Tag Archives: grief

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. September 5, 2017. HarperTeen, 368 p. ISBN: 9780062457790.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 870.

Adam Silvera reminds us that there’s no life without death and no love without loss in this devastating yet uplifting story about two people whose lives change over the course of one unforgettable day.

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Gun violence

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 9-12. Imagine a world in which everyone who is about to die receives the shocking news in advance by phone, and you have the premise of the wildly imaginative new novel by Silvera. Eighteen-year-old Mateo receives such a phone call at 12:22 a.m., while 17-year-old Rufus receives his at 1:05. Both boys, who are initially strangers to each other, now have one thing in common: they will be dead in 24 hours or less. Alone and desperately lonely, the two find each other by using an app called Last Friend. At first dubious, they begin a cautious friendship, which they describe in their respective first-person voices in alternating chapters. The ingenious plot of this character-driven novel charts the evolution of their relationship as it deepens into something more than simple friendship. Silvera does a remarkable job of inviting empathy for his irresistible coprotagonists. As the clock continues to tick the minutes away, their story becomes invested with urgency and escalating suspense. Will they really die? Perhaps, but, ultimately, it is not death but life that is the focus of this extraordinary and unforgettable novel.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
What would you do with one day left to live?In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived. Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

About the Author

Adam Silvera was born and raised in the Bronx. He has worked in the publishing industry as a children’s bookseller, marketing assistant at a literary development company, and book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. His debut novel, More Happy Than Not, received multiple starred reviews and is a New York Times bestseller, and Adam was selected as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start. He writes full-time in New York City and is tall for no reason.

His website is www.adamsilvera.com.

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Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore. September 19, 2017. Kathy Dawson Books, 453 p. ISBN: 9780803741492.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 740.

If you could change your story, would you?

Jane has lived a mostly ordinary life, raised by her recently deceased aunt Magnolia, whom she counted on to turn life into an adventure. Without Aunt Magnolia, Jane is directionless. Then an old acquaintance, the glamorous and capricious Kiran Thrash, blows back into Jane’s life and invites her to a gala at the Thrashes’ extravagant island mansion called Tu Reviens. Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.”

What Jane doesn’t know is that at Tu Reviens her story will change; the house will offer her five choices that could ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But every choice comes with a price. She might fall in love, she might lose her life, she might come face-to-face with herself. At Tu Reviens, anything is possible.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. When Jane receives an invitation to attend a gala at the island mansion Tu Reviens, she accepts—not because she wants to go, but because her adored (and recently deceased) Aunt Magnolia made her promise to visit Tu Reviens if she ever got the chance. Bizarre personages and events fill the palatial home, including art theft, kidnapping, a secret organization, flirtations, and seemingly impossible twists of fate, all of which the impetuous Jane faces with a devoted basset hound sidekick. It’s the story’s structure, however, that’s most noteworthy, as Cashore (Graceling, 2008) applies the concept of a multiverse to Tu Reviens, following Jane down five possible paths during her stay. Yet, it’s not until the second half of the book, where things go increasingly off the rails, that the story truly blossoms. Art forms a constant backdrop to the narrative, and in all versions of Jane’s story, she finds respite from her grief and uncertain future through artistic expression. Creation, compassion, and choice repeatedly emerge as themes in this ambitious, mind-expanding novel.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
When her guardian, Aunt Magnolia, dies, Jane is left untethered and financially insecure. Then Kiran, an old acquaintance, invites Jane to Tu Reviens (“you return”), Kiran’s family’s island mansion. Aunt Magnolia had told Jane unequivocally that “if you’re invited to Tu Reviens, go.” So Jane ends up at the exotic mansion, a place where staffers are not what they say they are, and the wealthy patriarch is a depressive recluse. What’s going on? Jane wonders, watching the household prepare for a gala party and noting the priceless Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Brancusi works on display. Then the story splits into five alternate scenarios. As Jane follows first one inhabitant and then four others in parallel narratives, she moves from the romantic confection the novel first seems to multiverses of surreality, science fiction, art theft, and Espions sans Frontieres (Spies Without Borders). The clues to the story’s fantastical nature are playful and sly. As scenarios multiply, the story becomes light on character development and rather plot-heavy, but Cashore’s glee, wit, and inventiveness are unflagging. With its references to works ranging from Doctor Who to Rebecca to Winnie-the-Pooh, this is pleasantly peculiar and unpredictable. deirdre f. baker

