Tag Archives: survival

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman. February 5, 2019. Nancy Paulsen Books, 208 p. ISBN: 9781524738112.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.0.

Four determined homeless children make a life for themselves in Padma Venkatraman’s stirring middle-grade debut.

Life is harsh in Chennai’s teeming streets, so when runaway sisters Viji and Rukku arrive, their prospects look grim. Very quickly, eleven-year-old Viji discovers how vulnerable they are in this uncaring, dangerous world. Fortunately, the girls find shelter–and friendship–on an abandoned bridge. With two homeless boys, Muthi and Arul, the group forms a family of sorts. And while making a living scavenging the city’s trash heaps is the pits, the kids find plenty to laugh about and take pride in too. After all, they are now the bosses of themselves and no longer dependent on untrustworthy adults. But when illness strikes, Viji must decide whether to risk seeking help from strangers or to keep holding on to their fragile, hard-fought freedom.

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

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 11))
Grades 5-7. In India, 11-year-old Viji and her 12-year-old sister, Rukku, run away to Chennai after their violent father strikes out at them. Unprepared for living on the streets, they befriend two homeless boys: Arul, who lost his family in a tsunami, and Muthu, who escaped from a so-called school where he was confined and forced to work. Together they pick through garbage dumps for glass and metal scraps to sell, sleep on an abandoned bridge, and form their own family. Rukku’s intellectual disability has made her dependent on Viji, who gradually learns that her sister is more capable than she had thought. When Rukku and Muthu fall ill, Viji makes tough decisions in hopes of saving their lives and later must cope with her grief before she can move on. The four children and their tight-knit relationship are portrayed with conviction and finesse. Written in the form of a letter from Viji to her sister, the affecting narrative transports readers to a faraway setting that becomes vivid and real. Although the young characters face unusually difficult challenges, they nevertheless find the courage they need to move forward. The author of A Time to Dance (2014), Venkatraman offers an absorbing novel of love, loss, and resilience.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2018)
Venkatraman’s middle-grade debut tackles sisterhood, chosen families, and loss. Eleven-year-old Viji and her sister, Rukku, flee their abusive father after he breaks Amma’s arm and kicks Rukku. They find themselves, overwhelmed, in the big city of Chennai, where they are temporarily employed by kind Teashop Aunty, who offers them bananas and vadais, and fall in love with a puppy, Kutti, who becomes their constant companion. The sisters meet Muthu and Arul, two boys who live under an abandoned bridge, and join them; Viji tells Rukku elaborate stories to reassure herself and her sister that they will be OK. Soon, Viji finds herself telling the young boys her stories as well; in return, the boys show the girls how to earn money on the streets: by scavenging for resalable trash in a very large garbage dump Muthu calls “the Himalayas of rubbish.” When tragedy strikes, it is this new family who helps Viji come to terms. Craftwise, the book is thoughtful: Venkatraman employs the second person throughout as Viji writes to Rukku, and readers will ultimately understand that Viji is processing her grief by writing their story. Viji’s narration is vivid and sensory; moonlight “slip[s] past the rusty iron bars on our window”; “the taste of half an orange…last[s] and last[s].” The novel also touches on social justice issues such as caste, child labor, and poverty elegantly, without sacrificing narrative. A blisteringly beautiful book. (Fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Padma Venkatraman was born in Chennai, India, and became an American citizen after attaining a Ph.D. in oceanography from The College of William and Mary. She is also the author of A Time to Dance (IBBY selection, ALA Notable, CCBC Choice, Notable Books for a Global Society winner, and South Asia Book Award Honor Book), Island’s End (ALA Best Book of the Year, ALA/Amelia Bloomer List selection, and CCBC Best Book), and Climbing the Stairs (Julia Ward Howe Award, Bank Street Best Book, YALSA BBYA selection, Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, and CCBC Choice).

Her website is www.padmavenkatraman.com

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Dust Storm! by Terry Lynn Johnson

Dust Storm! by Terry Lynn Johnson. November 6, 2018. HMH Books for Young Readers, 128 p. ISBN: 9780544970984.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.4; Lexile: 590.

Stay calm. Stay smart. Survive.

