Tag Archives: science fiction

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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Castle in the Stars by Alex Alice

Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869 (Book 1) by Alex Alice. September 12, 2017. First Second, 64 p. ISBN: 9781626724938.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.5.

In search of the mysterious element known as aether, Claire Dulac flew her hot air balloon toward the edge of our stratosphere―and never returned. Her husband, genius engineer Archibald Dulac, is certain that she is forever lost. Her son, Seraphin, still holds out hope.

One year after her disappearance, Seraphin and his father are delivered a tantalizing clue: a letter from an unknown sender who claims to have Claire’s lost logbook. The letter summons them to a Bavarian castle, where an ambitious young king dreams of flying the skies in a ship powered by aether. But within the castle walls, danger lurks―there are those who would stop at nothing to conquer the stars.

In Castle in the Stars, this lavishly illustrated graphic novel, Alex Alice delivers a historical fantasy adventure set in a world where man journeyed into space in 1869, not 1969.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Violence, Alcohol, Smoking, Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Booklist (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 5-8. What do you get when you mix steampunk, historic scientific theories, Jules Verne-style adventure, and King Ludwig II of Bavaria? A rollicking good time, that’s what. In 1869, a year after Seraphin’s mother disappeared in her hot air balloon while in search of the mysterious energy source called Aether, an unsigned letter arrives in which the writer claims to have found her logbook. On their way to Bavaria to claim it, Seraphin and his father become entangled with Prussian spies who are also on the hunt for the logbook, hoping that the secret of Aether will help them overthrow King Ludwig II and take over the world. The romantic setting of the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle is the perfect backdrop for this steampunk adventure story, and the author and artists use both interior and exterior views to good advantage. Done in soft watercolors, the illustrations are gorgeously detailed and alive with color and motion, giving the whole book a cinematic feel. This series starter ends on an extreme cliffhanger, so readers will be eager for the sequel.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
Some people will love this fanciful tale of a 19th-century space race so much they never finish it. This graphic novel is filled with distractions. Every scene has a new detail to focus on, usually off in the corner of a panel: a watercraft decorated with golden cherubs or an airship shaped like a swan. When one character holds up a book of blueprints (for a craft that travels “through aether”), readers may be tempted to crane their necks to get a better view of the tiny drawings. The artwork, which combines loose pencil outlines with elaborate watercolors, is that spectacular. Many panels could be framed as paintings, and it would be easy to ignore the text and just stare at the pictures of cloud banks. But that would be a mistake, as it’s a terrific adventure story with disguises and air chases and a plot against Bavarian royalty in the late 1800s. The story is full of digressions, though, and the digressions are the best part, as when the main character (a schoolboy named Seraphin) explains why there must be dinosaurs on Venus. In another, the royal architect shows off the orchestra pit on an airship. This is bad science and bad history (and surely not everyone in Bavaria was white), which makes it fantastic steampunk. Like the best steampunk, this story is one excellent distraction after another, with enough blueprints to hold people’s attention while they’re waiting for Book 2. (Graphic steampunk. 10-16)

About the Author

Alex Alice is a French graphic novelist, working in France and sometimes the U.S. His works have been translated into more than fifteen languages.

Born in 1974, he grew up in the south of France and had the chance to travel around Europe, where he developed a lifelong passion for the ruins and castles of the medieval and romantic ages. This experience influenced his art, from the grim setting of his esoteric thriller The Third Testament (co-written with Xavier Dorison and published by Titan Comics) to the primeval, mythic world found in Siegfried, an operatic re-telling of the northern saga of the great dragon slayer (published by Boom Entertainment). In Castle in the Stars, he draws on Jules Verne and nineteenth-century romanticism to create a watercolor world of adventure and wonder to enchant adults and younger readers alike.

His website is www.alexalice.com

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Battlesong by Lian Tanner

Battlesong by Lian Tanner. August 15, 2017. Fiewel & Friends, 393 p. ISBN: 9781250052186.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.4; Lexile: 720.

The thrilling conclusion to the Icebreaker trilogy, an acclaimed middle-grade fantasy-adventure from Lian Tanner.

Gwin is a Fetcher. With her papa and twin brother, Nat, she travels West Norn, bringing joy to its downtrodden people through song and story. But ever since Mama died, it’s been hard to keep the joy alive.

