Tag Archives: science fiction

Mystery of the Ghost Ship by Philip Pullman

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

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

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

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence

 

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

His website is www.philip-pullman.com

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Spill Zone by Scott Westerfield

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfield. May 2, 2017. First Second, 211 p. ISBN: 9781596439368.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Three years ago an event destroyed the small city of Poughkeepsie, forever changing reality within its borders. Uncanny manifestations and lethal dangers now await anyone who enters the Spill Zone.

The Spill claimed Addison’s parents and scarred her little sister, Lexa, who hasn t spoken since. Addison provides for her sister by photographing the Zone’s twisted attractions on illicit midnight rides. Art collectors pay top dollar for these bizarre images, but getting close enough for the perfect shot can mean death or worse.

When an eccentric collector makes a million-dollar offer, Addison breaks her own hard-learned rules of survival and ventures farther than she has ever dared. Within the Spill Zone, Hell awaits and it seems to be calling Addison’s name.

Part of series: The Spill Zone (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Smoking, Gore, Horror themes

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 9-12. As he did in the YA favorite Uglies (2005), Westerfeld crafts a world drastically and subtly altered by an extranormal development, then rivetingly explores its practical and psychological consequences. The development in this case is something otherworldly that has “spilled” into a small town in upstate New York. Addison illegally penetrates the spill zone to photograph its disturbing effects on people, animals, and environment and sells the pictures as black-market art to support her little sister, an escapee from the spill zone but not, perhaps, from its effects. When Addison is approached with a shady deal to penetrate the zone more deeply than ever before, she will have to break every rule she’s ever set to buy freedom for her sister and herself. Westerfeld handles the spooky business of the infected town magnificently, spiking the eerie and inexplicable with moments of genuine horror while always keeping the emotional tensions of his highly accessible teenage protagonist at the center. Puvilland provides rough, gritty visuals that deliver on the haunted world of the zone as well as the more realistic world of subterfuge and danger that Addison must navigate. The story breaks at a high-tension moment with plenty left to resolve in book two, but it is nevertheless a terrifically satisfying read.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
This first entry in a creepy, addictively suspenseful graphic novel series makes for compulsive reading. Three years ago, something very strange happened in Poughkeepsie, New York–no one is certain exactly what–but weird things happened in the city and weird things now populate it. Although the entire Spill Zone has been cordoned off, Addie continues to live just inside the checkpoint with her younger sister, Lexa (who doesn’t speak, except to her doll Vespertine), after losing both parents in the Spill. Addie regularly and illegally rides through the Spill Zone on her motorcycle, photographing the bizarre things she witnesses and selling her pictures to a local art dealer. Then a wealthy collector (who, it turns out, has bought up all of Addie’s photographs) makes her an offer she can’t refuse: a million dollars for retrieving a single item from a building inside the Spill Zone. As Addie sets out on her mission, the local authorities discover that she is the rogue motorcyclist; the North Koreans (who are also interested in this item) begin to close in; and, worst of all, Vespertine becomes animated by the same evil presence that permeates the Spill Zone. Puvilland’s dynamic panel layouts, striking use of unexpected colors, and sketchy line work serve the story well while conveying the unsettling mood of the piece. Westerfeld has set up his series with a provocative premise, and as the precise nature of the Spill Zone continues to be revealed, the stakes are sure to be raised accordingly in future volumes. jonathan hunt

About the Author

Scott Westerfeld is a New York Times bestselling author of YA. He was born in the Texas and now lives in Sydney and New York City. In 2001, Westerfeld married fellow author Justine Larbalestier.

His website is www.scottwesterfield.com.

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Spill Zone  on Amazon

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Spill Zone Publisher Page

The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel

The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel. May 2, 2017. Random House Books for Young Readers, 248 p. ISBN: 9781101935873.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.3; Lexile: 400.

The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves—and more to their worlds—than meets the eye. . . .

• The clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, Oona Lee is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine.

• A boy from the poorest slums, An Tzu has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations.

• Star athlete Jax Amboy is beloved by an entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends?

When these three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest, it will take not one, not two, but 5 WORLDS to contain all the magic and adventure!

