Tag Archives: survival

A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay

A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay. March 14, 2017. Candlewick Press, 272 p. ISBN: 9780763688370.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.9; Lexile: 660.

In an isolated society, one girl makes a discovery that will change everything — and learns that a single stone, once set in motion, can bring down a mountain.

Jena — strong, respected, reliable — is the leader of the line, a job every girl in the village dreams of. Watched over by the Mothers as one of the chosen seven, Jena’s years spent denying herself food and wrapping her limbs have paid off. She is small enough to squeeze through the tunnels of the mountain and gather the harvest, risking her life with each mission. No work is more important. This has always been the way of things, even if it isn’t easy. But as her suspicions mount and Jena begins to question the life she’s always known, the cracks in her world become impossible to ignore. Thought-provoking and quietly complex, Meg McKinlay’s novel unfolds into a harshly beautiful tale of belief, survival, and resilience stronger than stone

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Self-starvation, Self-injury

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 5-8. Jena is the leader of her line of seven girls primed since birth to navigate natural mountain passageways and harvest the mica that fuels their community. The mountain is revered, and the Mothers lead the isolated village nestled in its basin. Digging passages is forbidden, so slim-framed girls are bound tightly from infancy to create lithe figures that might easily slip through rock crevices to gather the harvests. McKinlay’s middle-grade dystopia quietly builds a peaceful society, in which Jena is proud of her position and honors the word of the Mothers. When her adoptive mother goes into labor far too early, however, Jena suspects a plot to produce smaller girls to work the line. As she investigates her suspicions and recalls events from her childhood, cracks begin to appear in the Mothers’ stories. Tension twists through the narrative in the claustrophobic mountain passages, the polite yet oppressively controlled society, and Jena’s risky rebellion. Action is minimal, but detail-oriented readers who like stepping into a carefully crafted world will find plenty to ponder in this book’s pages.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2017)
In an isolated mountain village, seven girls tunnel deep into the earth in order to provide for the well-being of all.Fourteen-year-old Jena is the leader of the line, a group of seven carefully trained girls who harvest mica from deep within the mountain. For their village, heat- and light-giving mica is life-sustaining, and if not collected with reverence for the mountain, terrible things can happen, such as the Rockfall that took many villagers’ lives generations ago. The Mothers, wise women who govern the village, carefully select the tiniest baby girls to be prepared for their futures as tunnelers. From birth, the chosen ones are wrapped tightly and fed very little in order to prevent them from becoming too large to fit the tight spaces that weave through the mountain. When Jena discovers the Mothers are inducing labor months early in order to birth smaller babies for training, she questions everything she was raised to believe. The novel simultaneously takes on dystopian and time-slip qualities, but it is of neither genre, and readers will appreciate being left to figure it out for themselves. Similarly, the villagers seem to be pale-skinned but are otherwise racially indeterminate. The prose flows gracefully, like rivulets down a mountainside. Like its classic predecessors, Nan Chauncy’s Tangara (1960) and Patricia Wrightson’s The Nargun and the Stars (1974), this Australian novel explores the ways in which identity is tied to the land one inhabits. A beautiful, sparkling gem. (Fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Meg McKinlay is a children’s writer and poet living in Fremantle, Western Australia

She has published twelve books for children, ranging from picture books through to young adult novels, and a collection of poetry for adults. Her most recent publications are the chapter book Bella and the Wandering House and novel A Single Stone, which won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction as well as a number of other awards.

A former academic, swimming teacher, Japanese interpreter and tour guide, Meg has accidentally lived her life in accordance with the song lyrics, “If you see a strange door to your left/then drop your things and run for it”, which is how she found herself wrangling words for a living. Meg has no plans to drop writing, though; she is always cooking up more books, with two new picture books scheduled for 2017, and more to follow.

Her website is www.megmckinlay.com.

Teacher Resources

A Single Stone Teaching Guide

Around the Web

A Single Stone on Amazon

A Single Stone on Goodreads

A Single Stone on JLG

A Single Stone Publisher Page

Nemesis by Brendan Reichs

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

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

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

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

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

Part of Series: Project Nemesis (Book 1)

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

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

His website is www.brendanreichs.com.