Stranded after a dust storm hits in a desert in New Mexico, sixth-graders Jen and Martin must call upon real-life skills to come to the rescue. When disaster strikes, they will have to use all their knowledge and grit to survive.

Part of Series: Survivor Diaries

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

About the Author

Terry Lynn Johnson writes outdoor adventures.

Terry’s writing is inspired by her own team of eighteen Alaskan huskies. Her passion for adventure has provided her with a rich background to write from.

When she’s not writing, Terry enjoys hiking, snowshoeing, and kayaking. She works as a Conservation Officer (Game Warden) in Whitefish Falls, Ontario.

Her website is www.terrylynnjohnson.com

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Grenade by Alan Gratz

Grenade by Alan Gratz. October 9, 2018. Scholastic Press, 241 p. ISBN: 9781338245691.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.0; Lexile: 760.

It’s 1945, and the world is in the grip of war.

Hideki lives on the island of Okinawa, near Japan. When WWII crashes onto his shores, Hideki is drafted into the Blood and Iron Student Corps to fight for the Japanese army. He is handed a grenade and a set of instructions: Don’t come back until you’ve killed an American soldier.

Ray, a young American Marine, has just landed on Okinawa. He doesn’t know what to expect — or if he’ll make it out alive. He just knows that the enemy is everywhere.

Hideki and Ray each fight their way across the island, surviving heart-pounding ambushes and dangerous traps. But when the two of them collide in the middle of the battle, the choices they make in that instant will change everything.

From the acclaimed author of Refugee comes this high-octane story of how fear can tear us apart, and how hope can tie us back together.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war, Racism, Violence

 

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Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2018)
In the waning days of World War II, two young soldiers tell both sides of their fight to survive. It’s 1945, and Okinawa has been forced into the middle of the war between Japan and the United States. Thirteen-year-old Okinawan Hideki has been drafted to fight in the Imperial Japanese Army. Told the Americans are “monsters,” Hideki is sent off with two grenades, one to kill as many Americans as possible and one to kill himself. Meanwhile, Ray, a young, white American Marine, has landed on the beaches of Okinawa for his first battle. Only knowing what he has been taught and told, Ray is unsure of what to expect facing the Japanese army and also the Okinawan civilians—who are “simple, polite, law-abiding, and peaceable,” according to an informational brochure provided by command. Switching between the two perspectives of Hideki and Ray, Gratz (Refugee, 2017, etc.) has created a story of two very harsh realities. He shows what happens to humans as the fear, violence, and death war creates take over lives and homes. The authentic telling can be graphic and violent at times, but that contributes to the creation of a very real-feeling lens into the lives changed by war. A large-type opening note informs readers that period terminology has been used for the sake of accuracy, and a closing author’s note elaborates on this. Intense and fast-paced, this is a compelling, dark, yet ultimately heartening wartime story. (maps, historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

School Library Journal (October 1, 2018)
Gr 5 Up-In 1945, as the U.S. army neared mainland Japan, the Imperial Japanese Army evacuated its elite troops from Okinawa and left behind a force meant to slow down the Americans in the bloodiest way possible. They recruited the native Okinawans into this army, including teens like Hideki, one of the two narrators of this gripping World War II novel. As Hideki takes his two grenades (one to kill U.S. soldiers and one to kill himself), he is fated to come across the other narrator, a young American soldier, Ray. Based on research and firsthand accounts the author heard while in Okinawa, history comes violently to life in this character-driven, fictionalized account. The battle details are accurate and the characters and the growing sense of the battle’s futility are well drawn and poignant. There is some offensive contemporaneous language referring to Japanese people used within the narrative, which is explained in a note at the beginning and in greater detail in the detailed historical note at the end. While this is a chilling, realistic depiction of war, the violence is not glorified or graphically described. VERDICT An excellent World War II novel, best suited for mature readers who can handle the sensitive content and brutal realities of wartime.-Elizabeth Nicolai, Anchorage Public Library, AK

About the Author

Alan Gratz is the New York Times bestselling author of several books for young readers, including GrenadeRefugeeProjekt 1065, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2016; Prisoner B-3087, a Junior Library Guild selection that was named to YALSA’s 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults list; and Code of Honor, a YALSA 2016 Quick Pick. Alan lives in North Carolina with his wife and daughter.

