Tag Archives: science fiction

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders. February 12, 2019. Tor Books, 368 p. ISBN: 9780765379962.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

“If you control our sleep, then you can own our dreams… And from there, it’s easy to control our entire lives.”

January is a dying planet–divided between a permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other. Humanity clings to life, spread across two archaic cities built in the sliver of habitable dusk.

But life inside the cities is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside.

Sophie, a student and reluctant revolutionary, is supposed to be dead, after being exiled into the night. Saved only by forming an unusual bond with the enigmatic beasts who roam the ice, Sophie vows to stay hidden from the world, hoping she can heal.

But fate has other plans–and Sophie’s ensuing odyssey and the ragtag family she finds will change the entire world.

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

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 7))
Night and day are places, not changes occasioned by the rotation of the planet; the only two human settlements are treacherously far apart; and life is harsh, bound by incineration and impossible cold. Mouth is an outsider in the city of Xiosphant, part of a traveling band of trader-smugglers, the Resourceful Couriers, and the only survivor of the nomadic Citizens. In Xiosphant, time and sleep are tightly regulated. Sophie, who has made it into the university and has always had trouble sleeping during the shuttered times, becomes part of a group of student revolutionaries. Caught, sentenced to be executed, and forced to climb Old Mother Mountain, Sophie encounters a deadly, tentacled indigenous life-form that saves her from bone-shattering cold and, communicating through thought transference, befriends her. Violence, politics, betrayal, love, friendship, encounters with alien predators, and experiences in a dying city entwine to create a conflicted world in an even stronger novel than Anders’ Nebula Award–winning All the Birds in the Sky (2016); a tale that can stand beside such enduring works as Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965), and Dan Simmons’ Hyperion (1989).

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2018)
After environmental sci-fi/fantasy (the award-winning All the Birds in the Sky, 2016) and pop-culture dystopia (Rock Manning Goes for Broke, 2018), Anders shifts gears for this sweeping work of anthropological/social sf. In the distant future, the descendants of a colony spaceship have settled precariously on the hostile planet of January, swarming with vicious predators and dangerous weather patterns. One side of the planet continually faces the sun, while the other faces the frozen dark of space. Humans have built two main cities on the light side: the rigidly rules- and caste-bound Xiosphant, where guards wait to seize you for the slightest infraction, and the more licentious Argelo, run by various warring gangs. In Xiosphant, shy, working-class student Sophie idolizes her upper-crust roommate, Bianca, who loves parties and seeking power. But Bianca’s flirtation with revolution drives Sophie first into the brutal hands of the police, and then into the saving pincers and tentacles of January’s nightside-living, sentient native species, dismissed by the colonists as brute beasts. But these creatures, whom Sophie dubs the “Gelet,” develop a psychic bond with her, and their willingness to share understanding and friendship changes her forever. One person the new Sophie slowly manages to influence is Mouth, a smuggler and survivor of an otherwise extinct nomadic band, who’s desperately seeking both a connection to her lost past and a reason to forge a future. But ultimately, Sophie can’t exert a similar influence over Bianca; despite Bianca’s claims of caring for her, she chooses to exploit Sophie’s vulnerabilities instead of granting her the understanding and acceptance Sophie craves. In our world, Bianca would represent the worst kind of faux “woke” liberal. She’s an angry woman who thinks she’s making a difference, but she doesn’t really want to help people or even listen to them; she just wants to be the one in charge and profit from it. Watching Sophie come into her own and gradually (and almost too late) realize that the Bianca she loves doesn’t exist is inevitable, sad, and, eventually, empowering. Anders contains multitudes; it’s always a fascinating and worthwhile surprise to see what she comes up with next.

About the Author

Charlie Jane Anders’ latest novel is The City in the Middle of the Night. She’s also the author of All the Birds in the Sky, which won the Nebula, Crawford and Locus awards, and Choir Boy, which won a Lambda Literary Award. Plus a novella called Rock Manning Goes For Broke and a short story collection called Six Months, Three Days, Five Others. Her short fiction has appeared in Tor.com, Boston ReviewTin HouseConjunctions, the Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionWired Magazine, Slate, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Lightspeed, ZYZZYVA, Catamaran Literary Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and tons of anthologies. Her story “Six Months, Three Days” won a Hugo Award, and her story “Don’t Press Charges And I Won’t Sue” won a Theodore Sturgeon Award.

