follow clues to track down the criminals from which they were cloned. They have good intentions, but they can’t help but use their inborn skills, and soon they all begin to feel lured in by the ease of breaking the law. But as the cinematic plot, laced with red herrings, daring escapes, and mostly harmless minor crimes, trundles on to a tropical resort, where the foursome confronts the mad scientist responsible for their existence, the kids realize that their loyalty to one another and the skills they’ve learned from each other are enough to keep them on the straight and narrow (for now, at least). With a masterful balance of humor, thought-provoking questions, and adventure, this finale offers just the right closing note to an entertaining trilogy.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
In this trilogy closer, the four escaped clones from Project Osiris are still on the run, trying to avoid capture, discover the truth behind their criminal origins, and rescue the rest of the clones from the clutches of the evil Dr. Hammerstrom.Amber and Malik travel to Chicago to question Malik’s DNA donor, crime boss Gus Alabaster. Posing as his long-lost son, Malik is able to infiltrate his inner circle, but other than the confirmation that he is Gus’ clone, the trip is futile. Meanwhile, Tori and Eli go to California to visit serial killer Bartholomew Glen. There, they find that the Osiris conspiracy is bigger than they imagined. The four use a combination of their innate criminal abilities and their learned kindness to survive. Whether it is stealing a car, selling stolen Girl Scout cookies, or hacking computers, they will do whatever it takes to find the truth. This final installment in the trilogy that began with Masterminds (2015) is packed with surprising twists, high-speed chases, and plenty of near misses. Though the novel sidesteps racial differences, the question of nature versus nurture adds a thoughtful layer to a book that relies heavily on some convenient coincidences and improbable scenarios. (The dimly lit cover depicts the kids as either white or ambiguous.) Fans of the series will not be disappointed. Action-packed, high-speed fun. (Adventure. 8-12)

About the Author

Korman wrote his first book, “This Can’t be Happening at Macdonald Hall”, when he was 12 years old, for a coach who suddenly found himself teaching 7th grade English. He later took that episode and created a book out of it, as well, in “The Sixth Grade Nickname Game”, wherein Mr. Huge was based on that 7th grade teacher.

Korman moved to New York City, where he studied film and film writing. While in New York, he met his future wife; live in Long Island with their three children.

He has published more than 50 books.

His website is gordonkorman.com.

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Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh. May 2, 2017. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 368 p. ISBN: 9780399171635.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

Part of Series: Flame in the Mist (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Strong sexual themes; Alcohol; Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Publishers Weekly (March 13, 2017)
Ahdieh delivers an elaborate fantasy set in feudal Japan, where a resilient young woman defies class conventions and gender roles in a quest for vengeance and autonomy. At 17, Mariko, the perceptive and intellectual daughter of a notable samurai, has been promised to the son of the emperor’s favorite consort. While en route to meet her betrothed, she narrowly survives an assassination attempt, which fuels her determination to unmask those responsible. Disguised as a boy, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan, soon recognizing that its reclusive members are much more than thieves and murderers. Occasional chapters are told from the perspective of Mariko’s twin brother, Kenshin, a samurai known as the Dragon of Kai, adding complexity to Mariko’s actions and revelations. Ahdieh (The Wrath & the Dawn) is immensely skilled at crafting vibrant settings inhabited by sympathetic characters with rich pasts, and she also treats readers to a slow-burning romance that does not impede Mariko’s independence or goals, illustrating the power of a well-matched pairing. While the final pages provide some closure, readers will enthusiastically anticipate the next installment. Ages 12-up. Agent: Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Literary. (May)

About the Author

Renée Ahdieh is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger. In her spare time, she likes to dance salsa and collect shoes. She is passionate about all kinds of curry, rescue dogs, and college basketball. The first few years of her life were spent in a high-rise in South Korea; consequently, Renée enjoys having her head in the clouds. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and their tiny overlord of a dog.

Her website is www.reneeahdieh.com.

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Flame in the Mist on Amazon

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Bone Jack by Sara Crowe

Bone Jack by Sara Crowe. February 7, 2017. Philomel Books, 256 p. ISBN: 9780399176517.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.2; Lexile: 620.

A haunting story of magic and myth, of one boy caught between worlds, and of the lengths he will travel to save those he loves.