Around the Web

Nemesis on Amazon

Nemesis on Goodreads

Nemesis on JLG

Nemesis Publisher Page

Bone Jack by Sara Crowe

Bone Jack by Sara Crowe. February 7, 2017. Philomel Books, 256 p. ISBN: 9780399176517.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.2; Lexile: 620.

A haunting story of magic and myth, of one boy caught between worlds, and of the lengths he will travel to save those he loves.

Times have been tough for Ash lately, and all he wants is for everything to go back to the way it used to be. Back before drought ruined the land and disease killed off the livestock. Before Ash’s father went off to war and returned carrying psychological scars. Before his best friend, Mark, started acting strangely.

As Ash trains for his town’s annual Stag Chase—a race rooted in violent, ancient lore—he’s certain that if he can win and make his father proud, life will return to normal. But the line between reality and illusion is rapidly blurring, and the past has a way of threatening the present.

When a run in the mountains brings Ash face-to-face with Bone Jack—a figure that guards the boundary between the living world and the dead—everything changes once more. As dark energies take root and the world as he knows it is upended, it’s up to Ash to restore things to their proper order and literally run for his life.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Bullying; Killing of animals; Suicide of a parent

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 7-10. Ash has been training for months for his village’s annual Stag Chase, the modern iteration of an ancient ritual to usher in a prosperous season. This year, Ash will be the revered Stag Boy, leading a pack of Hound Boys on a chase around the mountains. He should be elated, but he’s struggling with both the return of his PTSD-afflicted father and his ex–best friend Mark’s eerie descent into a violent, weird obsession with both the pagan roots of the Stag Chase and a mythical being, Bone Jack, who monitors the gateway between life and death. Crowe cultivates an unsettling atmosphere with ghostly apparitions, threats of violence, and descriptions of grotesqueries, such as a rotting stag head and a cape of crow carcasses. Amid the looming danger, Crowe leaves plenty of room for meaningful conversations about family, loyalty, and mental illness, particularly pertaining to Ash’s father. Though this might seem like just another ghost story, there’s subtle depth here, too, and teen fans of both horror and literary fiction will find lots to like.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
In a grim season, one rural tradition seems less like a boys’ romp and more like a gateway for the old powers.This ought to be a banner year for 13-year-old Ash, finally selected as the stag boy. As the lead runner in his British town’s annual Stag Chase, Ash should be preparing to race his best friend, Mark, and the other boys their age, hounds to his stag. If only the whole town weren’t shattered with grief. A foot-and-mouth outbreak has devastated the area, with tragic consequences; Mark’s dad hanged himself in the barn. Ash’s own father, an army captain, has returned from the war—afflicted with PTSD, haunted by visions and rising alcoholism. Even the Stag Chase itself seems corrupted. Ash sees creepy crows in the woods, skulls draped in the trees, ghost stag boys, and (most uncanny) Mark living in the woods, dressed in rags and daubed with clay. The old ways are rising, Mark insists, and the stag boy’s destiny will not be a happy one. In haunting, lyrical prose, Ash tries to protect himself from Bone Jack the soul-taker while learning to be a better son and friend. With a deft hand, Crowe twines the ancient folk motifs around her evocation of modern Britain—with one exception: characters’ races go unspecified, leaching it of its multicultural vigor. A lovely, eerie adventure that balances the ancient magic with its protagonist’s very real character growth. (Fantasy. 11-13)

About the Author

Sara Crowe was born in Cornwall and raised all over England by her restless parents. She taught cinema and photography studies until 2012 when she and her partner bought a van and spent the next 18 months travelling around the British Isles. She currently lives in a tumbledown cottage in Lincolnshire. Bone Jack is her first novel.

Her website is http://theforest.me.

Around the Web

Bone Jack on Amazon

Bone Jack on Goodreads

Bone Jack on JLG

Bone Jack Publisher Page

A Storm Too Soon by Michael Tougias

A Storm Too Soon: A Remarkable True Survival Story in 80 Foot Seas by Michael Tougias. May 24, 2016. Henry Holt and Co., 240 p. ISBN: 9781627792813.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.0; Lexile: 1090.