About the Author

Kristin Cashore grew up in northeast Pennsylvania and has a master’s degree from the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College. She lives in the Boston area. Her epic fantasy novels set in the Graceling Realm—GracelingFire, and Bitterblue—are all New York Times bestsellers and have won many awards and much high praise, including picks as ALA Best Books for Young Adults, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Booklist Editors Choice, and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. In addition, Graceling was shortlisted for the William C. Morris Debut Award and Fire is an Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Winner.

Her website is kristincashore.blogspot.com

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Jane, Unlimited on Amazon

Jane, Unlimited on Goodreads

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Jane, Unlimited Publisher Page

Everything All At Once by Katrina Leno

Everything All At Once by Katrina Leno. July 25, 2017. HarperTeen, 368 p. ISBN: 9780062493095.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 730.

24 dares. 3 weeks. Take the leap.

Lottie Reaves is not a risk taker. She plays it safe and avoids all the ways she might get hurt. But when her beloved aunt Helen dies of cancer, Lottie’s fears about life and death start spiraling out of control.

Aunt Helen wasn’t a typical aunt. She was the author of the bestselling Alvin Hatter series, about siblings who discover the elixir of immortality. Her writing inspired a generation of readers. She knew how magical writing could be, and that words have the power to make you see things differently.

In her will, Aunt Helen leaves one writing project just for Lottie. It’s a series of letters, each containing mysterious instructions that are supposed to get Lottie to take a leap and—for once in her life—really live. But when the letters reveal an extraordinary secret about the inspiration for the Alvin Hatter series, Lottie finds herself faced with an impossible choice—one that will force her to confront her greatest fears once and for all.

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

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 9-12. Cautious, predictable Lottie has always had a plan for her life, but it gets thrown to the wind when her beloved and wild Aunt Helen passes away and leaves her 24 letters containing instructions that lead to secrets, love, and self-discovery. Aunt Helen isn’t just the source of entertaining summers and happy memories; she’s also the best-selling author of the most popular children’s books of all time, the Alvin Hatter series. Spurred on by tasks as harmless as “don’t be afraid to let yourself cry” and as reckless as “do something you’re not supposed to do,” Lottie discovers her aunt’s extraordinary secret past that inspired her books, and she rushes headfirst into a love that comes with major strings attached. Scattered with insightful excerpts from the Alvin Hatter series, Leno’s (The Lost & Found, 2016) latest novel borrows some narrative inspiration from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (2013) and a little magic from Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting (1975) to create a truly captivating tale about grief and the affirming power of self-examination.

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2017)
When Lottie’s favorite aunt dies, she leaves behind a wave of grief—and a mysterious series of letters.High school senior Lottie Reaves isn’t the only one mourning her beloved aunt Helen after she succumbs to cancer—Helen is the record-selling author of the Alvin Hatter series, which follows the adventures of two immortal siblings and has achieved J.K. Rowling–level fame. But it turns out that Aunt Helen had a surprise in store for Lottie—24 letters with a sequence of challenges to help her get through her grief and fight her anxious tendencies…as well as a secret she’s never revealed. As Lottie completes the missions with her best friend, Em, younger brother, Abe, and mysterious not-quite-boyfriend Sam, she learns more about her aunt, herself, and the natures of life, death, and time than she ever expected. Excerpts from Alvin Hatter books give readers a taste of the books that captured the world, and diversity is seamlessly integrated throughout the book— mixed-race Lottie has a Peruvian mom and a white dad, and her white best friend is a lesbian with an unaccepting mother. Lottie’s anxieties are discussed in a gentle yet candid manner, and her close-knit relationship with her family members is refreshing and realistic. A charming and sophisticated take on handling grief with a mystical twist ending that is sure to engage teens nostalgic for the magic of reading Harry Potter or Tuck Everlasting for the first time. (Fiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Katrina Leno is the author of Everything All at Once, The Lost & Found, The Half Life of Molly Pierce, and Summer of Salt. In real life, she lives in Los Angeles. But in her head, she lives on an imaginary island off the coast of New England where it sometimes rains a lot.

