Tag Archives: survival

Battlesong by Lian Tanner

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

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

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

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

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

Sequel to: Sunker’s Deep

Part of series: Icebreaker (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Reviews

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

About the Author

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

Her website is www.liantanner.com.au.

Around the Web

Battlesong on Amazon

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Battlesong Publisher Page

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What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy

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

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

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

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

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

 

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

Her website is www.katiekennedybooks.com

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Edgeland by Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski

Edgeland by Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski. May 9, 2017. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9780399175817.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.4; Lexile: 690.

An upper-middle grade thriller by the New York Timesbestselling Nightfall authors perfect for fans of James Dashner’s Maze Runner books.

Thousands of miles south of the island of Bliss, day and night last for 72 hours. Here is one of the natural wonders of this world: a whirlpool thirty miles wide and a hundred miles around. This is the Drain. Anything sucked into its frothing, turbulent waters is never seen again.

Wren has spent most of her life on Edgeland, a nearby island where people bring their dead to be blessed and prepared for the afterlife. There the dead are loaded into boats with treasure and sent over the cliff, and into the Drain. Orphaned and alone, Wren dreams of escaping Edgeland, and her chance finally comes when furriers from the Polar north arrive with their dead, and treasure for their dead.

With the help of her friend Alec, Wren plans to loot one of the boats before it enters the Drain. But the boat–with Alec and Wren onboard–is sucked into the whirlpool. What they discover beyond the abyss is beyond what anyone could have imagined.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Disturbing imagery, Suicide, Cannibalism

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 17))
Grades 5-8. Life on Edgeland is devoted to funerary arts, due to its nearness to the Drain—the waterfall-like ocean drop-off believed to lead to purgatory. Dodging through the somber island’s streets, 12-year-old Wren snatches what valuables she can in order to buy passage off Edgeland and find her missing father. It’s a cutthroat existence that ultimately lands her at the scene of a murder, rendering Wren its prime suspect. Before making her escape, she agrees to help her friend Alec retrieve a considerable payment to his bone house (a cross between a funeral parlor and church) that was accidentally loaded onto a funeral raft. Their daring plan goes spectacularly wrong, sending Wren and Alec over the Drain’s edge along with the dead, who are reviving for their journey to the afterlife. Purgatory is a dangerous place for the living, and as Wren and Alec endeavor to escape, their core beliefs are challenged in unexpected ways. Halpern and Kujawinski have constructed a refreshing, original fantasy that thoughtfully probes the subjects of class, religion, and morality. Wren’s and Alec’s responses to the astonishing sights in the Drain are believable and reflective of their individual personalities, maintaining the importance of their inner lives. Compellingly written, this otherworldly adventure is a unique offering that deserves attention. Happily, an open ending suggests Wren and Alec’s adventures have only begun.

Kirkus Reviews (March 15, 2017)
After being banished from House Aron for stealing, orphan Wren must endure the bleak life of a grayling on the island of Edgeland, living underground and supporting herself through thievery. Her banishment has separated her from her best friend, Alec, who by the age of 12, has risen from an apprentice to a high-ranking position within House Aron, conducting complex funeral ceremonies. Dead bodies are kept in ice blocks, then sent sailing into the Drain, a large circular waterfall down which the frozen dead disappear into a seemingly bottomless mist that is the entryway to the afterlife, either the Sunlit Glade or the Moonlit Beach. The two friends are brought together when the chest with the payment for a funeral mistakenly tumbles, along with the dead, into the Drain. Desperate to recover it, Alec and Wren find themselves descending with it. Alec and Wren are now “breathers” in the world of the dead—where they learn the afterlife isn’t quite what the ancient songs profess it to be. Unfortunately, this compelling premise, bolstered by complex worldbuilding, loses its steam about halfway through, as the protagonists make their way from one realm of the dead to the next, with more running and hiding than actual story. The occasional mention of pale skin but no other racial markers implies a white default. As the living help to liberate the dead, intriguing characters roam the pages of a lifeless story. (Fantasy. 10-14)

About the Authors

Jake Halpern is an acclaimed journalist, author, and radio producer who has written for several publications including The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine.  As a contributor at NPR, Jake produced one of the most listened-to episodes of This American Life. He co-wrote the Dormia series with Peter Kujawinski and is the author of Bad Paper, a nonfiction book for adults.

