Tag Archives: Fiction

Stranger Things Have Happened by Jeff Strand

Stranger Things Have Happened by Jeff Strand. April 4, 2017. Sourcebooks Fire, 272 p. ISBN: 9781492645399.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 640.

At 15, Marcus Millian III, the great-grandson of the famous Zachary the Stupendous, is already a talented illusionist. But when Marcus chokes during a card trick and leaves the audience unimpressed, prideful Zachary promises that he and Marcus are working on an illusion that will shock, stun, and astonish. That night, Zachary dies in his sleep.

To uphold the honor of Marcus’s beloved great-grandfather, the show must go on, and Marcus will need to make a shark disappear in front of everybody. It would take a sorcerer to pull this off, but, hey, Marcus is the next best thing…right?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 6-9. Until the sudden death of his beloved mentor and great-grandpa—Zachary the Stupendous, as he had been known in his stage magician days—the strangest thing that had ever happened to 15-year-old Marcus was being bitten by two parakeets at age seven. Now, following the rash acceptance of a wager to perform the most astounding magic trick ever, the grieving teen finds himself, in rapid succession, threatened with death by creepy magician Sinister Seamus; uncharacteristically calling out a trio of hulking bullies; assaulted by a pair of armed thugs, because a quixotic new classmate fancies himself a masked crime fighter; and, most dizzying of all, being unexpectedly kissed by just-friend Kimberly. So all Marcus has to do is defend himself from serious injury with card tricks, cope with a massive case of stage fright, and keep from saying or doing something stupid to alienate the equally flustered Kimberly. That’s not to mention the various technical challenges involved in, as it turns out, making a live shark disappear on stage. As he did in The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever (2016), Strand flings a visionary, if impulsive, protagonist into encounters that simultaneously test his mettle and leave readers weak with laughter. The card-trick strategy may meet with mixed success, but Marcus is enough of a winner to earn both admiration and enthusiastic applause.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
Marcus is a high school freshman whose vomit-inducing stage fright presents a major barrier to his dream of becoming a world-famous magician.Inspired and mentored by his great-grandfather, the retired Zachary the Stupendous, Marcus has been honing his craft since infancy. When his great-grandfather passes away unexpectedly, it is up to Marcus to uphold the family honor by developing and performing a truly spectacular illusion. With an ever narrowing window in which to prepare, combined with stress from school bullies and the aptly named Sinister Seamus, Marcus leans on his few friends to pull off the event. Marcus and his friends seem to dwell in a predominantly if not exclusively white world. Strand stuffs the dialogue full of witty banter, which is at first amusing, but over the course of the book, it gives the impression that each character, including the third-person narrator, is a would-be vaudevillian comic. The result is little depth or differentiation to the characters’ speech, and their endless riffs become annoying rather than endearing. Though the central characters are all high school students, the hit-you-over-the-head humor combined with ridiculous plot elements make the book feel as though it’s written for a much younger audience. Best enjoyed with willfully suspended disbelief and a laugh track. (Fiction. 12-14)

About the Author

Jeff Strand lives in Tampa, Florida, and doesn’t believe in voodoo. But he still thinks you should carry a doll around, go up to people you don’t like, and chuckle while you jab it with pins, just to make them squirm.

His website is www.tinaconnolly.com.

 

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Finding Mighty by Sheela Chari

Finding Mighty by Sheela Chari. May 30, 2017. Harry N. Abrams, 320 p. ISBN: 9781419722967.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.5.