Her website is www.katrinaleno.com

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Everything All at Once on Amazon

Everything All at Once on Goodreads

Everything All at Once on JLG

Everything All at Once Publisher Page

The Wendy Project by Melissa Jane Osborne

The Wendy Project by Melissa Jane Osborne. July 18, 2017. Super Genius, 98 p. ISBN: 9781545805275.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

16-year-old Wendy Davies crashes her car into a lake on a late summer night in New England with her two younger brothers in the backseat. When she wakes in the hospital, she is told that her youngest brother, Michael, is dead. Wendy — a once rational teenager – shocks her family by insisting that Michael is alive and in the custody of a mysterious flying boy. Placed in a new school, Wendy negotiates fantasy and reality as students and adults around her resemble characters from Neverland. Given a sketchbook by her therapist, Wendy starts to draw. But is The Wendy Project merely her safe space, or a portal between worlds?

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

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2017)
In this heart-wrenching graphic novel, a teen girl responsible for her younger brother’s death must decide to accept the harsh reality or lose herself in escapist denial. One fateful evening, Wendy Davies’ car goes off the road. Her brothers, John and Michael, were inside, and Michael doesn’t survive the wreck. After the crash, Wendy is sent to therapy to help her process her feelings and is instructed to draw her emotions. She envisions that Peter Pan has taken Michael to Neverland and begins seeing parallels in her everyday life. As Wendy becomes more enmeshed in her reveries, her grasp on reality becomes ever more tenuous. Will she be able to leave her daydreams behind and see the accident for what it was? Through a dreamlike and elegiac lens, Osborne and Fish conjure a visually striking portrait of mourning and acceptance. Wendy’s reality is evinced through black-and-white sketches, transitioning to a glorious wash of watercolors when her imagination takes over. While undeniably breathtaking in its style, the narrative of this slender volume occasionally falters. Its secondary characters—such as Peter Pan and Tinkerbell and their real-world counterparts—are intriguing but not as well developed as Wendy, and though Wendy’s plight is moving, it resolves itself a bit too tidily. However, readers should easily overcome these quibbles due to the sheer emotional impact of this beautifully tragic story and its gravitas. An ethereal and haunting exploration of grief and death. (Graphic fiction. 12-adult)

Library Journal – web only (November 18, 2016)
Here, Peter Pan’s Wendy Darling is reimagined as a 16-year-old who survives a car accident that renders one of her brothers mute and the other missing. Is that brother’s body lost to the watery crash site, or did Wendy really see him fly away with a mysterious figure? As Wendy struggles at a new high school, the people in her life begin to resemble Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and other J.M. Barrie characters. Wendy’s therapist prescribes drawing in a sketchbook as a coping mechanism, but the journal takes on a life of its own, one that may let Wendy shape her circumstances in more ways than one. Osborne sensitively scripts this tragic scenario-which has an especially satisfying conclusion-and Fish’s (Archie Comics) well-matched artwork often fittingly resembles that of a talented teenager, with color skillfully used to denote Wendy’s visions intruding into reality. Verdict This unexpected gem stands out among latter-day versions of Peter Pan thanks to its embrace of genuine emotion and psychological gravity. Highly recommended to all graphic novel and fantasy fans, and especially to YA readers. Some disturbing content; suitable for all but the youngest.-J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB

About the Author

Melissa Jane Osborne is an actor and writer who has worked with Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Samuel French Festival, NYFringe, Playwright’s Horizon’s Theatre School, and Stella Adler Studio of which she is an alum. Her work in new media spans from the Internet sensation The Burg to creating the first interactive scripted iPhone game Campus Crush for the Episode App, which has spawned multiple sequels and become an international teen sensation with over 6 million views per month. Her short film OMA is currently in production starring Lynn Cohen (The Hunger Games). She is a member of NYC’s FAB Women and Los Angeles’s IAMA Theatre Co. When Melissa was a kid, she broke four puppet theater kits from telling stories too hard. Now that she’s an adult, she hopes to break even more.