Times have been tough for Ash lately, and all he wants is for everything to go back to the way it used to be. Back before drought ruined the land and disease killed off the livestock. Before Ash’s father went off to war and returned carrying psychological scars. Before his best friend, Mark, started acting strangely.

As Ash trains for his town’s annual Stag Chase—a race rooted in violent, ancient lore—he’s certain that if he can win and make his father proud, life will return to normal. But the line between reality and illusion is rapidly blurring, and the past has a way of threatening the present.

When a run in the mountains brings Ash face-to-face with Bone Jack—a figure that guards the boundary between the living world and the dead—everything changes once more. As dark energies take root and the world as he knows it is upended, it’s up to Ash to restore things to their proper order and literally run for his life.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Bullying; Killing of animals; Suicide of a parent

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 7-10. Ash has been training for months for his village’s annual Stag Chase, the modern iteration of an ancient ritual to usher in a prosperous season. This year, Ash will be the revered Stag Boy, leading a pack of Hound Boys on a chase around the mountains. He should be elated, but he’s struggling with both the return of his PTSD-afflicted father and his ex–best friend Mark’s eerie descent into a violent, weird obsession with both the pagan roots of the Stag Chase and a mythical being, Bone Jack, who monitors the gateway between life and death. Crowe cultivates an unsettling atmosphere with ghostly apparitions, threats of violence, and descriptions of grotesqueries, such as a rotting stag head and a cape of crow carcasses. Amid the looming danger, Crowe leaves plenty of room for meaningful conversations about family, loyalty, and mental illness, particularly pertaining to Ash’s father. Though this might seem like just another ghost story, there’s subtle depth here, too, and teen fans of both horror and literary fiction will find lots to like.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
In a grim season, one rural tradition seems less like a boys’ romp and more like a gateway for the old powers.This ought to be a banner year for 13-year-old Ash, finally selected as the stag boy. As the lead runner in his British town’s annual Stag Chase, Ash should be preparing to race his best friend, Mark, and the other boys their age, hounds to his stag. If only the whole town weren’t shattered with grief. A foot-and-mouth outbreak has devastated the area, with tragic consequences; Mark’s dad hanged himself in the barn. Ash’s own father, an army captain, has returned from the war—afflicted with PTSD, haunted by visions and rising alcoholism. Even the Stag Chase itself seems corrupted. Ash sees creepy crows in the woods, skulls draped in the trees, ghost stag boys, and (most uncanny) Mark living in the woods, dressed in rags and daubed with clay. The old ways are rising, Mark insists, and the stag boy’s destiny will not be a happy one. In haunting, lyrical prose, Ash tries to protect himself from Bone Jack the soul-taker while learning to be a better son and friend. With a deft hand, Crowe twines the ancient folk motifs around her evocation of modern Britain—with one exception: characters’ races go unspecified, leaching it of its multicultural vigor. A lovely, eerie adventure that balances the ancient magic with its protagonist’s very real character growth. (Fantasy. 11-13)

About the Author

Sara Crowe was born in Cornwall and raised all over England by her restless parents. She taught cinema and photography studies until 2012 when she and her partner bought a van and spent the next 18 months travelling around the British Isles. She currently lives in a tumbledown cottage in Lincolnshire. Bone Jack is her first novel.

Her website is http://theforest.me.

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Cavern of Secrets by Linda Sue Park

Cavern of Secrets by Linda Sue Park. March7, 2017. HarperCollins, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062327413.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.0.

In the second installment of the spellbinding Wing & Claw series, Newbery Medal—winning author Linda Sue Park takes a young apothecary hero to new heights of danger, exciting adventure, and intriguing botanical magic.

Raffa Santana has spent all winter hiding in the harsh wilderness of the Sudden Mountains, and now it’s time to return home. Home, where his parents will help him fight back against the vile Chancellor who has captured and altered the wild creatures of the Forest of Wonders. Home, where Raffa’s beloved companion, Echo the bat, will recover from his mysterious sickness.

To get there, Raffa must make a treacherous journey across Obsidia. Along the way, he will discover a luminous plant that might be the key to saving the creatures stuck in the Chancellor’s grasp… if only Raffa can unlock the plant’s secrets and deliver the cure to the captive animals.

Cavern of Secrets masterfully explores one boy’s responsibility to his friends, family, and the wider world.