Along the train lines north of New York City, twelve-year-old neighbors Myla and Peter search for the link between Myla’s necklace and the disappearance of Peter’s brother, Randall. Thrown into a world of parkour, graffiti, and diamond-smuggling, Myla and Peter encounter a band of thugs who are after the same thing as Randall. Can Myla and Peter find Randall before it’s too late, and their shared family secrets threaten to destroy them all? Drawing on urban art forms and local history, Finding Mighty is a mystery that explores the nature of art and the unbreakable bonds of family.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, Criminal culture, Smuggling and theft, Graffiti

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 4-7. Twelve-year-old Myla finds herself in the middle of a decades-old crime conspiracy after she purchases a mysterious street-fair necklace engraved with the Indian symbol Om and the word, “keeper.” Chari’s (Vanished, 2011) latest thriller is wholly original, celebrating diversity within and between families, presenting graffiti as an art form, and acquainting audiences with the practice and practicality of parkour. When Om symbols start appearing on train stations around New York City, Peter knows his recently missing brother, Randall (“Mighty”), must be responsible. Peter teams up with Myla to find Randall before local gang the Fencers does. Fast-paced and intricately plotted, Chari’s mystery is a rare achievement that pays off at every turn, featuring characters of color interested in their families’ histories and cultures. Spot art further draws readers into the sleuthing atmosphere as they get a look at entries in Myla and Peters’ notebooks. Myla and Peter’s race to find Randall turns into a race to discover a family secret that comes to a gripping and satisfying conclusion.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
Myla and Peter step into the path of a gang when they unite forces to find Peter’s runaway brother, Randall. As they follow the graffiti tags that Randall has been painting in honor of the boys’ deceased father, they uncover a sinister history involving stolen diamonds, disappearances, and deaths. It started long ago when the boys’ grandmother, a diamond-cutter, partnered with the head of the gang. She was rumored to have hidden his diamonds before her suspicious death, leaving clues to their whereabouts. Now everyone is searching, including Randall. The duo’s collaboration is initially an unwilling one fraught with misunderstandings. Even after Peter and Myla bond over being the only people of color in an otherwise white school (Myla is Indian-American; mixed-race Peter is Indian, African-American, and white), Peter can’t believe the gang is after Myla. But Myla possesses a necklace that holds a clue. Alternating first-person chapters allow peeks into how Myla, Peter, and Randall unravel the story and decipher clues. Savvy readers will put the pieces together, too, although false leads and red herrings are cleverly interwoven. The action stumbles at times, but it takes place against the rich backdrops of gritty New York City and history-laden Dobbs Ferry and is made all the more colorful by references to graffiti art and parkour. A quick, agreeable caper, this may spark some discussion even as it entertains. (Mystery. 10-12)

About the Author

Sheela Chari is the author of Vanished, an Edgar Award nominee for best juvenile mystery, an Al Roker book pick on the Today Show, and an APALA Children’s Literature Honor Book. Her second novel, Finding Mighty, was published in May by Abrams. She was born in Bangalore, India and has lived in Iowa, Washington State, California, Massachusetts, and New York. She has degrees from Stanford University, Boston University, and New York University, where she received an MFA in Fiction. She teaches writing at Mercy College and lives in New York with her family.

Her website is www.sheelachari.com

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The Possible by Tara Altebrando

The Possible by Tara Altebrando. June 6, 2017. Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 304 p. ISBN: 9781619638051.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Some storms rage from within.

What if…a teenage girl could move objects with her mind?

What if…someone turns up at her door asking questions she doesn’t want to answer?

Kaylee lives a normal life with her adoptive parents, and almost never thinks of her birth mother, Crystal, who is serving a life sentence in prison. But the woman at the front door is producing a podcast about Crystal that is about to blow Kaylee’s forgotten past wide open.

What if strange things have been happening Kaylee’s entire life, things she could not explain? What if she’s more like her mother than she ever imagined?

What if the podcast is about to put her on a collision course with Crystal—and her darkest self?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. Is it possible? Kaylee has been asking herself that her whole life. Her birth mother, Crystal, first gained fame for her alleged telekinetic ability, and then infamy when she was convicted of murdering her infant son—Kaylee’s younger brother. With Crystal serving a life sentence, Kaylee was adopted into a loving home to live a more normal life. That is, until The Possible, a hit investigative podcast, chooses to focus on Crystal’s case more than a decade after the conviction. All of a sudden, people begin questioning Kaylee about what she remembers from the trial, or if she has powers, too. Altebrando has penned a fast-paced thriller that is less a Dan Brown–style adventure and more of a psychological examination. At play is how Kaylee’s seemingly mundane world is ripped apart by gossip, secrets, and her own curiosity about a birth mother she barely knows. Altebrando manages Kaylee’s relationships with her parents, friends, and the gossiping public masterfully, tossing in unique twists to keep readers on their toes. Fans of true-crime podcasts especially will feel right at home.

