Tag Archives: orphans

Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray

Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray. April 3, 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 480 p. ISBN: 9780316394109.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 850.

An outcast from her home — Shunned after a trip through the galaxy with Abel, the most advanced cybernetic man ever created, Noemi Vidal dreams of traveling through the stars one more time. And when a deadly plague arrives on Genesis, Noemi gets her chance. As the only soldier to have ever left the planet, it will be up to her to save its people…if only she wasn’t flying straight into a trap.

A fugitive from his fate — On the run to avoid his depraved creator’s clutches, Abel believes he’s said good-bye to Noemi for the last time. After all, the entire universe stands between them…or so he thinks. When word reaches him of Noemi’s capture by the very person he’s trying to escape, Abel knows he must go to her, no matter the cost.

But capturing Noemi was only part of Burton Mansfield’s master plan. In a race against time, Abel and Noemi will come together once more to discover a secret that could save the known worlds, or destroy them all.

In this thrilling and romantic sequel to Defy the Stars, bestselling author Claudia Gray asks us all to consider where–and with whom–we truly belong.

Sequel to: Defy the Stars

Part of Series: Constellation (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, War, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Online))
Grades 7-11. Though Noemi and Abel have strong feelings for each other, they have gone their separate ways for protection. Yet their efforts are foiled when Abel’s wealthy, power-hungry family abducts Noemi, using her as bait to make Abel sacrifice himself for his father/creator. Abel, a first-generation mechanized being with a soul, tracks them and finds himself in the middle of a three-way battle with a family that sees him as inhuman; with rebels bent on destroying the present regime, which includes Abel’s family; and with his own desire to save his love. Gray’s sequel to Defy the Stars (2017) revisits a familiar cast of characters and disturbing questions about the line dividing human and machine, though what was fresh and intriguing in the first book veers toward a certain predictability here. Nevertheless, readers will care about the potential lovers and the tricky situations that ensnare them. Romantic and adventurous, this novel contains a plethora of STEM-related content and is a worthy discussion starter for conversations about the ethics of technology.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2018)
After Defy the Stars (2017), new threats reunite Noemi, a human, and Abel, a mech or anthropoid robot.Noemi (described as Latin American and Polynesian in the previous book) struggles with being back home on Genesis, facing ostracism—especially for not letting Abel sacrifice himself to destroy the gate that protects the planet. She gets into additional trouble for wanting to use common sense and her initiative instead of waiting for the order to destroy mysterious projectiles from Earth. By the time the order comes, it’s impossible to stop all of them. Genesis is struck by a pandemic so bad that Noemi’s sent to Earth to surrender. Before she can get there, she’s grabbed by enemy forces and used as leverage to get Abel to surrender himself. Their objectives—saving themselves and Genesis—lead the duo to form strange alliances and discover new revelations, including devious schemes, predictable-yet-heartbreaking technological applications, and the full truth behind the Cobweb virus. The action raises the stakes, for individuals and entire worlds, and the romance satisfies without overwhelming, right up to a huge cliffhanger ending. There is ample ethnic diversity throughout the book, mostly incidental to the plot, although having one of the two named leaders of the extremist terrorist wing coded as Arab may raise eyebrows. A fast, fun follow-up. (Science fiction. 12-adult)

About the Author

Claudia Gray is not my real name. I didn’t choose a pseudonym because my real name is unpleasant (it isn’t), because I’d always dreamed of calling myself this (I haven’t) or even because I’m hiding from the remnants of that international diamond-smuggling cartel I smashed in 2003 (Interpol has taken care of them). In short, I took a pseudonym for no real reason whatsoever. Sometimes this is actually the best reason to do things.

I live in New Orleans. So far, in life, I’ve been a disc jockey, a lawyer, a journalist and an extremely bad waitress, just to name a few. I especially like to spend time traveling, hiking, reading and listening to music. More than anything else, I enjoy writing.

Her website is www.claudiagray.com.

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The Inventors at No. 8 by A.M. Morgen

The Inventors at No. 8 by A.M. Morgen. May 8, 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 352 p. ISBN: 9780316471497.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.3.