Proud and defiant, Fetchers have always been hunted by the Devouts for preserving the old ways. So when devious Brother Poosk captures Papa, Gwin must rescue him―whatever the cost.

Meanwhile, the Oyster’s crew and the Sunkers lay siege to the Citadel. But without their Sleeping Captain, can they ever win against the ruthless Devouts? Can Petrel, Fin, Sharkey, and Rain ever bring light back to such a dark world?

Sequel to: Sunker’s Deep

Part of series: Icebreaker (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Reviews

School Library Journal (June 1, 2017)
Gr 5-8-Tanner’s trilogy concludes with a meticulously plotted, rapidly paced adventure that both stands alone and richly satisfies fans of the first two novels. The narrative picks up where Sunker’s Deep left off, with the crews of both the Oyster and the Claw on dry land searching for the captain and the legendary Singer. Enter young Gwin and her family, traveling entertainers called “Fetchers,” whose performances bring moments of pleasure to the downtrodden population while preserving traditional lore and keeping ancient secrets from the Anti-Machinists. Tanner’s unparalleled world-building seamlessly weaves Gwin’s tale into a complex narrative told from multiple perspectives. The author provides just enough backstory to keep new readers engaged and the action moving toward a thrilling ending that unites characters from all three installments. Attentive readers will be intrigued by early plot details that later on return to add significance at pivotal moments. Masterly writing brings the stark landscape to life and reveals characters’ deepest emotions. -VERDICT A first purchase for collections that already have the other volumes in the series; expect interest in them if ordering this third entry on its own.-Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

About the Author

Lian Tanner has been dynamited while scuba diving and arrested while busking. She once spent a week in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, hunting for a Japanese soldier left over from the Second World War. She likes secrets, old bones, and animals that are not what they seem. Nowadays she lives by the beach in southern Tasmania with her cat, Harry-le-beau, who has his own blog at vampiremice.wordpress.com.

Her website is www.liantanner.com.au.

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Children of Refuge by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Children of Refuge by Margaret Peterson Haddix. September 12, 2017. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781442450066.  Int Lvl: 5-8.

After Edwy is smuggled off to Refuge City to stay with his brother and sister, Rosi, Bobo, and Cana are stuck alone—and in danger—in Cursed Town in the thrilling follow-up to Children of Exile from New York Times bestselling author, Margaret Peterson Haddix.

It’s been barely a day since Edwy left Fredtown to be with his parents and, already, he is being sent away. He’s smuggled off to boarding school in Refuge City, where he will be with his brother and sister, who don’t even like him very much. The boarding school is nothing like the school that he knew, there’s no one around looking up to him now, and he’s still not allowed to ask questions!

Alone and confused, Edwy seeks out other children brought back from Fredtown and soon discovers that Rosi and the others—still stuck in the Cursed Town—might be in danger. Can Edwy find his way back to his friends before it’s too late?

Part of Series: Children of Exile

Sequel to: Children of Exile

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, War, Violence, Drugs, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Harsh realities of war

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 4-8. Fans of Children of Exile (2016) won’t be disappointed in this sequel: it’s just as thoughtful, swift-paced, and cleverly plotted. Haddix further develops characters by changing the narrator to outspoken Edwy, a contrary rascal who has always teased Rosi for her prim and proper ways. The end of the first title had Rosi and two younger children trying to escape from a violent outbreak in Cursed Town; here we begin with Edwy being smuggled into Refuge City, where he lives with an older brother and sister he didn’t know existed. The plot twists are multiple, exciting, and completely logical, and seeing Rosi through Edwy’s eyes brings to light additional facets. Edwy finds he’s constantly worried about and desperately missing Rosi, so he uses his often negative character traits (lying, stubbornness, aggression) to find and win allies that will help him save Rosi and the children. An excellent dystopian adventure for tweens that avoids graphic violence while bringing up issues of social justice and prejudice. The cliff-hanger ending guarantees another title in the series.

