Must Read Monday (74): Children’s Titles from Pam Smy, Natalia O’Hara and Lauren O’Hara & Lorena Alvarez

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

 

 

This feature has been absent for a few weeks as I’ve been working my way through my already lengthy to-read pile and reviews! But it is back this week, with some new and intriguing titles. On the roster this week are three mysterious, wondrous looking and sounding children’s titles: Thornhill by Pam Smy; Hortense and the Shadow by Natalia O’Hara and Lauren O’Hara; and Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez.

 

Thornhill by Pam Smy
Publication: August 29, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as Ella unravels the mystery of the girl next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she’s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2016: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past.

 

Hortense and the Shadow by Natalia O’Hara, illus. Lauren O’Hara
Publication: October 5, 2017 by Puffin
Book Description:

A haunting, original fairy tale from two dazzling debut picture book talents, in the spirit of Neil Gaiman and Carson Ellis.

Hortense is a kind and brave girl, but she is sad–even angry–that her shadow follows her everywhere she goes. She hates her shadow, and thinks her shadow must hate her too. But one cold, dark night, when bandits surprise her in the woods, Hortense discovers that her shadow is the very thing she needs most.

This stunningly illustrated story stirs the soul with its compelling, subtle exploration of self-esteem, self-identity, and finding inner strength.

 

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez
Publication: March 14, 2017 by Nobrow Press
Book Description:

Every night, tiny stars appear out of the darkness in little Sandy’s bedroom. She catches them and creates wonderful creatures to play with until she falls asleep, and in the morning brings them back to life in the whimsical drawings. When a mysterious new girl appears at school, Sandy’s drawings are noticed for the first time…but Morfie’s fascination with Sandy’s talent soon turns into something far more sinister.

Nightlights is a beautiful story about fear, insecurity, and creativity, from the enchanting imagination of Lorena Alvarez.

 

 

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Recently Read: Wishtree & The Exact Location of Home

I have had the pleasure of recently reading two children’s fiction titles: Wishtree, from Newbery Medal award-winning author Katherine Applegate (The One and Only Ivan), and The Exact Location of Home from another award-winning author, Kate Messner (The Seventh Wish). Read on for my thoughts on the two middle-grade titles:

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate, illus. Charles Santoso
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 26, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Book Description:

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood wishtree” – people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this “wishtree” watches over the neighborhood. You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.

Funny, deep, warm, and nuanced, Wishtree is Newbery Medalist and New York Times -bestselling author Katherine Applegate at her very best – writing from the heart, and from a completely unexpected point of view.

Told through the first-person narrative of an old oak tree (a wishtree) named Red, Katherine Applegate’s Wishtree is compassionate story with overarching themes about the importance of kindness and of hope. The angle of the story being told from an ancient oak tree’s perspective is truly unique: like an omnipotent being watching over a neighborhood, Red tells us stories about one particular neighborhood they have been watching over for years. As Red witnesses unwelcome and outright cruel acts taken against a young girl named Samar (and her family) who have recently moved into the neighborhood, Red decides that the time for action has come. With the help of friend Bongo, a clever crow, and the slight interference of wildlife friends close by, Red takes on a daring mission to make Samar’s wish- for that of friendship- come true.

Readers who have previously enjoyed Katherine Applegate’s titles will undoubtedly enjoy this story; a story, at its core, about kindness, inclusion, and friendship. While I do think the story might have benefited from a longer finale and conclusion (certain facets to the story seemed a little rushed and/or solved too quickly!), it is nonetheless a moving tale. A beautiful, affecting story that reads almost like a parable, Applegate has another solid middle grade title here with Wishtree.

The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 12, 2017 by Bloomsbury USA*
Book Description:

Kirby “Zig” Zigonski lives for the world of simple circuits, light bulbs, buzzers, and motors. Electronics are, after all, much more predictable than most people – especially his father, who he hasn’t seen in over a year. When his dad’s latest visit is canceled with no explanation and his mom seems to be hiding something, Zig turns to his best friend Gianna and a new gizmo – a garage sale GPS unit – for help. Convinced that his dad is leaving clues around town to explain his absence, Zig sets out to find him. Following one clue after another, logging mile after mile, Zig soon discovers that people aren’t always what they seem . . . and sometimes, there’s more than one set of coordinates for home.

An important story of love and hope that will capture readers’ hearts, The Exact Location of Home is another must read from beloved author Kate Messner.