Brimming with mystery and treasure, this action-packed tale sends a boy in need of luck and girl in need of a friend on an adventure that will change their lives forever.

Meet George, the third Lord of Devonshire and the unluckiest boy in London. Why is George so unlucky? First, he’s an orphan. Second, unless he sells everything, he’s about to lose his house. So when his family’s last heirloom, a priceless map to the Star of Victory (a unique gem said to bring its owner success in any battle) is stolen by a nefarious group of criminals, George knows that there is no one less lucky–or more alone–than he is.

That is until Ada Byron, the future Countess of Lovelace, bursts into his life. She promises to help George recover his family legacy, and is determined to find her own father along the way–all in a flying machine she built herself. Joined by a mischievous orangutan and the long-lost son of an infamous pirate, Ada and George take off on a cross-continent journey through the skies that will change their lives, and perhaps the world, forever.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 16))
Grades 3-6. After a string of misfortunes, humorless young George is utterly convinced he’s cursed with bad luck, and to stave off his inevitable demise, he’s stayed inside his quickly crumbling home for several years, with only his manservant, Frobisher, for company. That all changes when Frobisher gets kidnapped, and George enlists the help of the brilliant, irascible young inventor across the street, young Ada Byron. Armed with George’s heirloom treasure map, Ada’s homemade bird-shaped plane, and the assistance of their friends Oscar (a painter) and Ruthie (an orangutan), the ragtag group of kids hunts down a valuable jewel. But Ada’s secretive behavior rankles worrywart George, and soon fractures grow among their team. Morgen pulls off some handy misdirection in her fast-paced debut, and the combination of comical antics, miraculous machines, and a historical setting adds to the appeal. While she certainly takes liberties with Ada’s character, Morgen’s emphasis on such a savvy, capable girl engineer will please many readers. A closing note about the real Ada Byron makes this even better for STEM tie-ins, too.

School Library Journal (February 1, 2018)
Gr 3-6-Due to a series of extraordinarily unfortunate events (his mother died giving birth to him and his father died roller skating out an upstairs window), 12-year-old George, the third Lord Devonshire, is alone in the world, save for his trusty manservant Frobisher. The pair is scraping by, selling everything left in the family home. Young George has resigned himself to selling his prized possession: his grandfather’s map to the Star of Victory, when it is stolen by a mechanical bird. Leaving his house for the first time in two years to pursue the bird, he meets young Ada Byron, intrepid scientist, inventor, and explorer. Ada informs George of a mysterious group, called the Organization, seeking to locate the Star of Victory. She convinces timid George that they need to decipher the map and locate the Star, and the pair, accompanied by Oscar, the son of a pirate, and Ruthie the orangutan, take off in Ada’s flying machine. The disparate team moves from London to France, Geneva, and Venice (where they drop in on Charles Darwin) on the trail of the nefarious Organization. But George begins to suspect that Ada may have her own agenda. This raucous adventure keeps a frenetic pace as young George, whose father called him spineless, attempts to justify Ada’s faith in him, while Ada secretively battles her own demons. Eventually, both Ada and George find strength through their friendship. -Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District, Lancaster, PA

About the Author

A.M. Morgen comes from a long line of engineers and researchers but chose to pursue literature over the laboratory. To her family’s surprise, she has managed to make a decent living as an editor with her English degree. In her spare time, A.M. enjoys taking long walks in the forest, trying out new hobbies (then abandoning them), and complaining about her mean cat. Despite what you may think, A.M. is not a morning person.

Her website is ammorgen.com

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Legends of the Lost Causes by Brad McLelland

Legends of the Lost Causes by Brad McLelland. February 20, 2018. Henry Holt & Co. BYR, 336 p. ISBN: 9781250124326.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.8; Lexile: 760.

The first book in a new middle-grade fantasy action-adventure series set in the Old West.

A band of orphan avengers. A cursed stone. A horde of zombie outlaws. This is Keech Blackwood’s new life after Bad Whiskey Nelson descends upon the Home for Lost Causes and burns it to the ground.