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2017)
Teen Edwy is sent away by his newly found birth parents and smuggled into a futuristic city. This sequel picks up where Children of Exile (2016) left off in the devastated city of Cursed Town, to which the children of bucolic Fredtown were returned. Now, however, the narrative jounces tautly along through the voice of rebellious Edwy instead of naïve Rosi. Having been home for about 24 hours he’s not thrilled to be manhandled away to live with siblings he didn’t know existed in the thronged Refuge City. It takes Edwy some time to learn what Rosi did in the first book: that the Fred-parents are actually well-meaning aliens who took all the children of Earth away from the warring humans. The more Edwy understands about the deal brokered with the aliens, the more worried he becomes about Rosi back in Cursed Town. His sister, Kiandra, brilliant at hacking, shows Edwy footage of Rosi’s beating in the market and reports that she has escaped from jail. He becomes desperate to get to her before the aliens called Enforcers do. Racial lines are blurred in this future, though skin and eye color are oft mentioned, exploring both tribalism in its many forms and the no lesser crime of turning a blind eye. This is a topical thriller that brings heart and thought to the sci-fi genre. (Science fiction. 11-16)

About the Author

Margaret Peterson Haddix grew up on a farm near Washington Court House, Ohio. She graduated from Miami University (of Ohio) with degrees in English/journalism, English/creative writing and history. Before her first book was published, she worked as a newspaper copy editor in Fort Wayne, Indiana; a newspaper reporter in Indianapolis; and a community college instructor and freelance writer in Danville, Illinois.

Haddix and her husband, Doug, now live in Columbus, Ohio, with their two children. Her website is www.haddixbooks.com

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What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy

What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy. July 18, 2017. Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 336 p. ISBN: 9781619639126.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 650.

Action-packed and wildly funny, this near-future sci-fi features three teens on an inter-dimensional mission to save the world.

Rosa and Eddie are among hundreds of teens applying to NASA’s mysterious Multi-World Agency. After rounds of crazy-competitive testing they are appointed to Team 3, along with an alternate, just in case Eddie screws up (as everyone expects he will). What they don’t expect is that aliens will arrive from another dimension, and look just like us. And no one could even imagine that Team 3 would be the only hope of saving our world from their Earth-destroying plans. The teens steal the spacecraft (it would be great if they knew how to fly it) and head to Earth2, where the aliens’ world and people are just like ours. With a few notable exceptions.

There, the teens will find more than their alternate selves: they’ll face existential questions and high-stakes adventure, with comedy that’s out of this world.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Racial taunts, Violence, Underage drinking, Smoking, Criminal culture, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Body humor

 

Reviews

Booklist (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
Grades 8-11. Following a battery of bizarre tests to evaluate a broad range of abilities, Rosa Hayashi and Eddie Toivonen are picked to train in NASA’s top secret Interworlds Agency (IA) program, which grooms teens to become ambassadors to alien worlds. Rosa comes from an impressive scientific pedigree, while Eddie sees IA as a means of escape from his highly dysfunctional family. As Rosa and Eddie endure the rigorous program, they face competition and infighting with other trainees, and Eddie’s unconventional methods both wow and worry their instructors. But when IA gets visitors it hadn’t bargained for, Eddie’s unconventional methods, bolstered by his teammates’ belief in him, just might save the day. Kennedy has a confident hand in her sophomore novel, particularly when deploying the complicated quantum physics and rocket science that infuse her snappy plot. Along with light cliff-hangers, a geeky atmosphere, and quip-heavy dialogue, her well-defined characters and a sprinkle of romance keep the story’s feet on the ground. Fans of smart, funny sci-fi should get their hands on this one.

Kirkus Reviews (May 15, 2017)
Teens vie for two spots in NASA’s Interworlds Agency in this fast-paced, funny caper through the near future.NASA’s Interworlds Agency exists to explore, assess, engage, and protect Earth in the event that intelligent life forms are discovered on other planets—a real likelihood in the near-future setting of Kennedy’s previous novel, Learning to Swear in America (2016)—and they are looking for a new team to join their ranks. Rosa Hayashi and Eddie Toivonen are two teenagers from different sides of the tracks whose outside-the-box thinking lands them at the top of a pack of the best and brightest, along with another pair that serves as an understudy team due to Eddie’s “unusual test results.” The dynamic between the teens and their instructor, the long-suffering, unconventional Reg, is by turns competitive, sweet, and downright hilarious. By the time the ETs invade, the dynamic quartet makes the bold decision to bring the show to them on their own planet—a parallel version of Earth where they come face to face with slightly different versions of themselves. Mixed-race Rosa wearily rises above microaggressions by describing herself as “an American of French and Japanese descent,” Reg is black, and Eddie is a white boy from a lower socio-economic background, rounding out a diverse cast of characters whose relationships develop organically and realistically. Likable characters and laugh-out-loud dialogue will make this a winning choice for reluctant readers and science-fiction fans alike. (Science fiction. 13-16)