Kate Messner, picture book writer and middle grade author of The Seventh Wish and All the Answers, returns to contemporary, realistic issues in The Exact Location of Home. Readers are taken into the changing and suddenly complicated world of protagonist and narrator Zig. As we soon learn, Zig lives with mom; his dad, Zig Senior, and mom are divorced, though Zig looks forward to his (increasingly sporadic) visits with his larger-than-life dad almost more than anything. After he learns from his mom that Zig Senior is not making his next planned visit and his mom remains tight-lipped about the reasons for the cancellations, Zig decides to investigate a little bit. While investigating, Zig and his two closest friends become ensconced in daring geocaching missions around his neighborhood- where Zig becomes utterly convinced his dad is leaving secret clues for him to track him down. Messner carefully balances plotlines that include serious financial strain, homelessness, parental lies, and possible romance. It’s a heavy load of subject matters, but Messner approaches all- especially that of sudden homelessness, fear, and shame (not often covered in middle grade)- with careful consideration and eloquence.

As with Katherine Applegate’s Wishtree, discussed above, Messner’s The Exact Location of Home touches upon realistic, seriously affecting issues that resonate and provide much for contemplation. Readers who are searching for a meaningful, contemporary title- with a tangible, complex young protagonist- might especially appreciate The Exact Location of Home.

(*It appears that The Exact Location of Home was first published solely in e-book format in 2014; reissued this past September 2017 in print format.)

I received copies of both of these titles courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.

Review: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

Review: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: October 3, 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

A modern classic in the making reminiscent of the Penderwicks series, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is about the connections we make and the unexpected turns life can take.

The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home.

If a cozy, heavenly blanket – think of a warm, lovely blanket, possibly handmade, the best in the world- came in the form of a book, that book might look something just like Karina Yan Glaser’s The Vanderbeeker’s of 141st Street. One of the most genuine, moving, kindhearted novels I have had the pleasure of reading in the last long while, I cannot think of enough wonderful things to say about this extraordinary debut children’s novel.

The five Vanderbeeker siblings and their parents live in an unusual brownstone on 141st Street in Harlem. For the Vanderbeeker siblings and their parents, the brownstone is not just a home but an extension of their family and how they fit in the world. When the family receives the terrible and seriously unexpected news that their strange and exasperating landlord, Mr. Beiderman, is not going to renew their lease, the siblings decide to team up and do whatever it takes to convince the reclusive Beiderman to let them stay. The Vanderbeekers are an unforgettable family, consisting of tremendously lovable, sparkling, one-of-a-kind siblings and parents. Through the varied not-so-successful early efforts to keep their home, readers are taken inside the inner workings of each Vanderbeeker sibling and treated to a closer look at their parents, their marvelous neighbours and the unfortunate- tragic- events that forever changed Beiderman’s life. While I had an inkling about what was to be discovered about Mr. Beiderman’s past, the journey to the discovery- and the resulting outcomes- was in no way less thrilling, affecting or joyous. Absolutely lovely from start to finish, with wonderful main and supporting characters, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is an excellent read.

Already having received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist, as well as solid reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly, I am happy to see that Glaser’s debut is making waves this year on the children’s lit front. Readers who enjoy the work of authors such as R.J. Palacio, Kate DiCamillo, Jeanne Birdsall, or Sara Pennypacker might especially love the veritable, profound charm and loving nature of The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. With a sequel (yay!) planned for release in 2018, it delights me to know that I will get to spend more time with the Vanderbeekers in the future.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Must Read Monday (73): Children’s Titles from Charis Cotter, David Barclay Moore, Kat Yeh & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

 

This week: wonderful looking and sounding children’s lit! The Truth About Twinkie Pie author Kat Yeh is back with The Way to Bea; award-winning Canadian author Charis Cotter returns with The Painting; Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is back with a sequel to the incredible, award-winning The War That Saved My Life with The War I Finally Won; Jake Burt debuts on scene with the buzz-worthy Greetings from Witness Protection!; Lindsay Currie promises a wonderful suspense with The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street; and David Barclay Moore’s The Stars Beneath Our Feet is already receiving praise and starred reviews.

 

The Painting by Charis Cotter
Publication: September 19, 2017 by Tundra Books
Book Description:

Annie and her mother don’t see eye to eye. When Annie finds a painting of a lonely lighthouse in their home, she is immediately drawn to it–and her mother wishes it would stay banished in the attic. To her, art has no interest, but Annie loves drawing and painting.

When Annie’s mother slips into a coma following a car accident, strange things begin to happen to Annie. She finds herself falling into the painting and meeting Claire, a girl her own age living at the lighthouse. Claire’s mother Maisie is the artist behind the painting, and like Annie, Claire’s relationship with her mother is fraught. Annie thinks she can help them find their way back to each other, and in so doing, help mend her relationship with her own mother.
But who IS Claire? Why can Annie travel through the painting? And can Annie help her mother wake up from her coma? The Painting is a touching, evocative story with a hint of mystery and suspense to keep readers hooked.