Charlie Jane also organizes the monthly Writers With Drinks reading series, and co-hosts the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct with Annalee Newitz.

Her website is charliejane.com/

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The Giver (Graphic Novel) by Lois Lowry

The Giver (Graphic Novel) by Lois Lowry. February 5, 2019. HMH Books for Young Readers, 185 p. ISBN: 9780544157880.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The Giver is a modern classic and one of the most influential books of our time.

Now in graphic novel format, Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal–winning classic story of a young boy discovering the dark secrets behind his seemingly ideal world is accompanied by renowned artist P. Craig Russell’s beautifully haunting illustrations. 

Placed on countless reading lists, translated into more than forty languages, and made into a feature film, The Giver is the first book in The Giver Quartet that also includes Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

In this new graphic novel edition, readers experience the haunting story of twelve-year-old Jonas and his seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment, through the brilliant art of P. Craig Russell that truly brings The Giver to life.

Witness Jonas’s assignment as the Receiver of Memory, watch as he begins to understand the dark secrets behind his fragile community, and follow the explosion of color into his world like never before.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Violence

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 14))
Grades 5-8. Color is a potent and central symbol in Lowry’s modern classic. Its absence defines the sameness of Jonas’ future world, in which everyone’s life is neatly prescribed for them, right down to career and family. When Jonas is appointed the receiver of all humanity’s memories, the appearance of color signifies his sense of discovery and, ultimately, his escape. Russell masterfully preserves the flow of story within this world of sameness through clean lines and compositional variation. But he, too, centralizes color. A limited palette of cool blues and somber grays strikes the emotionally sterile tone of Jonas’ community, while humanity’s memories come to the receiver in various hues: the gentle pink of a flower, the saturating red-orange of war. The relief and sometimes shock of these colors allow the power of the memories to reach readers in a way beyond mere sight, and thus the wonder of Lowry’s story is made palpable in a startling new way. Includes illuminating interviews with Lowry and Russell on the adaptation process.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2018)
An eerie graphic version of the Newbery Award–winning classic. Russell (Murder Mysteries and Other Stories, 2015, etc.) pays no more attention than Lowry (Looking Back, 2016, etc.) did to continuity of detail or to justifying the counterintuitive notion that memories can be shed by transmitting them, but without taking significant liberties he skillfully captures the original’s full, creeping horror. By depicting human figures with uncommonly precise realism, bearing calm, smiling demeanors and moving through tidy 1950s style settings, he establishes an almost trite air of utopian normality at the outset…then proceeds to undermine it with disquieting (to say the least) incidents capped by an explicit view of Jonas’ serene dad “releasing” a supernumerary newborn by ramming a hypodermic into its head. He also neatly solves the color issue by composing his many small sequential scenes in blue pencil outlines with occasional pale washes—which makes Jonas’ disturbing ability to “see beyond,” from the red in an apple and a classmate’s hair to the garish orange memories the Giver downloads to his brain, startlingly vivid and presages the polychrome wilderness into which he ultimately vanishes. Jonas and the rest of the cast are uniformly light-skinned and generically European of feature, but that is explicitly established as part of the hideous scenario. A first-rate visual reframing: sensitive, artistically brilliant, and as charged as its enigmatic predecessor with profound challenges to mind and heart. (interviews with the creators) (Graphic dystopian fantasy. 12-14)

About the Author

Lois Lowry is known for her versatility and invention as a writer. She was born in Hawaii and grew up in New York, Pennsylvania, and Japan. After studying at Brown University, she married, started a family, and turned her attention to writing. She is the author of more than forty books for young adults, including the popular Anastasia Krupnik series. She has received countless honors, among them the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the California Young Reader’s Medal, and the Mark Twain Award. She received Newbery Medals for two of her novels, NUMBER THE STARS and THE GIVER. Her first novel, A SUMMER TO DIE, was awarded the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award. Several books have been adapted to film and stage, and THE GIVER has become an opera. Ms. Lowry now divides her time between Maine and Florida.