His website is alangratz.blogspot.com/

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Grenade on Common Sense Media

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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

 

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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/

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I Survived the Attack of the Grizzlies, 1967 by Lauren Tarshis

I Survived the Attack of the Grizzlies, 1967 by Lauren Tarshis. September 25, 2018. Scholastic Paperbacks, 144 p. ISBN: 9780545919838.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.2; Lexile: 550.

No grizzly has ever killed a human in Glacier before . . . until tonight. Eleven-year-old Melody Vega and her family come to Glacier National Park every year, and it’s always been a place where she can forget her troubles. But this year is different. With Mom gone, every moment in the park is a heartbreaking reminder of the past.

Then Mel comes face-to-face with the mighty grizzly. Now her only thought is one of survival. Mel will soon be a part of one of the most tragic seasons in the history of America’s national parks – a summer of terror that will forever change ideas about how grizzlies and humans can exist together in the wild.

Part of Series: I Survived (Book #17)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

About the Author

Lauren Tarshis often wonders how she came to spend most of her waking moments thinking about disasters, as the author of the children’s historical fiction series “I Survived.” Each book takes readers into the heart of history’s most thrilling and terrifying events, including the sinking of the Titanic, the Shark Attacks of 1916, Hurricane Katrina, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the San Francisco earthquake, 9/11, the Battle of Gettysburg and many more.

Lauren conducts extensive research to bring her topics to life. She has traveled to most of the locations where her books are set. Her goal is to open readers’ eyes to new chapters in history and to inspire them with stories of hope and resilience.

Her website is www.laurentarshis.com

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I Survived Teaching Resources

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Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood

Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood. September 4, 2018. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 336 p. ISBN: 9781481468831.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.8.

In the tradition of The War That Saved My Life and Stella By Starlight, this poignant novel in verse based on true events tells the story of a boy’s harrowing experience on a lifeboat after surviving a torpedo attack during World War II.

With Nazis bombing London every night, it’s time for thirteen-year-old Ken to escape. He suspects his stepmother is glad to see him go, but his dad says he’s one of the lucky ones—one of ninety boys and girls to ship out aboard the SS City of Benares to safety in Canada.

Life aboard the luxury ship is grand—nine-course meals, new friends, and a life far from the bombs, rations, and his stepmum’s glare. And after five days at sea, the ship’s officers announce that they’re out of danger.

They’re wrong.

Late that night, an explosion hurls Ken from his bunk. They’ve been hit. Torpedoed! The Benares is sinking fast. Terrified, Ken scrambles aboard Lifeboat 12 with five other boys. Will they get away? Will they survive?

Award-winning author Susan Hood brings this little-known World War II story to life in a riveting novel of courage, hope, and compassion. Based on true events and real people, Lifeboat 12 is about believing in one another, knowing that only by banding together will we have any chance to survive.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war, Suicide by drowning

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2018)
An escape from war-torn Britain becomes a struggle for survival when a ship is torpedoed off the coast of England. In June 1940, Great Britain formed the Children’s Overseas Reception Board to transfer Britain’s children away from the encroaching war to safe harbors around the world. Over 200,000 children between the ages of 5 and 15 applied for just 20,000 spots. Thirteen-year-old Kenneth Sparks is chosen to travel on the City of Benares, a luxury ocean liner, to Canada, where he will live with his aunt in Edmonton. The children are distracted by rich food, new toys, and soft beds, but the accompanying convoy of war ships is a constant reminder that while the blitzkrieg might be behind them, German torpedoes are a very present threat. Three days into their voyage, the Benares is hit, sending crew and passengers into the lifeboats and the water. Ken, along with a handful of others, all white except 32 Asian sailors of varied ethnicity (called Lascars at the time), must survive with little water, food, or shelter if they are to make it out alive. Told in verse, the story of Lifeboat 12 is lyrical, terrifying, and even at times funny. Hood makes effective use of line breaks and punctuation to wrap readers up in Ken’s tale. Copious research, including interviews with the real Ken Sparks, went into the making of this fictional recasting of a true story of survival. Backmatter offers further information, including the racism experienced by the Lascars. A richly detailed account of a little-known event in World War II. (Historical verse fiction. 9-12)