About the Author

Katie Kennedy is the author of Learning to Swear in America and a college history instructor. She has a son in high school, and a daughter in college. She lives in Iowa–where the Interworlds Agency might be–and has a cornfield in her backyard. She hopes Rosa and Eddie land in it someday.

Her website is www.katiekennedybooks.com

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Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson. June 13, 2017. HarperTeen, 272 p. ISBN: 9780062393548.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Divided by time. Ignited by a spark.

Kansas, 2065. Adri has secured a slot as a Colonist—one of the lucky few handpicked to live on Mars. But weeks before launch, she discovers the journal of a girl who lived in her house over a hundred years ago, and is immediately drawn into the mystery surrounding her fate. While Adri knows she must focus on the mission ahead, she becomes captivated by a life that’s been lost in time…and how it might be inextricably tied to her own.

Oklahoma, 1934. Amidst the fear and uncertainty of the Dust Bowl, Catherine fantasizes about her family’s farmhand, and longs for the immortality promised by a professor at a traveling show called the Electric. But as her family’s situation becomes more dire—and the suffocating dust threatens her sister’s life—Catherine must find the courage to sacrifice everything she loves in order to save the one person she loves most.

England, 1919. In the recovery following the First World War, Lenore struggles with her grief for her brother, a fallen British soldier, and plans to sail to America in pursuit of a childhood friend. But even if she makes it that far, will her friend be the person she remembers, and the one who can bring her back to herself?

While their stories spans thousands of miles and multiple generations, Lenore, Catherine, and Adri’s fates are entwined.

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

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. All her life, 17-year-old Adri’s been preparing to be a Mars colonist, so when she must leave behind her home in Miami, thanks to rising ocean levels, she doesn’t mourn too much, since she’s been ready to leave the whole planet behind for years. Her sense of detachment wavers, though, when she’s placed with Lily, her elderly, last living relative, in the months leading up to her one-way trip to Mars. In Lily’s ancient Kansas farmhouse, Adri finds shreds of clues about her past, including enigmatic letters and journals and, oddly, a Galápagos tortoise. Now cold, prickly Adri finds herself fixated on where she came from—particularly the stories of two women, Catherine, who lived in Lily’s house during the Dust Bowl, and Lenore, who lived in England during WWI—just as she’s about to leave it all behind for good. As Anderson beautifully weaves together Adri’s, Catherine’s, and Lenore’s stories, each of the three women come vividly to life through distinct voices and behaviors. Their stories have parallels—environmental devastation, leaving home behind, and finding a new one—but they’re all deployed with determined subtlety, and the resolutions, while never tidy, are tantalizingly satisfying. With quietly evocative writing, compellingly drawn characters, and captivating secrets to unearth, this thought-provoking, lyrical novel explores the importance of pinning down the past before launching into the mystery of the future.

Kirkus Reviews starred (April 1, 2017)
In the year 2065, 16-year-old Adri Ortiz is one of the hardworking, talented few chosen to colonize Mars. Adri’s an orphan with ties to no one, but the Latina teen understands the importance of interpersonal cooperation, so she doesn’t complain when the head of the Mars program sends her to live with a long-forgotten cousin near the space center in Wichita for the months leading up to the launch. Lily, the cousin, is 107, passing into dementia, and more eager to know Adri than Adri is to know her. But Adri is intrigued by a postcard she finds in the farmhouse, written in 1920 and mentioning the Galápagos tortoise who still lives on the farm (and is herself named Galápagos). The story shifts to diary-keeper Catherine, a hardscrabble white teen living on the same farm in 1934, at the height of the Dust Bowl. Catherine’s little sister Beezie is dying from dust pneumonia, and their mother, a widow, seems locked into helplessness. Again the story shifts—now it’s England, 1919, and white Leonore is mourning both her brother’s loss in the Great War and the friend who left for America years before, to whom she writes. Galápagos ties the stories together as all three young women fight for self-determination, love, their futures, and the realization that you can never move forward freely until you have something important to leave behind. Deft, succinct, and ringing with emotion without ever dipping into sentimentality, Anderson’s novel is both intriguing and deeply satisfying. (Science/historical fiction. 12-adult)