Part of Series: 5 Worlds (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Fighting

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 4-7. Oona is lucky to have grown up in the relative luxury of Sand Dancer Academy, though she’s clumsy and the last person anyone would expect to have any special powers. An Tzu ekes out a meager life in the slums surrounding the academy, and when Toki rebels from one of the moons making up the five worlds attack the main power station, he and Oona—along with Jax Amboy, an athlete with a serious secret—find themselves unexpectedly at the center of the conflict. Together, they navigate the city under siege, flee Toki forces curiously insistent on capturing Oona, and try to make sense of some enigmatic clues they discover along the way. The Siegels’ immersive series starter drops readers right into the midst of its fully fleshed-out world, a multiplanet system with simmering conflicts that might look awfully familiar to contemporary readers. When those conflicts come to a head, the disarray in the city is terrifying, which only amplifies the suspense of Oona, An Tzu, and Jax’s quest. Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun’s richly detailed panels, filled with fluid shapes, swirling sand, and clearly depicted action, imbue the narrative with vivid, compelling atmosphere, while their figures are refreshingly varied in size, shape, and skin tone. With sensitive writing, gorgeous artwork, and a riveting plot, this is a series to keep an eye on.

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2017)
A sudden attack on the world of Mon Domani and its inhabited moons drives a young dancer, a street urchin, and an illegal android together.Many pages are crowded with sequential panels that are too small to fit the dialogue balloons or convey the hot action discernibly, but the overall plotline is easy enough to follow. Though generally mocked as a poor student of sand dancing—a psychokinetic art that uses hand and body movements to conjure solid “aniforms” from mystic vapors—next to her vanished big sister, Jessa, Oona Lee finds her powers growing as mysterious forces work to prevent the relighting of giant, long-dark Beacons that may stave off the growing environmental instability that is threatening all five worlds. With but little time to address the crisis by learning how to dance up a mighty Sand Warrior aniform and rediscover the lost technique of Beacon lighting, Oona is plunged into a running battle with minions of the Mimic, an ancient shape-changing nemesis. The three illustrators work seamlessly together to place Oona, a thick-bodied but graceful, pale-skinned strawberry blonde, in exotic, elaborately envisioned settings and surround her with a notably variegated cast of green-, blue-, brown-, black-, and pink-skinned allies and adversaries. The climax features a shocking revelation but leaves one Beacon lit with four to go: stay tuned. A headlong, if visually busy, opener for what promises to be a rare adventure. (Graphic science fiction. 10-13)

About the Author

Mark Siegel has written and illustrated several award-winning picture books and graphic novels, including the New York Times bestseller Sailor Twain, or the Mermaid in the Hudson. He is also the founder and editorial director of First Second Books. He lives with his family in New York.

 

 

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The Sand Warrior on Amazon

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Nemesis by Brendan Reichs

Nemesis by Brendan Reichs. March 21, 2017. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 443 p. ISBN: 9780399544934.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 540.

He killed me. He killed me not. He killed me.

It’s been happening since Min was eight. Every two years, on her birthday, a strange man finds her and murders her in cold blood. But hours later, she wakes up in a clearing just outside her tiny Idaho hometown—alone, unhurt, and with all evidence of the horrifying crime erased.

Across the valley, Noah just wants to be like everyone else. But he’s not. Nightmares of murder and death plague him, though he does his best to hide the signs. But when the world around him begins to spiral toward panic and destruction, Noah discovers that people have been lying to him his whole life. Everything changes in an eye blink.

For the planet has a bigger problem. The Anvil, an enormous asteroid threatening all life on Earth, leaves little room for two troubled teens. Yet on her sixteenth birthday, as she cowers in her bedroom, hoping not to die for the fifth time, Min has had enough. She vows to discover what is happening in Fire Lake and uncovers a lifetime of lies: a vast conspiracy involving the sixty-four students of her sophomore class, one that may be even more sinister than the murders.