When a forty-seven-foot sailboat disappears in the Gulf Stream in the throes of a disastrous storm, it leaves behind three weary passengers struggling to stay alive. This middle-grade adaptation of an adult nonfiction book tells the story of the four intrepid Coast Guardsmen who braved this ruthless storm in the hopes of saving them. A spellbinding tale of courage and survival from the author of The Finest Hours, now a major motion picture.

Part of Series: True Storm Rescues

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Alcohol; Domestic abuse

 

Book Trailer/Actual Footage

Reviews

Booklist (August 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 22))
Grades 5-8. When three men set out to sail from Florida to France, they hardly suspect the terrifying fate awaiting them. After several peaceful days aboard the Sean Seamour II, the sailors are overtaken by a sudden storm. Gigantic waves sink the boat, along with the men’s supplies. The exhausted sailors cling to a damaged life raft that provides little defense against the wind and waves. Meanwhile, back on land, a search-and-rescue plane deploys with the nearly impossible mission of locating the raft in the maelstrom. Once the raft is spotted, it is a constant struggle to track it while the helicopter crew maneuvers a rescue swimmer into 80-foot waves—large enough to possibly take down the aircraft. This true story, adapted from the 2013 adult book of the same title, reads like a thriller, with one thing after another going wrong and each challenge seemingly impossible to overcome. The courage displayed by the team may inspire readers to learn more about their exciting (if life-threatening) careers.

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2016)
In an adaptation for young readers of his A Storm Too Soon: A True Story of Disaster, Survival, and an Incredible Rescue (2013), Tougias tells the story of the Sean Seymour II, a 44-foot sailboat swamped in a Gulf Stream storm in 2007. For Rudy Snel, Jean Pierre “JP” de Lutz, and Ben Frye, it’s a dream voyage to cross the Atlantic from Florida to France in JP’s beloved boat. Conditions are favorable, the boat is in great shape, and the white men will be sailing in May, ahead of the hurricane season. They will simply sail northeast toward Bermuda and turn due east toward Europe. But best-laid plans go awry, and they find themselves caught in a storm of otherworldly proportions. Eighty-foot rogue waves sink the boat, and all hope resides in their life raft and their global position-indicating radio beacon. Tougias’ third-person narrative, condensed and more tightly focused than the adult version, brings to life the struggles and heroism of the sailors and rescuers alike, highlighting life lessons learned. The urgent present-tense narration places readers in the action, with smoothly woven detours adding information on such details as the trick to getting into a lifeboat, how sharks attack, and brief biographies of the rescuers. Readers will be fascinated by details about rescue boats, hypothermia, sharks, the Gulf Stream, and the difficult lives after survival. A sure-fire hit with young readers who are always ready for a good disaster tale. (epilogue, author’s note) (Nonfiction. 9-14)

About the Author

Michael J. Tougias is an award winning author and co-author of 24 books.

Among his bestsellers are The Finest Hours (Disney Motion Pictures’ version will open in 45 countries in January 2016), Fatal Forecast, Overboard, King Philip’s War, and There’s A Porcupine In My Outhouse: The Vermont Misadventures of a Mountain Man Wannabe.

Tougias lectures across the country on each of his book topics. He also offers leadership/inspirational programs for business groups, and has spoken to companies and organizations such as General Dynamics, Raytheon, Massachusetts School Library Association, New York University Surgeons Round Table and many more.

His website is www.michaeltougias.com.

Around the Web

A Storm Too Soon on Amazon

A Storm Too Soon on Goodreads

A Storm Too Soonon JLG

A Storm Too Soon Publisher Page

Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart

Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart. January 3, 2017. Scholastic Press, 256 p. ISBN: 9781338053845.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.5; Lexile: 610.

Jonathan Grisby is the newest arrival at the Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys — an ancient, crumbling fortress of gray stone rising up from the ocean. It is dark, damp, and dismal. And it is just the place Jonathan figures he deserves.

Because Jonathan has done something terrible. And he’s willing to accept whatever punishment he has coming.