Sequel to: Forest of Wonders

Part of series: Wing & Claw

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Inhumane treatment of animals

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 3-6. After spending months hiding in the woods, Raffa, Garith, and Kuma, accompanied by their animal friends, decide it’s time to go home, if only because Raffa’s talking bat, Echo, is gravely ill. On their trip back, Raffa stumbles onto a new plant with miraculous healing properties, which comes in handy once aggressive animals treated with the scarlet vine start attacking people in unnatural ways. Raffa’s new plant seems to reverse the effects of the scarlet vine, and he endeavors to return to the heart of the city, no matter how dangerous, to thwart the Chancellor’s nefarious plans. Amid all the action of his mission, Raffa faces some hard truths about his apothecary gifts, especially when he considers what might be best for Echo. While Raffa’s fretful inner monologue sometimes bogs down the pace, Park’s meaningful exploration of emotions nicely grounds the plot, and her rich, vividly drawn characters add plenty of depth. Another cliff-hanger ends this second volume of the Wing and Claw series, but that only means there’s more for fans to pine for.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2016)
In this sequel to Forest of Wonders (2016), hero Raffa applies his apothecary skills to thwart the Chancellor of Obsidia’s malevolent plot to treat wild animals with botanicals and use them against her own people. Raffa, his cousin, Garith, and his friend Kuma, along with a talking bat named Echo, a gigantic bear, and a raccoon, have spent the winter in the Sudden Mountains, hiding from the Chancellor who wants to silence them because of their knowledge of her secret plan. With spring’s approach, Raffa decides to return to his parents. On the perilous journey home, Raffa discovers a hidden cavern where he harvests a mysterious, translucent plant whose healing properties cure the ailing Echo. After witnessing the Chancellor’s manipulated foxes, stoats, and crows devastate Kuma’s village and finding his own home in ashes, Raffa covertly develops an antidote from the cavern plant, hoping to cure and free the captured animals. When his plan fails, a desperate, desolate Raffa faces a precarious future, pondering his role as a healer vis-à-vis his family, friends, and Obsidia. As in the trilogy opener, Park demands that her child protagonist make adult-sized choices that come with real consequences. Raffa’s world is a diverse one; he has dark hair and light-brown skin, Kuma’s skin is dark, and Garith is newly deaf. The nail-biting adventure, relevant moral dilemmas, and complex characters will leave readers eager for the final installment. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12)

About the Author

Linda Sue Park is a Korean American author of children’s fiction. Park published her first novel, Seesaw Girl, in 1999. To date, she has written six children’s novels and five picture books for younger readers. Park’s work achieved prominence when she received the prestigious 2002 Newbery Medal for her novel A Single Shard.

Her website is www.lindasuepark.com.

Teacher Resources

Wing and Claw Reading Guide

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Cavern of Secrets on Goodreads

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Cavern of Secrets Publisher Page

Hideout by Watt Key

Hideout  by Watt Key. January 10, 2017. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 p. ISBN: 9780374304829.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.2.

In this riveting middle-grade adventure, the son of a Mississippi policeman finds a boy living on his own in the wilderness. Twelve-year-old Sam has been given a fishing boat by his father, but he hates fishing. Instead he uses the boat to disappear for hours at a time, exploring the forbidden swampy surroundings of his bayou home. Then he discovers a strange kid named Davey, mysteriously alone, repairing an abandoned cabin deep in the woods. Not fooled by the boy’s evasive explanation as to why he’s on his own, Sam becomes entangled in his own efforts to help Davey. But this leads him to telling small lies that only get bigger as the danger increases for both boys and hidden truths become harder to conceal.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: References to marijuana use