School Library Journal (May 1, 2018)
Gr 4-7-It’s 1940, the beginning of the Blitz, and 13-year-old Kenneth Sparks is selected to go to Canada as part of a program to send British children to the safety of the U.K.’s overseas dominions. When his ship is torpedoed, Kenneth, five other boys from the program, and about 40 adults make it aboard Lifeboat 12, one of the only lifeboats remaining after the evening’s gale-force winds. Together, they must survive the North Atlantic in a boat with limited supplies. Evocative verse perfectly captures the horror of their situation, the agonizing disappointment of near-rescues, and the tedium of daily life aboard a cramped lifeboat. For example, immediately following the shipwreck, Kenneth spies the red rocking horse that had been in the children’s playroom floating in the wreckage: “It rears up from the sea,/the red horse of war,/its mouth open,/silently screaming/at all it sees,/rocking up and down/in the waves,/past the bodies of those/I now know/are already/dead.” Adding to the appeal of this work is an exceptionally well-curated and organized array of back matter that includes an author’s note, a nonfiction account of the real-life Lifeboat 12, photos, an essay on the author’s sources and research technique, and documented source notes for a significant amount of the book’s dialogue. VERDICT This stirring novel-in-verse based on a true story is an edge-of-your-seat survival tale, an extensively researched work of historical fiction, and an exemplar of the form.-Eileen Makoff, P.S. 90 Edna Cohen School, NY

About the Author

Susan Hood has written more than 200 picture books. She has received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist, and her book Spike, The Mixed-Up Monster won the 2013 International Latino Award and was selected for the Charlotte Zolotow Highly Commended List. The Tooth Mouse was named a 2013 Best Book of the Year by Bank Street and the Cooperative Children’s Book Center. Prior to becoming an author, Susan was a children’s magazine editor at Scholastic and Instructor Magazine, a book editor at Sesame Workshop, and the Children’s Content Director of Nick Jr. MagazineAda’s Violin is her latest nonfiction picture book and Lifeboat 12 is her first novel in verse.

Her website is www.susanhoodbooks.com

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Orphaned by Eliot Schrefer

Orphaned by Eliot Schrefer. September 25, 2018. Scholastic Press, 305 p. ISBN: 9780545655057.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Before humans, and before human history, there were the apes.

Snub is a young gorilla, living in the heart of what will eventually be known as Africa. She is jealous of her mother’s new baby . . . and restless in her need to explore. When a natural disaster shakes up her family, Snub finds herself as the guardian of her young sibling . . . and lost in a reshaped world.

Snub may feel orphaned, but she is not alone. There are other creatures stalking through the woods — a new form of predator, walking on two legs. One of their kind is also orphaned, and is taken in by Snub. But the intersection of the human world and the gorilla world will bring both new connections and new battles.

In his boldest work yet, two-time National Book Award finalist Eliot Schrefer shows us a riveting, heartbreaking early encounter between ape and man — told from the ape’s point of view. It is a journey unlike any other in recent literature.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence and death among animals in the wild

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2018)
The last entry in a quartet by Schrefer (Mez’s Magic, 2018, etc.) chronicles an imagined early encounter between a human child and a gorilla family. The setting is Africa’s Great Rift Valley 600,000 years ago, when volcanic eruptions changed the landscape, bringing early humans into contact with apes for the first time. The story is written in free verse from the point of view of a young female gorilla, Snub, whose family group consists of Mother; Brother; baby brother, Breath; two older females, Wrinkled and Teased; and Silverback, the alpha male. A volcanic eruption disrupts the little group, and Snub becomes a leader, in charge of baby Breath and Brother, as she negotiates a perilous, rapidly-changing landscape in search of hospitable habitat for her family. The main threat comes not from the volcano but from the “not-gorillas,” early humans who, although physically weaker, have superior skills and use rocks as tools and missiles to attack the gorillas. The titular orphan is a young girl who befriends the small gorilla family and helps to protect and defend them with her human abilities. Scientific accuracy paired with lyrical, subjective language describing the young gorilla’s impressions of her surroundings and bodily needs make this book an imaginative, eloquent evocation of a little-known era in prehistory from an animal’s viewpoint. A plausibly authentic account skillfully avoiding risk of excessive anthropomorphism. (Novel in verse. 12-16)