Just as he’s getting used to his new situation, however, a freak accident leaves the troubled boys of Slabhenge without any adult supervision. Suddenly the kids are free, with an entire island to themselves. But freedom brings unexpected danger. And if Jonathan can’t come to terms with the sins of his past and lead his new friends to safety . . . then every boy on the island is doomed.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Bullying; Concealing dead bodies

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 5))
Grades 4-6. Holes meets Lord of the Flies in this fast-paced novel set in a reform school on a creepy island. Jonathan Grisby has been sentenced to 10 weeks at Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys. Jonathan, haunted by the tragic circumstances that condemned him to the school, is prepared to serve his time. When a freak accident eliminates (deservedly) the entire staff of adults, the boys turn their prison into a playhouse, though it soon becomes evident that one sort of authoritarian rule has been exchanged for another. The book incorporates the atmospheric hallmarks of an island-bound suspense tale: a crumbling fortress, dank passages, giant rats, and a dark and stormy night. Jonathan is a brave young man capable of leading the boys through this extraordinary situation—if only he was not so incapacitated by his grief and guilt. Told with pathos and compassion, this rises above the label of survival story and examines the way truth and redemption are interconnected in one troubled boy’s life.

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 1, 2016)
Lord of the Flies set on Alcatraz, with the Gothic sensibility of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. Twelve-year-old Jonathan Grisby has been sentenced to 10 weeks at Slabhenge Reformatory for Troubled Boys, an enormous, decaying fortresslike island prison off an unknown coast, formerly an insane asylum, for a crime that has him staggering under his own guilt. At Slabhenge, rats run wild, a monster lurks behind a locked door, and 15 boys ages 10 through 14 cower in damp cells under the sadistic control of the head. That is, until Jonathan’s first morning there, when a bolt of lightning kills every grown-up in the place without harming a single boy. At the urging of Sebastian, an older boy with dark urges toward control, and Jonathan, who cannot bear the thought of returning home, the multiracial inmates decide to stay awhile and enjoy a bit of freedom. They stick the dead bodies in the walk-in freezer, feast on the stores of food long denied them, and gradually fall under Sebastian’s despotic rule. Before Sebastian can gain complete control or anything truly ugly can happen, a wild storm starts to break Scar Island apart. In finding the courage to rescue his companions, Jonathan finds the strength to face his past. It’s grotesque, compelling, over-the-top, yet fully realized, and nothing like Gemeinhart’s previous work. Children who respond to it well will read it over and over again. (Fiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Hi! I live in a small town smack dab in the middle of Washington state with my wife and three young daughters. I was lucky and grateful to be a teacher-librarian in an elementary school for 13 years, where I got to share awesome books with awesome kids. I love camping, cooking and traveling. I also play guitar (badly) and read (constantly). My house is always a mess. I am really pretty darn happy.

I’ve written three middle grade novels: Scar Island, The Honest Truth, and Some Kind of Courage.

Dan’s website is www.dangemeinhart.com.

Around the Web

Scar Island on Amazon

Scar Island on Goodreads

Scar Island on JLG

Scar Island Publisher Page

Irena’s Children by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Irena’s Children: Young Readers Edition by Tilar J. Mazzeo; adapted by Mary Cronk Farrell. September 27, 2016. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9781481449915.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.6.

From New York Times bestselling author Tilar Mazzeo comes the extraordinary and long forgotten story of Irena Sendler—the “female Oskar Schindler”—who took staggering risks to save 2,500 children from death and deportation in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II—now adapted for a younger audience.

Irena Sendler was a young Polish woman living in Warsaw during World War II with an incredible story of survival and selflessness. And she’s been long forgotten by history.

Until now.

This young readers edition of Irena’s Children tells Irena’s unbelievable story set during one of the worst times in modern history. With guts of steel and unfaltering bravery, Irena smuggled thousands of children out of the walled Jewish ghetto in toolboxes and coffins, snuck them under overcoats at checkpoints, and slipped them through the dank sewers and into secret passages that led to abandoned buildings, where she convinced her friends and underground resistance network to hide them.