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The Wendy Project on Amazon

The Wendy Project on Goodreads

The Wendy Project on JLG

The Wendy Project Publisher Page

The Other Side of Summer by Emily Gale

The Other Side of Summer by Emily Gale. May 30, 20176. HarperCollins, 336 p. ISBN: 9780062656742.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.7; Lexile: 640.

A heartfelt and voice-driven novel with just a touch of magic, Emily Gale’s The Other Side of Summer is perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead.

Ever since her brother Floyd died, Summer’s world has been falling apart. Her mom is a ghost of her former self, her older sister is angry all the time, and her dad wants to move the family to Australia. It seems like the only thing unchanged in their lives is Floyd’s guitar, which was returned to the family perfectly unharmed by the bombing that killed him.

Once Summer arrives in Australia, she feels even further away from Floyd than before. Until she works up the courage to play his guitar. When she plays, something amazing—perhaps even magical—happens. Summer starts to feel less alone. But even with a little magic on her side, only Summer will be able to find her way through her grief to whatever the other side may bring.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Terrorism

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (March 15, 2017)
Summer’s family is blown apart when her brother, Floyd, is killed in a bombing in London, and their anguish surges anew when Floyd’s cherished guitar is delivered to their house afterward.In a prescient moment, Summer says the instrument is “a sign of a different, unexpected ending.” With it, Summer hears Floyd’s voice; it also draws the spirit of a boy named Gabe. As Summer struggles to get to the other side of her grief, she narrates her trajectory in three parts over the course of 18 months that include a move from England to Australia. Part 1 represents loss. Summer’s agony is tangible and her descriptions, searing. Her dad’s face is “as unreadable as an old gravestone;” her mum, suffering depression, is a “whispery ghost.” In Australia, the family starts to heal. It’s there that Gabe appears to Summer. She can’t tell if he is a ghost or from the realm of dreams or how she can help him. This mystery propels the action in Part 2. Summer’s discoveries not only allow her to aid Gabe, but also to reconstruct important moments in Floyd’s last days. The reason for the bombing is not explained, nor is there an easy path through sorrow, but Part 3 brings resolution. Summer’s family is white, but the full cast appears to be multiethnic. A bittersweet, hopeful coming-of-age story complicated by loss, saved by love, that ends with a song. (Fiction. 10-14)

School Library Journal (May 1, 2017)
Gr 5-8-When 13-year-old Summer’s brother Floyd dies in a bombing, her family members have difficulty coping. Her mom is depressed and barely leaves her bedroom, her older sister Wren is dark and angry, and her dad wants to move the family from London to Melbourne, Australia. Summer, her dad, and her sister make the move to Australia while her mom stays behind. Summer feels alone, angry, and even further removed from her memories of her brother until she discovers sheet music of Floyd’s and works up the courage to play his Ibanez Artwood guitar, his prized possession, which was returned to the family unharmed after the accident. When Summer is near the guitar, she can speak to her brother in her head. When she begins to play, a mysterious boy named Gabe appears. Summer’s efforts to figure out Gabe’s story, and his possible connection with her brother, bring her mourning family together. Gale realistically portrays how grief impacts each member of a family differently and explores the challenges of losing someone and struggling to find them again in a new and different way. VERDICT Fans of Rebecca Stead will gravitate to this heartfelt and beautiful tale that fits perfectly in the gray area between middle grade and young adult.-Sarah Polace, Cuyahoga Public Library System, OH

About the Author

Emily Gale is a book-nerd who has worked in the children’s & YA book industry for nearly twenty years. In London she worked as an editor for Penguin and Egmont, and later as a freelance manuscript consultant and pre-school book writer. In Melbourne she’s worked with literary agent Sheila Drummond, finding new children’s and YA authors; she has reviewed for Bookseller and Publisher, been a judge in the YA category of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, and spent several happy years at independent bookshop Readings as a children’s buyer, during which time she was instrumental in establishing the Readings Children’s Book Prize.