Her website is www.loislowry.com/

Teacher Resources

The Giver (Graphic Novel) on Common Sense Media

The Giver (Graphic Novel) Educator’s Guide

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The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away by Ronald L. Smith

The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away by Ronald L. Smith. February 19, 2019. Clarion Books, 224 p. ISBN: 9781328841605.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.4.

Twelve-year-old Simon is obsessed with aliens. The ones who take people and do experiments. When he’s too worried about them to sleep, he listens to the owls hoot outside. Owls that have the same eyes as aliens—dark and foreboding.

Then something strange happens on a camping trip, and Simon begins to suspect he’s been abducted. But is it real, or just the overactive imagination of a kid who loves fantasy and role-playing games and is the target of bullies and his father’s scorn?

Even readers who don’t believe in UFOs will relate to the universal kid feeling of not being taken seriously by adults that deepens this deliciously scary tale.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Mild language, Verbal abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 6))
Grades 5-7. Smith (Hoodoo, 2015) continues to be one of the most distinct and impressive voices in middle-grade speculative fiction right now. Twelve-year-old Simon’s longtime obsession with aliens comes to a head when his parents take him camping over the summer. After a terrifying encounter with an owl leaves him with memory loss and a small, mysterious wound on his stomach, Simon worries that he’s been abducted and implanted with an alien tracking device. Peppered with moments of reflection and insight, Simon’s piercing narration strikes a delightfully conspiratorial tone as he confides in, and at times speaks directly to, the reader. Smith plants a seed of dread and suspense early on that grows and grows, right up until the very last page. The unexpected ending simultaneously wraps up the story line, leaves the reader satisfied, and furthers the book’s propensity to blur genre lines. This is an unassuming, stand-alone story that sneaks up when least expected, and it will be hard to forget.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2018)
A young boy gets more than he bargained for while researching conspiracy theories about the government and UFOs in Smith’s latest. Twelve-year-old, biracial Simon is a quirky kid. He lives on an Air Force base, he reads and writes high fantasy stories, and he believes in aliens. Not just any aliens, but “Grays”—the large-headed, spindly-fingered visitors of Roswell fame. Most of the information that Simon can find is from supposed coverups of the Grays’ frighteningly hostile abductions of humans—theories that sound perfectly rational until he says them out loud, especially to his disapproving parents. But theory bleeds into reality when Simon encounters a bright light and a large owl in the woods, leaving him with an odd scar and a jumble of fragmented memories. Simon’s parents worry for his mental health as Simon himself spirals in his search for explanations, certain that the Grays are trying to communicate and that their message is not so friendly. A theme of liminality runs through the narrative as Simon’s interests, including his own writing, explore the limits of black-or-white human concepts and the gray areas where those binaries break down—gray like invading aliens; both black and white like Simon. A stilted conclusion and unnecessary epilogue propped up by platitudes about special children who can save humanity mar an otherwise terrific alien thrill. A middle-grade X-Files primer, a great ride until it stumbles at the finish line. (Science fiction. 10-13)

About the Author

“I grew up on Air Force bases and have lived in Japan, Maine, Alabama, Michigan, South Carolina, Delaware, Washington, DC, Illinois and a bunch of other places I don’t remember. After reading Ray Bradbury’s R is for Rocket and Eleanor Cameron’s Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet I fell in love with books.

I haven’t stopped reading since.”

His website is www.strangeblackflowers.com

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Children of Jubilee by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Children of Jubilee by Margaret Peterson Haddix. December 4, 2018. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 320 p. ISBN: 9781442450097.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg. Lvl: 5.9; Lexile: 740.

Kiandra has to use her wits and tech-savvy ways to help rescue Edwy, Enu, and the others from the clutches of the Enforcers in the thrilling final novel of the Children of Exile series from New York Times bestselling author, Margaret Peterson Haddix.