Part of Series: Project Nemesis (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Underage drinking, Smoking, Murder

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 8-12. It’s no way to celebrate a birthday: every even-numbered year, 16-year-old Min is murdered by an impassive, black-suited man. And then she lives on. Something weird is going on in Min’s isolated Idaho town, and she traces it back to first grade, when everyone in her class was inoculated—but for what? Things are equally catastrophic in the world at large, where everyone is waiting to see if an asteroid, Anvil, is going to hit Earth. The Anvil misses, but the world is battered by earthquakes, tsunamis, and fires. Min begins to realize that perhaps her strange reality and the earth’s convulsions may be linked. She also learns that she’s not the only one enduring her odd existence. There are many overworked adjectives for action books: page-turner, fast-paced, intense. For this book, multiply all of them. Reichs truly keeps readers guessing throughout, with twists on nearly every page. Alternating chapters between Min and fellow student Noah give readers a chance to look at the curious incidents from two points of view, heightening the tension. While some of the characters are more stereotypical than substantial, Min’s witty best friend, Tack, brightens the pages. The book’s ending hints at a sequel, and, though there is more to be discovered, this would have been a fine thriller all on its own.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2016)
Reichs follows up his Virals series (co-written with his mother, Kathy Reichs) with a new series about imminent human extinction.Min is not your average 16-year-old. Living in a trailer park in an isolated town high in the mountains of Idaho, she’s learned to keep pretty much to herself. She has a mother who loves her and a best friend, Tack, who’d like to be more, but she knows they can’t understand what she’s going through. Every two years on her birthday, she’s murdered. And every two years she comes back, completely unharmed. She’s tried to escape the inevitable but knows it’s only a matter of time before the man in black returns for her. Now things are getting worse, with an asteroid headed toward Earth. Will this be it, the real end of her life? Just when she’s found that classmate Noah is having the same strange experiences she’s tried to keep hidden? Reichs varies his narrative structure, opening with Min’s present-day account, interspersed with italicized flashbacks, and then switching to Noah, whose account is punctuated by transcripts with the doctor he shares with Min, before their stories converge in alternating chapters. It’s a pacing strategy that keeps the pages flipping madly. Min, Tack, and Noah are all evidently white. Hooked readers will be tapping their fingers waiting for the sequel. (Thriller. 12-16)

About the Author

Brendan Reichs was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated from Wake Forest University in 2000 and The George Washington University School of Law in 2006. After three long years working as a litigation attorney, he abandoned the trade to write full time. He lives in Charlotte with his wife, son, daughter, and a herd of animals that tear up everything.

His website is www.brendanreichs.com.

Around the Web

Nemesis on Amazon

Nemesis on Goodreads

Nemesis on JLG

Nemesis Publisher Page

American War by Omar El Akkad

American War: A Novel  by Omar El Akkad. April 4, 2017. Knopf Publishing Group, 333 p. ISBN: 9780451493583.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 890.

An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be.

Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Discrimination; War; Violence; Mild sexual themes; Alcohol; Description of torture