School Library Journal (October 1, 2018)
Gr 4-7-In this fourth installment in Schrefer’s quartet, early humans make contact with apes many thousands of years ago. Written in verse, the story centers on Snub, a young female gorilla who lives with her extended family in Africa’s Great Rift Valley. When a natural disaster strikes, Snub is left as the head of her family and she must protect the younger apes from violence by the “not-gorillas” (the humans). Snub eventually befriends an orphaned human girl who uses her unique skills to help the ape family. Schrefer’s deep knowledge and passion for biology, geology, history, and geography is on full display in this emotionally complex tale. Each word is intentional and every shift in the narrative filled with dramatic (though never heavy-handed) purpose. The ways in which Schrefer explores the meaning of home and how it evolves through the introduction of humans is breathtaking. Schrefer’s ability to articulate an anthropological rendering of a gorilla’s first experiences with humans is both beautiful and brutal. Embedded within the narrative is the story of a daughter taking on the role as head of household and developing confidence in herself, her perspective, and her decisions. The integration of the gorilla’s own language is brilliant and elucidates ineffable moments. VERDICT Filled with deeply resonant moments that move and challenge; highly recommended for all middle grade and young adult collections.-Alpha DeLap, St. Thomas School, Medina, WA

About the Author

Eliot Schrefer’s Endangered and Threatened were named as finalists for the National Book Award. He is also the author of RescuedThe Deadly SisterThe School for Dangerous GirlsGlamorous Disasters, and The New Kid. He lives in New York City.

His website is www.eliotschrefer.com/

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What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper. February  20, 2018. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781524700393.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 720.

For fans of The Book Thief and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas comes a lushly illustrated novel about a teen Holocaust survivor, who must come to terms with who she is and how to rebuild her life.

After losing her family and everything she knew in the Nazi concentration camps, Gerta is finally liberated, only to find herself completely alone. Without her Papa, her music, or even her true identity, she must move past the task of surviving and onto living her life. In the displaced persons camp where she is staying, Gerta meets Lev, a fellow teen survivor who she just might be falling for, despite her feelings for someone else. With a newfound Jewish identity she never knew she had, and a return to the life of music she thought she lost forever, Gerta must choose how to build a new future.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Violence, Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. Before Nazis dragged Gerta Rausch and her father to the Theresienstadt ghetto and, ultimately, to Auschwitz, Gerta was different. Literally. According to her Ahnenpass, a certificate of Aryan lineage, she was Gerta Richter. She had no knowledge of her Jewish heritage; she also had a white-hot passion for all things music. Now, her familiarity with viola—and enrollment in the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz—has saved her life, but Gerta has yet to salvage her greatest love from the rubble: her singing voice. But one boy may be dead set on helping her find it. Sifting through the war’s aftermath, Stamper’s debut spotlights a multitude of oft-overlooked topics, from postwar pogroms and the Bergen-Belsen displaced-persons camp where Gerta resides, to the budding Zionist movement. Stamper’s ethereal sepia-toned illustrations, teetering between black-and-white and full color, beautifully convey Gerta’s dilemma as a girl on the brink of both adolescence and adulthood, friendship and romance, silence and song. A well-researched, elegant, and fittingly melodic exploration of reclaiming one’s voice—and the many kinds of faith it can spark.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2018)
This moving, beautifully illustrated novel begins with the 1945 liberation of Bergen-Belsen, when adolescent survivor Gerta is relocated to a displaced persons camp. The time Stamper spends on Gerta’s postwar story, a somewhat unusual focus for a Holocaust novel, allows for thoughtful exploration of the particular challenges of rebuilding a life after the Holocaust’s devastation. Gerta, still healing emotionally and physically, finds herself making decisions about her romantic, religious, and artistic future that seem startling in their speed. A long flashback gives context for the peculiar assortment of memories influencing her now: she grew up a promising musician and learned of her Jewish background and real last name (Rausch, not Richter) only when her father revealed the truth on the train to Theresienstadt. The flashback traces Gerta’s experiences from the fear and starvation of the ghetto to the even more horrific conditions of Auschwitz-Birkenau (her father is immediately sent to his death; Gerta survives largely because her musical ability places her in the Women’s Orchestra, where she is forced to serenade women and children on their walk to the gas chamber). Dreamlike prose and digitally toned black-and-white illustrations in ink wash, white gouache, and graphite, ranging from spot art to spacious full-bleed wordless spreads, combine with thick, creamy paper to create a volume with the feel of an art object. Back matter includes an author’s note about Stamper’s inspiration and her research visits to concentration camps, a glossary, a map, and resources. shoshana flax