Since the Enforcers raided Refuge City, Rosi, Edwy, and the others are captured and forced to work as slave labor on an alien planet, digging up strange pearls. Weak and hungry, none of them are certain they will make it out of this alive.

But Edwy’s tech-savvy sister, Kiandra, has always been the one with all the answers, and so they turn to her. But Kiandra realizes that she can’t find her way out of this one on her own, and they all might need to rely on young Cana and her alien friend if they are going to survive.

Part of Series: Children of Exile (Book #3)

Sequel to: Children of Refuge

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Violence, False imprisonment

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Grades 4-8. The third and final title in the Children of Exile series is all fans could hope for: exciting action, thoughtful examinations of social justice and prejudice, no excessive or gratuitous violence, a logically plotted universe, and an ultimately hopeful ending. Haddix once again changes narrators, this time focusing on Edwy’s tech-savvy 13-year-old sister, Kiandra. By switching narrators in each book, Haddix gives readers the chance to see each narrator through the eyes of others, as well as hear their own clear voice. Previously portrayed as a grumpy and self-absorbed genius computer hacker, Kiandra here discovers her connection to her siblings and other beings in general, including initially terrifying alien creatures. Kiandra, her siblings, and friends are whisked through terrifying adventures that include capture, imprisonment, and forced labor. It is Kiandra’s developing empathy that saves the group, as she dares to reach out to what she believes are enemy aliens, working together to achieve freedom. Though it won’t stand alone, this finale will be tremendously popular with series fans.

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

Around the Web

Children of Jubilee on Amazon

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Children of Jubilee on Goodreads

Children of Jubilee on LibraryThing

Children of Jubilee Publisher Page

Outwalkers by Fiona Shaw

Outwalkers by Fiona Shaw. February 26, 2019. David Fickling Books, 416 p. ISBN: 9781338277500.  Int Lvl: 5-8.

In this tense, page-turning story of survival in near-future England, Jacob must go to all lengths to find his dog and escape to freedom with a gang of rebel children.

In a frighteningly real near future England, Jacob escapes from the Academy orphanage to reenter a world that is grimly recognizable. The Coalition can track anyone, anywhere, from a chip implanted at birth. Now Jacob must fulfill his promise to his parents, find his dog, Jet, and navigate his way out of England. Their only hope is a band of children who have found a way to survive off the grid: The Outwalkers. Their rules are strict, but necessary if they’re going to get out alive…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, References to drug use and prostitution

 

Related Videos

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2018)
In a near future, England has closed its borders, microchipped its citizens, and forced children without two parents into orphanages that are an awful lot like prisons. When 12-year-old Jake’s parents die in a car accident, he is sent to live in a Home Academy to be educated and cared for. Jake escapes to find his dog, Jet, and keep the promise he made to his parents: to flee to his grandparents’ home in Scotland. They also made him promise to keep Jet with him always. But Jake’s chip is like a beacon to the hubbers, and he has no idea how to make the long walk to the border. He meets a group of teens and children who call themselves Outwalkers who agree to take Jake with them as long as he follows the rules. Poacher, with his braided hair and black skin, and Swift, with her pale skin and hard eyes, are the leaders of the motley group. Rumors of a deadly virus and the constant threat of capture haunt their journey. Slow pacing, a vague enemy, and unoriginal plot hamper the intriguing premise. Sacrifice, loyalty, and bravery are rewarded, but Jake’s naiveté quickly becomes irritating. The book adheres to the white default, Poacher a notable exception; that he speaks in an off-putting dialect when most of the rest of the characters do not is an unfortunate detail. A dystopic near future that never manages to come to life. (Science fiction. 8-12)