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
In 2074, the American South has once again attempted to secede from the Union, this time in ferocious opposition to the Sustainable Future Act, even as the ravages of global warming—severe storms, prolonged drought, and a massive rise in sea levels— cause waves of coastal refugees to pour into the Midwest as the federal government abandons deluged Washington, D.C., for Columbus, Ohio. The Chestnuts are getting by, living in an old shipping container in Louisiana, until Benjamin is killed in a bombing. Martina flees to a Mississippi refugee camp with her soon-to-be-rebel son, Simon, and twin daughters, fair and pretty Dana and dark, curious, and intrepid Sarat, the focus of this vigorously well-informed, daringly provocative speculative first novel by an Egyptian-born Canadian journalist. As Sarat grows into a six-foot-five, shaved-head warrior, she is radicalized by agents of a new Middle Eastern and North African superpower, the Bouazizi Empire. The war between Red and Blue is further compounded by raging plagues, while captured insurrectionists are tortured in a domestic Guantánamo. Catalyzed by his reporting on the Arab Spring; the war in Afghanistan; racial violence in Ferguson, Missouri; and environmental disasters, El Akkad has created a brilliantly well-crafted, profoundly shattering saga of one family’s suffering in a world of brutal power struggles, terrorism, ignorance, and vengeance. American War is a gripping, unsparing, and essential novel for dangerously contentious times.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
A dystopian vision of a future United States undone by civil war and plague.El Akkad’s debut novel is set during the tail end of the 21st century, with the North and South at it again. Southern states have taken up arms to protest a Northern ban on fossil fuels, and the war-torn secessionist “Mag” (Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia) has forced civilians to herd in refugee camps. (South Carolina, attacked by a weaponized virus, is “a walled hospice.”) Among the refugees is Sarat, who as a young girl in 2075 escaped a much-diminished Louisiana (climate change has swallowed the coasts) with her family to what seems like an endless occupation. But in the years tracked by the novel, Sarat becomes a daring young woman who leads a resistance against the Northern military. El Akkad, a journalist who’s reported from hot spots in the war on terror, has a knack for the language of officialdom: news reports, speeches, history books, and the like that provide background for the various catastrophes that have befallen the country. And he’s cannily imagined Sarat, who is at once a caring daughter and sibling, freedom fighter, and sponge for the wisdom of one old-timer who dispenses tales about occupations decades past. But above all, El Akkad’s novel is an allegory about present-day military occupation, from drone strikes to suicide bombers to camps full of refugees holding “keys to houses that no longer existed in towns long ago deserted.” He imagines this society in some creative ways: battles royal are major entertainments in an internet-free society, and Sarat’s brother becomes an interesting and peculiar folk hero after he’s injured. But El Akkad mainly means to argue that these future miseries exist now overseas. A well-imagined if somber window into social collapse.

About the Author

Omar was born in Cairo, Egypt and grew up in Doha, Qatar until he moved to Canada with his family. He is an award-winning journalist and author who has traveled around the world to cover many of the most important news stories of the last decade. His reporting includes dispatches from the NATO-led war in Afghanistan, the military trials at Guantànamo Bay, the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt and the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri. He is a recipient of Canada’s National Newspaper Award for investigative reporting and the Goff Penny Memorial Prize for Young Canadian Journalists, as well as three National Magazine Award honorable mentions. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

His website is www.omarelakkad.com

Teacher Resources

American War Reading Guide

Around the Web

American War on Amazon

American War on Goodreads

American War on JLG

American War Publisher Page

The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie

The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie. April 18, 2017. Flux, 281 p. ISBN: 9781635830002.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 870.

Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to ruthless pirate-queen Santa Elena and set free Bao, the sea monster Reckoner she’d been forced to train. The days as a pirate trainee are long and grueling, but it’s not the physical pain that Cas dreads most. It’s being forced to work with Swift, the pirate girl who broke her heart. But Cas has even bigger problems when she discovers Boa is not the only a monster swimming free. Other Reckoners illegally sold to pirates have escaped their captors and are taking the NeoPacific by storm, attacking ships at random and ruining the ocean ecosystem. As a Reckoner trainer, Cas might be the only one who can stop them. But how can she take up arms against the creatures she used to care for and protect? Will Cas embrace the murky morals that life as a pirate brings or perish in the dark waters of the NeoPacific?