Kirkus Reviews (April 15, 2017)
Kaylee’s birth mother, Crystal, claimed telekinetic powers before she was convicted of murdering Kaylee’s little brother, Jack; 13 years later, Liana, a journalist revisiting the story for her podcast, wants to know if Kaylee’s inherited Crystal’s ability. Kaylee’s suppressed her memories of her early years with Crystal, serving a life sentence in a Pennsylvania penitentiary, but still dreams of Jack and suspects Crystal’s claims were valid and that she may have inherited them. Against her parents’ wishes, Kaylee agrees to be interviewed for the podcast if Liana will take her to see Crystal. As episodes go live, Kaylee becomes a celebrity at school and the swim club where she’s a lifeguard. She leverages her fame to attract a boy but takes friends (including Aiden, who wants to be more) for granted. Unsure of her powers, Kaylee still enjoys the attention—even when it’s more fear than popularity. Plot twists entertain, but the story’s weakened by its superficial, insensitive portrayal of adoption. The juxtaposition of Kaylee’s world of white suburban affluence, where everyone belongs to the swim club, and Crystal’s foreshortened world, from impoverished childhood to prison, is stark. Well-heeled characters seem indifferent to the less-privileged; Crystal, brutal and brutalized, is treated with contempt. Kaylee’s occasional reflections on her birth mother’s privations, seemingly intended to convey her empathy, are belied by her cruelty to Crystal. A narrative deaf to adoption’s difficult complexities: the ties that may no longer bind but never disappear. (Fiction. 14-17)

About the Author

Tara Altebrando is the author of several middle grade and teen novels, including The Leaving and Roomies, an ALA 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, co-written with Sara Zarr. She lives in New York City with her family.

Her website is www.taraaltebrando.com

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The Possible Publisher Page

Mystery of the Ghost Ship by Philip Pullman

Mystery of the Ghost Ship: The Adventures of John Blake by Philip Pullman. September 30, 2017. Graphix, 160 p. ISBN: 9781338149128.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Trapped in the mists of time by a terrible research experiment gone wrong, John Blake and his mysterious ship are doomed to sail between the centuries, searching for a way home. In the ocean of the modern day, John rescues a shipwrecked young girl his own age, Serena, and promises to help.

But returning Serena to her own time means traveling to the one place where the ship is in most danger of destruction. The all-powerful Dahlberg Corporation has an ambitious leader with plans far greater and more terrible than anyone has realized, and he is hot on their trail. For only John, Serena, and the crew know Dahlberg’s true intentions, and only they have the power to stop him from bending the world to his will …

Part of Series: The Adventures of John Blake (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence

 

Reviews

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2017)
Pullman’s first original graphic novel is a smorgasbord thriller containing a little bit of everything–including espionage, time travel, bloodthirsty pirates, high-tech gadgets, and substantial explosions. Several intersecting story lines and a large cast of characters swirl around the mysterious teenager John Blake and his time-hopping ship the Mary Alice. Multiple tangential players–a determined maritime agent, a formidable British spy, and an evil billionaire inventor–all with their own agendas, work with and against one another as they pursue John and the Mary Alice. A narrative of corporate greed, murder, and collusion quickly develops after John and his crew rescue the shipwrecked Serena, a modern-day teenager traveling the seas with her family, and attempt to get her back to the present day. Cinematic illustrations, along with a strong sense of atmosphere and liberal deployment of panels per page, carry much of the storytelling. A few exceptional visual moments–a jarringly vertical panel of Serena sinking into the depths of the ocean and a nearly all-white double-page spread depicting John’s first time-travel experience–are a relief from the persistent mannequin-esque appearance of the characters. While many pieces of the story have a tendency to fall into place too easily, readers searching for a rollicking adventure comic will be thoroughly satisfied.