About the Author

Jodi Lynn Anderson is the New York Times bestselling author of PeachesTiger Lily, and the popular May Bird trilogy. She lives in Asheville, N.C., with her husband, her son, and an endless parade of stray pets.

Her website is www.jodilynnanderson.net

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Star Wars Super Graphic by Tim Leong

Star Wars Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Star Wars Universe by Tim Leong. July 25, 2017. Chronicle Books, 176 p. ISBN: 9781452161204.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

Graphic design guru Tim Leong presents Star Wars trivia in an all-new way—through playful pie charts, bar graphs, and other data-driven infographics. From a Venn diagram of Yoda’s idiosyncrasies to an organizational chart of the Empire to a line graph of Grand Moff Tarkin’s management decisions, Star Wars Super Graphic shines a new light on the much-adored universe. Equal parts playful and informative, this visual love letter to the vast Star Wars universe will enchant fans of all ages.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

 

About the Author

Tim Leong is the design director at Entertainment Weekly magazine, founder of the Eisner Award–nominated Comic Foundry magazine, and author of Super Graphic. He lives in New York.

His website is www.timleong.com

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Two Times a Traitor by Karen Bass

Two Times a Traitor by Karen Bass. August 21, 2017. Pajama Press, 288 p. ISBN: 9781772780314.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.2; Lexile: 720.

Angry over his family’s recent move and current enforced holiday in Halifax, twelve-year-old Laz Berenger rebels against a guided tour of the Citadel and sets out to explore on his own. In one dark tunnel, his St. Christopher medal burns suddenly hot. There’s a strange smell, and Laz blacks out. When he wakes up, everything happens at once. A sword is put to his throat. Men who look like extras from Pirates of the Caribbean hand him over to a ship’s captain who strips him and takes his medal. He is declared a French spy. Laz realizes, to his horror, that it is 1745 and he is trapped in time. These English colonists, still loyal to King George, are at war with the French. To earn his freedom, Laz must promise to spy on the French at the fortification of Louisbourg. But once in Louisbourg, Laz earns a job as runner to the kind Commander Morpain and learns to love both the man and the town. How will Laz find a way to betray the inhabitants of Louisbourg? How else can he hope to earn back his St. Christopher medal, which is surely his key to returning to his own time? The award-winning author of The Hill and Graffiti Knight has written an enthralling, swash-buckling time-slip adventure for middle-grade readers centered on a fascinating period in North American history.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, Anti-Catholic epithets

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2017)
After fighting with his controlling dad while the family tours the Citadel in Halifax, Laz runs off—and then somehow slips through time to 1745.It’s not an easy place to be. He appears in the midst of the New Englanders’ preparations to attack the French fort at Louisbourg, on Cape Breton Island. The English colonists believe that the white American boy is French—somewhat true since his grandmother is French-Canadian, and he speaks the language fluently. Convinced that the St. Christopher medal that a New Englander captain took from him might be the key to time travel and, at least initially, desperate to return to his own time, Laz agrees to spy on the French at Louisbourg to get it back. There, a French pirate takes him under his wing, giving him the fatherly relationship that Laz has longed for. As he adjusts to the time, it’s only his treasured little sister that he finds himself missing, but eventually that’s enough to motivate him to seek home. The past is accurately and engagingly depicted, and Laz’s reactions to the harsh conditions, especially bad food and filth, are totally believable. If this effort were longer it could be fully immersive, but often the narrative seems slightly jumpy, lacking connective tissue. Still, time travel is a thrilling concept, and the tale overflows with compelling action, more than making up for minor flaws. (Fantasy. 11-16)

About the Author

Karen Bass is the multi-award-winning author of a number of novels for young adult readers. Graffiti Knight won the CLA Young Adult Book Award, the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People, the R. Ross Annett Award, and the CAA Exporting Alberta Award, among other honours. Uncertain Soldier won the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People and was a finalist for the OLA Forest of Reading Red Maple Award. Her most recent novel, The Hill, is a White Ravens Selection and a Junior Library Guild Selection, and is nominated for the Forest of Reading Red Maple Award. Formerly the public library manager in Hythe, Alberta, Karen now lives and writes in Hamilton, Ontario.