Sequel to: The Abyss Surrounds Us

Part of Series: The Abyss

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

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Three weeks have passed since Cassandra lost her Reckoner monster Durga, her life as a trainer, and her heart to a pirate girl. In this sequel to The Abyss Surrounds Us (2016), Santa Elena, pirate queen and captain of the Minnow, has retreated to the freezing waters of the NeoAntarctic, fleeing another Reckoner beast gone wild. Cas is stuck when she realizes that the illegal monsters stolen by a greedy agent are all loose in the ocean, attacking ships and people with no trainers to guide them: she grew up as a trainer and is attached to the beasts. On the other hand, she’s now a pirate on the receiving end of their wrath, and she wants the threat neutralized. This is a new kind of adventure book—sci-fi piracy at its finest—and Skrutskie has penned another winner. There is definite closure in this second book of a planned duology, but enough open ends mean that Skrutskie could certainly return to this world, and readers will surely hope she does.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2017)
The sequel to The Abyss Surrounds Us (2016) finds this world’s post-apocalyptic future threatened by rogue genetically engineered sea monsters.Cas Leung, once an aspiring trainer of the savage, gargantuan Reckoners that protect the world’s maritime traffic from pirates, now bears the tattoo of pirate captain Santa Elena’s Minnow. It’s the only way, she figures, she can pursue the double-dealing Reckoner agent who has been selling unlicensed pups to pirates. When the Minnow tangles with one that’s now grown and on the loose, Cas realizes the NeoPacific’s fast-dwindling fisheries are being consumed by these Hellbeasts, and global environmental catastrophe looms again. Even as Santa Elena convenes the Salt, the treaty organization of the NeoPacific’s pirates, to address this threat, the relationship begun previously between Cas and fellow trainee Swift continues to evolve, physical attraction and affection ever in conflict with the ruthless competition for supremacy that defines a pirate trainee’s life. Skrutskie deftly balances introspection and action, making for a page-turning, thoughtful read. Her worldbuilding envisions a brutal and diverse future: gender is no barrier to success—kick-ass women abound, most notably brown-skinned Santa Elena and white Swift—and neither, for the most part, is race, although differences are both acknowledged and celebrated. Chinese-American Cas’ moment with a plate of siumai, ordered in her “best Canto,” is “pure bliss” with “food that is so thoroughly mine.” A dazzling, satisfying sequel. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Emily Skrutskie is six feet tall. She was born in Massachusetts, raised in Virginia, and forged in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado. She holds a B.A. in Performing and Media Arts from Cornell University, where she studied an outrageous and demanding combination of film, computer science, and game design.

Her website is skrutskie.com.

Around the Web

The Edge of the Abyss on Amazon

The Edge of the Abyss on Goodreads

The Edge of the Abyss on JLG

The Edge of the Abyss Publisher Page

Masterminds: Payback by Gordon Korman

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

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

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

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

Part of Series: Masterminds (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

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

He has published more than 50 books.

His website is gordonkorman.com.

Around the Web

Masterminds: Payback on Amazon

Masterminds: Payback on Goodreads

Masterminds: Payback on JLG

Masterminds: Payback Publisher Page

One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale

One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale. March 14, 2017. Amulet Books, 127 p. ISBN: 9781419721281.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.4.

The aliens have arrived. And they’re hungry for electricity. In the Earth of the future, humans are on the run from an alien force—giant blobs who suck up electrical devices wherever they can find them. Strata and her family are part of a caravan of digital rescuers, hoping to keep the memory of civilization alive by saving electronics wherever they can. Many humans have reverted to a pre-electrical age, and others have taken advantage of the invasion to become dangerous bandits and outlaws. When Strata and her brother are separated from the caravan, they must rely on a particularly beautiful and rare robot pony to escape the outlaws and aliens—and defeat the invaders once and for all.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 3-6. On a ravaged future earth, technology-hungry aliens called pipers scour the planet for salvage, leaving behind a landscape riddled with spherical gouges, as if earth was suddenly Swiss cheese. One cadre of humans is trying to preserve the earth’s culture by scavenging for any remaining technology, but it’s dangerous work, especially when three kids—Strata, Auger, and Inby—stumble on a hidden cavern packed with untouched robots, including a beautiful mechanical horse. Strata’s determined to bring the horse back to their caravan, but their discovery catches the attention of a horde of pipers, and their journey home gets a lot more complicated. Hale imbues his latest with pathos, action, and perfectly timed moments of comedy, but it’s the imaginative landscape, spot-on visual pacing, and confident line work that make this adventure tale really zing. The pipers are a particular treat—they’re elaborate, insectoid creatures with menacing, globular features and pendulous tendrils, ready to grab and annihilate anything they touch. Though it’s over a bit too neatly, the suspenseful chase plot and lively characters will entrance plenty of readers.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
In the future, the extraterrestrial Pipers devour electrical devices while threatening human lives and forcing them to regress to pre-electrical technology. Strata, her brother, Auger, and his wisecracking friend, Inby, find a sleeping robot pony named Kleidi buried in sand one day while exploring some ruins. Waking Kleidi, however, triggers activity and attracts numerous unwanted encounters with the Pipers, huge and terrifying tentacled beings; fleeing, they become lost. While on the run, the group meets a young woman, Pick, from a different tribe, which is hiding from “ferals,” or bandits and outlaws. Together they go on a quest in search of the Caravan—the trio’s mobile home, which houses the remaining digital archives: robots, literature, music, movies, along with all memory of previous human civilizations. Serving as a leitmotif throughout the story is the tale of the “Pied Piper of Hamelin”: the children, in this future, are represented by technology; as Pick explains, “they are stealing our future.” Hale generously offers texture and intricate details in his panels—often zooming in and out and back in—while offering balance with illustrations rendered in black, white, and gray with yellow accents. In this future, humans are divided into clans but do not maintain present-day racial distinctions; all the main characters appear to be children of color. Hale blends adventure, aliens, an apocalyptic future, and folklore into an easy-to-read stand-alone. (Graphic science fiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Nathan Hale is the New York Times best-selling author/illustrator of the Hazardous Tales series, as well as many picture books including Yellowbelly and Plum go to School, the Twelve Bots of Christmas and The Devil You Know.