School Library Journal (January 1, 2019)
Gr 5-8-Jacob Riley escapes from an Academy Home, a Dickensian orphanage in a future England ravaged by a purported virus. He plans to rescue his dog Jet and find his grandparents in Scotland. Immediately upon his escape, Jake is betrayed by former neighbors and chased by government “hubbers” who track him by means of a chip in the back of his neck. Then both Jake and Jet are rescued by a gang of “outwalkers” who excise the chip and invite Jake and his dog to join them on their way north. The gang steals and scavenges food, medicine, and clothing to survive. With skill, luck, courage, and occasional help from strangers, they brave government agents and unscrupulous adults to escape to Scotland and share information that could save England from its totalitarian nightmare. The dystopian buddy trope is well worn, yet Shaw draws such vivid circumstances and strong characters that this novel is impossible to set aside for long. The plot is detailed and exciting, and allegorical comparisons with the present day are compelling. It would be utterly inspiring but for one glaring sexist remark in which a character named Ollie “throws like a girl.” VERDICT A strong additional purchase for collections in need of futuristic, dystopian middle grade fare.-Sheri Reda,

About the Author

Fiona was born in London in 1964. Her place of birth is now a hospital broom cupboard and her first home was on a street later obliterated beneath a superstore off the Cromwell Rd. However, she passed most of her childhood as the eldest of three girls in a lovely and spacious family home near the Thames.

Living in York with her partner and two daughters, Fiona reads a great deal, cycles everywhere, grows vegetables with variable success and acquires more films than she ever gets around to watching. She is working on her fifth novel.

Her website is www.fiona-shaw.com

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Outwalkers on Amazon

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Toxic by Lydia Kang

Toxic by Lydia Kang. November 6, 2018. Entangled: Teen, 340 p. ISBN: 9781640634244.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Hana isn’t supposed to exist. She’s grown up hidden by her mother in a secret room of the bioship Cyclo until the day her mother is simple gone – along with the entire crew. Cyclo tells her she was abandoned, but she’s certain her mother wouldn’t leave her there to die. And Hana isn’t ready to die yet. She’s never really had a chance to live.

Fenn is supposed to die. He and a crew of hired mercenaries are there to monitor Cyclo as she expires, and the payment for the suicide mission will mean Fenn’s sister is able to live. But when he meets Hana, he’s not sure how to save them both.

As Cyclo grows sicker by the day, they unearth more secrets about the ship and the crew. But the more time they spend together, the more Hana and Fenn realize that falling for each other is what could ultimately kill them both.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Violence

 

About the Author

Lydia Kang is an author and internal medicine physician. She is a graduate of Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine, and completed her training at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. She lives with her family in the midwest.

Her website is lydiaykang.com

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Toxic on Amazon

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Toxic on Goodreads

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Dry by Neal Shusterman

Dry by Neal Shusterman. October 2, 2018. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 390 p. ISBN: 9781481481960.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

When the California drought escalates to catastrophic proportions, one teen is forced to make life and death decisions for her family in this harrowing story of survival from New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman.

The drought—or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it—has been going on for a while now. Everyone’s lives have become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t fill up your pool, don’t take long showers.

Until the taps run dry.

Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation; neighbors and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return and her life—and the life of her brother—is threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she’s going to survive.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Underage smoking, Violence, Guns, Sexual exploitation of minors

