Can’t wait to see what hot, new books are reviewed in our upcoming November issue? The SLJ review editors selected a few standout titles for this month’s “Sneak Peek.” Subscribe to SLJ today to get all of our reviews every month!
Preschool to Grade 4
Hanlon, Abby. Dory Fantasmagory. illus. by Abby Hanlon. 160p. Dial. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780803740884; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698135932. LC 2013034996.
Gr 1-3 –Six-year-old Dory, known as Rascal to her family, wants more than anything to be included in her older siblings’s fun, but her endless questions and make-believe monsters drive them crazy. When Violet and Luke tell Dory a bedtime story about the evil Mrs. Gobble Grackle, who steals baby girls, they unintentionally feed her already overactive imagination. Dory and her imaginary friend, Mary (who resembles Maurice Sendak’s Max), are always on the lookout for monsters, and they thwart Mrs. Gobble Grackle’s attempts to kidnap her with banana peels and sleep-inducing darts. When Dory pretends to be the dog her brother has always wanted, she convinces Mrs. G that she isn’t the baby to kidnap and sabotages a trip to the doctor’s office. Hanlon effectively uses many childlike pencil drawings and word balloons interspersed with a good mix of short and long sentences in brief, episodic chapters full of Dory’s hilarious adventures. New vocabulary words are used in context within familiar settings and situations for the audience, creating a successful transitional book for new readers ready for longer stories. Dory ultimately finds a way to prove her bravery to her brother and sister, and readers will laugh at her entertaining antics.
Grades 5 to 8
Angleberger, Tom. Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus. illus. by Tom Angleberger. 208p. (Origami Yoda: Bk. 6). Abrams/Amulet. 2014. Tr $13.95. ISBN 9781419709333; ebk. $13.95. ISBN 9781613125120.
Gr 4-6 –The fateful day has finally arrived for the seventh graders at McQuarrie Middle School to embark on their much-anticipated field trip to Washington, DC, their reward for defeating the FunTime Menace back in Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue (Abrams/Amulet, 2014). When cell phones and origami (and paper altogether) are banned on the trip by Principal Rabbski, and “bus buddies” are mandated, the kids are anxious that things might turn “nostrul” (awful). Tommy and the gang open a new case file chronicling their ups and downs, with Kellen adding the riotous illustrations. Smuggled cell phones and lime Fruit Roll-Ups used to create Fruitigami Yoda may save the day, but Harvey threatens to sour everyone’s plans with his smuggled evil origami, Emperor Pickletine (with real pickle head). Chaperones include Mr. Good Clean Fun (along with his monkey puppet, Soapy) and dreaded Mr. Howell, who seems destined to thwart any possible fun. Can the students avoid the standardized tests? Will Fruitigami Yoda conquer Emperor Pickletine? As Angleberger brings the wildly popular series to a close (or does he?), age-appropriate boy-girl relationships are explored, and most of the story lines are wrapped up. As in the previous titles, instructions to make the origami figures are included, and this installment also includes an entertaining chart showing the effects of Origami Yoda on all of the pertinent characters. Fans of the series won’t want to miss the satisfying conclusion, but new readers should start at the beginning.
Pichon, L. The Brilliant World of Tom Gates. 256p. (Tom Gates). Candlewick. 2014. RTE $12.99. ISBN 9780763674724; ebk. $12.99. ISBN 9780763675813. LC 2013952846.
Gr 3-5 –Fifth-grader Tom Gates has a lot of negatives in his life. His older sister annoys him and he retaliates by playing tricks on her. His teachers assign too much homework and when he runs out of time to do it he offers over-the-top, fantastical excuses for why it’s not done. Adding to these issues, his family has many mishaps, like failed camping trips and the dog chewing up his tickets to a rock concert. Tom endures it all with his penchant for doodling and writing about everything that happens. For example, whenever the teachers focus on him in class he creates doodles of them staring at him with their “beady eyes.” This helps him feel better. His self-centered storytelling is over-the-top but will be enjoyed by those who can’t get enough of Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books (Abrams/Amulet). The engaging illustrations are plentiful and will delight avid and reluctant readers alike. This title was originally published in the United Kingdom; some British words and phrases are sprinkled throughout. A humorous glossary explaining the Briticisms is appended.
Riordan, Rick. The Lost Hero: The Graphic Novel. adapted by Robert Vendetti. illus. by Nate Powell. 192p. (The Heroes of Olympus: Bk. 1). Disney-Hyperion. 2014. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781423162797; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781423163251.