Her website is www.emilygalebooks.com

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The Other Side of Summer on Amazon

The Other Side of Summer on Goodreads

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The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore. September 19, 2017. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 304 p. ISBN: 9781524701253.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.8; Lexile: 650.

A boy tries to steer a safe path through the projects in Harlem in the wake of his brother’s death in this outstanding debut novel that’s been described as a “fast and furious read in which we meet some amazing people, people that stay with us” by Newbery Honor and National Book Award–winning author Jacqueline Woodson.

It’s Christmas Eve in Harlem, but twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul and his mom aren’t celebrating. They’re still reeling from his older brother’s death in a gang-related shooting just a few months earlier. Then Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend brings him a gift that will change everything: two enormous bags filled with Legos. Lolly’s always loved Legos, and he prides himself on following the kit instructions exactly. Now, faced with a pile of building blocks and no instructions, Lolly must find his own way forward.

His path isn’t clear—and the pressure to join a “crew,” as his brother did, is always there. When Lolly and his friend are beaten up and robbed, joining a crew almost seems like the safe choice. But building a fantastical Lego city at the community center provides Lolly with an escape—and an unexpected bridge back to the world.

David Barclay Moore paints a powerful portrait of a boy teetering on the edge—of adolescence, of grief, of violence—and shows how Lolly’s inventive spirit helps him build a life with firm foundations and open doors.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Racism and racist language, Homophobia and homophobic language, Murder, Suicide

 

Video Review

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
Multicultural Harlem lives again in this daringly diverse tale of growing up against the odds and the imaginative, healing possibilities that we can create through the choices we make. Moore turns his back on the newly whitewashed Harlem, taking readers to the St. Nick projects to meet brown-skinned West Indian (Trini, to be exact) Wallace “Lolly” Rachpaul, full of contradiction and agency. Moore surrounds Lolly with a grand ensemble of characters that echo the ample cross sections and cultural milieus of the big city. There’s Lolly’s mother, who has embraced her queer sexuality with toy-store security guard Yvonne, who becomes a secondary caregiver after the tragic loss of Lolly’s older brother, Jermaine to the drug-hustling crew underworld of Harlem. Lolly hopes that he and his dark-skinned Dominican best friend, Vega, can resist its allure. Mr. Ali is the veteran social worker with marginal resources and a big heart, refashioning his little basement space to unravel the traumas and difficult choices that could lead astray the black and brown youth he serves. And don’t forget Big Rose (who doesn’t like to be called Big). Then there are Lolly’s Legos, which, block by block, help him imagine a healthy future. These characters are vibrantly alive, reconstituting the realness that is needed to bring diverse, complicated stories to the forefront of our shelves. A debut that serves as a powerful instructive for writing from and reading the intersections—125th Street–size intersections for all readers to enjoy. (Fiction. 10-14)

Publishers Weekly (July 10, 2017)
Wallace “Lolly” Rachpaul, 12, is still reeling from the murder of his older brother, Jermaine. The only thing that makes him feel better is building with Legos, and after his mother’s girlfriend, Yvonne, gives him two trash bags full of loose Legos for Christmas, he lets his imagination soar. When Lolly’s creation outgrows his West Indian family’s Harlem apartment, he moves it to the rec center. Encouraged by the facility’s director, Mr. Ali, Lolly and Big Rose, a girl with autism, begin to build “the alien metropolis of Harmonee.” Outside the safety of the rec center, life for Lolly and his best friend Vega is getting more complicated. Two older boys, Harp and Gully, are hassling them, and their menacing presence escalates into an act of violence. Debut author Moore delivers a realistic and at times brutal portrait of life for young people of color who are living on the edge of poverty. At the same time, Moore infuses the story with hope and aspiration, giving Lolly the chance to find salvation through creativity. Ages 10-up.