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. Alyssa and her brother, Garrett, are normal kids in a suburb in Southern California—that is, until surrounding states shut the floodgates to the Colorado River due to prolonged drought. At first, people dismiss the news, but circumstances turn dire quickly when bottled water disappears off store shelves while the spigots remain dry. What ensues is a horrifyingly fast descent into barbarity as neighbor turns on neighbor, government intervention falls short, and society’s civil facade disintegrates. Alyssa and Garrett must travel to find new sources of water, all the while defending themselves against people crazed by thirst. While this book leans on siege-like tropes established in zombie movies, the Shustermans revivify the genre by adding an environmental twist. Using multiple points of view, the authors fully flesh out Alyssa, Garrett, and their travel companions to showcase the various ways people mentally approach calamities. The authors do not hold back—there is death, disease, manipulation, and chaos. None of it is presented simply, and none of it is sugarcoated. Lovers of horror action fiction will feel right at home with this terrifyingly realistic story of our tenuous relationship with the environment and of the resilience of the human spirit in the face of desperate situations.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2018)
When a calamitous drought overtakes southern California, a group of teens must struggle to keep their lives and their humanity in this father-son collaboration. When the Tap-Out hits and the state’s entire water supply runs dry, 16-year-old Alyssa Morrow and her little brother, Garrett, ration their Gatorade and try to be optimistic. That is, until their parents disappear, leaving them completely alone. Their neighbor Kelton McCracken was born into a survivalist family, but what use is that when it’s his family he has to survive? Kelton is determined to help Alyssa and Garrett, but with desperation comes danger, and he must lead them and two volatile new acquaintances on a perilous trek to safety and water. Occasionally interrupted by “snapshots” of perspectives outside the main plot, the narrative’s intensity steadily rises as self-interest turns deadly and friends turn on each other. No one does doom like Neal Shusterman (Thunderhead, 2018, etc.)—the breathtakingly jagged brink of apocalypse is only overshadowed by the sense that his dystopias lie just below the surface of readers’ fragile reality, a few thoughtless actions away. He and his debut novelist son have crafted a world of dark thirst and fiery desperation, which, despite the tendrils of hope that thread through the conclusion, feels alarmingly near to our future. There is an absence of racial markers, leaving characters’ identities open.< Mouths have never run so dry at the idea of thirst. (Thriller. 13-17)

About the Author

Neal Shusterman is the New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty award-winning books for children, teens, and adults, including The Unwind Dystology, The Skinjacker trilogy, Downsiders, and Challenger Deep, which won the National Book Award. Scythe, the first book in his newest series Arc of a Scythe, is a Michael L. Printz Honor Book. He also writes screenplays for motion pictures and television shows. The father of four children, Neal lives in California.

His website is www.storyman.com/

Teacher Resources

Dry on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

Dry on Amazon

Dry on Barnes and Noble

Dry on Goodreads

Dry Publisher Page

The Third Mushroom by Jennifer L. Holm

The Third Mushroom by Jennifer L. Holm. September 4, 2018. Random House Books for Young Readers, 240 p. ISBN: 9781524719814.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.7; Lexile: 500.

Ellie’s grandpa Melvin is a world-renowned scientist . . . in the body of a fourteen-year-old boy. His feet stink, and he eats everything in the refrigerator–and Ellie is so happy to have him around. Grandpa may not exactly fit in at middle school, but he certainly keeps things interesting. When he and Ellie team up for the county science fair, no one realizes just how groundbreaking their experiment will be. The formula for eternal youth may be within their reach! And when Ellie’s cat, Jonas Salk, gets sick, the stakes become even higher. But is the key to eternal life really the key to happiness? Sometimes even the most careful experiments yield unexpected–and wonderful–results.

Sequel to: The Fourteenth Goldfish

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Talk

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 4-7. In Holm’s The Thirteenth Goldfish (2014), Elle’s grandfather Melvin, a 76-year-old widowed scientist trapped in the body of a teenage boy after discovering a substance with antiaging properties, came to live with his daughter and granddaughter. More than a year after those events, seventh-grader Elle now cajoles her “cousin” Melvin into helping her conduct a science experiment for extra credit. Their project, which involves fruit flies and a mutant salamander, seems promising as a way of helping animals to regenerate lost body parts, but it has unintended consequences as well. Meanwhile, Elle navigates the awkwardness of her first date, and her grandpa/cousin Melvin deals with unsettling changes of his own. Always entertaining and often amusing, Elle’s first-person narrative offers fresh perspectives on the strength of middle-school friendships and family ties, as well as the pain of losing a beloved pet. A STEM thread runs throughout the book, in references to famous scientists, while an appended section profiles several of them and recommends related books. Lively, funny, and thought-provoking, here’s a must-read sequel to a memorable chapter book.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
Some experiments don’t work out as expected. In a satisfying sequel to The Fourteenth Goldfish (2014), seventh-grader Ellie chronicles a tentative attempt at romance, a science fair experiment with her grandfather (still in the body of a 14-year-old boy), and a new appreciation for mushrooms, a once-loathed food. She and Raj, current best friend and lunch partner, have an unsuccessful movie date. A new relationship status is not in the cards, but the unexpected consequences include the rekindling of an old friendship with Brianna—someone with shared memories—and a renewed understanding of Raj’s important role as best friend. Short, readable chapters are filled with lively dialogue and gentle humor. In her first-person, present-tense narrative, Ellie describes Raj as “goth:” “he’s got piercings and is dressed entirely in black….Even his thick hair is black…except for the long blue streak in front.” Ellie’s lack of race consciousness makes her presumably white. Her divorced parents and stepfather are shadows in this account, which focuses on her strong connection with her grandfather, who’s growing and changing as well. Most unexpected in this lightly fantastic story is a tender account of the death of a beloved pet. An ongoing STEM connection is reinforced with a backmatter “gallery” of information and suggestions for further reading about the scientists mentioned. An appealing middle school friendship story that won’t disappoint the author’s many fans. (Fiction. 9-14)