About the Author

Vesper Stamper was born in Nuremberg, Germany and raised in New York City. Her family was an eclectic mix of engineers, musicians and artists who didn’t think Voltaire too tough for bedtime reading, Chopin Valses too loud for wake-up calls, or precision slide rules too fragile as playthings. She married filmmaker Ben Stamper right out of college, and together they have two wildly creative children. When Vesper earned her MFA in Illustration from School of Visual Arts, Ben gave her an orange tree. She illustrates and writes under its leaves and blossoms at her grandfather’s old drafting table, in the pine woods of the Northeast.

Her website is www.vesperillustration.com

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Deep Water: A Story of Survival by Watt Key

Deep Water: A Story of Survival  by Watt Key. April 17, 2018. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 272 p. ISBN: 9780374306540.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.5; Lexile: 720.

A middle grade survival story about a scuba dive gone wrong and two enemies who must unite to survive.

It’s the most important rule of scuba diving: If you don’t feel right, don’t go down.

So after her father falls ill, twelve-year-old Julie Sims must take over and lead two of his clients on a dive miles off the coast of Alabama while her father stays behind in the boat. When the clients, a reckless boy Julie’s age and his equally foolhardy father, disregard Julie’s instructions during the dive, she quickly realizes she’s in over her head.

And once she surfaces, things only get worse: One of the clients is in serious condition, and their dive boat has vanished–along with Julie’s father, the only person who knows their whereabouts. It’s only a matter of time before they die of hypothermia, unless they become shark bait first. Though Julie may not like her clients, it’s up to her to save them all.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 5-7. When 12-year-old Julie is descending more than 100 feet below the ocean’s surface, all she can think about is how to complete the dive safely—not how miserable her father, owner of a small diving business, has been since her mother left him to move to Atlanta. But when Julie must lead a dive with two reckless clients whose expensive equipment is as untested as they are, she encounters a nightmare more harrowing than any of her problems on land. This scenario closely matches the events of Key’s Terror at Bottle Creek (2016), this time starring a female protagonist. Julie is a tough, smart, and resilient lead, although her narration does not come across as believably 12. Classmate and client Shane is Julie’s forgettable companion for an oceanic ordeal that Key treats with his signature compelling detail and suspense. Readers hungry for an epic tale of grueling odds will also find lessons in bravery, resourcefulness, and practical survival advice. Just try to stop yourself from committing Julie’s shark-repelling strategies to memory.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2018)
Twelve-year-old Julie supervises an important dive for her father’s scuba-diving business, but she soon learns that when you play against Mother Nature it is for keeps.During the school year, Julie lives with her mother in Atlanta, but her summers are spent with her father in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Unfortunately, although her mother’s law career is taking off, her father’s dive business is struggling. When a wealthy businessman and his arrogant son, Shane, demand to see the artificial reef her father owns, the money is just too important to turn down. Her father, a diabetic, decides Julie should run the dive, so when the anchor pulls, leaving the three of them lost at sea, it is up to Julie to do what she can to save them all. But sharks, hypothermia, dehydration, and exposure might prove more than she can handle. Inspired by a diving accident the author himself experienced, this is a gritty look at what can happen when everything goes wrong. Julie is arrogant and fearful, but she’s also strong and quick-thinking. Shane likewise evolves during the ordeal, but it is the beautiful, terrible, and dangerous Mother Nature who steals the show. Julie is depicted as white on the cover, and the book seems to adhere to the white default. A nail-biting survival tale. (Adventure. 10-14)

About the Author

Watt Key received his BA from Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama. He subsequently earned an MBA from Springhill College in Mobile, AL. While working as a computer programmer, he began submitting novels to major publishers in New York City. When he was 34 years he sold his debut novel, Alabama Moon, to publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Watt currently lives with his wife and three children in Mobile, Alabama.