With his home destroyed and his family lost, Keech will have to use the lessons he learned from Pa Abner to hunt down the powerful Char Stone. Luckily, he has the help of a ragtag team of orphans. Together, they’ll travel through treacherous forests, fight off the risen dead, and discover that they share mysterious bonds as they try to track down the legendary stone. Now, it’s a race against the clock, because if Bad Whiskey finds the stone first. . . . all is lost.

Part of Series: Legends of Lost Causes (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Smoking, Some gruesome imagery, Death of a parent

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 4-7. “I may be a greenhorn,” Keech Blackwood tells a “lawdog” sheriff, “but I’m far from a child.” And it’s true that, at 13, Keech has seen far more than most—he’s just recently watched his orphanage home burned with all his foster siblings inside and his caretakers killed by a man called Bad Whiskey Nelson. Now Keech is after vengeance, but when he meets a fellow group of orphans out for the same, the quest changes. The group sets out to track down a powerful object called the Char Stone, but Bad Whiskey is after it, too, and he’s got an army of outlaws he’s raised from the dead. Keech and his new crew battle zombie cowboys and the treacherous Wild West as they search for the stone, and discover things in their pasts that tie them to the quest. Cowriters McLelland and Sylvester incorporate aspects of Osage culture and legend into this action-packed series starter. Part western, part zombie flick, this pits scrappy, resourceful kids against some menacing villains—always a recipe for success.

School Library Journal (February 1, 2018)
Gr 4-7-McLelland and Sylvester’s debut novel and series opener is a classic Western full of cowboys, adventure, and a sprinkling of the supernatural. In 1850s Missouri, orphans Keech and Sam’s peaceful life at the Home for Lost Causes is interrupted when a stranger named Bad Whiskey comes looking for the orphanage’s patriarch, Pa Abner. As it turns out, Pa-whose real name is Isaiah Raines-used to be part of a group known as the Enforcers. When Pa doesn’t reveal the location of the mysterious Char Stone, Bad Whiskey shoots Pa dead and burns the orphanage to the ground. Only Keech escapes and, on the road, joins a band of other orphans to follow Pa’s secret telegram to find the Char Stone before Bad Whiskey and his army of undead thralls do. The characters are all larger-than-life, including a few that stand out against the White majority: Keech is part Osage and Cutter is Latinx. The Old West lingo-laden dialogue is pitch-perfect-not to mention contagious. It’s rare to see a Western in middle grade fiction-especially one that, like this one, eliminates some of the genre’s more harmful stereotypes of Native populations. -Alec Chunn, Eugene Public Library, OR

About the Author

Born and raised in Arkansas, Brad McLelland spent several years working as a crime journalist in the South before earning his MFA in creative writing from Oklahoma State University. A part-time drummer and singer, Brad lives in Oklahoma with his wife, stepdaughter, a mini-Aussie who gives hugs, and a chubby cat who begs for ham.

His website is www.bradmcbooks.com.

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Legends of the Lost Causes on Amazon

Legends of the Lost Causes on Goodreads

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The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. January 2, 2018. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 384 p. ISBN: 9780316310277.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Part of Series: The Folk in the Air (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Discrimination, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol, Underage drinking, Smoking, Body humor