In this heroic tale of survival and resilience in the face of impossible odds, Tilar Mazzeo and adapter Mary Cronk Farrell share the true story of this bold and brave woman, overlooked by history, who risked her life to save innocent children from the horrors of the Holocaust.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war; Genocide; Anti-Semitism; Violent images and imagery; The Holocaust; Sexual assault; Xenophobia

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 2))
Grades 5-8. Farrell adapts Mazzeo’s adult book for young readers, recounting the inspiring true story of Polish social worker Irena Sendler, who risked her life to save 2,500 Jewish children in the Warsaw ghetto from the Nazis during WWII. Between 1939 through 1945, ghetto inhabitants increasingly died of disease and starvation and were deported to extermination camps. In the midst of these horrific living conditions, Sendler and a small group of mostly female Jewish friends falsified Jewish children’s paperwork, giving them Catholic identities, and ingeniously smuggled them out of the ghetto under overcoats, in coffins and toolboxes, and through underground sewers and tunnels. Known as “the female Oskar Schindler,” Sendler was arrested and interrogated by the Nazis but never broke under torture. She was short in stature but had immense courage and didn’t consider herself a hero: “What I did was not an extraordinary thing.” The children Sendler saved and the readers of this moving biography would undoubtedly disagree.

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2016)
In Jewish belief, there are righteous people in every generation who can repair a tear in the universe. Irena Sendler was truly one of them.Born into a comfortable Polish Catholic family, Irena had many Jewish friends growing up, and they shared idealistic beliefs. When the Germans invaded Poland and set off World War II, she was determined to assist the Jewish population in any way possible, especially those in the walled-off Warsaw ghetto. Carrying necessary papers she was able to enter and leave the ghetto. She and like-minded Poles rescued as many as 2,500 Jewish children, carefully recording names and keeping them in a jar (never found). She kept up her mission even as conditions within the walls became worse, as starvation, disease, the “murderous brutality” of the German occupying forces, and deportations to extermination camps grew in intensity. Even arrest, torture, and a miraculous release from certain death did not stop her. Farrell’s adaptation of Mazzeo’s adult title (2016) clearly presents her life and the ever present reality of death in a sobering, heartbreaking narrative. Readers will understand how Sendler came to be honored by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.  (Biography. 12-18)

About the Author

Tilar J. Mazzeo is a cultural historian, biographer, and passionate student of wine and food culture. She divides her time among the California wine country, New York City, and Maine, where she is a professor of English at Colby College.

Her website is www.tilar-mazzeo-author.com.
I’m an award-winning author of Children’s/YA books and former journalist with a passion for stories about people facing great adversity with courage. Writing such stories has shown me that in our darkest moments we have the opportunity to discover our true identity and follow an inner compass toward the greater good.

Both my fiction and non-fiction titles feature little-known true stories of history based on thorough research. Most include an author’s note, bibliography and further resources, but they are not dry, scholarly tomes! Confronting grief, adversity and failure in my own life, enables me to write stories with an authentic emotional core.

My books have been named Notable Social Studies Book for Young People, SPUR Award for Best Juvenile Fiction about the American West, Bank Street College List of Best Children’s Books, and NY Public Library Best Books for Teens. My journalistic work has received numerous awards for excellence from the Society of Professional Journalists and two Emmy nominations.

Her website is www.marycronkfarrell.net.

Teacher Resources

Irena’s Children Reading Group Guide

Irena Sendler and the Warsaw Ghetto Lesson Plan

The Warsaw Ghetto Lesson Plan

Around the Web

Irena’s Children on Amazon

Irena’s Children on JLG

Irena’s Children on Goodreads

 

To Stay Alive by Skila Brown

To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party by Skila Brown. October 11, 2016. Candlewick, 304 p. ISBN: 9780763678111.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.3; Lexile: 860.

Told in riveting, keenly observed poetry, a moving first-person narrative as experienced by a young survivor of the tragic Donner Party of 1846.