 

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
Publication: September 19, 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

It’s Christmas Eve in Harlem, but twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul and his mom aren’t celebrating. They’re still reeling from his older brother’s death in a gang-related shooting just a few months earlier. Then Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend brings him a gift that will change everything: two enormous bags filled with Legos. Lolly’s always loved Legos, and he prides himself on following the kit instructions exactly. Now, faced with a pile of building blocks and no instructions, Lolly must find his own way forward.

His path isn’t clear–and the pressure to join a “crew,” as his brother did, is always there. When Lolly and his friend are beaten up and robbed, joining a crew almost seems like the safe choice. But building a fantastical Lego city at the community center provides Lolly with an escape–and an unexpected bridge back to the world.

 

The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh
Publication: September 19, 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

Everything in Bea’s world has changed. She’s starting seventh grade newly friendless and facing big changes at home, where she is about to go from only child to big sister. Feeling alone and adrift, and like her words don’t deserve to be seen, Bea takes solace in writing haiku in invisible ink and hiding them in a secret spot.

But then something incredible happens–someone writes back. And Bea begins to connect with new friends, including a classmate obsessed with a nearby labyrinth and determined to get inside. As she decides where her next path will lead, she just might discover that her words–and herself–have found a new way to belong.

 

Greetings from Witness Protection! by Jake Burt
Expected publication: October 3, 2017 by Feiwel and Friends
Book Description:

Nicki Demere is an orphan and a pickpocket. She also happens to be the U.S. Marshals’ best bet to keep a family alive. . . .

The marshals are looking for the perfect girl to join a mother, father, and son on the run from the nation’s most notorious criminals. After all, the bad guys are searching for a family with one kid, not two, and adding a streetwise girl who knows a little something about hiding things may be just what the marshals need.

Nicki swears she can keep the Trevor family safe, but to do so she’ll have to dodge hitmen, cyberbullies, and the specter of standardized testing, all while maintaining her marshal-mandated B-minus average. As she barely balances the responsibilities of her new identity, Nicki learns that the biggest threats to her family’s security might not lurk on the road from New York to North Carolina, but rather in her own past.

 

The War I Finally Won (The War That Saved My Life #2) by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Expected publication: October 3, 2017 by Dial Books
Book Description:

When Ada’s clubfoot is surgically fixed at last, she knows for certain that she’s not what her mother said she was—damaged, deranged, crippled mentally as well as physically. She’s not a daughter anymore, either. What is she?

World War II continues, and Ada and her brother, Jamie, are living with their loving legal guardian, Susan, in a borrowed cottage on the estate of the formidable Lady Thorton—along with Lady Thorton herself and her daughter, Maggie. Life in the crowded cottage is tense enough, and then, quite suddenly, Ruth, a Jewish girl from Germany, moves in. A German? The occupants of the house are horrified. But other impacts of the war become far more frightening. As death creeps closer to their door, life and morality during wartime grow more complex. Who is Ada now? How can she keep fighting? And who will she struggle to save?

 

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie
Expected publication: October 10th 2017 by Aladdin
Book Description:

Tessa Woodward isn’t exactly thrilled to move to rainy, cold Chicago from her home in sunny Florida. But homesickness turns to icy fear when unexplainable things start happening in her new house. Things like flickering lights, mysterious drawings appearing out of nowhere, and a crackling noise she can feel in her bones.

When her little brother’s doll starts crying real tears, Tessa realizes that someone—or something—is trying to communicate with her. A secret that’s been shrouded in mystery for more than one hundred years.

With the help of three new friends, Tessa begins unraveling the mystery of what happened in the house on Shady Street—and more importantly, what it has to do with her!

Must Read Monday (71): Children’s Titles from Jason Reynolds, Robin Stevens, Celia C. Pérez & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

 

 

This week: more children’s fiction! I can’t help it, folks- children’s fiction is one of my reading loves…and there is so much GREATNESS out there in this area that my to-read pile grows and grows. Some of this week’s picks are inspired by recently read incredible, moving, and overall wonderful reads. I just finished reading Jolly Foul Play, the fourth in the Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries series by British author Robin Stevens, and immediately added Mistletoe & Murder (book number five) to my list. It had been some time since reading book three in the Murder Most Unladylike series, but starting Jolly Foul Play brought Stevens’s brilliant 1930’s English world of young detectives all back- and it is a tremendous series that gets even stronger, sharper, and more engaging with each entry. Truly great. I also recently read Ghost (Track #1) by Jason Reynolds (mentioned here) and it is excellent- a highly, highly recommended read. I have Patina (Track #2) on my must-read, though for this Must Read Monday I am including another of his acclaimed middle grade novels, As Brave As You.

Last, but certainly not least, this week also includes: James Nicol’s The Apprentice Witch, which I picked up on a whim and looks delightful; the fantastically spooky and strange sounding The Bone Snatcher by Charlotte Salter; and Celia C. Pérez’s The First Rule of Punk, which I have been reading rave reviews about.