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. When Jude and her twin sister, Taryn, were seven, their parents were murdered by their half-sister Vivian’s fae father, and all three girls were stolen away to the High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, raised by the very man who killed her parents, Jude has adjusted to the life as much as she can and struggles to earn her place in a world whose inhabitants scorn, and even despise, humans. While Taryn hopes to marry into a place at court, Jude wants to seize hers by becoming a warrior, and she chafes against the attentions of Cardan, the youngest and cruelest faerie prince, who hates Jude and viciously bullies her daily. Disgusted at her own human weakness, Jude finds herself accepting a dangerous role offered by his brother and is soon tangled in a complex political plot. Though the faerie world is a familiar setting, in this case, it is by no means stale; Black employs the same detailed world building, chilling suspense, and whiplash-inducing plot twists that allowed The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (2013) to make even vampires fresh again. Jude, who struggles with a world she both loves and hates and would rather be powerful and safe than good, is a compelling narrator. Whatever a reader is looking for—heart-in-throat action, deadly romance, double-crossing, moral complexity—this is one heck of a ride.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2018)
Jude is living with her parents, her twin sister Taryn, and their older half-sister Vivi when her mother’s former husband tracks them down, callously murders her parents, and takes not just Vivi, his biological child, to the realm of Faerie but also Jude and Taryn, raising them as his own. Jude’s parents’ murderer happened to be Madoc, general of the High King of the Faerie Court, so she and Taryn now ironically benefit from privileges rarely afforded to mortals. Jude lives in a constant state of fear and loathing, however, wanting to become an official member of the Court by proving her fighting prowess and obtaining knighthood, while avoiding the unwanted negative attention of the youngest prince, Cardan. (Taryn, in contrast, hopes to gain access to the Court through marriage.) But Jude is drawn deeper into the web of lies, deceit, and political intrigue that swirls around the Court as the High King Eldred prepares to abdicate the throne in favor of his third son, Prince Dain. With complicated characters, a suspenseful plot, and a successful return to the Faerie setting of many of her popular books (most recently The Darkest Part of the Forest, rev. 1/15), Black’s latest is sure to enchant fans. jonathan hunt

About the Author

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

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

Her website is www.blackholly.com.

Around the Web

The Cruel Prince on Amazon

The Cruel Prince on Goodreads

The Cruel Prince Publisher Page

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

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Jane, Unlimited on JLG

Jane, Unlimited Publisher Page

Thornhill by Pam Smy

Thornhill by Pam Smy. August 29, 2017. Roaring Brook Press, 544 p. ISBN: 9781626726543.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.3.

Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as a Ella unravels the mystery of the girl next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2016: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past.

Told in alternating, interwoven plotlines Mary s through intimate diary entries and Ella s in bold, striking art Pam Smy s Thornhill is a haunting exploration of human connection, and a suspense-filled story

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Murder, Bullying, Arson

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Dual stories set decades apart unfold together in this hybrid novel told in diary entries and eerie grayscale illustrations. More than 30 years ago, Mary Baines kept a diary about her life at Thornhill, an orphanage, and the cruel torment she experienced at the hands of another girl there. Meanwhile, in the present, Smy’s cinematic artwork shows lonesome Ella curious about the dilapidated former orphanage outside her window and the newspaper clippings she finds about a girl who went missing there, named Mary Baines. As Mary becomes more and more tormented for her love of books and the strange puppets she makes in her room, Ella sneaks onto Thornhill’s grounds and finds remnants of Mary’s dolls, which she takes home and lovingly repairs before returning them. The interplay between Mary’s diary entries and the images of Ella’s investigation builds depth in both girls’ narratives, though Ella’s can be a bit harder to decipher. Still, the enigmatic narrative, believable horrors, and haunting conclusion will be riveting for fans of ghost stories.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
Decades after the tragedy at and closure of gothic Thornhill Institute, a new girl in town is drawn into its story.The past storyline is told through white, orphaned Mary’s diary entries (dated in the early 1980s); white preteen Ella’s modern, voiceless story unfolds, Wonderstruck-like, in intercut, illustrated, wordless sequences (frames of which occasionally have text, such as newspaper clippings). Selectively mute Mary is a puppet-making, literature-loving outcast at Thornhill, her situation complicated by the return of her chief tormenter and the ringleader of the other girls, back from a failed foster placement. These are Thornhill’s last days, the girls being sent to new placements so the property can be developed. Stoic Mary thinks she just wants to be left alone, until a taste of irresistible friendship turns to cruelty. In the present, lonely Ella is intrigued by Thornhill, especially the girl she sometimes sees beyond the locked walls. She sneaks onto the grounds, finds puppets, and repairs them before returning them, striking up an odd, at-a-distance friendship with the mysterious girl—who, she realizes, is likely the dead girl from the orphanage’s past. The puppets and doll figures take a familiar creepy motif and make it a source of joy and comfort. The striking monochromatic art is atmospheric and emotional in an understated way that gives it more power rather than less. It’s capped by an ambiguous climax and chilling denouement. Beautiful, moody, sad, and spooky—all at once. (Horror/graphic hybrid. 10-adult)

About the Author

Pam Smy studied Illustration at Cambridge School of Art, part of Anglia Ruskin University, where she now lectures part-time. Pam has illustrated books by Conan Doyle (The Hound of the Baskervilles), Julia Donaldson (Follow the Swallow) and Kathy Henderson (Hush, Baby, Hush!), among others. She lives in Cambridge.