He is the illustrator of the Eisner-nominated graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge and its sequel, Calamity Jack. He also illustrated Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody, The Dinosaurs’ Night Before Christmas, Animal House and many others.

His website is www.spacestationnathan.blogspot.com.

Around the Web

One Trick Pony on Amazon

One Trick Pony on Goodreads

One Trick Pony on JLG

One Trick Pony Publisher Page

At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson. February 7, 2017. Simon Pulse, 496 p. ISBN: 9781481449663.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

From the author of We Are the Ants and The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley comes the heartbreaking story of a boy who believes the universe is slowly shrinking as things he remembers are being erased from others’ memories.

Tommy and Ozzie have been best friends since the second grade, and boyfriends since eighth. They spent countless days dreaming of escaping their small town—and then Tommy vanished.

More accurately, he ceased to exist, erased from the minds and memories of everyone who knew him. Everyone except Ozzie.

Ozzie doesn’t know how to navigate life without Tommy, and soon he suspects that something else is going on: that the universe is shrinking.

When Ozzie is paired up with new student Calvin on a physics project, he begins to wonder if Calvin could somehow be involved. But the more time they spend together, the harder it is for him to deny the feelings developing between them, even if he still loves Tommy.

But Ozzie knows there isn’t much time left to find Tommy—that once the door closes, it can’t be opened again. And he’s determined to keep it open as long as it takes to get his boyfriend back.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Drugs; Alcohol; Drugging and sexual abuse of a minor.

 

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 9-12. The universe isn’t expanding anymore—it’s actually shrinking, and Florida high-school senior Ozzie is the only one who remembers it differently. He’s also the only one who remembers Tommy, his best friend since childhood and boyfriend since the eighth grade. Tommy has vanished, both from Ozzie’s life and from the memories of everyone around him. As graduation approaches and Ozzie’s world becomes literally smaller, he struggles to find Tommy with increasing desperation, even as he grows closer to Calvin, the quiet, elusive boy in his physics class. Occasionally nihilistic but never completely hopeless, the narrative supports multiple topics with grace: gender and sexual identities, mental illness, and the inevitable grief that comes with learning to move from one phase of life to another. A few familiar faces from Hutchinson’s We Are the Ants (2016) make cameo appearances, and fans will recognize similar motifs—Hutchinson writes variations on a theme, to be sure, but it’s a rich theme. Wrenching and thought-provoking, Hutchinson has penned another winner.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2016)
If your boyfriend is erased from history, is it because the universe is shrinking, or have you totally lost your mind?During senior year in high school, college applications and prom dates are the stresses du jour. But Oswald “Ozzie” Pinkerton’s also include trying to convince anyone (family, friends, an alphabetical string of therapists) that his boyfriend, Tommy, ever existed. They theorize that Ozzie is obsessive and slightly touched; he theorizes that the universe is shrinking and that Tommy was a casualty of restricting astral girth. As Ozzie tracks the solar system’s diminishing waist size, his still-existing world unravels and conversely weaves new chapters. One of these chapters is Calvin, a once-golden, now-reclusive student. When the two are paired for a physics project, Ozzie weighs his loyalty to absent Tommy against his growing attraction to present Calvin. A varied cast of characters populates the pages: there’s a genderqueer girl who prefers masculine pronouns, a black boyfriend, an Asian/Jewish (by way of adoption) best friend, and a bevy of melting-pot surnames. Ozzie is a white male, and he is respectfully called out on underestimating the privilege he enjoys for being just that. Though Ozzie primarily narrates in the past tense (with sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll drifting through the background), intermittent flashbacks in the present tense unveil the tender, intimate history of Ozzie’s relationship with Tommy. An earthy, existential coming-of-age gem. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