The journey west by wagon train promises to be long and arduous for nineteen-year-old Mary Ann Graves and her parents and eight siblings. Yet she is hopeful about their new life in California: freedom from the demands of family, maybe some romance, better opportunities for all. But when winter comes early to the Sierra Nevada and their group gets a late start, the Graves family, traveling alongside the Donner and Reed parties, must endure one of the most harrowing and storied journeys in American history. Amid the pain of loss and the constant threat of death from starvation or cold, Mary Ann’s is a narrative, told beautifully in verse, of a girl learning what it means to be part of a family, to make sacrifices for those we love, and above all to persevere.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Domestic violence; Death; Murder; Cannibalism; Harsh realities of surviving in the wilderness

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 2))
Grades 6-9. Their land sold, livestock traded, and belongings bundled into groaning wagons, the Graves family has 1,900 miles to go. It’s spring 1846, and Franklin and Elizabeth Graves—along with their nine children—are headed west, trekking from their home in Lacon, Illinois, to Sutter’s Fort, California. Months into the expedition, the family merges with the Donner and Reed parties; there’s strength in numbers, and the Hastings Cutoff, a route south of the Great Salt Lake, is rumored to chop weeks from the increasingly backbreaking journey. That is, until winter falls early, notoriously trapping the families “less than one hundred miles” from their intended destination. In this concise collection of narrative poetry, Brown assumes the voice of 19-year-old Mary Ann Graves, nimbly straddling the unfathomably harsh realities of travel, starvation, and bloodshed through the imagined musings of a headstrong girl entranced by quilts, birds, and the beauty of the moon. With her refreshingly varied form and ever-earnest tone, Brown weaves a compelling story of suffering, sacrifice, and survival.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2016)
A fictional account of the Donner Party’s ill-fated attempt to cross the Sierra Nevada in 1846.Looking for a better life in California, Franklin Graves decides to take his large family west from Illinois. Nineteen-year-old Mary Ann relates in verse their experiences on the wagon trail as they meet up with other families, including the Donners, and are eventually trapped in the mountains during a brutal winter. The historical Mary Ann Graves survived the ordeal, and her letters to a newspaper editor form the basis for the novel’s details. Across four seasons, Brown uses words and form effectively to evoke the hopeful idealism, love, joy, and life-or-death terror they feel along the way. Words scatter and shake across the page “Inside the Wagon.” As Franklin looks upon the Great Salt Lake, “a gloom of sour surrounds him.” Short verses over several pages depict the drawn-out anguish of the starving, desperate travelers. The trip’s horrific end is foreshadowed in “The Sound of Meat” when the last of the beef is gone and one man responds to a snapping branch: “He almost shot Charles / thinking he was food.” An author’s note puts the story in historical context, including the difference in the points of view of the white pioneers and the Native Americans whose land they were trespassing on. A solid introduction to a somber episode in American history. (dramatis personae) (Historical verse/fiction. 11-15)

About the Author

Skila Brown has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has visited Guatemala numerous times in the last decade. She lives in Indiana with her husband and their three children.

Her website is www.skilabrown.com.

Teacher Resources

Donner Party & Westward Expansion Lesson Plan

Donner Party Full Documentary

Around the Web

To Stay Alive on Amazon

To Stay Alive on JLG

To Stay Alive on Goodreads

 

How to Survive in the North by Luke Healy

How to Survive in the North by Luke Healy. November 15, 2016. Nobrow Press, 192 p. ISBN: 9781910620069.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.6; Lexile: 230.

With stunning narrative skill, this compelling graphic novel intricately weaves together true-life narratives from 1912, 1926 and a fictional story set in the present day. How To Survive in the North is an unforgettable journey of love and loss, showing the strength it takes to survive in the harshest conditions.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Racial taunts; Discrimination; Strong sexual themes; Alcohol; Starvation

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Three intertwined stories make up comics artist and colorist Healy’s first graphic novel. Two are fact-based narratives of arctic expeditions taking place in the early twentieth century, and the third is the fictional story of a New Hampshire college professor who’s studying the expeditions in the present day. Each arctic-bound exploration experiences insurmountable difficulties, losing men and making castaways of Healy’s real-life heroes on separate trips, Robert Bartlett and Ada Blackjack, in the process. In 2013, Sully’s happy for a distraction. He’s been accused, correctly, of carrying on with a student, and the library is the perfect place to spend his forced sabbatical, focusing on disasters that aren’t his. Healy’s artwork, composed in many small panels, is extremely appealing, clever, and emotive, with different cool, primary-pastel palettes clearly defining each separate story and simplified figures that are quickly identifiable from dress and stature. Centering his story on real people, Healy lights his contemplation of the lure of inhospitable places and the often regrettable decisions they inspire men and women to make from an intriguing angle.