Kirkus Reviews (March 15, 2017)
Purloined technology, time travelers, ghost ships, and deception converge in this graphic page-turner. In a world not too unlike our own, most everyone is connected by Apparators, smartphonelike devices that can also project images, created by technology mogul Carlos Dahlberg. A member of the crew on the ghost ship Mary Alice, white time traveler John Blake is doomed to ride in and out of different time periods after an accident suffered during an experiment conducted by his scientist father. Young Blake knows Dahlberg’s darkest secret and has the evidence and desire to expose him. Serena Anderson, a white Australian teenager lost at sea, Danielle Quayle Reid, a black Harvard Law graduate, and Roger Blake, a white commander in the Royal Navy, all become caught up in Dahlberg and Blake’s tangled web. High-adrenaline chases, blazing explosions, and gunfights abound as they come to discover their shocking connections. Will they be able to stop Dahlberg before his nefarious plans come to fruition? Pullman has created an intricate blend of science fiction and adventure, skillfully weaving together many disparate elements into a cohesive and exciting tale. Fordham’s art, although realistic and spare, is cinematic in scope, imbuing this with all the momentum of a Hollywood blockbuster. Some of the finer plot details have a tendency to be quickly glossed over, but expect readers to be too caught up in this whirlwind ride to care. A richly imagined high-octane thriller. (Science fiction/adventure. 13-adult)

About the Author

In 1946, acclaimed author Philip Pullman was born in Norwich, England, into a Protestant family. Although his beloved grandfather was an Anglican priest, Pullman became an atheist in his teenage years. He graduated from Exeter College in Oxford with a degree in English, and spent 23 years as a teacher while working on publishing 13 books and numerous short stories. Pullman has received many awards for his literature, including the prestigious Carnegie Medal for exceptional children’s literature in 1996, and the Carnegie of Carnegies in 2006. He is most famous for his “His Dark Materials” trilogy, a series of young adult fantasy novels which feature freethought themes. The novels cast organized religion as the series’ villain. [He wants] to emphasize the simple physical truth of things, the absolute primacy of the material life, rather than the spiritual or the afterlife.” He argues for a “republic of heaven” here on Earth.

His website is www.philip-pullman.com

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The Mystery of the Ghost Ship on Amazon

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. February 28, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 444 p. ISBN: 9780062498533.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 590.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Racially motivated shooting, Discussion of racist jokes, Marijuana

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two very different worlds: one is her home in a poor black urban neighborhood; the other is the tony suburban prep school she attends and the white boy she dates there. Her bifurcated life changes dramatically when she is the only witness to the unprovoked police shooting of her unarmed friend Khalil and is challenged to speak out—though with trepidation—about the injustices being done in the event’s wake. As the case becomes national news, violence erupts in her neighborhood, and Starr finds herself and her family caught in the middle. Difficulties are exacerbated by their encounters with the local drug lord for whom Khalil was dealing to earn money for his impoverished family. If there is to be hope for change, Starr comes to realize, it must be through the exercise of her voice, even if it puts her and her family in harm’s way. Thomas’ debut, both a searing indictment of injustice and a clear-eyed, dramatic examination of the complexities of race in America, invites deep thoughts about our social fabric, ethics, morality, and justice. Beautifully written in Starr’s authentic first-person voice, this is a marvel of verisimilitude as it insightfully examines two worlds in collision. An inarguably important book that demands the widest possible readership.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2016)
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school. Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family. This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She can also still rap if needed. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Meyers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg set to star.

Her website is www.angiethomas.com

Teacher Resources

The Hate U Give Discussion Guide

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Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tonya Bolden

Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tonya Bolden. May 30, 2017. Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 241 p. ISBN: 9781599903194.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

She wanted to stay awake, wanted to see what freedom looked like, felt like at midnight, then at the cusp of dawn.