Gr 4-8 –Riordan’s ever-popular mythology series that resonates so strongly with reluctant readers and those who yearn for action-packed adventure now have the option to follow the story in graphic novel format. If the traditional narrative version of The Lost Hero (Disney-Hyperion, 2010) hit the ground running, it is nothing compared to what awaits readers in a sequential art format. It takes fewer than 10 pages for the story to start with a [quite literal] bang, and it relents very infrequently thereafter. Powell does an excellent job of adapting the original story into pictorial format, hitting all of the high points and representing all of the major details in the drawings, so little is lost. For those unfamiliar with Riordan’s storytelling, they will receive a healthy introduction to his easy-to-follow story lines that teach with great accuracy the mythologies that students will undoubtedly learn in the classroom but with such fun and ease that it will hardly feel like school. Readers who are new to reading comic books will be no less entertained; there are a few pages here and there that may make following the panels in order a touch challenging, but they will catch on quickly. It goes without saying that this book will fly off the shelves; Riordan, of course, has a ready-made audience, but he always does a good job of welcoming new readers, so this one is a must for both school and public libraries.
Grades 9 & Up
Howell, Simmone. Girl Defective. photos by Henry Beer. 320p. ebook available. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442497603.
Gr 9 Up –Australian author Howell brings stateside her intriguing story of a coming-of-age summer for 15-year-old Skylark Martin. The teen lives above the family record store in a small Melbourne suburb with her home-brewing, stuck-in-the-past father, and endearing younger brother, Gully, whose social issues have manifested as an obsession with being a detective and near-permanent wearing of a pig snout mask. She is blunt in her depictions of them and her mother, who left the family to reinvent herself as performance artist Galaxy Strobe (“What can you say about your mother in darkness, wearing an outfit fringed with seventy thousand tampons?”). Flawed but likable Sky is drawn to the 19-year-old, enigmatic, worldly Nancy, who introduces her both to recreational drugs and underground parties. There’s an element of mystery to the story, with posters around town of a girl who died and has some connection to both those parties and the record store’s attractive new hire, Luke. But while Nancy is outrunning her past, and Luke seeks to make sense of his own, Sky finds a future that holds some promise. Howell’s writing is engaging and well suited to the pacing of the story, and the Aussie references are part of the charm. Library Journal
Lyga, Barry. Blood of My Blood. 480p. (I Hunt Killers: Bk. 3). ebook available. Little, Brown. 2014. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316198707. LC 2014003643.
Gr 9 Up –Jasper “Jazz” Dent is locked in a storage locker with two dead bodies, trying to nurse his own bullet wound in the dim light of a fading cellphone. Picking up (without pause) from the cliff-hanger ending in Game (2013), Lyga’s series about the 17-year-old who was first introduced in I Hunt Killers (2012) as the son of escaped killer Billy Dent continues as he tries to aid the police in his father’s recapture. Unaware that his girlfriend Connie has been lured by Billy to a Brooklyn tenement house and imprisoned with Jazz’s mother, and that his hemophiliac friend, Howie, has been attacked, Jazz faces his demons alone—including repressed memories with sexual undertones, and the creepy voice of Billy educating his son on the acumen required to be a good serial killer (appearing in italics). The worrisome genetic factor plagues Jazz yet propels him in the right direction to foil some copycat killers and elude authorities long enough to solve his own life’s mysteries. Obstructing the law, the teen follows clues that take him back home to Lobo’s Nod for the chilling climax and surprise ending, despite red herrings thrown in the readers’ path at every turn. Connie and Howie continue to play major roles in this episode, often providing their own points-of-view, as do officers Hughes and Tanner as bumbling but likable authorities. As a trilogy wrap-up, this gory winner with raw appeal requires having read the first two titles.
Stiefvater, Maggie. Blue Lily, Lily Blue. 400p. (The Raven Cycle: Bk. 3). Scholastic. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780545424967; ebk. ISBN 9780545662901.
Gr 9 Up –Having inhaled the first two installments in this thrilling series about four Virginia schoolboys on a quest to find a legendary Welsh king, teens will be anxious to see where Stiefvater next leads Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah. The volume picks up directly after The Dream Thieves (Scholastic, 2013) and the quest takes some bizarre and dangerous twists. Blue Sargent and the psychically talented women of 300 Fox Way take center stage this time. Blue’s mother Maura has disappeared, and it’s not immediately clear if she wants to be found. Despite the fact that “time and space were bathtubs that Maura splashed in,” Blue and Mr. Gray, Maura’s ex-hitman boyfriend, begin to think she’s underground and in trouble. Informed by several mystical and live sources that there were three ancient sleepers in the nearby mountain caves, one of which is not to be awakened, the young people are hurled toward a subterranean encounter of the weirdest kind. Throughout, the prose is crisp and dazzling and the dialogue positively crackles. The supernatural elements—magic, a mirrored lake, an evil curse, the appearance of Owen Glendower’s 600-year-old daughter—are completely organic and suspension of disbelief is effortless due to the nuanced and affecting characterization. Blue and the Raven Boys come into their own over the course of the novel and realize their individual strengths and the power of their collective bonds, making them unstoppable. It’s a good thing, because it seems as though all hell is about to break loose in the final volume. School Library Journal
Stine, R.L. Party Games: A Fear Street Novel. 288p. ebook available. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250051615.