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2016)
Two early-20th-century expeditions intertwine with a 21st-century story in Healy’s debut graphic novel.Retellings of the Arctic adventures of Robert Bartlett, a white ship’s captain, and Ada Blackjack, an “Eskimo” seamstress, unspool alongside the present-day midlife crisis of Sully Barnaby, a white university professor who is researching the two figures. In 1913, Capt. Bartlett resignedly sets sail from Nome, Alaska, at the behest of the overzealous (and irresponsible) explorer Vilhjamur Stefansson and a bevy of scientists with their sights set on the Arctic. In 1921, also in Nome, Ada Blackjack agrees to be the seamstress on an expedition to claim an Arctic island for Canada, leaving her ailing son behind, in the hope of earning enough money to get him treatment. And in 2013, Sully’s affair with a male student has been sussed out, and the middle-aged professor reluctantly begins his mandatory sabbatical by exploring Stefansson’s papers and learning about Bartlett’s and Blackjack’s journeys. The novel alternates among the three strands, overlapping people and events, fact and fiction, in an intricate narrative pattern of challenge, crisis, and survival for each of the three protagonists. Healy’s command of visual storytelling coupled with a palette of pastels reminiscent of the northern lights provides the thread of continuity that holds the weave together. Two parts historical, one part invention, a quiet contemplation and celebration of the tenacity of the human spirit. (afterword, author’s note) (Graphic novel. 14 & up)

About the Author

Luke Healy was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland. He received an MFA in Cartooning from The Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. His comics work has been published in several anthologies and he has also worked as a coloring assistant with Lucy Knisley on her book Something New.

His website is www.lukewhealy.com.

Teacher Resources

Polar Expeditions Lesson Plan

Polar Exploration Lesson Plans

Around the Web

How to Survive in the North on Amazon

How to Survive in the North on JLG

How to Survive in the North on Goodreads

 

Swarm by Scott Westerfield

Swarm by Scott Westerfield. September 27, 2016. Simon Pulse, 464 p. ISBN: 9781481443395.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

They thought they’d already faced their toughest fight. But there’s no relaxing for the reunited Zeroes.

These six teens with unique abilities have taken on bank robbers, drug dealers, and mobsters. Now they’re trying to lay low so they can get their new illegal nightclub off the ground.

But the quiet doesn’t last long when two strangers come to town, bringing with them a whole different kind of crowd-based chaos. And hot on their tails is a crowd-power even more dangerous and sinister.

Up against these new enemies, every Zero is under threat. Mob is crippled by the killing-crowd buzz—is she really evil at her core? Flicker is forced to watch the worst things a crowd can do. Crash’s conscience—and her heart—get a workout. Anon and Scam must both put family loyalties on the line for the sake of survival. And Bellwether’s glorious-leader mojo deserts him.

Who’s left to lead the Zeroes into battle against a new, murderous army?

Sequel to: Zeroes

Part of series: Zeroes

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Underage drinking

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2016 (Online))
Grades 8-11. The Zeroes, a group of six superpowered teen friends, discover that they aren’t the only ones with talent when a new guy, who can meld a crowd into a deadly killing machine, comes to town with murder on his mind. One of the Zeroes, Kelsie, aka Mob, is afraid it’s only a matter of time before she becomes just like this malevolent stranger, but the more immediate issue is how to stop him. In their sequel to Zeroes (2015), Westerfeld, Deborah Biancotti, and Margo Lanagan offer readers a story marked by nonstop action, a little romance, and a few dismemberment scenes. Reading the first book isn’t essential, but helps in instances like knowing that Bellwether is also “Glorious Leader,” since the latter becomes his moniker in the second book. This is standard but solidly written teen-superhero fare, although the final chapters stand apart for their moving treatment of the forgotten Zero, Anon, and for the cliff-hanger ending that will make trilogy fans itch for the third book.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2016)
After the disastrous events of Zeroes (rev. 11/15), the diverse team of supernaturally gifted teens has set up the aptly named Petri Dish, a nightclub/social experiment where they can test and eventually master their powers in relative safety. It’s the perfect place, since many of the Zeroes’ abilities — such as leader Nate’s influence on the emotions of a crowd — depend upon connecting energetically to a large group of people. Perfect, that is, until two superpowered strangers wreak havoc at the Dish with their own crowd-manipulating abilities. Wanting to prevent any more chaos, the Zeroes track down the strangers, only to learn of a much bigger threat. Now that readers know the main players, their powers, and their abilities’ pitfalls, this second volume accelerates the pace and ups the stakes of the first book. Lots of action sequences, including a handful of truly scary scenes that would be right at home in a zombie flick, add to the suspense. (Spoiler: you really don’t want to encounter a “swarm.”) But it’s not nonstop near-escapes and explosions. The authors develop the teens’ platonic and romantic interpersonal dynamics (including one blossoming same-sex relationship), and it’s these connections that both endanger the Zeroes and, ultimately, save them. A cliffhanger ending will leave fans eagerly awaiting the Zeroes’ next adventure.