His website is worldofdormia.com

Peter Kujawinski is an author and diplomat, currently serving as US Consul General for Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories. His next book, Nightfall, will be released this September by Penguin Books for Young Readers. He co-wrote the Dormia series with Jake Halpern and has written for The New York Times.

His website is peterkujawinski.com

Around the Web

Edgeland on Amazon

Edgeland on Goodreads

Edgeland on JLG

Edgeland Publisher Page

Falcon Wild by Terry Lynn Johnson

Falcon Wild by Terry Lynn Johnson. September 19, 2017. Charlesbridge, 176 p. ISBN: 9781580897884.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.4; Lexile: 620.

“I back up as Cooper did and then sprint toward the edge. Just as I’m about to launch myself across the crevice, a hot wave of nausea grips me. I stumble at the last second. My leap is not enough to propel me to the other side. I reach for the edge.

And miss.”

Thirteen-year-old Karma is lost in the backcountry of Montana with her falcon, Stark, and a runaway boy named Cooper. She ‘s desperate to find help for her dad and brother after they find themselves in a terrible accident on a back road.

Karma wouldn’t be in this mess if her parents hadn’t insisted on returning Stark to the bird’s original owner. Life at her father’s bird sanctuary–and Karma’s dreams of becoming an apprentice falconer–will never be the same now that she has to give Stark back. Lost in the wild, her bond with the tamed falcon only grows stronger. All the while, Cooper gets his own lessons on how to trust in newfound friendship.

Both Karma’s and Cooper’s mettle is tested by mountain terrain, wild animals, severe weather, injury, and their own waning hope as this edge-of-your-seat adventure story vividly portrays the special bonds that can form between humans and animals.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

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Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Grades 5-8. Homeschooled 13-year-old Karma loves her rescued falcon, Stark, and is obsessed with learning to be an apprentice falconer; but her father, owner of a bird sanctuary, finds Stark’s original owner and insists on returning her. He allows Karma and her younger brother to accompany him and the bird to Canada, but soon after dropping off a young hitchhiker, Cooper, the trip goes terribly wrong. Their van overturns, trapping Karma’s father, and she must trek across unfamiliar, rugged terrain in search of help. A day later, she is joined by Stark and Cooper, who both sense Karma needs assistance, and together they endeavor to survive the wilds of Montana. Riveting action and harrowing experiences keep readers on the edge as the kids and falcon race to get back to Karma’s father and brother before it’s too late. Cooper’s character develops as his backstory is revealed, and fans of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet series will see parallels between Brian and Karma, particularly their strength in the face of adverse circumstances. An exhilarating survivalist adventure.

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2017)
Lost in the Montana wilderness, two white children and a tame gyrfalcon learn to trust one another. Thirteen-year-old home-schooled Karma lives in Montana on her family’s bird-of-prey education center, where she helps her white father train raptors. Karma longs to have friends but worries she talks too much about hawks and falcons—her favorite is a rescued white gyrfalcon named Stark. When Stark’s owner reclaims her, Karma reluctantly drives with her father and younger brother to deliver her. Shortly after letting off an unfriendly teenage-boy hitchhiker named Cooper, their van blows a tire and crashes. With her father and brother injured and Stark escaped, Karma sets out to find help. After she falls into a crevice, she is rescued by the mysterious Cooper, who spotted her thanks to the white bird circling overhead. Overjoyed to find Stark, Karma continues her search for help. As she and Cooper hike into the wilderness, they endure a slew of unfortunate events that would make Lemony Snicket proud (grizzly, near-drowning, falling, infection, thunderstorm/hail), and Cooper gradually reveals his past. Karma’s simple present-tense, first-person narration is inconsistent in her worry for her father and brother, and interesting information on falconry and raptors is imparted in an academic style that lacks smooth integration into the story. The components are there; the cohesion is not. (Adventure. 9-12)

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

Teacher Resources

Falcon Wild Curriculum Guide

Around the Web

Falcon Wild on Amazon

Falcon Wild on Goodreads

Falcon Wild on JLG

Falcon Wild Publisher Page

Beck by Mel Peet

Beck by Mal Peet. April 11, 2017. Candlewick Press, 272 p. ISBN: 9780763678425.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

From Carnegie Medal-winning author Mal Peet comes a sweeping coming-of-age adventure, both harrowing and life-affirming.