 

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds
Publication: May 3, 2016 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Book Description:

When two brothers decide to prove how brave they are, everything backfires—literally.

Genie’s summer is full of surprises. The first is that he and his big brother, Ernie, are leaving Brooklyn for the very first time to spend the summer with their grandparents all the way in Virginia—in the COUNTRY! The second surprise comes when Genie figures out that their grandfather is blind. Thunderstruck and—being a curious kid—Genie peppers Grandpop with questions about how he covers it so well (besides wearing way cool Ray-Bans).

How does he match his clothes? Know where to walk? Cook with a gas stove? Pour a glass of sweet tea without spilling it? Genie thinks Grandpop must be the bravest guy he’s ever known, but he starts to notice that his grandfather never leaves the house—as in NEVER. And when he finds the secret room that Grandpop is always disappearing into—a room so full of songbirds and plants that it’s almost as if it’s been pulled inside-out—he begins to wonder if his grandfather is really so brave after all.

Then Ernie lets him down in the bravery department. It’s his fourteenth birthday, and, Grandpop says to become a man, you have to learn how to shoot a gun. Genie thinks that is AWESOME until he realizes Ernie has no interest in learning how to shoot. None. Nada. Dumbfounded by Ernie’s reluctance, Genie is left to wonder—is bravery and becoming a man only about proving something, or is it just as important to own up to what you won’t do?

 

Mistletoe & Murder (Murder Most Unladylike #5) by Robin Stevens
Publication: October 20, 2016 by Puffin
Book Description:

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are spending the Christmas hols in snowy Cambridge. Hazel has high hopes of its beautiful spires, cosy libraries and inviting tea-rooms – but there is danger lurking in the dark stairwells of ancient Maudlin College.

Two days before Christmas, there is a terrible accident. At least, it appears to be an accident – until the Detective Society look a little closer, and realise a murder has taken place. Faced with several irritating grown-ups and fierce competition from a rival agency, they must use all their cunning and courage to find the killer (in time for Christmas Day, of course).

The fabulously festive fifth mystery from the bestselling, award-winning author of Murder Most Unladylike.

 

The Bone Snatcher by Charlotte Salter
Publication: February 14, 2017 by Dial
Book Description:

Sophie Seacove is a storyteller. She tells stories of what the world would be like if madness hadn’t taken over. If her parents hadn’t sold her off as a servant to pay for their stupid vacation. If she wasn’t now trapped in a decaying mansion filled with creepy people and surrounded by ravenous sea monsters.

The mansion has plenty of stories, too: About fantastical machines, and the tragic inventor who created them. About his highly suspicious death. And about the Monster Box, a mysterious object hidden in the house that just might hold the key to escaping this horrible place—and to reuniting Sophie with her family.

But not everyone wants Sophie to have the Monster Box, and as she gets closer to finding it, she finds herself unspooling years-old secrets—and dodging dangerous attacks. Sophie needs to use her brains, her brawn, and her unbreakable nature if she wants to make it off this wretched island…and live to tell this story.

 

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol
Publication: July 25, 2017 by Chicken House
Book Description:

Arianwyn has flunked her witch’s assessment: She’s doomed. Declared an apprentice and sent to the town of Lull in disgrace, she may never become a real witch– much to the glee of her arch-rival, Gimma.But remote Lull is not as boring as it seems. Strange things are sighted in the woods, a dangerous infestation of hex creeps throughout the town, and a mysterious magical visitor arrives with his eye on her.

With every spirit banished, creature helped, and spell cast, Arianwyn starts to get the hang of being a witch–even if she’s only an apprentice. But the worst still lies ahead. For a sinister darkness has begun to haunt her spells, and there may be much more at stake than just her pride . . . for Arianwyn and the entire land.

 

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez
Publication: August 22, 2017 by Viking
Book Description:

There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school–you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malu (Maria Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.

The real Malu loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malu finally begins to feel at home. She’ll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!

Black and white illustrations and collage art throughout make The First Rule of Punk a perfect pick for fans of books like Roller Girl and online magazines like Rookie.

Must Read Monday (70): Children’s Fiction from Mary E. Lambert, Beth McMullen, Dusti Bowling & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: all children’s fiction! A mish-mash of genres is on the roster, with everything from mystery, adventure, to contemporary titles. We have: The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow from Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson, which sounds like a delightful mystery; the well-reviewed contemporary title Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary E. Lambert; Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, which I’ve been reading tremendous early reviews for; Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls by Beth McMullen which sounds like a zippy middle-grade Gallagher Girls; and Julie Bowe’s lovely sounding contemporary Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd).

 

 

The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow by Jessica Haight & Stephanie Robinson, illus. Roman Muradov
Publication: December 1, 2015 by Delacorte
Book Description:

Fear Not the Unexpected.

Eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow is less than thrilled that her family is moving thousands of miles from civilization to the quiet country town of Ashpot, Connecticut, where she’s absolutely certain she’ll die of boredom.

As if leaving New York City and her best friend, Lizzy, the only other member of the elite Detective Mystery Squad (DMS), weren’t bad enough, Fairday is stuck living in the infamous Begonia House, a creepy old Victorian with dark passageways, a gigantic dead willow tree, and a mysterious past.

Before she can even unpack, strange music coming from behind a padlocked door leads Fairday up a spiral staircase and into a secret room, where an ancient mirror, a brass key, and a strange picture of a red-haired lady are the first in a series of clues that takes the members of the Detective Mystery Squad on an amazing adventure.

 

Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary E. Lambert
Publication: February 28, 2017 by Scholastic Press
Book Description:

Annabelle has a five mile rule: She must keep her friends from coming within five miles of her home. That’s because Annabelle’s mom is a hoarder. Their house is full of stuff: canned goods, broken toys, old newspapers… It’s everywhere except for Annabelle’s spotless room. Annabelle can’t let anyone find out what her house is like. They’ll realize that her mom is crazy. They’ll make fun of her. Or feel sorry for her. Or try to help.

But when the newspaper piles come crashing down on her sister’s head one morning, it kicks off an epic fight between her parents that ends up with her dad taking off — and her fix-it-all grandmother stepping in.

As Annabelle realizes how bad things have gotten for her little sister, while trying to navigate her first crush, not to mention stay sane herself, she’s forced to come to terms with the fact that maybe she can’t keep all her secrets to herself. Maybe she can’t just throw her mom’s things out… maybe she has to let some people in.

 

Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd) by Julie Bowe
Publication: March 21, 2017 by Kathy Dawson Books
Book Description:

It’s the start of a new school year and Wren Jo Byrd is worried that everyone will find out her parents separated over the summer. No one knows the truth, not even her best friend, Amber. When even her new teacher refers to her mom as Mrs. Byrd, Wren decides to keep their divorce a total secret. But something else changed over the summer: A new girl named Marianna moved to town and wants to be Amber’s next bff. And because of her fib, Wren can’t do anything about it. From take-out dinners with Mom to the tiny room she gets at Dad’s new place, nothing is the same for Wren anymore. But while Marianna makes everything harder at first, Wren soon learns that Marianna once had to ask many of the same questions–the big ones, as well as the little ones–that Wren is asking now.

 

Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls by Beth McMullen
Publication: July 4, 2017 by Aladdin
Book Description:

A girl discovers her boarding school is actually an elite spy-training program, and she must learn the skills of the trade in order to find her mother in this action-packed middle grade debut.

After a botched escape plan from her boarding school, Abigail is stunned to discover the school is actually a cover for an elite spy ring called The Center, along with being training grounds for future spies. Even more shocking? Abigail’s mother is a top agent for The Center and she has gone MIA, with valuable information that many people would like to have—at any cost. Along with a former nemesis and charming boy from her grade, Abigail goes through a crash course in Spy Training 101, often with hilarious—and sometimes painful—results. But Abigail realizes she might be a better spy-in-training than she thought—and the answers to her mother’s whereabouts are a lot closer than she thinks…

 

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
Expected publication: September 5, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books
Book Description:

Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

 

Must Read Monday (69): Children’s Titles from Victoria Jamieson, Casey Lyall, Beth Vrabel & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: more children’s fiction! It’s been a few weeks since the last Must Read Monday post, and while I haven’t been able to get in much reading, my to-read pile has SOMEHOW grown…! In any event, here are some titles I have my eye on for August and September release: the third installment of the totally charming From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess from Meg Cabot; the newest graphic novel from Roller Girl author-artist Victoria Jamieson; the latest contemporary title from wonderful middle-grade author Beth Vrabel; Ben Hatke’s newest graphic novel in the Mighty Jack series; and last, but not least, the second novel in Casey Lyall’s utterly terrific Howard Wallace, P.I. mystery series.

 

Royal Crush (From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess #3) by Meg Cabot
Expected publication: August 1, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Book Description:

Being the newest princess of Genovia is WAY more complicated than she expected, but Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison is getting used to it. She gets to live in an actual palace with two fabulous poodles, a pet iguana, her very own pony, and, best of all, a loving family to help her figure things out!

And right now Olivia, having finally admitted that she likes Prince Khalil as more than just a friend, could REALLY use some advice. What is a princess supposed to do once she’s found a prince she likes? With her half-sister Mia busy enjoying her honeymoon, Olivia turns to Grandmere for help.

The third book in the middle-grade Princess Diaries spin-off series, written and illustrated by New York Times-bestselling author Meg Cabot.