Her website is pamsmy.blogspot.com

Around the Web

Thornhill on Amazon

Thornhill on Goodreads

Thornhill on JLG

Thornhill Publisher Page

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk. May 2, 2017. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 304 p. ISBN: 9781101994856.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.0; Lexile: 770.

From the author of the critically acclaimed Wolf Hollow comes a moving story of identity and belonging.

Twelve-year-old Crow has lived her entire life on a tiny, isolated piece of the starkly beautiful Elizabeth Islands in Massachusetts. Abandoned and set adrift on a small boat when she was just hours old, Crow’s only companions are Osh, the man who rescued and raised her, and Miss Maggie, their fierce and affectionate neighbor across the sandbar.

Crow has always been curious about the world around her, but it isn’t until the night a mysterious fire appears across the water that the unspoken question of her own history forms in her heart. Soon, an unstoppable chain of events is triggered, leading Crow down a path of discovery and danger.

Vivid and heart wrenching, Lauren Wolk’s Beyond the Bright Seais a gorgeously crafted and tensely paced tale that explores questions of identity, belonging, and the true meaning of family.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Violence, Kidnapping

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
Grades 4-7. Crow was a mere baby when she drifted to the shore of one of the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts in the first quarter of the twentieth century. She has since grown up with the painter Osh as her stand-in father; their only other friend is Maggie, who teaches Crow. Nearby Penikese Island was home to a leper colony at the time of Crow’s birth, and most of the island folk assume her birth parents were lepers and shun her. Now a 12-year-old and uncertain of her parentage, Crow becomes increasingly curious following a fire on the now supposedly vacant Penikese. Where did she really come from? What happened to her parents, and is there a chance she has any surviving blood relatives? Crow’s quest for answers as she grapples with her uncertain identity shapes the 2017 Newbery Honor Book author’s sophomore novel. While this quiet, affecting story lacks the palpable sense of dread and superb pacing that made Wolf Hollow (2016) so impossible to put down, there’s still plenty to admire in this more classic-feeling historical novel, which calls to mind Natalie Babbitt’s The Eyes of the Amaryllis (1977). Wolk has a keen sense for the seaside landscape, skillfully mining the terror the ocean can unleash as a furious nor’easter heightens tension in the novel’s climax. Historical fiction fans awaiting her follow-up will be pleased.

Kirkus Reviews starred (April 15, 2017)
This book will make people want to run away to the Elizabeth Islands.It’s the 1920s. Crow and her adoptive father, Osh, live in a tiny house on a tiny island off Cape Cod, but her descriptions make it seem strange and mysterious. The cottage is “built from bits of lost ships,” and it’s full of found treasures: “a pair of sun-white whale ribs arched over our doorway, a tarnished ship’s bell hanging from their pinnacle.” Every chapter in the book has a new mystery to be solved: why was Crow sent away in an old boat when she was a baby? Why is a fire burning on an abandoned island? Did Capt. Kidd really hide treasure nearby? But some readers will love Wolk’s use of language even more than the puzzles. Crow says her skin is “the same color Osh [makes] by mixing purple and yellow, blue and orange, red and green.” (The race of the characters isn’t always identified, but Osh says, “I came a long, long way to be here,” and his native language and accent make him sound “different from everyone else.”) The pacing of the book isn’t always as suspenseful as it should be. There are a few lulls, which the author tries to fill with heavy foreshadowing. But the mysteries—and the words that describe them—are compelling enough to send readers to the islands for years to come. A beautiful, evocative sophomore effort from Newbery honoree Wolk (Wolf Hollow, 2016). (Historical fiction. 9-13)

