November 17, 2017

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Squirrel Tales, Sibling Woes, and Conflict in Darfur | Grades 5-8 Fiction

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redstarPerkins, Lynne Rae. Nuts to You. illus. by Lynne Rae Perkins. 256p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780060092757. LC 2013048701.

Gr 3-6 –As explained in an Author’s Note at the start, Perkins was told this tale by a talking squirrel whom she met while enjoying a peanut butter sandwich on a park bench. When a squirrel is captured by a hawk and flown off to an uncertain fate, two of his friends set off in pursuit. Partway through their rescue mission, they encounter humans who are trimming trees which have grown around the power lines (the squirrels call these “buzzpaths”). Now they must not only bring their friend home, but also warn all the squirrels in the vicinity to flee from the impending depredation of swaths of their forest. Part of the tension and humor stems from the ways in which the motivations of humans and squirrels are inexplicable to each other. Perkins elucidates delightfully, as when she tells readers that “‘TsTs’ is currently the most frequently given girl squirrel name, the ‘Emma’ of squirrel names.” This is a small story made larger by the ways readers can enjoy Perkins’s whimsical conception of squirrel civilization. Some deeper themes may prompt readers to question their interactions with the natural world. The author’s light touch is maintained by her profuse spot and full-page illustrations throughout.–Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Library, NY

redstarPinkney, Andrea Davis. The Red Pencil. illus. by Shane W. Evans. 336p. Little, Brown. Sept. 2014. Tr $17. ISBN 9780316247801; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316247818.

Gr 5-7 –Set during the early years of the Darfur conflict, this stunning collaboration between Coretta Scott King Award winners Pinkney and Evans tells a moving story of the scarring effects of war but also brings a message of hope and inspiration. Twelve-year-old Amira wishes to attend school, but her mother, “born into a flock of women/locked in a hut of tradition,” does not support the girl’s aspirations and expects her to only marry and bear children. In contrast, Amira’s father praises her talents and gifts her with a special “turning-twelve twig” that she uses to sketch her dreams in the goz (sand). These dreams are brutally shattered when the Janjaweed militants invade and cut a swath of terror through her village. After enduring a heartbreaking loss, Amira and her family must rally their strength in order to make the treacherous journey to the Kalma refugee camp. There, the girl is given a red pencil; this simple gift reveals a world of endless possibilities and imbues the tween with a strong sense of agency. Amira’s thoughts and drawings are vividly brought to life through Pinkney’s lyrical verse and Evans’s lucid line illustrations, which infuse the narrative with emotional intensity. An engaging author note provides background on the political situation in Sudan and explains the powerful motivations for telling this story. An essential purchase that pairs well with Sylvia Whitman’s The Milk of Birds (S. & S., 2013).–Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA

Graphic Novels

redstarTelgemeier, Raina. Sisters. illus. by Raina Telgemeier. 208p. Scholastic/Graphix. Aug. 2014. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780545540599; pap. $10.99. ISBN 9780545540605; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780545540667. LC 2013008700.

Gr 4 Up –Telgemeier has returned with a must-have follow-up to Smile (Scholastic, 2010) that is as funny as it is poignant, and utterly relatable for anyone with siblings. This realistic graphic memoir tells the story of Raina; her sister, Amara; and her brother, Will, as they take a road trip with their mother from California to Colorado to join a family reunion. The author’s narrative style is fresh and sharp, and the combination of well-paced and well-placed flashbacks pull the plot together, moving the story forward and helping readers understand the characters’ point of view. The volume captures preadolescence in an effortless and uncanny way and turns tough subjects, such as parental marriage problems, into experiences with which readers can identify. This ability is what sets Telgemeier’s work apart and makes her titles appealing to such a wide variety of readers. Not only does the story relay the road trip’s hijinks, but it also touches on what happens with the advent of a new sibling and what it means to be truly sisters. Fans of the graphic novelist’s work will be sure to delight in this return to the Telgemeier’s family drama.–Krishna Grady, Darien Library, CT


Graphic novels are now reviewed in every issue.
Where applicable, they appear at the bottom of the grade level section.


The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue:

Alexander, William. Ambassador. 240p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442497641; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442497665. LC 2013037333.

Alvarez, Jennifer. Starfire. 272p. (The Guardian Herd). HarperCollins/Harper. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062286062; ebk. ISBN 9780062286086.

Bachmann, Stefan et al. The Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief & Sinister. illus. by Alexander Jansson. 496p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062331052; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780062313140; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9780062313157.

Baker, E. D. The Fairy-Tale Matchmaker. 352p. Bloomsbury. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781619631403.

Bauer, Joan. Tell Me. 272p. Viking. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780451470331.

Black, Peter Jay. Urban Outlaws. 320p. Bloomsbury. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781619634008.

Brown, Jennifer. Life on Mars. 231p. ebook available. Bloomsbury. Aug. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781619632523.

Carlson, Caroline. The Terror of the Southlands. illus. by Dave Phillips. 336p. (The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: Bk. 2). HarperCollins. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062194367.

Carvell, Tim. Return to Planet Tad. illus. by Doug Holgate. 240p. (Tadpoles Fairytale Jumbles). HarperCollins. Oct. 2014. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780062266255; ebk. ISBN 9780062266279.

Cavanaugh, Nancy J. Always Abigail. 320p. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Aug. 2014. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781402293030.

Cohn, Edith. Spirit’s Key. 320p. Farrar. Sept. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780374300111.

Cuevas, Michelle. Beyond the Laughing Sky. illus. by Julie Morstad. 160p. Dial. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803738676; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781101600092.