 

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King (Mighty Jack #2) by Ben Hatke
Expected publication: September 5, 2017 by First Second
Book Description:

Like a bolt from the blue, Jack’s little sister Maddy is gone―carried into another realm by an ogre.

When Jack and Lilly follow Maddy’s captor through the portal, they are ready for anything . . . except what they find waiting for them in the floating crossroads between worlds. Even the power of their magic plants may not be enough to get them back to earth alive.

Alone and injured, Jack and Lilly must each face their own monsters―as well as giants who grind the bones of human children to feed their “beast” and a fearsome goblin king in the sewers down below.But when Jack finds himself in a tough spot, help comes from the most unlikely person: the goblin king!

 

All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson
Expected publication: September 5, 2017 by Dial Books
Book Description:

Eleven-year-old Imogene (Impy) has grown up with two parents working at the Renaissance Faire, and she’s eager to begin her own training as a squire. First, though, she’ll need to prove her bravery. Luckily Impy has just the quest in mind–she’ll go to public school after a life of being homeschooled! But it’s not easy to act like a noble knight-in-training in middle school. Impy falls in with a group of girls who seem really nice (until they don’t) and starts to be embarrassed of her thrift shop apparel, her family’s unusual lifestyle, and their small, messy apartment. Impy has always thought of herself as a heroic knight, but when she does something really mean in order to fit in, she begins to wonder whether she might be more of a dragon after all.

 

Shadow of a Pug (Howard Wallace, P.I. #2) by Casey Lyall
Expected publication: September, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books
Book Description:

Middle-school detectives Howard Wallace and Ivy Mason are itching for a juicy case. But when their friend and cohort Marvin hires them to prove his nephew— über-bully Carl Dean—didn’t pugnap the school mascot, they’re less than thrilled. To succeed, not only must Howard and Ivy play nice with Carl, they’ll have to dodge a scrappy, snoopy reporter and come face-to-face with Howard’s worst enemy, his ex-best friend Miles Fletcher. Can Howard deal with all these complications and still be there for Ivy when her life is turned upside down? Or will he once again find himself a friendless P.I.?

 

Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel
Expected publication: September 12, 2017 by Running Press
Book Description:

Twelve-year-old Caleb is shorter, frailer, and more protected than most kids his age. That’s because he has cystic fibrosis, a diagnosis meaning lungs that fill with mucus and a shortened lifespan. Caleb tries not to let his disorder define him, but it can be hard with an overprotective, prying mom and a big brother who is perfect in every way.

Then Caleb meets Kit-a vibrant, independent, and free girl who lives in a house in the woods-and his world changes instantly. Kit reads Caleb’s palm and tells him they are destined to become friends. She calls birds down from the sky, turns every day into an adventure, and never sees him as his disorder. Her magic is contagious, making Caleb question the rules and order in his life. But being Kit’s friend means embracing deception and, more and more, danger. Soon Caleb will have to decide if his friendship with Kit is really what’s best for him-or Kit.

Must Read Monday (68): Children’s Fiction from Paul Mosier, Adrienne Kress & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: children’s fiction titles! The following six titles are a mixture of ones from debut authors and ones that are totally new-to-me-authors. There is Canadian author Adrienne Kress’s The Door in the Alley, which looks and sounds like the start of terrifically fun adventure/mystery series; Melissa Savage’s Lemons, a Bigfoot-centred adventure/mystery; and Paul Mosier’s contemporary and contemplative-sounding Train I Ride. Then there is the wonderfully creepy and dark-sounding The Gravedigger’s Son by Patrick Moody; Kristi Wientge’s contemporary middle grade debut Karma Khullar’s Mustache; and a beautiful and unusual-sounding fantasy called The Unicorn in the Barn written by Jacqueline K. Ogburn.

 

Train I Ride by Paul Mosier
Publication: January 24, 2017 by HarperCollins
Book Description:

Rydr is on a train heading east, leaving California, where her gramma can’t take care of her anymore, and traveling to Chicago to live with an unknown relative. She brings with her a suitcase, memories both happy and sad, and a box containing something very important.

As Rydr meets her fellow passengers and learns their stories, her own past begins to emerge. And as much as Rydr may want to forget about her life in California, on the train she finds that maybe her past can help her deal with her present. And maybe hope and forgiveness are all around her and, most important, within her, if she’s willing to look for it.

 

The Door in the Alley (The Explorers #1) by Adrienne Kress
Publication: April 25, 2017 by Delacorte Press
Book Description:

Featuring a mysterious society, a secretive past, and a pig in a teeny hat, “The Explorers: The Door in the Alley” is the first book in a new series for fans of “The Name of This Book Is a Secret” and “The Mysterious Benedict Society. “Knock once if you can find it but only members are allowed inside.