Born of a brief encounter between a Liverpool prostitute and an African soldier in 1907, Beck finds himself orphaned as a young boy and sent overseas to the Catholic Brothers in Canada. At age fifteen he is sent to work on a farm, from which he eventually escapes. Finally in charge of his own destiny, Beck starts westward, crossing the border into America and back, all while the Great Depression rages on. What will it take for Beck to understand the agonies of his childhood and realize that love is possible?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Racial epithets, Sexual abuse by a religious figure, Rape, Physical abuse

 

Book Trailer

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 10-12. After a traumatic childhood spent in orphanages, Beck, born in Liverpool to a poor British mother and an African sailor, has learned to stay quiet, preferring a solitary life on the road, safe from the vulnerability of love. Peet’s posthumous novel, completed by Rosoff, follows Beck from his meager beginnings in early twentieth-century England to his harrowing first days in Canada to his peripatetic path leading him ultimately to Grace, a half Siksika woman reinvigorating her Native community in Alberta. While this often reads like a series of loosely linked vignettes rather than a complete, unified narrative, there are flashes of arresting lyricism: “Little flames, quick as lizards, ran up its black and riven trunk.” At the same time, that language can be unsparingly frank: Peet and Rosoff do not sanitize racial slurs, and the description of Beck’s sexual abuse at the hands of a gang of priests is graphic. However, older teens and adults who appreciate literary historical fiction might find plenty to appreciate in this story of a hard-won discovery of redemption and home.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
In the early twentieth century, Beck, son of a white sometimes-prostitute and a black sailor just passing through, is raised in a Liverpool orphanage and sent at age fourteen to Canada as free farm labor. First stop, though: the Christian Brothers’ institution, where initially he thrives; but when the priests make sexual advances and he resists, one of them rapes him. The rest of the novel follows Beck on a hardship-filled journey from the Ontario prairie (after he escapes his assigned farm couple’s racist abuse) down to Windsor (where he finds a home, temporarily, with kindhearted African Canadian bootleggers) and finally to Medicine Hat, Alberta. There he hires on as a farmhand for half-Siksika, half-Scottish Grace McCallister–a beautiful, strong, “troublesome woman from a long line of troublesome women”–whose story merges with Beck’s. The novel is excruciatingly painful to read at times, but that makes Beck’s eventual and hard-won chance at happiness all the sweeter. From the very first pages it’s clear we are in the hands of a master storyteller (or two; as explained in an appended note, Rosoff finished the novel after Peet’s death). The vibrancy, earthiness, and originality of the prose is startling; the spot-on dialogue adds to the immediacy; secondary characters are vividly portrayed. There are no wasted words, no too-lengthy descriptive passages; yet somehow we see, smell, experience everything. Aboard a ship for the first time, “Beck felt confused and astonished by the huge discrepancy between the solidity beneath his feet and the vast liquidity of everything else.” In the Ontario countryside, a cow “gazed at the passing buggy, lifted its tail, and hosed shit like a comment.” martha v. parravano

About the Author

Mal Peet grew up in North Norfolk, and studied English and American Studies at the University of Warwick. Later he moved to southwest England and worked at a variety of jobs before turning full-time to writing and illustrating in the early 1990s. With his wife, Elspeth Graham, he had written and illustrated many educational picture books for young children, and his cartoons have appeared in a number of magazines.  Mal Peet passed away in 2015.

Teaching Resources

Beck Discussion Guide

Around the Web

Beck on Amazon

Beck  on Goodreads

Beck  on JLG

Beck  Publisher Page

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