About the Author

Lauren Wolk is an award-winning poet and author of the bestselling Newbery Honor–winning Wolf Hollow, described by the New York Times Book Review as “full of grace and stark, brutal beauty.” She was born in Baltimore and has since lived in California, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Canada, and Ohio. She now lives with her family on Cape Cod.
Her website is www.laurenwolk.com

Around the Web

Beyond the Bright Sea on Amazon

Beyond the Bright Sea on Goodreads

Beyond the Bright Sea on JLG

Beyond the Bright Sea Publisher Page

Beck by Mel Peet

Beck by Mal Peet. April 11, 2017. Candlewick Press, 272 p. ISBN: 9780763678425.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

From Carnegie Medal-winning author Mal Peet comes a sweeping coming-of-age adventure, both harrowing and life-affirming.

Born of a brief encounter between a Liverpool prostitute and an African soldier in 1907, Beck finds himself orphaned as a young boy and sent overseas to the Catholic Brothers in Canada. At age fifteen he is sent to work on a farm, from which he eventually escapes. Finally in charge of his own destiny, Beck starts westward, crossing the border into America and back, all while the Great Depression rages on. What will it take for Beck to understand the agonies of his childhood and realize that love is possible?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Racial epithets, Sexual abuse by a religious figure, Rape, Physical abuse

 

Book Trailer

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 10-12. After a traumatic childhood spent in orphanages, Beck, born in Liverpool to a poor British mother and an African sailor, has learned to stay quiet, preferring a solitary life on the road, safe from the vulnerability of love. Peet’s posthumous novel, completed by Rosoff, follows Beck from his meager beginnings in early twentieth-century England to his harrowing first days in Canada to his peripatetic path leading him ultimately to Grace, a half Siksika woman reinvigorating her Native community in Alberta. While this often reads like a series of loosely linked vignettes rather than a complete, unified narrative, there are flashes of arresting lyricism: “Little flames, quick as lizards, ran up its black and riven trunk.” At the same time, that language can be unsparingly frank: Peet and Rosoff do not sanitize racial slurs, and the description of Beck’s sexual abuse at the hands of a gang of priests is graphic. However, older teens and adults who appreciate literary historical fiction might find plenty to appreciate in this story of a hard-won discovery of redemption and home.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
In the early twentieth century, Beck, son of a white sometimes-prostitute and a black sailor just passing through, is raised in a Liverpool orphanage and sent at age fourteen to Canada as free farm labor. First stop, though: the Christian Brothers’ institution, where initially he thrives; but when the priests make sexual advances and he resists, one of them rapes him. The rest of the novel follows Beck on a hardship-filled journey from the Ontario prairie (after he escapes his assigned farm couple’s racist abuse) down to Windsor (where he finds a home, temporarily, with kindhearted African Canadian bootleggers) and finally to Medicine Hat, Alberta. There he hires on as a farmhand for half-Siksika, half-Scottish Grace McCallister–a beautiful, strong, “troublesome woman from a long line of troublesome women”–whose story merges with Beck’s. The novel is excruciatingly painful to read at times, but that makes Beck’s eventual and hard-won chance at happiness all the sweeter. From the very first pages it’s clear we are in the hands of a master storyteller (or two; as explained in an appended note, Rosoff finished the novel after Peet’s death). The vibrancy, earthiness, and originality of the prose is startling; the spot-on dialogue adds to the immediacy; secondary characters are vividly portrayed. There are no wasted words, no too-lengthy descriptive passages; yet somehow we see, smell, experience everything. Aboard a ship for the first time, “Beck felt confused and astonished by the huge discrepancy between the solidity beneath his feet and the vast liquidity of everything else.” In the Ontario countryside, a cow “gazed at the passing buggy, lifted its tail, and hosed shit like a comment.” martha v. parravano

About the Author

Mal Peet grew up in North Norfolk, and studied English and American Studies at the University of Warwick. Later he moved to southwest England and worked at a variety of jobs before turning full-time to writing and illustrating in the early 1990s. With his wife, Elspeth Graham, he had written and illustrated many educational picture books for young children, and his cartoons have appeared in a number of magazines.  Mal Peet passed away in 2015.