This is one of those stories that start with a pig in a teeny hat. It s not the one you re thinking about. (This story is way better than that one.) This pig-in-a-teeny-hat story starts when a very uninquisitive boy stumbles upon a very mysterious society. After that, there is danger and adventure; there are missing persons, hired thugs, a hidden box, a lost map, and famous explorers; and there is a girl looking for help that only uninquisitive boys can offer.

 

Lemons by Melissa Savage
Publication: May 2, 2017 by Crown Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

What do you do when you lose everything that means anything?

Nine-year old Lemonade Liberty Witt doesn’t know the answer to that question, except what her mom taught her. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. But what if those lemons are so big that you forget how? How do you make lemonade out of having to leave everything you know in San Francisco to move to the small town of Willow Creek, California and live with a grandfather you’ve never even met? In a town that smells like grass and mud and bugs. With tall pines instead of skyscrapers and dirt instead of sidewalks. Not to mention one woolly beast lurking in the woods.

That’s right, Bigfoot. A ginormous wooden statue of the ugly thing stands right at the center of town like he’s someone real important, like the mayor or something. And the people here actually believe he’s real and hiding somewhere out in the pine filled forests. How can anyone possibly be expected to make lemonade out those rotten lemons?

 

The Unicorn in the Barn by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, illus. Rebecca Green
Expected publication: July 4, 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

For years people have claimed to see a mysterious white deer in the woods around Chinaberry Creek. It always gets away.One evening, Eric Harper thinks he spots it. But a deer doesn’t have a coat that shimmers like a pearl. And a deer certainly isn’t born with an ivory horn curling from its forehead.

When Eric discovers the unicorn is hurt and being taken care of by the vet next door and her daughter, Allegra, his life is transformed. A tender tale of love, loss, and the connections we make, The Unicorn in the Barn shows us that sometimes ordinary life takes extraordinary turns.

 

The Gravedigger’s Son by Patrick Moody
Expected publication: August 1, 2017 by Sky Pony Press

Book Description:

Ian Fossor is last in a long line of Gravediggers. It’s his family’s job to bury the dead and then, when Called by the dearly departed, to help settle the worries that linger beyond the grave so spirits can find peace in the Beyond.

But Ian doesn’t want to help the dead—he wants to be a Healer and help the living. Such a wish is, of course, selfish and impossible. Fossors are Gravediggers. So he reluctantly continues his training under the careful watch of his undead mentor, hoping every day that he’s never Called and carefully avoiding the path that leads into the forbidden woods bordering the cemetery.

Just as Ian’s friend, Fiona, convinces him to talk to his father, they’re lured into the woods by a risen corpse that doesn’t want to play by the rules. There, the two are captured by a coven of Weavers, dark magic witches who want only two thing—to escape the murky woods where they’ve been banished, and to raise the dead and shift the balance of power back to themselves.

Only Ian can stop them. With a little help from his friends. And his long-dead ancestors.

 

Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge
Expected publication: August 15, 2017 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

Debut author Kristi Wientge tackles the uncomfortable—but all too relatable—subject of female body hair and self-esteem with this sweet and charming novel in the tradition of Judy Blume.

Karma Khullar is about to start middle school, and she is super nervous. Not just because it seems like her best friend has found a newer, blonder best friend. Or the fact that her home life is shaken up by the death of her dadima. Or even that her dad is the new stay-at-home parent, leading her mother to spend most of her time at work. But because she’s realized that she has seventeen hairs that have formed a mustache on her upper lip.

With everyone around her focused on other things, Karma is left to figure out what to make of her terrifyingly hairy surprise all on her own.

Review: Mary Anning’s Curiosity by Monica Kulling

Review: Mary Anning’s Curiosity by Monica Kulling, with illus. by Melissa Castrillon
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Groundwood Books. Thank you!
Publication: May 1, 2017 by Groundwood Books
Book Description:

Mary Anning, considered the world’s greatest fossilist, discovered her first big find at the age of twelve. This novel is an imaginative re-creation of her childhood in early nineteenth-century Lyme Regis.

Mary was born in 1799 in Lyme Regis, England, to a poor family. She and her older brother were the only two of ten children to survive. Her father, a carpenter and part-time fossil hunter, taught his children to look for fossils. When her father injured himself and was unable to work, Mary quit school and took up fossil hunting full-time to help support her family, a task that became even more important when her father died, leaving the Annings in debt.At the age of twelve, Mary, with her older brother Joe, found what they believed to be the skeleton of a gigantic crocodile, the Great Croc of the legends. Between dodging her rival fossil hunter, the Curiman, and the sheer work of carefully digging out the fossil, Mary took almost a year to excavate what would later be termed the Ichthyosaurus.