Cummings, Lindsay. The Fires of Calderon. 352p. (Balance Keepers: Bk. 1). HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062275189; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062275202.

Falkner, Brian. Maddy West and the Tongue Taker. illus. by Donovan Bixley. 256p. Capstone. Oct. 2014. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781623700843.

Fforde, Jasper. Eye of Zoltar. 416p. (Chronicles of Kazam: Bk. 3). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780547738499; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780544374300.

Gale, Eric Kahn. The Zoo at the Edge of the World. 240p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062125163.

Gibbs, Stuart. Space Case. 352p. S. & S. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442494862.

Gurevich, Margaret. Making the Cut. illus. by Brooke Hagel. 384p. (Chloe by Design). Capstone. Aug. 2014. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781623701123. LC 2013050317.

Hatfield, Ruth. The Book of Storms. 368p. Holt. Nov. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780805099980.

Heller, Ginger. The Kid Who Beat Wall Street: …And Saved Africa. Vol. 1. ISBN 9781492959953. LC 2013920483.

––––. The Kid Who Beat Wall Street: …And Saved Africa. Vol. 2. ISBN 9781493515394. LC 2013920037.

ea vol: illus. by Anna Myers. 189p. CreateSpace. 2014. pap. $8.96.

Houts, Michelle. Winterfrost. 272p. ebook available. Candlewick. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763665654. LC 2013955669.

Huser, Glen. The Elevator Ghost. illus. by Stacy Innerst. 168p. House of Anansi/Groundwood. Aug. 2014. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781554984251; ebk. $12.95. ISBN 9781554984275.

Keating, Jess. How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied. 268p. Sourcebooks. 2014. Tr $7.99. ISBN 9781402297557.

Kehret, Peg. Dangerous Deception. 208p. ebook available. Dutton. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780525426523.

Kositsky, Lynne. The Plagues of Kondar. 184p. Dundurn. Jul. 2014. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781459709348; ebk. ISBN 9781459709362.

Kraatz, Jeramey. The Cloak Society: Fall of Heroes. 320p. (The Cloak Society: Bk. 3). HarperCollins. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062095534.

Larson, M. A. Pennyroyal Academy. 320p. Putnam. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399163241.

Lennon, Maria T. Watch Out, Hollywood!: More Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child. 240p. HarperCollins. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062126931.

Lockwood, Vicki. The Magnificent Lizzie Brown and the Mysterious Phantom. 208p. Capstone. Sept. 2014. Tr $10.95. ISBN 9781623700690.

Lupica, Mike. Fantasy League. 304p. Philomel. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399256073.

Lynch, Chris. Dead in the Water. 192p. (World War II: Bk. 2). ebook available. Scholastic. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545522984.

McClure, Wendy. Wanderville: On Track for Treasure. 256p. (Wanderville: Bk. 2). Penguin/Razorbill. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781595147028.

McGann, Erika. The Demon Notebook. 224p. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. 2014. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781402295386.

Mateo, José Manuel. Migrant. tr. from Spanish by Emmy Smith Ready. illus. by Javier Martínez Pedro. 22p. Abrams. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781419709579.

Meyerhoff, Jenny. Class B.U.R.P. illus. by Jason Week. 288p. (The Barftastic Life of Louie Burger: Bk. 2). Farrar. 2014. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9780374305215.

Mobley, Jeannie. Searching for Silverheels. 304p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481400299.

Parenteau, Shirley. Ship of Dolls. 272p. ebook available. Candlewick. Aug. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763670030. LC 2014931695.

Pashley, Hilton. Gabriel’s Clock. 304p. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544301764; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780544377028. LC 2013042012.

Reedy, Trent. If You’re Reading This. 304p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. Aug. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545433426; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545700498.

Richards, C. J. The Junkyard Bot. illus. by Goro Fujita. 192p. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544339361.

Rivers, Karen. Finding Ruby Starling. 304p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. Aug. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545534826.

Roy, Carter. The Blood Guard. 288p. Amazon/Two Lions. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781477847251.

Salamon, Julie. Cat in the City. illus. by Jill Weber. 208p. Dial. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803740563; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781101627129.

Shull, Megan. The Swap. 400p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062311696.

Smith, A. C. H. Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: The Novelization. illus. by Brian Froud. 288p. ebook available. Archaia Studios. 2014. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781608864164.

Smith, Dan. My Friend the Enemy. 288p. Scholastic/Chicken House. Aug. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545665421; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545665438. LC 2103042572.

Stout, Shawn K. Penelope Crumb is Mad at the Moon. illus. by Valeria Docampo. 208p. (Penelope Crumb: Bk. 4). Philomel. Sept. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780399162558.

Virgo, Sean. The Shadow Mother. illus. by Javier Serrano Perez. 64p. House of Anansi/Groundwood. 2014. RTE $21.95. ISBN 9780888999719.

Weissman, Elissa Brent. Nerd Camp 2.0. 288p. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781442452947.

Yelchin, Eugene. Arcady’s Goal. illus. by Eugene Yelchin. 240p. Holt. Oct. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780805098440; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781627792912.

Yolen, Jane. Centaur Rising. 272p. Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. Oct. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780805096644; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780805096651.

Graphic Novels

Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel. adapted by P. Craig Russell. illus. by P. Craig Russell, et al. 192p. ebook available. HarperCollins. Jul. 2014. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062194817.

GUIBERT, Emmanuel. A Beautiful Cow. illus. by Marc Boutavant. 124p. (Ariol: Vol. 4). Papercutz. 2014. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781597075138.

This article was published in School Library Journal's July 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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