November 18, 2017

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Robot Chicken Invasions, Cartwheels Galore, and a Victorian Murder Mystery | Fiction Grades 5-8

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See our complete list of
October 2014 SLJ Stars.

redstarRUNDELL, Katherine. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms. 256p. S. & S. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442490611; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442490635. LC 2013021053.

Gr 4-6–Twelve-year-old Wilhelmina Silver—aka Will, Wildcat, Madman, Cartwheel—has what she considers to be an idyllic life. Since her mother’s death when she was five, she has been “raised” on a remote farm in Zimbabwe by her father, the farm foreman. She has been free to explore and run like the wind; ride bareback on her horse, Shumba; and has a pet monkey to keep her company. She is at home in the bush and sleeps in trees, if necessary, and routinely steals fruit and sets fires with her best friend Simon and the rest of the farm boys. She’s a good reader and keen observer, but her formal education has been sketchy at best. The things she knows to be true are not easily quantified or necessarily valued. When her father dies, she is left in the care of Captain Browne, the kindly farm owner, and his scheming and manipulative new wife. When it is announced that the farm is to be sold and Will is to be sent to a private school in England, the girl’s golden world is shattered. Leaving behind all that she has known and loves and adjusting to a cold, inhospitable climate is just part of her challenge. She has always been a quick study and a fierce competitor and there is no place for her to shine in the snooty, highly regimented school. Driven by desperation and the girls’ cruelty, Will runs away and has to work out for herself what is real, valuable, and true. Rundell’s vivid and compelling prose brings both worlds to life on a visceral level and propels her characters forward. Readers will be engaged by Will’s voice (and her colorful linguistic twists), ache for her through her sorrow and loss, and celebrate her newly sparked confidence and resolve. Warning: there will be cartwheels!—Luann Toth, School Library Journal

redstarStroud, Jonathan. The Whispering Skull. 448p. (Lockwood & Co.: Bk. 2). Disney-Hyperion. 2014. lib. ed. $17.99. ISBN 9781423164920; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781484711460.

Gr 5-8–In this spine-chilling sequel to The Screaming Staircase (Hyperion, 2013), Stroud again demonstrates his ease in the world of the macabre and truly frightening. Lucy works for Lockwood & Co., one of many agencies dealing with The Problem. Fifty years ago, for no apparent reason, the dead rose and began to walk among the living. Agencies employ psychic children to help dispatch the dead permanently. In this second installment, the group (Lucy, leader Anthony Lockwood, and bumbling researcher George) finds themselves drawn deeper into the mystery of The Problem. A supposedly simple job dispatching an unruly cemetery ghost leads to the discovery of black markets, obsessive cults, mysterious collectors, and a bone mirror that drives anyone who looks into it completely mad. As in the first novel, the descriptions of the different types of spirits are nightmarishly frightening (one episode with rat-ghosts is especially gruesome.) Lucy’s growing abilities to communicate with the dead, especially the nasty spirit attached to a skull in Lockwood’s home, add an additional layer of menace to an already creepy tale; Lockwood’s secrets add intrigue and suspicion. The plot gallops along at a breakneck pace, giving little respite from the horrors within. For fans of scary fare, this page-turner is a dream (or nightmare) come true.–Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla, Darien Library, CT

redstarVan Leeuwen, Jean. The Missing Pieces of Me. 240p. Amazon/Two Lions. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781477847299; pap. ISBN 9781477816189.

Gr 4-6–This is the poignant story of sensitive Weezie, who is growing up in an 1980’s Oklahoman trailer park with an overworked and unloving Mama. The fifth-grader is nearly convinced that she is a completely bad person, thanks to her mother’s uncompromising expectations and lack of affection, combined with her own penchant for lying to protect herself from the other kids’ curiosity about her life. Van Leeuwen beautifully balances dialogue with action and the internal narrative of her hero to create a forward-moving tale that will carry readers along, feeling alternately sad and proud for Weezie all the way. All of the secondary characters are simple, defined by one or two primary characteristics, but feel full-bodied thanks to the variation in their voices and thoughtful details, such as the teacher who “ran her fingers through her hair, making it stand out like a dark cloud around her head… when she was thinking.” Unlike many protagonists of this age group, Weezie is on the innocent and naive side, and nothing shockingly bad or jarringly uncomfortable happens. Ultimately, this quiet book reveals the capacity for good within the characters—despite the hard and unyielding heart of Weezie’s mother—and leaves readers with a sense of empathy and understanding about the importance of self-confidence. Recommended for readers who can handle getting emotionally involved with their protagonists, such as fans of Karen Hesse.–Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

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

Abbott, Tony. The Serpent’s Curse. 496p. (The Copernicus Legacy: Bk. 2). HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062194466; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780062351593; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062194503.