Freedom. Mariah has barely dared to dream of it her entire life. When General Sherman’s march through Georgia during the Civil War passes the plantation where she is enslaved, her life changes instantly. Joining the march for protection, Mariah heads into the unknown, wondering if she can ever feel safe, if she will ever be able to put the brutalities of slavery behind her.

On the march Mariah meets a young man named Caleb, and a new dream takes root—one of a future with a home of her own and a true love by her side. But hope often comes at a cost. As the treacherous march continues toward the churning waters of Ebenezer Creek, Mariah sees that the harsh realities of her and her peoples’ lives will always haunt them.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination, War, Violence, Implied sexual assault, Mutilation

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 8-11. Award-winning Bolden’s latest takes readers back to 1864, the waning days of the Civil War. In rural Georgia, recently emancipated Mariah hides in the root cellar when Sherman’s troops sweep into town. Joining the march, she meets Caleb, a young black man whose manner of dress and comfort with the white Union soldiers raises an eyebrow among Mariah and other formerly enslaved people. As they march toward Ebenezer Creek, Caleb develops feelings for Mariah, while she struggles to believe in her newfound freedom and plan for a future for herself and her younger brother, Zeke. Caleb and Mariah both harbor secrets and pasts that shape their worldviews, but they’re starting to warm to each other when the unthinkable happens. Chapters alternating between Mariah’s and Caleb’s points-of-view lay bare the differences between the experiences of a free black man and those of an enslaved woman. Caleb’s journal entries, for instance, signal a desire to publish or own a newspaper, while enraged Mariah laments, “colored lives don’t matter.” With keen insight, Bolden mines a lesser-known historical event and brings the human cost vividly to life. In particular, the moment when the freed men and women are abandoned by the creek as Confederate forces descend will surprise and horrify many readers. Bolden’s trenchant, powerful novel is a strong testament to the many lost lives that certainly did—and still do—matter.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
In late fall of 1864, Sherman’s March to the Sea is underway, and while the Union army wreaks havoc throughout the South and stamps out Confederate defenses to win the war, thousands of enslaved black people find themselves suddenly, disorientingly, freed by the army as well. Mariah, a young black woman in Georgia, can scarcely believe that her dream has come true when she is liberated along with her little brother Zeke and joins the march as it heads toward Savannah. She wants nothing more than an acre of her own ground, with the memories of death and cruelty behind her—nothing more, that is, until she meets the kind but inscrutable Caleb, who helps her and her friends adjust to life amidst the army. Caleb returns Mariah’s feelings and relishes planning a bright future with her and Zeke, but he is also wary, aware that tensions are rising as the march continues, as the previously enslaved confront despised black slave drivers, and as Union soldiers begin to see the black civilians as a burden. Mariah and Caleb’s relationship develops a little quickly for two such cautious and responsibility-laden young adults, but their shared trauma and fragile hopes are breathtaking in their authenticity as tragedy inevitably engulfs them. Alternating between Mariah and Caleb’s perspectives, Bolden fleshes out a small, harrowing historical betrayal, weaving an unforgettable story and capturing both the frailty and resilience of hope. An author’s note tells more about the December 1864 drownings and massacre at Ebenezer Creek; a list of sources is also appended. anastasia m. collins

About the Author

Tonya Bolden is a critically acclaimed award-winning author/co-author/editor of more than two dozen books for young people. They include Finding Family which received two starred reviews and was a Kirkus Reviews and Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year; Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl, a Coretta Scott King honor book and James Madison Book Award winner; MLK: Journey of a King, winner of a National Council of Teachers of English Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children; Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty, an ALSC Notable Children’s Book, CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, and winner of the NCSS Carter G. Woodson Middle Level Book Award. Tonya also received the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC’s Nonfiction Award. A Princeton University magna cum laude baccalaureate with a master’s degree from Columbia University, Tonya lives in New York City.

Her website is www.tonyaboldenbooks.com

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Crossing Ebenezer Creek on Amazon

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Pigs Might Fly by Nick Abadzis

Pigs Might Fly by Nick Abadzis. July 11, 2017. First Second,  208 p. ISBN: 9781626727434.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.9.