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 5-8. From the author of Alabama Moon (2006) and Terror at Bottle Creek (2016) comes an exciting adventure set in Mississippi’s Pascagoula River marshlands. When 12-year-old Sam finds another boy, Davey, living alone in an abandoned fishing camp, Sam’s efforts to help him draw the attention of a trio of criminals. Emotionally reeling from a beating at school, Sam wonders if he’s been marked as a loser for good. He wants to do something brave, like his police chief dad, so he’s taken to piloting his boat in the bayou’s unmapped areas, where he finds Davey. Davey claims to be waiting for his father and brother, but as Sam begins sneaking him food and supplies, it’s clear Davey isn’t telling the whole truth. He’s hidden piles of money, which remind Sam of a robbery his dad is investigating. Sam’s struggles to fit in at school, to like himself, and to solve his own problems reflect middle-grade concerns. The boys’ survivalist adventures in the swamps are suspenseful, and the reassuring ending relies on supportive adult intervention.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2016)
Key treads familiar territory in this tale of boys trying to be men, this time in the dangerous swampy bayous of Mississippi.Narrator Sam Ford has been beaten badly by two bullies at his new middle school. With a dad who has just become chief of police of Pascagoula, Sam tries to escape his humiliation by blaming his only friend, nerdy white Grover. Hoping to prove himself, Sam heads to the bayous in his new boat, a present for his 13th birthday, looking for a dead body that search and rescue hasn’t been able to find. Instead, Sam finds Davey holed up in a deserted and rotting old fish camp. Given the absence of racial markers, particularly in this Mississippi setting, readers are likely to conclude that both boys are white. With little heed to common sense, Sam begins to help Davey by taking him supplies he’s sneaked out of his house. The natural predators of the swamp and backwaters combine with human dilemmas to test the boys and their mix of loyalties. The ways they meet such frightening circumstances as thieves on the run highlight the difference that a loving and supportive family can make, and that has nothing to do with what money can buy. The boys are on the cusp of manhood, and navigating those waters is as treacherous as any swamp. It’s man versus nature as well as man versus man in this tale that will have strong appeal to Key’s fans and adventure lovers. (Adventure. 10-15)

About the Author

Watt Key received his BA from Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama. He subsequently earned an MBA from Springhill College in Mobile, AL. While working as a computer programmer, he began submitting novels to major publishers in New York City. When he was 34 years he sold his debut novel, Alabama Moon, to publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Watt currently lives with his wife and three children in Mobile, Alabama.

Her website is www.wattkey.com.

Teacher Resources

Watt Key Common Core Guide

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The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston. February 14, 2017. Razorbill, 384 p. ISBN: 97804484893787.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Princess. Captive. Gladiator.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.

When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Alcohol

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 8-12. Fallon, a 17-year-old Prydainian princess, runs away from home, only to be snatched by slavers who take her to Rome, where she is sold into service as one of Julius Caesar’s gladiatrices (female arena fighters). If she can earn enough fight money, she can purchase her freedom and seek vengeance on Caesar for his role in destroying her family during his conquest of Britain. It’s a great plan, but the Morrigan (Celtic goddess) has other ideas, and Fallon ends up fighting for more than just herself. Livingston has written an exciting and absorbing tale that is deftly paced and deliciously detailed without being overwhelming; the presence of a strong female character and light romance will extend its appeal. The book is tethered to history—there really were female gladiators, though the author’s note doesn’t point to any sources. Link this to Kate O’Hearn’s Valkyrie series or Julia Golding’s The Silver Sea (2010), but don’t limit recommendations to fans of historical fiction and mythology; try it with fans of the American Ninja Warrior television show, as well.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2016)
A Celtic princess is abducted, enslaved, and sent to a gladiatrix school in Julius Caesar’s Rome.  Fallon wishes to follow in the footsteps of her warrior older sister, Sorcha, who was lost leading a war band to recover their father, the king, after he was taken prisoner during a Roman incursion into Prydain. But, unwilling to risk losing another daughter, he has other plans—plans that spiral into devastating, unintended consequences, culminating in Fallon’s abduction by slavers bound for Rome. While she doesn’t make it easy for them, they do get her to Rome, where she is sold at auction to a school that trains women to fight in the arenas. She grapples with her sense of honor while dealing with rivals, romance, a big surprise, and a bigger, hidden threat. Fallon’s warrior development follows a familiar trajectory in which her potential is annealed through hard work; the amount of rescuing she needs early on may frustrate. The forbidden romance isn’t as convincing as the lush setting, which includes a complicated depiction of Roman slavery in which even slaves have mixed opinions on the institution. The ending resolves the immediate crisis while leaving plenty of threads up in the air for sequels. An author’s note credits the 2001 discovery of evidence of real-life woman gladiators as the jumping-off point for this work of fiction. A familiar-feeling historical adventure elevated by use of setting. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Lesley Livingston is a writer and actress living in Toronto. She has a master’s degree in English from the University of Toronto, where she specialized in Arthurian Literature and Shakespeare. She frequently performs with the Tempest Theatre Group, of which she is a co-founder. She is also the author of Wondrous Strange and Darklight.

