Tag Archives: grief

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan. March 20, 2018. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 462 p. ISBN: 9780316463997.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. Leigh shatters after her mother’s suicide—who wouldn’t?—but when a huge, beautiful red bird appears and calls her name in her mother’s voice, she doesn’t think she’s hallucinating; she’s sure the bird is actually her mother, and not “some William Faulkner stream-of-consciousness metaphorical crap.” When the bird brings Leigh a box of letters and photos from her mother’s childhood in Taiwan, she convinces her white father to take her to Taipei to meet her mother’s estranged parents for the first time. There she digs into her family’s past, visiting her mother’s favorite places and keeping an eye out for the bird, which grows ever more elusive the longer Leigh searches. In Leigh’s strong, painterly voice and with evocative, fantastical elements, Pan movingly explores grief and loss, as well as Leigh’s meaningful search for connection to her secretive mother and her exploration of the many facets of her identity. Particularly laudable is Pan’s sensitive treatment of mental illness: Leigh learns many heartbreaking things about her mother’s life, but those moments are never offered as explanations for suicide; rather, it’s the result of her mother’s lifelong struggle with severe, debilitating depression. Dynamic, brave Leigh emerges vividly in Pan’s deft hand, and her enthralling journey through her grief glows with stunning warmth, strength, and resilience.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2018)
“My mother is a bird,” declares Leigh, a mixed-raced (hun-xie) Taiwanese American teen. She has seen her mother reincarnated as a large red bird and knows that Mom is trying to guide Leigh in understanding the reasons for her tragic suicide. (Leigh also must contend with the crushing guilt of kissing her best friend, Axel, on the day Mom died.) Leigh travels to Taipei to stay with her maternal grandparents, with whom she can barely communicate. There she embarks on a fervent and grief-stricken odyssey riddled with insomnia and confusion, piecing together her mother’s past by lighting magical incense sticks that allow her to witness fragments of others’ memories. Pan portrays Leigh as a talented visual artist, telling her story with a vividness punctuated by a host of highly specific hues: a “cerise punch” to the gut, “viridian spiraling” thoughts, a heart “bursting with manganese blue and new gamboges yellow and quinacridone rose.” Some readers might be put off by the abundant imagery, but it—along with the threads of Taiwanese mysticism and her mingling of ghosts (gui) with the living—creates a hypnotic narrative. roxanne hsu Feldman

About the Author

Emily X.R. Pan currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, but was originally born in the Midwestern United States to immigrant parents from Taiwan. She received her MFA in fiction from NYU, where she was a Goldwater Fellow. She was the founding editor-in-chief of Bodega Magazine, a 2017 Artist-in-Residence at Djerassi, and is co-creator of FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology.

Her website is exrpan.com.

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The Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro

The Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro. March 6, 2018. Katherine Tegen Books, 349 p. ISBN: 9780062398970.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 720.

It’s been a year since the shocking death of August Moriarty, and Jamie and Charlotte haven’t spoken.

Jamie is going through the motions at Sherringford, trying to finish his senior year without incident, with a nice girlfriend he can’t seem to fall for.

Charlotte is on the run, from Lucien Moriarty and from her own mistakes. No one has seen her since that fateful night on the lawn in Sussex—and Charlotte wants it that way. She knows she isn’t safe to be around. She knows her Watson can’t forgive her.

Holmes and Watson may not be looking to reconcile, but when strange things start happening, it’s clear that someone wants the team back together. Someone who has been quietly observing them both. Making plans. Biding their time.

Someone who wants to see one of them suffer and the other one dead.

Sequel to: The Last of August

Part of series: Charlotte Holmes (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Mention of sexual assault and rape

 

Book Trailer

 

About the Author

Brittany Cavallaro is a poet, fiction writer, and old school Sherlockian. She is the author of the Charlotte Holmes novels from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, including A Study in Charlotte and The Last of August. She’s also the author of the poetry collection Girl-King (University of Akron) and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She earned her BA in literature from Middlebury College and her MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she’s a PhD candidate in English literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, cat, and collection of deerstalker caps.

Her website is http://brittanycavallaro.com.

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Twelve Steps to Normal by Farrah Penn

Twelve Steps to Normal by Farrah Penn. March 13, 2018. jimmy patterson, 384 p. ISBN: 9780316471602.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 700.

James Patterson presents this emotionally resonant novel that shows that while some broken things can’t be put back exactly the way they were, they can be repaired and made even stronger.

Kira’s Twelve Steps To A Normal Life

1. Accept Grams is gone.
2. Learn to forgive Dad.
3. Steal back ex-boyfriend from best friend…

And somewhere between 1 and 12, realize that when your parent’s an alcoholic, there’s no such thing as “normal.”
When Kira’s father enters rehab, she’s forced to leave everything behind–her home, her best friends, her boyfriend…everything she loves. Now her father’s sober (again) and Kira is returning home, determined to get her life back to normal…exactly as it was before she was sent away.

But is that what Kira really wants?

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

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. Kira’s life changed eight months ago when her alcoholic father went to rehab, and she moved from her small Texas hometown to stay with her aunt. She left behind her dance team, close friends, and a boyfriend. Now it’s time to return, and she’s nervous. Is her father sober for good? Will she and Jay resume their relationship? When Kira discovers her father has opened their home to three friends from rehab, and Jay is now dating one of her best friends, she is furious and plans her own “12 steps” to the life she once had. Although Kira’s path is often predictable—denial, anger, grief, and understanding take turns leading her through emotional growth—Penn nicely captures the all-consuming emotions of a teen wrestling life into some sort of order. A comfortable new romance and an unexpected death provide comfort and catharsis. Penn’s note to the reader explains that she too had a father who suffered from alcoholism, and it’s this loving, compassionate hindsight that will speak honestly to readers in the same situation.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 15, 2018)
The 12 steps to sobriety are tough; the 12 steps to repairing high school friendships are also difficult. After a year away, Kira is returning home to small-town Cedarville, Texas, to once again live with her recovering-alcoholic father in the house they once shared with Kira’s late grandmother. The white teen’s re-entry stumbles immediately when she learns that some of her father’s fellow rehab patients are staying there too. Kira also needs to work on rekindling friendships with her friends, as she avoided contact with them after she left. Then there’s Jay, Kira’s ex-boyfriend, who has moved on in Kira’s absence to friend Whitney. What’s a girl to do? In Kira’s case, the answer is to create her own 12-step program to return to a normal life. Penn creates a realistic character in Kira, one who finely balances the rational thoughts of a child of addiction with the emotional struggles of a high school student. Kira’s journey should speak to many teenage readers, even those who do not have firsthand experience with addiction or addicts. All of the characters (there are some people of color among Kira’s friends) are captured with a sophisticated eye and create a well-rounded story. Latino Alex—a friend-turned–love-interest—may be too good to be true, but readers will probably easily forgive that. An author’s note offers resources. A smart recommendation for readers looking to escape into a substantive world of personal discovery. (foreword) (Fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Farrah Penn was born and raised in a suburb in Texas that was far from the big city, but close enough to What-A-Burger. She now resides in Los Angeles, CA with her gremlin dog and succulents. When she’s not writing books, she’s writing things for BuzzFeed or sending texts containing too many emojis. 12 Steps to Normal is her first novel.

Her website is www.farrahpenn.com.

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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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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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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 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 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

 

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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

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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