About the Author

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

His website is www.scottwesterfield.com.

Around the Web

Swarm  on Amazon

Swarm on JLG

Swarm on Goodreads

 

Sunker’s Deep by Lian Tanner

Sunker’s Deep by Lian Tanner. August 16, 2016. Feiwel & Friends, 304 p. ISBN: 978125002179.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.3; Lexile: 720.

Sharkey is a Sunker; he was born on a fortunate tide, and everyone on the giant submersible ‘Rampart’ knows it. He’s a hero, a future admiral, beloved by the ancestors. The trouble is, his life is based on a lie, and it’s about to fall apart. Sharkey’s been a fake hero for years, but when the Sunkers are attacked, he must become a real one.

Meanwhile above water, Petrel, Fin and the crew of the ‘Oyster’ have come ashore to defeat the Devouts, a group of fanatical Anti-Machinists who want to reclaim a secret weapon. Now, both crews must work together to fight for their lives.

Sequel to: Icebreaker

Part of Series: The Icebreaker Trilogy

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination; Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2016 (Online))
Grades 6-9. This sequel to Icebreaker (2015) finds the girl Petrel, her companions the talking rats Mister Smoke and Missus Slink, the Captain (a mechanical boy with a silver face), and assorted shipmates from the icebreaker Oyster on dry land. Their mission: to bring knowledge back to the world in the wake of the devastation caused by the Luddite Devouts. While the stalwarts are away, the Oyster’s chief engineer leads a mutiny, leaving them stranded. Meanwhile, 200 miles northeast, the Devouts have managed to sink the giant submersible Rampart, leaving only that rapscallion young Sharkey and his small crew of children alive aboard the smaller submersible Claw. The plot will soon bring the two ragtag groups together, but to what end? How can they overcome the more numerous and stronger Devouts, and will the Captain ever find the Singer and the Song that are destined to bring knowledge back to the downtrodden? Adventures abound in this exciting page-turner that will keep readers on the edge of their seats as they await volume three.

School Library Journal (August 1, 2016)
Gr 5-8-Three crises get the action started quickly in this second installment of Tanner’s “Icebreaker” trilogy. There’s mutiny aboard the Oyster, which strands returning characters Petrel, Fin, Krill, and the captain in hostile territory controlled by a radical sect of Anti-Machinists. The friends’ only chance to get back to their ship lies with Sharkey, young captain of a submersible facing troubles of his own: with dwindling resources, he must rescue the last of his people, the Sunkers, from an Anti-Machinist prison. Tanner skillfully weaves the three plotlines together in a tense narrative that not only explores the characters’ often conflicting motives but keeps pages turning. Solid structure parallels key elements from the first volume and clearly lays the groundwork for the next book. The action takes place on land as well as in water, giving readers a fuller picture of the characters’ stark dystopian world. As the previous book was Petrel’s tale, this installment belongs to Sharkey, whose growth from false bravado to true heroism makes him a compelling central character. Suspenseful and thought provoking, this offering stresses the importance of education and knowledge as weapons against fear and tyranny. VERDICT Readers unfamiliar with the first novel may have trouble keeping track of the many characters and alternating perspectives, but fans will relish this return adventure.-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.

 Around the Web

Sunker’s Deep on Amazon

Sunker’s Deep on JLG

Sunker’s Deep on Goodreads