About the Author

Jennifer L. Holm is a New York Times bestselling children’s author and the recipient of three Newbery Honors for her novels Our Only May Amelia, Penny From Heaven,and Turtle in Paradise. Jennifer collaborates with her brother, Matthew Holm, on two graphic novel series—the Eisner Award-winning Babymouse series and the bestselling Squish series. She lives in California with her husband and two children.

Her website is www.jenniferholm.com/

Teacher Resources

The Third Mushroom on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

The Third Mushroom on Amazon

The Third Mushroom on Barnes and Noble

The Third Mushroom on Goodreads

The Third Mushroom Publisher Page

Mech Cadet Yu by Greg Pak

Mech Cadet Yu, Vol. 1 by Greg Pak. June 5, 2018. BOOM! Studios, 128 p. ISBN: 9781684151950.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A young boy gets the opportunity of a lifetime when he bonds with a giant sentient robot and joins the ranks of the illustrious Sky Corps Academy to protect the world from alien threats.
Every year, giant sentient robots from outer space come to Earth and bond forever with a brand new crop of cadets at Sky Corps Academy to help keep the planet safe. But this year, instead of making a connection with a cadet, one of the mechs bonds with Stanford, a young kid working with his Mom as a janitor at Sky Corps. Stanford has the opportunity of a lifetime but he’ll first have to earn the trust of his classmates if he’s to defend the planet from the monstrous Sharg.

From bestselling author Greg Pak (The Hulk, Superman) and fan favorite artist Takeshi Miyazawa (Runaways, Ms. Marvel), Mech Cadet Yu is a heartfelt underdog story set in a bright and bold sci fi world, uncovering the true makings of heroism and friendship in the face of overwhelming odds. This collection includes an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of Mech Cadet Yu, including the comic short story that inspired the series.

Part of series: Mech Cadet Yu (Book #1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

School Library Journal (September 1, 2018)
Gr 5-8-Every year giant robots from outer space come to Earth and bond with cadets at Sky Corps Academy to protect the planet. This year, one of the robots connects with Stanford Yu, a young kid who works with his mom as a janitor at Sky Corps. What follows is an underdog tale in which Stanford plays catch-up with cadet training, attempts to get closer to his classmates and his robot, and eventually faces off with the planet’s greatest threat, the Sharg. Set in the near future in Arizona, the tale strikes the perfect balance between action and drama. The battle sequences are thrilling and the characterization, writing, and dialogue strong. Asterisks note that the conversations between Stanford and his mother are translated from Cantonese. Each chapter ends on a cliff-hanger, and the volume concludes with a great battle won and a war on the horizon. Included in back matter is the original ten-page story that inspired this book, “Los Robos,” first published in Shattered: The Asian American Comics Anthology in 2012. Superstar duo Pak (“Planet Hulk”; “Batman/Superman”) and Miyazawa, who has illustrated “Runaways” and “Ms. Marvel,” have paired up for a compelling “chosen one” offering with broad appeal. VERDICT A must-have series starter.-Samantha Lumetta, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

About the Author

Greg Pak is an award-winning Korean American comic book writer and filmmaker currently writing “Mech Cadet Yu” for BOOM and “Totally Awesome Hulk” and “Weapon X” for Marvel Comics. Pak wrote the “Princess Who Saved Herself” children’s book and the “Code Monkey Save World” graphic novel based on the songs of Jonathan Coulton and co-wrote (with Fred Van Lente) the acclaimed “Make Comics Like the Pros” how-to book. Pak’s other work includes “Planet Hulk,” “World War Hulk,” “Storm,” “Action Comics,” and “Magneto Testament.”