About the Author

Shaun is a major geek and all about nerdy shenanigans. He is the author of We Are the Ants, The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, The Deathday Letter, fml, and the editor of the anthology Violent Ends.

He currently lives in South Florida with his dog and watches way too much Doctor Who.

His website is www.shaundavidhutchinson.com.

Teacher Resources

At the Edge of the Universe Reading Group Guide

Around the Web

At the Edge of the Universe on Amazon

At the Edge of the Universe on Goodreads

At the Edge of the Universe on JLG

At the Edge of the Universe Publisher Page

Secrets & Sequences by Gene Luen Yang

Secrets & Sequences by Gene Luen Yang. March 7, 2017. First Second, 112 p. ISBN: 978162676185.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.0.

Stately Academy is no ordinary school: it was once home to an elite institute where teachers, students, and robots worked together to unravel the mysteries of coding. Hopper, Eni, and Josh won’t rest until they’ve learned the whole story, but they aren’t the only ones interested in the school’s past. Principal Dean is hot on their trail, demanding that the coders turn over their most powerful robot. Dean may be a creep, but he’s nothing compared to the guy who’s really in charge: a green-skinned coding genius named Professor One-Zero.

Sequel to: Paths & Portals

Part of Series: Secret Coders (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Coding Lessons

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2017)
The series’ overarching plot ramps up in the third entry of the Secret Coders series.With Professor Bee still stuck at the mercy of the villainous Principal Dean and his rugby goons in the cliffhanger that ended Paths and Portals (2016), friends Hopper (mixed race, Chinese/white), Eni (black), and Josh (light-skinned but racially ambiguous) must first program their way out of danger. After that situation is resolved, Hopper receives a warning that the principal is quite evil and that Hopper’s mom might be in danger—but their mother-daughter communication still falters. Bee gives more coding lessons and also teaches the kids about his first students, among whom were Hopper’s missing father and Pascal, a brilliant pupil who ended up building an army of robots for world domination. Although Bee, Hopper’s father, and their team stopped him, Bee now worries that Pascal is back. Soon enough, Dean has Hopper’s mom at gunpoint to force the coders to find a flying turtle that takes them right into the lair of a villain far worse than Dean. The coding principles focused on—parameters and Ifelse (if else) statements—are well-explained and -illustrated, which is necessary for readers to follow along with the characters’ actions. The cliffhanger puzzle is an especially snazzy way to end this outing. Nearly every element (especially the bad guys) escalates wildly and successfully in this nifty comp-sci romp. (Graphic science fiction. 8-14)

About the Author

Gene Luen Yang is currently serving as the Library of Congress’ fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. His 2006 book American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Michael L. Printz Award. It also won an Eisner Award. His 2013 two-volume graphic novel Boxers & Saints was nominated for the National Book Award and won the LA Times Book Prize. Gene currently writes Dark Horse Comics’ Avatar: The Last Airbender series and DC Comics’ Superman. Secret Coders, his middle-grade graphic novel series with cartoonist Mike Holmes, teaches kids the basics of computer programming.

He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his lovely wife and children and teaches at a Roman Catholic high school.

His website is http://geneyang.com.

Teacher Resources

Secret Coders Downloadable Activities

Around the Web

Secrets & Sequences on Amazon

Secrets & Sequences on Goodreads

Secrets & Sequences on JLG

Secrets & Sequences Publisher Page