About the Author

David Barclay Moore was born and raised in Missouri. After studying creative writing at Iowa State University, film at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and language studies at l’Université de Montpellier in France, David moved to New York City, where he has served as communications coordinator for Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone and communications manager for Quality Services for the Autism Community. He has received grants from the Ford Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, Yaddo, and the Wellspring Foundation. He was also a semi-finalist for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. David now lives, works, and explores in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Her website is www.davidbarclaymoore.com

Around the Web

The Stars Beneath Our Feet on Amazon

The Stars Beneath Our Feet on Goodreads

The Stars Beneath Our Feet on JLG

The Stars Beneath Our Feet Publisher Page

The Whole Sky by Heather Henson

The Whole Sky by Heather Henson. August 22, 2017. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 256 p. ISBN: 9781442414051.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.4; Lexile: 720.

When a devastating sickness spreads through a thoroughbred farm community, a young horse whisperer is determined to find out why all the foals are dying in this tightly woven, tender coming-of-age novel from award-winning author Heather Henson.

Twelve-year-old Sky and her father are horse whisperers—their preternatural tenderness and understanding of horses, and Sky’s uncanny ability to actually understand what they’re saying become their livelihood during the foaling season at multimillion dollar horse farms. They’re sought after by the most prestigious farms in the country to keep pregnant horses calm and stress-free until they give birth. But this spring, something awful is happening…foal after foal is a stillborn, and no one knows why. And worse for Sky, who lost her mother only months earlier, her most beloved horse is about to have her first foal. In agony, Sky takes it upon herself to figure out what the vets are missing, and stop it before even more foals are lost.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Publishers Weekly Annex (July 3, 2017)
Twelve-year-old Sky has spent her life working with horses, helping her father, who has passed on a special gift to her: both can speak to horses. When they arrive at Shaughnessy Farms to help birth this year’s foals, both father and daughter are mourning the recent death of Sky’s mother. Homeschooled Sky rarely spends time with kids her age, but she befriends Archie, grandson of the farm’s kindly owners. Then the foals are almost all stillborn for reasons no one understands, and Sky’s father, who has started drinking, disappears. As Sky attempts to discover what is killing the foals, Henson (Dream of Night) brings readers deep into the world of Kentucky horse farms, smoothly weaving in details about Sky and her father’s work. Sky’s grief is palpable, and her slow-building friendship with Archie is moving, as is Sky’s growing understanding of his flaws and struggle to love him in the face of that humanity. But the heart of the story is Sky’s preternatural bond with the animals she loves. Ages 10-12.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2017)
A girl who can communicate with horses learns why thoroughbred foals are dying all over Kentucky. In the wake of her mother’s death, 12-year-old Sky Doran, a white girl of Irish descent, accompanies her father to the prestigious breeding barn where he works each year during foaling season. Sky’s family has always been nomadic, but Shaughnessy Farms feels like home, and Sky is relieved to be reunited with the mares she loves, especially her favorite, Poppy, who is expecting her first foal. Sky and her father share a secret family trait: they can talk to the horses telepathically. This year, to everyone’s horror and astonishment, the foals are born dead or dying—hundreds of them in farms all across Kentucky. No one can understand why. Making matters even worse, Sky’s father, who has battled trouble with alcohol before, shows up at a difficult delivery drunk. He leaves Sky among friends on the farm while he enters rehab. When Poppy’s foal survives birth, Sky finds healing from her own wounds by caring for the fragile baby and uses her telepathy to uncover the reasons behind the epidemic. Mare reproductive loss syndrome, a real disaster stemming from 2001, forms the backdrop to a story of loss, growth, and friendship. Sky’s first-person narration rings true, as do the details of everyday life among horses. This literary middle-grade tale with a touch of magic will find eager readers among horse enthusiasts. (Fantasy. 9-13)