Gr 9 Up –Lurking on Fear Street are many more page-turning (albeit formulaic) horrors from the beloved author. This first installment of the revamped series has the classic Stine recipe: told from one character’s point of view in a linear chronology, with a focus on plot over character or context development. Each chapter is a cliff-hanger and readers can anticipate the type of scare they’re in for—until the final twist. The novel is written from the perspective of contemporary teenager Rachel, who is delighted to be invited to her crush Brendan Fear’s birthday party on his remote private island. The cursed Fear family and has a terrifying reputation, and when teenagers start being murdered at Brendan’s party, it seems the curse is becoming a reality. The book was frightening—with ghosts, masked robbers, and even red-eyed bats—but the murders are committed off stage and the details aren’t too gruesome. Also, despite the romantic plot line, there was nothing raunchier than a kiss. The simple language and horror themes will appeal to many readers, including reluctant ones. A volume that proves why Stine’s books endure.
Yancey, Rick. The Infinite Sea. 320p. Putnam. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780399162428; ebk. ISBN 9781101599013. LC 2014022058.
Gr 9 Up –The majority of the first person narration in this second book in “The 5th Wave” series (Putnam) shifts between Ringer, a beautiful teen with deadly aim, and tough-but-tender Cassie, who thought she was the lone surviving human. A third-person viewpoint is used for Evan, an alien who has shifted his allegiance in the face of true love and Ben (Zombie), badly injured but still in command of the rag-tag paramilitary group of creatively nicknamed children and teens. The action springs back and forth in place and time as readers learn why Poundcake no longer speaks, how Evan is related to super-strong Grace, and why chess is important to Ringer. The “infinite sea” can be made of snow, of tears, of the floaty feeling of semi-consciousness, and, more than once, it is a sea of blood. Yancey keeps the pressure on, as Cassie and Ben seek to protect the younger humans and outsmart the devious Silencers. Ringer struggles to maintain her humanity in the face of nanotechnology and Evan struggles with turning his back on what his species has been working toward for thousands of years. Yancey’s writing can be melodramatic (“The world will be consumed by the crushing dark.”; “The Others didn’t invent death; they just perfected it.”) but will keep action-craving readers enthralled. With a 5th Wave movie in the works, and alien questions left unanswered, expect readers to be interested in this series for the foreseeable future.
Charleyboy, Lisa & Mary Beth Leatherdale, eds. Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices. 128p. illus. photos. reprods. Annick. Nov. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781554516872; ebk. ISBN 9781554516889.
Gr 6 Up –This dynamic, creative work is an interactive portal that introduces readers to the lives of 64 indigenous Native American young people. The writers here include an award-winning throat singer, a fashion model, a hip-hop dancer, a tribal leader, an activist, a graphic designer, a comic book creator, a chef, a dancer, a musician, a makeup artist, and a rapper, and the contributors communicate powerfully who they are in their own words and images. The visuals are a blend of bold, contemporary digital graffiti and indigenous art at its best, and the end result is a collage of profound, sometimes gritty photos and digital images. The text is a combination of awe-inspiring poetry, prose, and poignant captions. No topic is left untouched—identity, racism, gender, bullying, abuse at boarding schools, adoption, mixed heritage, runaways, suicide, drug, poverty, coming of age, death, and sex, though the tone is positive and success stories are emphasized. This slim book effectively presents honest portrayals of strong, hopeful, and courageous indigenous youth living nonstereotypical lives. Not to be missed.
Sidman, Joyce. Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold. illus. by Rick Allen. 32p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Nov. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780547906508.
K-Gr 4 –The 12 selections in this collection offer a winter wonderland of deftly crafted poetry, fascinating science facts, an amazingly rich vocabulary, and stunning illustrations. In the title poem, the bees are lyrically described, ”Born with eyelash legs/and tinsel wings/we are nothing on our own./Together, we are One….Deep in the winter hive,/we burn like a golden sun.” In “Big Brown Moose,” the animal humorously chants, “I’m a big brown moose,/I’m a rascally moose,/ I’m a moose with a tough shaggy hide…” Science facts about the animals’ lives in harsh winter climates appear in sidebars on each spread. Sidman explores the safe places that allow for survival, such as in the underwater beaver lodge, “In the dim oval room,/they groom, snack, kiss;/strong brown bullets that dive/in the under-ice world.” The poet also includes the role of plant species in the process, such as the skunk cabbage that signals spring as the first plant to sprout through the snow and about its importance as it attracts insect pollinators. Readers come to understand that the seemingly barren winter is actually teaming with the hidden activity of plant and animal life. Allen’s intricately detailed, hand-colored, linoleum prints jump off the page, wrap around the words, and breathe life into the foxes, voles, swans, wolves, and more. This combination provides a magnificent celebration of winter that delights and informs. A comprehensive glossary of specialized words is included. Douglas Florian’s Winter Eyes (Greenwillow, 1999), Barbara Rogasky’s Winter Poems (Scholastic, 1995), and Anna Grossnickle Hines’s Winter Lights (Greenwillow, 1995) also celebrate the season but cover a wide range of events. Winter Bees distinguishes itself with a focus on the science of animal survival, coupled with superlative illustrations. Readers young and old will enjoy this winter journey and marvel at the wonders of nature.