All the sensible hogfolk in Pigdom Plains know that if pigs were meant to fly, they’d have been born with wings―but there’s no convincing Lily Leanchops. The daughter of renowned inventor Hercules Fatchops, Lily has watched her father’s flying machines fail time and time again. Working in secret, Lily is trying to build what her father couldn’t: an aircraft that actually works. And of course, she’s following his example and employing scientific principals alone―not magic. (Well, a protection spell or two doesn’t count, right?)

Lily’s secret project takes on a new sense of urgency when a mysterious enemy emerges from beyond the mountains. The Warthogs are coming, and they’re piloting flying machines powered by dangerous magic spells. To save Pigdom Plains, Lily must take to the skies in her own experimental aircraft―and there’s no time for a test run.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 7-10. Lily Leanchops, daughter of a famous inventor, has built an aircraft using only her own mechanical skills; no magic needed. But when warthog flying machines begin dive bombing the peaceful Pigdom Plains, Lily must look deep into her father’s past to find out who gave the warthogs their newfound knowledge. A 1920s-like setting combines with anthropomorphic, porcine characters and a touch of unusual magic for a unique tale of feminism, desperation, and scientific endeavor. Though Abadzis could have played for laughs, he instead chooses to give his story a serious tone, which will draw readers in. Dye’s art strikes a good balance between cartoonish—after all, these are pigs!—and serious, using a lot of detail to illustrate the settings, the aerial battles, and the emotions of the characters. His muted colors fit the apparent time period, adding gravity to an already thoughtful story. Lily’s frustration at being subject to limitations due to her gender will resonate with teen readers, as will her determination to show off her skills while helping her people.

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2017)
Can teen pig Lily realize her dream to fly with the power of science?Lily’s engineer father, Professor Fatchops, has long been working on powered flight, but the government has other priorities. Lily and her younger cousin Archie secretly take up the task of creating a plane that doesn’t need magic to stay aloft. Just as she’s one model away from success, warthogs from the wilds west of the mountains attack in aircraft. With a few tweaks, Lily has a working plane ready to answer the warthogs’ next attack. Her actions are greeted with acclaim, but when her secret’s revealed, her father’s angry outburst sends Lily on another mission…to try to reason with the warthogs. What she finds over the mountains is a magical surprise—and a terrifying threat on both physical and supernatural fronts. Abadzis sets his piggie parable in a steampunk-y world that looks a lot like early-20th-century America at its outset. Experienced readers will easily predict the tale’s trajectory, as it follows in the trotters of fantasy comics past, which means it also acts as a nice primer for middle graders just starting out in the genre. Dye’s colorful artwork fleshes out both the anthropomorphic pigs, clothing them in period garb that’s filled out with very humanlike physiques, and their world, which expands impressively once Lily reaches the dominion of the warthogs. Lily’s fans will look forward to the sequel set up at the close. (Graphic fantasy. 9-14)

About the Author

Nick Abadzis was born in Sweden to Greek and English parents and was brought up in Switzerland and England. He is a writer and artist who likes comics (which means these days he seems to be known as a “graphic novelist”). His work for both adults and children has been published in many countries across the world.

He also works as an editorial consultant and has helped set up several best-selling and innovative children’s magazines, including most recently, The DFC for David Fickling Books, the first British children’s comic to feature original characters in nearly a quarter of a century. His storytelling contribution, Cora’s Breakfast, was featured in The Guardian. His work has also appeared in The Times, The Independent on Sunday, TimeOut, Radio Times and various other BBC publications and websites. Other clients have included Eaglemoss Publications, HarperCollins, Harcourt Education, Scholastic, Orchard Books, DC Comics, Marvel Comics and 2000AD. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.

His website is www.nickabadzis.com

Around the Web

Pigs Might Fly on Amazon

Pigs Might Fly  on Goodreads

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Pigs Might Fly Publisher Page

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge. May 9, 2017. Harry N. Abrams, 489 p. ISBN: 9781419724848.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 920.