About the Author

Heather Henson was born and raised in central Kentucky in a summerstock theater her father founded in 1950, and her family still owns and operates. After moving to New York City to study theater and filmmaking, Heather decided to focus on her first love: writing. She graduated from The New School University with a degree in creative writing and literature, and went on to work as an editor of children’s books at a major publisher. After many years living in Brooklyn, NY, she returned to her home state of Kentucky to focus on her writing, which has always been deeply influenced by her roots. In her writing for young readers, Heather likes to focus on unsung heroes in history and celebrate their achievements. Her latest picture book, “Lift Your Light Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop, Slave-Explorer,” illustrated by Caldecott-Honor and Coretta Scott King-Award winner, Bryan Collier, “recovers an important piece of African-American history,” said Kirkus in a starred review. Her picture book, “That Book Woman,” illustrated by Caldecott-Medal winner David Small, celebrates the Pack Horse Librarians who brought the gift of reading to countless families in Appalachia during the 1930’s. “That Book Woman” won the prestigious Christopher Medal, as well as the Great Lakes Book Award, among other awards. Heather lives on a farm in the heart of the Bluegrass with her husband and three children.

Her website is heatherhensonbooks.com

Around the Web

The Whole Sky on Amazon

The Whole Sky on Goodreads

The Whole Sky on JLG

The Whole Sky Publisher Page

Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke

Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke. April  18, 2017. Pantheon Books, 278 p. ISBN: 9781101870839.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A gorgeous graphic memoir about loss, love, and confronting grief

When Kristen Radtke was in college, the sudden death of a beloved uncle and the sight of an abandoned mining town after his funeral marked the beginning moments of a lifelong fascination with ruins and with people and places left behind. Over time, this fascination deepened until it triggered a journey around the world in search of ruined places. Now, in this genre-smashing graphic memoir, she leads us through deserted cities in the American Midwest, an Icelandic town buried in volcanic ash, islands in the Philippines, New York City, and the delicate passageways of the human heart. Along the way, we learn about her family and a rare genetic heart disease that has been passed down through generations, and revisit tragic events in America’s past.

A narrative that is at once narrative and factual, historical and personal, Radtke’s stunning illustrations and piercing text never shy away from the big questions: Why are we here, and what will we leave behind?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
When Radtke was in college, studying art in Chicago, the uncle she’d grown up adoring died of a heart condition. Around the same time, she visited Gary, Indiana, and began to cultivate a deep interest in the ruins of cities and decaying places. The idea of “how something that is can become, very suddenly, something that isn’t” obsessed her. Radtke’s neat, grayscale drawings are detailed and coloring-book precise, and her thoughtful, meticulous narration makes true visual essays of them. In grad school, she travels to the Philippines, Burma, Singapore, and Vietnam, seeking and studying international “ruin-porn,” as she notes some call it. Her story cartwheels, too, exploring the science behind her uncle’s defect and the probability that she has it, too. She tells the story of the infamous fire in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, her home state, which decimated the area and took thousands of victims but remains regional lore after occurring on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire. In her cerebral journey of a first book, Radtke, an illustrator, designer, and managing editor of a small press, asks and answers: Why do ruins fascinate, and why is this fascination considered perverse? Why are ruins there at all?

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2017)
Insights and images combine in a meditation on loss, grief, and the illusions of permanence.  Sarabande Books managing editor Radtke isn’t an artist who also writes a little or a writer who scrawls but a master of both prose narrative and visual art. Like memory, the narrative loosens the binds of chronology, playing hopscotch through the author’s girlhood, college, formative years as an artist, and apocalyptic fantasy of her current home in New York. A strain of heart failure seems to run in Radtke’s family, and the key to this memoir is the death of her favorite uncle, who was recovering from the surgery that ultimately killed him and whose death made the author and her family all the more concerned with the family medical history. The event also planted the seed for this book and its larger thematic focus, as Radtke became “consumed by the question of how something that is can become, very suddenly, something that isn’t.” On her return home for the funeral, the author discovered an abandoned mining town that she would later revisit. During art school, she became fascinated by Gary, Indiana, a city in ruins, where she discovered the photos of someone whose attempts to document the city led to his death. She left a fiance and what she imagined to be a “stagnant future” for vagabond travels taking her from the ruins of Italy to the ravages of Southeast Asia, while her own heart condition gave notions of impermanence and loss a personal emphasis. “I couldn’t comprehend why the dead couldn’t be made undead,” she writes. “Why a heart that caved couldn’t be filled out again.” In a way, what she has done in this impressive book is to revive the dead and recover the lost while illuminating a world in flux, in which change is the only constant. Powerfully illustrated and incisively written—a subtle dazzler of a debut.