Her website is www.karenbass.ca

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The List by Patricia Forde

The List by Patricia Forde. August 8, 2017. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 336 p. ISBN: 9781492647966.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.3; Lexile: 600.

Fahrenheit 451 meets The Giver for middle grade readers!

You are The Wordsmith now. Are you ready for the challenge?

The city of Ark is the last safe place on Earth. To make sure humans are able to survive, everyone in Ark must speak List, a language of only 500 words.
Everyone that is, except Letta.

As apprentice to the Wordsmith, Letta can read all the words that have ever existed. Forbidden words like freedom, music, and even pineapple tell her about a world she’s never known.

One day her master disappears and the leaders of Ark tell Letta she is the new Wordsmith and must shorten List to fewer and fewer words. Then Letta meets a teenage boy who somehow knows all the words that have been banned. Letta’s faced with a dangerous choice: sit idly by and watch language slowly slip away or follow a stranger on a path to freedom . . . or banishment.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 6-9. Letta, Ark’s apprentice Wordsmith, may be too young to remember the “Melting,” but John Noa, the town’s ruler, is not. How could he forget the floods, the famine, or their insidious origin: “dangerous, destructive words”? Thanks to Noa, Ark now relies on List, a fiercely regulated collection of permissible phrases. But there’s no hope in Ark, and there’s certainly no love. What’s worse: List is quickly diminishing. Yet, with the help of a ragtag crew of outsiders, Letta might be the one to save it. While debut author Forde’s premise is intriguing, its execution vacillates in effectiveness; List’s 500-word vocabulary is employed arbitrarily, and the conversations it generates, while illuminating the absurdity of limited language (“Criminal. Steal food. Bad boy”), often cripple plot development and hamstring secondary characters. List’s inception, too, is foggy. Still, Forde’s exploration of language as both weapon and savior is a noble one, and environmental undertones bolster its power.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
Young Letta becomes wordsmith to her community in a future that follows a climate apocalypse. A likable protagonist, Letta (white with green eyes and red hair) is the one positive female character in this narrative of resistance and revelation. She is at the mercy of John Noa, the controlling savior of a number of people who joined his Ark just before a warming planet Earth produced massive, devastating floods in an event remembered as the Melting. Noa is obsessed with the potential of the spoken word to influence human conflict and confusion. When Letta chooses to shelter a wounded boy, Marlo, shot as a Desecrator by Noa’s security force, the corruption at the heart of things begins to reveal itself to Letta. Her disillusion deepens when her master goes missing and when a young boy, son of her neighbor, is banished for misusing language. Marlo (sallow-skinned, with blue-gray eyes and black hair) turns out to be part of a largely self-sufficient community living outside the Ark and opposed to Noa’s strictures. Forde’s pacing and characterization are compelling, especially after initial chapters focused on Noa’s truncated List-based language of acceptable words (all English ones) and people’s awkward struggle to speak it. Brief expository passages interspersed with Letta’s story reveal Noa’s thinking and his ugly desire to eliminate the weakness of language. An intriguing speculation about authoritarian futures with a terrific cover. (Science fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Patricia Forde lives in the Galway, Ireland. She has published three picture books, lots of easy readers, two plays, and her first novel, The List. She has also written for several television series, including dramas for children and teenagers and English- and Irish-language soap operas. In another life, she was a primary school teacher and the artistic director of the Galway Arts Festival. She now lives with her husband, two teenagers, and a dog called Ben.

Her website is www.patriciaforde.com

Teacher Resources

The List Discussion Questions

The List Educator’s Guide

Around the Web

The List on Amazon

The List on Goodreads

The List on JLG

The List Publisher Page

York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby

York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby. May 16, 2017. Walden Pond Press, 496 p. ISBN: 9780062306937.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.5; Lexile: 780.