Teaching Resources

Beck Discussion Guide

Around the Web

Beck on Amazon

Beck  on Goodreads

Beck  on JLG

Beck  Publisher Page

Orphan Train Girl by Christina Baker Kline

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

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

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

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

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

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

Her website is www.christinabakerkline.com.

Teacher Resources

Orphan Train Discussion Questions

Orphan Trail Reading Guide

Around the Web

Orphan Train Girl on Amazon

Orphan Train Girl on Goodreads

Orphan Train Girl on JLG

Orphan Train Girl Publisher Page

Train I Ride by Paul Mosier

Train I Ride by Paul Mosier. January 24, 2017. HarperCollins, 192 p. ISBN: 9780062455734.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.3; Lexile: 720.

Rydr is on a train heading east, leaving California, where her gramma can’t take care of her anymore, and traveling to Chicago to live with an unknown relative. She brings with her a suitcase, memories both happy and sad, and a box containing something very important.

As Rydr meets her fellow passengers and learns their stories, her own past begins to emerge. And as much as Rydr may want to forget about her life in California, on the train she finds that maybe her past can help her deal with her present. And maybe hope and forgiveness are all around her and, most important, within her, if she’s willing to look for it.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Drugs

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 5-7. While some journey hopefully toward a destination, Rydr’s expectations are decidedly low. Following her grandmother’s death, she’s traveling by rail to meet her next guardian, a great-uncle she has never met. In the meantime, the train becomes her home. She befriends a couple of passengers as well as her Amtrak chaperone and the snack-counter attendant, while the train travels from California to Chicago. Along the way, she celebrates her thirteenth birthday, deals with a personal crisis, and forms a strong bond with a boy. Each of these occurrences has an element of the unexpected as well as a feeling of inevitability. And in the end, this tough, smart, vulnerable kid leaves readers with the conviction that wherever she’s headed, it’s going to turn out OK. Written in a style that is simple and direct but not without nuance, the novel introduces Rydr as an initially enigmatic narrator whose story becomes more intricate and more involving as the many complications of her journey elicit memories from her past. While there’s tragedy in Rydr’s background, her way forward is lit by insight and hope. In his first novel, Mosier offers a cast of well-drawn characters, an unusual setting, and a rewarding reading experience.

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 1, 2016)
Rydr, as she calls herself, is trying to put a brave face on a journey that feels much like doom.The 13-year-old, hungry and broke, is the daughter of an addicted mom “who used to have public embarrassments”—but now she’s dead. Her reluctant grandmother (also now dead), whose best quality was her excellent pancakes, was her next not-quite-a-caregiver. Now the girl, battered by life but always resiliently and often cleverly struggling forward, is on a long train trip from Palm Springs to Chicago, where she’ll be placed with an elderly great-uncle she doesn’t know but whose “monthly check will get bigger” when she arrives. During the journey she’s under the care of, then befriended and perhaps even saved by, Dorothea, an Amtrak escort, Neal, a gay snack bar worker, Carlos, a traveling poet, and an antipathetic Boy Scout called Tenderchunks who touches her heart. Along the way Rydr will savor her first kiss, run away from the train and her memories—but return—leave the burden of her mother’s ashes in an Iowa wood, and nearly destroy a restroom while trying to cope with her excruciating recollections. Her pluck and her perceptive narrative voice combine to make her brief yet deeply affecting connections with caring strangers plausible although occurring over the course of just a few days. Race and culture are implied in naming convention and speech patterns, with characters defaulting to white. A harrowing, moving, immersive, and ultimately uplifting debut novel. (Fiction. 11-16)

About the Author

Paul Mosier began writing novels in 2011, but has written in some fashion his entire life. He lives a short walk from the place of his birth in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, but it has been a very circuitous route that brought him there. He is married and is father to two lovely daughters who both read fanatically. He loves listening to baseball on the radio, eating vegetarian food, drinking coffee, talking nonstop, and riding trains. In fact, he has ridden most of the route described in his debut novel, Train I Ride, which has earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus.

His website is novelistpaulmosier.wordpress.com.

Around the Web

Train I Ride on Amazon

Train I Ride on Goodreads

Train I Ride on JLG

Train I Ride Publisher Page