Her website is www.lesleylivingston.com.

Around the Web

The Valiant on Amazon

The Valiant on Goodreads

The Valiant on JLG

The Valiant Publisher Page

The Bronze Key by Holly Black & Cassanadra Clare

The Bronze Key by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare. August 30, 2016. Scholastic Press, 256 p. ISBN: 9780545522311.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.4; Lexile: 740.

Magic can save you.
Magic can kill you.

Students at the Magisterium are supposed to be safe. Under the watchful eyes of the mages, they are taught to use magic to bring order to a chaotic world.

But now the chaos is fighting back. Call, Tamara, and Aaron should be worrying about things like pop quizzes and magic contests. Instead, after the shocking death of one of their classmates, they must track down a sinister killer… and risk their own lives in the process.

As Call, Tamara, and Aaron discover, magic can only be as good as the person who wields it. In evil hands, it has the capacity to do immeasurable harm, unless it is stopped in time.

In this striking third book of Magisterium, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare present us with a school where anything, good or evil, can happen, and the only way to unlock the truth is to risk everything to find it.

Sequel to: The Copper Gauntlet

Part of Series: Magisterium

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2016 (Online))
Grades 5-8. This third return to the Magisterium series finds Call, the not-so-evil-after-all reincarnation of a dark overlord, headed back to school with his two best friends Aaron and Tamara. But all, it seems, is not well, as it soon becomes clear that someone is trying to kill Call. The three conduct their own investigation into the would-be murderer, but they’re blocked at every step, and Call knows he can’t trust anyone. Except, of course, for Aaron and Tamara, right? The crew gets a year older with every book (Call is 14 now), and romantic subplots are starting to peek out even as the narrative grows more ominous. This installment is the third in a planned five-book series, and the plot seems to have stalled somewhat; despite uncertain loyalties and ambiguous characters, this lacks the punch of its predecessor, until the dark turn of an ending. Still, that cliff-hanger finale alone should be enough to get readers to sign up for book four.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2016)
Book 3 in the Magisterium series continues the escapades of 14-year-olds Call, Tamara, and Aaron as they pursue their Bronze Year studies at the Magisterium.Readers of Books 1 and 2 now know that white Callum Hunt has the soul of Constantine Madden, the deceased Enemy of Death, who had wreaked so much havoc on mages. Also in on the secret are Tamara, of Indian descent, and Aaron, white—Call’s best friends and fellow apprentices at the Magisterium, where they are in their third year of mage-studies. But, Call believes, no one else in the Magisterium knows. Ensuing events, however, seem to indicate that someone wants Call dead. Author-collaborators Black and Clare fail to make this third book as engrossing as the first two. The tension surrounding the question of whom Call can trust—could Aaron be trying to kill him?—never gets off the ground: Call stews improbably and shallowly, while astute readers will have figured out who the culprit is long before. Engrossing adventures abound but, alas, are frequently fueled by flimsy, contrived logic that does neither characters nor readers justice. The narrative repeatedly fills readers in on things that happened in the previous book, which reads as, well, filler, and there’s no significant movement forward plotwise until the ending setup for Book 4. Only unevenly entertaining and suffering from middle-book syndrome. (Fantasy. 10-14)

About the Authors

Holly Black is the author of bestselling contemporary fantasy books for kids and teens. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare), The Darkest Part of the Forest, and her new series which begins with The Cruel Prince in January 2018.

She has been a a finalist for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award and a Newbery Honor. She currently lives in New England with her husband and son in a house with a secret door.

Her website is www.blackholly.com.

 

Cassandra Clare was born overseas and spent her early years traveling around the world with her family and several trunks of fantasy books. Cassandra worked for several years as an entertainment journalist for the Hollywood Reporter before turning her attention to fiction. She is the author of City of Bones, the first book in the Mortal Instruments trilogy and a New York Times bestseller. Cassandra lives with her fiance and their two cats in Massachusetts.

Her website is www.cassandraclare.com.

Teacher Resources

Magisterium  series Discussion Guide

Around the Web

The Bronze Key on Amazon

The Bronze Key on Goodreads

The Bronze Key on JLG

The Bronze Key Publisher Page