Her website is www.wattkey.com.

Teacher Resources

Watt Key Common Core Guide

Around the Web

Deep Water on Amazon

Deep Water on Goodreads

Deep Water Publisher Page

Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston. February 27, 2018. Balzer + Bray, 480 p. ISBN: 9780062652850.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 740.

Seventeen-year-old Ana is a scoundrel by nurture and an outlaw by nature. Found as a child drifting through space with a sentient android called D09, Ana was saved by a fearsome space captain and the grizzled crew she now calls family. But D09—one of the last remaining illegal Metals—has been glitching, and Ana will stop at nothing to find a way to fix him.

Ana’s desperate effort to save D09 leads her on a quest to steal the coordinates to a lost ship that could offer all the answers. But at the last moment, a spoiled Ironblood boy beats Ana to her prize. He has his own reasons for taking the coordinates, and he doesn’t care what he’ll sacrifice to keep them.

When everything goes wrong, she and the Ironblood end up as fugitives on the run. Now their entire kingdom is after them—and the coordinates—and not everyone wants them captured alive.

What they find in a lost corner of the universe will change all their lives—and unearth dangerous secrets. But when a darkness from Ana’s past returns, she must face an impossible choice: does she protect a kingdom that wants her dead or save the Metal boy she loves?

Part of series: Heart of Iron (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, War, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol, Criminal culture, Gore; Murder

 

Author Video

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 7))
Grades 9-12. Deep in the stars, Ana was found by the starship Dossier as a child, alone except for sentient android D09, and she was raised by the ship’s captain and her crew of space pirates. As a teenager, Ana searches for a way to save D09, who has begun to break down—a challenge, as Di is one of the only remaining Metals who isn’t part of the HIVE, the system that strips androids of their free will. Ana refuses to lose the android boy she can’t help but love, despite his own inability to feel emotions. On a quest to save Di, Ana encounters Robb, an elite Ironborn whose despotic brother is about to ascend the throne, which has stood empty since the princess who should have inherited it disappeared after a Metal rebellion. The legends surrounding Anastasia Romanov get an sf makeover in this occasionally overcrowded but always exciting Firefly-style space opera. A wide cast of supporting characters and several same-sex romances add depth, and a violent, volatile ending leaves room for more.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2017)
The story of Anastasia, lost princess of Imperial Russia, retold as space opera.In 1918, the 17-year-old daughter of Russia’s last czar was murdered with her family, but rumors persisted for decades that she might have survived in secret. In this version, the family of the Emperor of the Iron Kingdom, including his daughter Ananke Armorov, is known to have been murdered seven years ago in the android rebellion. Meanwhile, a ragtag crew of space pirates is community to brown-skinned and burn-scarred Ana. Ana’s best friend—about whom she has secret, more-than-friend feelings—is Di, a Metal: an android. Metals aren’t popular since the rebellion; most have been infected with the mind-controlling HIVE program that removes their free will. Complicating matters are Robb, a blue-eyed, olive-skinned noble on his own quest, and Jax, a violet-eyed, silver-haired Solani boy who pilots the pirate ship. Jax and Robb keep making eyes at each other, which is troublesome, since Robb’s mother wants Ana’s whole crew dead. Melodramatic back stories abound: there’s a prophesied savior, a prince in hiding with a secret power, and a noble young man with no memory. Malapropisms abound in the florid, awkward narrative (“Her voice warbled with the weight of those words”). There’s the kernel of a dramatic space yarn here, but it never comes to fruition. A surplus of angst-ridden back stories told in deeply regrettable prose. (Science fiction. 12-15)

About the Author

Ashley Poston’s is a part-time author and full-time fangirl. She was born in rural South Carolina, where you can see the stars impossibly well…

She loves dread pirates, moving castles, and starry night skies. When not lost in a book, she’s lost in real life, searching for her next great adventure. She is the author of Heart of Iron and Geekerella .

Her website is www.ashposton.com

Around the Web

Heart of Iron on Amazon

Heart of Iron on Goodreads

Heart of Iron Publisher Page