In the underground city of Caverna, the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare—wines that remove memories, cheeses that make you hallucinate, and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat. On the surface, the people of Caverna seem ordinary, except for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to express (or fake) joy, despair, or fear—at a steep price.

Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. Neverfell’s expressions are as varied and dynamic as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, except hers are entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 7-10. Published in Britain in 2012, this makes its American debut on the heels of Hardinge’s acclaimed The Lie Tree (2016). Eschewing the horror-tinged darkness of the latter, this story embraces fantasy, whimsical detail, political intrigue of epic proportions, and cheese—yes, cheese. Twelve-year-old Neverfell has been the apprentice of Cheesemaster Grandible since he found her hiding in his tunnels seven years ago. Paranoid from his years at court, he’s sealed their home off from the rest of Caverna, the underground city where they dwell. When Neverfell stumbles upon a passage out of her master’s tunnels, she’s plunged into a mad world where facial expressions are crafted and sold, and families are locked in a high-stakes game of politics and power, constantly scheming to gain the upper hand, whether through deceit or assassination. Neverfell, whose face shows her every emotion, is immediately marked as an outsider and swept into the deadly machinations of Caverna’s elite. Though wide-eyed, she’s a fast learner who refuses to be their pawn; and as Neverfell devises her escape, she uncovers earth-shattering secrets about her past and Caverna itself. Using beautiful prose, Hardinge builds a richly imagined world that twists as much as the carefully orchestrated plot. Readers will eagerly follow noble Neverfell through its tunnels, marveling at the extraordinary sights and catching their breath at her daring escapades.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
In this fantasy (first published in the UK in 2012), Hardinge (The Lie Tree, rev. 5/16) imagines Caverna, an underground city that thrives through its production of magical luxuries: mind-altering cheeses, wines that erase memories with surgical precision, and perfumes that influence attitudes. Perhaps these consciousness-influencing items make up for the inhabitants’ shared disability: they’re incapable of making facial expressions naturally. Into Caverna’s highly artificial court lands apprentice cheese-maker Neverfell, whose unique facial mobility and transparent feelings are so dangerous she must wear a mask. First threatened, then adopted by powerful courtiers, Neverfell penetrates the heart of Caverna’s secrets and disrupts its very underpinnings with her plan for social justice (“I want you to help me topple Master Childersin, break hundreds of laws and save as many people as will trust me”). Hardinge’s imagination here is—as ever—ebullient, lavish, and original. Whether she’s anatomizing expression as fashion accessory, describing the effects of certain wines, or likening human maturation to that of cheeses, she needles into some of our dearest desires and foibles with sharp psychological insight. Her enthusiasm for language play brightens dark Caverna with the sparkle of wit; but most notably, she suggests how fundamental to human interaction our facial expressions are. deirdre f. baker

About the Author

Frances Hardinge spent her childhood in a huge, isolated old house in a small, strange village, and the two things inspired her to write strange, magical stories from an early age. She studied English at Oxford University and now lives in Oxford, England.

Her website is www.franceshardinge.com

 

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A Face Like Glass on Amazon

A Face Like Glass on Goodreads

A Face Like Glass on JLG

A Face Like Glass Publisher Page

Buried Heart by Kate Elliott

Buried Heart by Kate Elliott. July 25, 2017. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 448 p. ISBN: 9780316344418.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The explosive finale to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s captivating, New York Times bestselling young adult series!

Choose between your parents.
Choose between your friends.
Choose between your lovers.
Choose who you are.
 
On the run from the murderous King Nikonos, Jessamy must find a way for her beloved Kalliarkos to take his rightful place on the throne. Only then can he end the oppression of the Commoners by their long time Patron overlords. But Kal’s rise to power is fraught with manipulation and shocking decisions that make Jes question everything they promised each other. As their relationship frays and Jes’s family and friends beg her for help, will she cast Kal and her Patron heritage aside? Will she finally join–even lead–the rebellion that had been burning among the Commoners for years?
This heart-pounding finale of World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s Court of Five series forces Jessamy to confront an inescapable truth: with or without her, the revolution has begun.