Beauvais, Clémentine. Sleuth on Skates. illus. by Sarah Horne. 224p. (A Sesame Seade Mystery: Bk. 1). Holiday House. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823431977. ebk. $16.95. ISBN 9780823432554 LC 2014010154.

Becker, Helaine. Dirk Daring, Secret Agent. 208p. Orca. Oct. 2014. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781459806832. LC 2014935380.

BERRY, Julie. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place. 368p. Roaring Brook. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781596439566; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781596439573.

Bosch, Pseudonymous. Bad Magic. illus. by Gilbert Ford. 400p. ebook available. Little, Brown. 2014. Tr $17.00. ISBN 9780316320382.

Charles, Rie. A Hole in My Heart. 160p. ebook available. Dundurn. 2014. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781459710528; ebk. $8.99. ISBN 9781459710542.

Fry, Jason. Curse of the Iris. 352p. (The Jupiter Pirates: Bk. 2). HarperCollins. Dec. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062230232.

Giff, Patricia Reilly. Hunter Moran Digs Deep. illus. by Chris Sheban. 128p. Holiday House. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823431656. ebk. $16.95. ISBN 9780823432578.

Hautala, Beth. Waiting for Unicorns. 256p. Philomel. Jan. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780525426318; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781101619988. LC 2014007441.

Hoban, Russell. Jim’s Lion. illus. by Alexis Deacon. 84p. Candlewick. Nov. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763665173. LC 2013955698.

Jocelyn, Marthe & Richard Scrimger. Viminy Crowe’s Comic Book. illus. by Claudia Dávila. 336p. Tundra. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781770494794.

Lloyd Burns, Catherine. The Good, The Bad, and The Beagle. 336p. Farrar. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374300395.

McCall, Alex. Attack of the Giant Robot Chickens. 205p. Floris/Kelpies. 2014. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781782500087.

Mann, Elizabeth. Little Man. 208p. Mikaya. Oct. 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781931414494; pap. $8.95. ISBN 9781931414500.

Miller, Bobbi. The Girls of Gettysburg. 151p. maps. Holiday House. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823431632; ebk. $16.95. ISBN 9780823432615. LC 2013045645.

Northrop, Michael. Surrounded by Sharks. 224p. Scholastic. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545615457.

Rosenberg, Madelyn. Nanny X. 112p. Holiday House. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823431663. LC 2013045487. ebk. $16.95. ISBN 9780823432516.

SAUERWEIN, Leigh. River Music. 132p. ebook available. Namelos. Oct. 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781608981861; pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781608981878. LC 2014941719.

Vrabel, Beth. Pack of Dorks. 240p. Sky Pony. Oct. 2014. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781629146232.

Ward, Matthew. War of the World Records. 384p. Penguin/Razorbill. Dec. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781595146915.

Wertheim, L. Jon & Tobias Moskowitz. The Rookie Bookie. 272p. ebook available. Little, Brown. Oct. 2014. Tr $17.00. ISBN 9780316249812.

Wheeler, Patti & Keith Hemstreet. Greenland. 176p. glossary. maps. photos. (Travels with Gannon & Wyatt: Bk. 4). Greenleaf. Oct. 2014. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781626341203.

Whitehouse, Howard. Zombie Elementary: The Real Story. 256p. Tundra. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781770496088. LC 2013953682.

Yeh, Kat. The Truth About Twinkie Pie. 352p. Little, Brown. Feb. 2015. Tr $17. ISBN 9780316236621; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316236591. LC 2013042076.

Ylvisaker, Anne. The Curse of the Buttons. 240p. ebook available. Candlewick. Nov. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763661380. LC 2014931836.

Graphic Novels

Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel, Vol. 2. adapted by P. Craig Russell. illus. by P. Craig Russell et al. 176p. HarperCollins/Harper. Oct. 2014. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062194831.

Shapiro, David R. Terra Tempo: The Academy of Planetary Evolution. illus. by Christopher Herndon. 168p. glossary. maps. (Terra Tempo: Bk. 3). Craigmore Creations. Oct. 2014. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781940052090.

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

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