It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher—a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.

Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment house—until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings. Their likely destruction means the end of a dream long-held by the people of New York. And if Tess, Theo and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. Which means they have to solve it.

From National Book Award Finalist Laura Ruby comes a visionary epic set in a New York City at once familiar and wholly unexpected.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 4-7. Twins Tess and Theo live in one of the only remaining buildings designed by the Morningstarrs, visionary twins who built glittering structures in nineteenth-century New York, as well as the Cipher, a notorious, citywide puzzle leading to fantastic treasure. Now, in the twenty-first century, Tess and Theo’s building has been purchased by a mercenary developer, but Tess grasps at a shred of hope: if they solve the Cipher, they might be able to keep their home. With robust, architectural world building, Ruby reveals an alternate New York teeming with mechanical marvels and compelling secrets. This New York still has some familiar features, however: a rich culture of diversity alongside insidious greed and wealth inequality. Tess and Theo, and their friend and neighbor Jaime, have distinct voices and idiosyncrasies that, though some might consider them odd, become marvelous strengths. As the trio traverse the city, they’re often baffled by how easily clues fall into their hands, but Ruby slyly sidesteps those coincidences by giving the Cipher itself a mysterious, subtle sort of agency. In this smart, immersive series starter, Ruby expertly juggles stunning plot choreography, realistic stakes in a captivating fantasy setting, well-wrought characters, and flashes of sharp cultural commentary. It’s a brainy romp with a worrying heart, and while many plot threads are resolved, Theo, Tess, and Jaime will surely, thankfully, be back for more.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
When their (alternate reality) New York City apartment building is bought by a scheming real-estate developer, seventh-grade twins Tess and Theo Biedermann and their neighbor Jaime Cruz devise a plan to solve the Old York Cipher and thus save their home. The Cipher had been created in the nineteenth century by the brilliant Morningstarr twins (after whom Tess and Theo were named), inventors of the city’s “mechanical wizardry”–streets paved with solar panels, metal caterpillars that clean the Underway trains, and elevators that go in every direction–who then disappeared without a trace. As Tess, Theo, and Jaime take a fresh look at the Cipher, a new path of enticing and dangerous clues leads them deeper into the Morningstarrs’ mystery and closer to treacherous villains. Ruby’s nuanced trio of protagonists strikes a balance of emotional vulnerability (the twins coping with their grandfather’s onset of dementia, Jaime with his father’s increasing absence, and all three with the impending loss of their home) and resilience. The equally thoughtful vision of an alternative New York, both historical and present-day, pulsates right off the page, with geography, history, and steampunk-esque machines thoroughly integrated into the thrum of a strange but recognizable city. Weaving one web of secrets even as it works to unravel another, Ruby’s story will have both mystery and sci-fi fans reading and rereading in anticipation of the next installment. anastasia m. collins

About the Author

Laura Ruby is the author of books for adults, teens and children. Her titles include the Edgar-nominated tween mystery Lily’s Ghosts, the children’s fantasy The Wall and the Wing (3/06) and a sequel, The Chaos King (5/07) all published by HarperCollins. She writes for older teens as well, and her debut young adult novel, Good Girls (9/06), also from HarperCollins, was a Book Sense Pick for fall 2006 and an ALA Quick Pick for 2007. She followed this with the teen novels Play Me (2008) and Bad Apple (2009).

Her short fiction for adults has appeared in various literary magazines, including Other Voices and The Florida Review. A collection of these stories, I’m Not Julia Roberts, was published by Warner Books in January 2007. Called “hilarious and heart-wrenching” by People and “a knowing look at the costs and rewards of remaking a family,” by the Miami Herald, the book was also featured in Redbook, Working Mother, and USA Today, among others.

Raised in the wilds of suburban New Jersey, Laura Ruby now lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two cats that serve as creative advisors.

Her website is www.lauraruby.com.

Around the Web

York: The Shadow Cipher on Amazon

York: The Shadow Cipher on Goodreads

York: The Shadow Cipher on JLG

York: The Shadow Cipher Publisher Page