Sequel to: Poisoned Blade

Part of Series: Court of Fives

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, War, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol

 

Reviews

 

About the Author

As a child in rural Oregon, Kate Elliott made up stories because she longed to escape to a world of lurid adventure fiction. She now writes fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction, often with a romantic edge. It should therefore come as no surprise that she met her future husband in a sword fight.

When he gave up police work to study archaeology, they and their three children fell into an entirely new set of adventures in dusty Mexican ruins and mouthwatering European pastry shops. Eventually her spouse’s work forced them to move to Hawaii, where she took up outrigger canoe paddling.

Her website is www.kateelliott.com

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Buried Heart on Amazon

Buried Heart on Goodreads

Buried Heart on JLG

Buried Heart Publisher Page

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Hunted by Meagan Spooner. March 14, 2017. HarperTeen, 374 p. ISBN: 9780062422286.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1000.

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Mild sexual themes

 

About the Author

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 7-12. The story of Beauty and the Beast is intriguingly reimagined in this offering from the author of the Skylark trilogy. Yeva, known as Beauty to her beloved family, enjoys the pleasures of her aristocratic life, but is not satisfied by it. Her father loses his fortune in a failed business venture, forcing Yeva and her sisters to move to his remote lodge in the forest. When her father goes missing in the woods, Beauty, an accomplished hunter, goes after him. She soon finds herself the prisoner of a cursed beast who needs Beauty’s skills for his own purposes. Interestingly, there is no real villain; Yeva’s sisters love her, and her fiance is not a cad. The story does not rest so much on Beauty finding the man beneath the beastly exterior as it does recognizing the shared longing that imprisons them both, and how she is eventually able to save him. Alternately delicate and brutal, this is an evocative retelling that grounds itself within the universal magic of storytelling.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2016)
A rich, Russian-influenced retelling of “Beauty and the Beast.”Bored by her comfortable life in town, Yeva (Beauty) longs for the woods. But when her merchant father loses their fortune and retreats to the wilderness with Yeva and her older sisters, Lena (Light) and Asenka (Grace), Yeva must remember her woodcraft in order to protect her family. Preferring solitude to her persistent suitor, Solmir, and a brewing love triangle—Asenka is drawn to Solmir—Yeva hunts, first for game, then for the Beast. Blaming the Beast for her father’s absence, Yeva becomes his captive, then his would-be assassin—trained to kill for him but also hoping to kill him—yet struggles to reconcile his violence and humanity. Building upon a familiar tale, Spooner creates a detailed world populated by complex characters, with medieval household mundanities and retellings of Russian folk tales anchoring the later fantastic elements. No Disney heroine, white, red-haired Yeva is also—appreciably—not an instantly lethal, superpowered heroine, although she is single-mindedly bent first on survival, then on revenge. Love blooms slowly, but this is an old-fashioned romance reminiscent of Robin McKinley’s and Patricia McKillip’s novels, concerned with the power of stories. An elegant, classic, and vivid fairy tale. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Meagan Spooner grew up reading and writing every spare moment of the day, while dreaming about life as an archaeologist, a marine biologist, an astronaut. She graduated from Hamilton College in New York with a degree in playwriting, and has spent several years since then living in Australia. She’s traveled with her family all over the world to places like Egypt, South Africa, the Arctic, Greece, Antarctica, and the Galapagos, and there’s a bit of every trip in every story she writes.

She currently lives and writes in Asheville, North Carolina, but the siren call of travel is hard to resist, and there’s no telling how long she’ll stay there. She’s the author of the award-winning Starbound trilogy (These Broken Stars, This Shattered World, Their Fractured Light) and the Skylark Trilogy (Skylark, Shadowlark, Lark Ascending) as well as the Beauty and the Beast retelling Hunted.

In her spare time she plays guitar, plays video games, plays with her cat, and reads.

Her website is www.meaganspooner.com

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Hunted on Amazon

Hunted on Goodreads

Hunted on JLG

Hunted  Publisher Page