His website is www.gregpak.com

Around the Web

Mech Cadet Yu on Amazon

Mech Cadet Yu on Barnes and Noble

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Mech Cadet Yu Publisher Page

Where She Fell by Kaitlin Ward

Where She Fell by Kaitlin Ward. October 30, 2018. Point, 272 p. ISBN: 9781338230079.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 690.

Watch your step.

Eliza knows the legends about the swamp near her house—that people have fallen into sinkholes, never to be seen again, maybe even falling to the center of the earth. As an aspiring geologist, she knows the last part is impossible. But when her best friends drag her onto the uneven ground anyway, Eliza knows to be worried.

And when the earth opens under her feet, there isn’t even time to say I told you so.

As she scrambles through one cave, which leads to another, and another, Eliza finds herself in an impossible world—where a small group of people survive underground, running from vicious creatures, eating giant bugs, and creating their own subterranean society. Eliza is grateful to be alive, but this isn’t home. Is she willing to risk everything to get back to the surface?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Mild sexual themes, Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 4))
Grades 8-11. When Eliza’s “friends” drag her to the swamp near her house on a dare, she tries to put on a brave face even though she knows the legends about the sinkholes. When the ground really does swallow her and drop her into a vast network of caves, she must rely on her love of geology to survive, a task that proves increasingly difficult as the caverns and their inhabitants—giant insects and glowing humanoids—begin to defy known science. But Eliza isn’t alone; there’s a small group of people who have similarly disappeared and found one another, and while their pseudosociety is at first a welcome relief, Eliza must resist the temptation to lose hope of returning to the surface world, as they have. Eliza’s literal journey through the dark tunnels mirrors her emotional journey as she reflects on social anxiety, cruel friends, and the lies she believes about herself. Though at times repetitive and lacking in subtlety, this empowering story of survival boasts a refreshingly realistic teenage voice and a lot of heart.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2018)
A teenager battles social anxiety disorder and giant bugs in a subterranean world. When two bad friends to whom she’s been clinging trick her into venturing into the ominously named Drowners Swamp, Eliza falls into a sinkhole that leads into a seemingly endless cave system. Being an avid fan of caves and geology, Eliza is as enthralled as she is terrified—a mix of emotions that remains unaltered as she encounters a small community of likewise trapped people surviving on a diet of outsized spiders and cave insects. Weeks later she is captured (briefly, thanks to a conveniently timed spider attack) by bioluminescent humanoids. All the while, despite having been in therapy for years, she continually denigrates herself for panic attacks and freezing up around others. Her emotional reactions take up so much of the narrative, in fact, that for all its lurid, occasionally gruesome turns, it’s hard to tell whether character or action drives the story more. In the event, Eliza is surprised to find reserves of inner strength—and a chance at personal transformation—through her ordeal. The first-person narration is punctuated with excerpts and sketches from Eliza’s journal. Except for one character with brown skin, the nonglowing cast defaults to white. Warring themes and elements give this outing a distinct feel of multiple stories yoked together by violence. Melodramatic but definitively all over the place contentwise. (Science fiction. 12-14)

About the Author

Kaitlin Ward grew up on a dairy farm in a tiny New Hampshire town, the same town where she lives now with her husband and son. She studied animal science at Cornell University and cofounded the well-known blog YA Highway. She is also the author of Where She FellGirl in a Bad Place, and Bleeding Earth.

Her website is www.kaitlin-ward.com

Around the Web

Where She Fell on Amazon

Where She Fell on Barnes and Noble

Where She Fell on Goodreads

Where She Fell Publisher Page