Mary Anning may have been uneducated, poor and a woman, but her life’s work of fossil hunting led her to make many discoveries that influenced our understanding of prehistoric creatures and the age of the Earth. In 2010, Mary was named among the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science. Charles Darwin even cited Mary’s fossilized creatures as evidence in his book On the Origin of Species.

In this triumphant novel about scientific discovery, Monica Kulling brings Mary Anning and her world to life for young readers.

 

To think, a mere lass, with little schooling, did what those great scientists do all the time- and all of them big men, mind. It boggles my mind, it does. I can’t help but wonder what else you are destined to do.

An out of the ordinary, gorgeous treasure of a book, Mary Anning’s Curiosity is one of the few books I’ve read so far this year in one sitting. Written by Canadian author Monica Kulling, with marvelous illustrations by Melissa Castrillon, Mary Anning’s Curiosity gives readers a look into the earlier life of groundbreaking, celebrated fossilist Mary Anning and her earlier fossil discoveries in and around her place of birth of Lyme Regis, England.

Mary Anning’s Curiosity mostly focuses upon Mary and the year in which she, and her brother Joe, discover, dig and excavate an incredible fossil that was later named the Ichthyosaurus. Before we dive into that time, though, readers are taken into a bit of introduction to Mary and the Anning household. Kulling concisely and candidly describes the serious hardships faced by Mary’s Ma and Pa and their constant struggle with making enough to survive. We learn that Mary’s Ma wants more for her daughter than this life- the life of following in her father’s footsteps as an eccentric fossil hunter, forever in danger by the cliffs. And while Mary does indeed like school and learning “new words, fancy words”- the things that make her Ma happy- her life is the shoreline, the cliffs and beaches, carefully digging for curiosities- just like her Pa and brother. When Mary and Joe’s dad becomes incapacitated after a fall, though, Mary’s drive to hunt fossils, to make money and help her family, completely becomes her life from the age of eleven. In 1811, Mary and Joe’s dig that would lead to the finding of the Ichthyosaurus, begins. Kulling fascinatingly describes Mary’s intensity, focus, fervor and patience in her excavation; her tremendous and natural skills as a fossil hunter; as well as her and Joe’s attempts to thwart the attention of a seemingly greedy, fossil-hungry Captain.

Overall, an excellent, unusual read, providing readers of all ages tremendous insight into the life of an incredible woman of science and discovery. The growing number of books in children’s fiction and non-fiction titles that are delving into the lives of lesser-known trailblazers, staggering minds and discoveries is a joy to see and experience. With Mary Anning’s Curiosity, Monica Kulling has provided a stellar entry into children’s literature: one that not only excels as a fascinating shorter novel on its own accord, but also one that stands as a successful and awe-inspiring fictionalized biography. I do hope readers both young and old get a chance to pick this gem up!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Must Read Monday (66): Titles from Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Sara Crowe, Caroline Carlson & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: children’s fiction! The titles featured this week are incredible-sounding and looking titles with a wide-range of genre- everything from magical realism, mystery, fantasy and more. Some favourite authors are here, including forthcoming titles from Laurel Snyder and Julie Berry. The other three authors featured here are new-to-me, and all with very well-received titles. There is Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s award-winning and fascinatingly described The Girl of Ink and Stars; Sara Crowe‘s dark and magical Bone Jack; and Caroline Carlson‘s delightfully described mystery, The World’s Greatest Detective.

 

The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Publication: May 5, 2016 by Chicken House
Book Description:

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

 

Bone Jack by Sara Crowe
Publication: February 7, 2017 by Philomel Books
Book Description:

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.

 


The World’s Greatest Detective by Caroline Carlson
Expected publication: May 16, 2017 by HarperCollins
Book Description:

Detectives’ Row is full of talented investigators, but Toby Montrose isn’t one of them. He’s only an assistant at his uncle’s detective agency, and he’s not sure he’s even very good at that. Toby’s friend Ivy is the best sleuth around—or at least she thinks so. They both see their chance to prove themselves when the famed Hugh Abernathy announces a contest to choose the World’s Greatest Detective. But when what was supposed to be a game turns into a real-life murder mystery, can Toby and Ivy crack the case?

 

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder
Expected publication: May 30, 2017 by Walden Pond Press
Book Description:

On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.

Today’s Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now—to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they’ve always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back—and take her away forever from the only home she’s known?

 

The Emperor’s Ostrich by Julie Berry
Expected publication: July 18, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

Young dairymaid Begonia has lost her cow, Alfalfa. So she has set off on a search across the countryside even though she has nothing but a magical map to guide her. Along the way she meets a mother and baby, a woodcutter, a very dirty young man, and an eight-foot ostrich.

Meanwhile, the Emperor has gone missing from the royal palace in a most mysterious manner. Was it murder? Was it magic? It will take all of Begonia’s wits to save the empire and get Alfalfa home safely.