About the Author

Kristen Radtke is a writer and illustrator based in Brooklyn. Her graphic memoir, Imagine Wanting Only This, is forthcoming from Pantheon Books in April.

She is the managing editor of Sarabande Books and the film & video editor of TriQuarterly magazine. She has an MFA from the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program.

Her website is kristenradtke.com

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Imagine Wanting Only This on Amazon

Imagine Wanting Only This on Goodreads

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Imagine Wanting Only This Publisher Page

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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Ashes to Asheville on Amazon

Ashes to Asheville on Goodreads

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Ashes to Asheville Publisher Page

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour. February 14, 2017. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 234 p. ISBN: 9780525425892.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 9-12. It’s the winter break during Marin’s first year at college, and she is facing the holidays thousands of miles from her San Francisco home. Since her grandfather died the previous summer, Marin feels set adrift. Not only has she lost Gramps, her sole caretaker, but he’d been keeping secrets, and when she discovers the truth, it shatters everything she believed was true about her life. Engulfed in pain and feeling alone, she shuns her best friend Mabel’s numerous calls and texts. But Mabel flies cross-country, determined to help her friend deal with her grief. Marin is afraid that Mabel regrets the physical intimacy that had grown between the two girls while she was still in California, and braces herself for more heartache, but Mabel surprises her in more ways than one. With the most delicate and loving strokes in Marin’s first-person narrative, LaCour paints a captivating depiction of loss, bewilderment, and emotional paralysis. Images of the icy winter surrounding Marin in New York contrast sharply with her achingly vibrant memories of San Francisco. Raw and beautiful, this portrait of a girl searching for both herself and a sense of home will resonate with readers of LGBTQIA romances, particularly those with bisexual themes, and the poignant and affecting exploration of grief and betrayal will enchant fans of character-driven fiction.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2016)
“If only lonely were a more accurate word. It should sound much less pretty.” It’s December in New York, and college freshman Marin is in her dorm room, contemplating a solitary monthlong stay after everyone else has left for winter break. Her single respite will be a brief visit from her best friend, Mabel. Marin is dreading the stay for reasons that are revealed in flashbacks: she fled San Francisco without informing anyone after the sudden death of her beloved Gramps, who raised her. Over the course of three days, secrets about Gramps, Marin’s long-dead mother, and the girls’ complicated relationship are revealed in short, exquisite sentences that evoke myriad emotions with a minimum of words. “I must have shut grief out. Found it in books. Cried over fiction instead of the truth. The truth was unconfined, unadorned. There was no poetic language to it, no yellow butterflies, no epic floods.…The truth was vast enough to drown in.” A surprise arrival at story’s end leads to a tearful resolution of Marin’s sorrow and a heartfelt renewal of her relationship with Mabel and her family. Mexican-American Mabel speaks Spanish, while an absence of markers indicates Marin is likely white. An elegantly crafted paean to the cleansing power of truth. (Fiction. 12 & up)

About the Author

Nina LaCour grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her first job was at fourteen in an independent bookstore, and she has since worked in two others. She has tutored and taught in various places, from a juvenile hall to a private college. She now teaches English at an independent high school.

Nina lives in Oakland, California with her wife and their two cute cats.

Her website is www.ninalacour.com.

Around the Web

We Are Okay on Amazon

We Are Okay on Goodreads

We Are Okay on JLG

We Are Okay Publisher Page