November 20, 2017

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Hank Williams, the Red Scare, and the Finale to an Unforgettable Trilogy | Fiction Grades 5-8

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March 2015 SLJ Stars.

redstarAvi. Catch You Later, Traitor. 304p. Algonquin. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781616203597.

Gr 4-6 –Pete Collison’s dad is a commie sympathizer: that’s the accusation Pete’s teacher makes in front of his entire seventh grade class. It’s 1951 Brooklyn, during the height of the Red Scare, so Pete is instantly shunned at school, his best friend avoids him, and the only person who wants to talk to him is an FBI agent. Unsure of whom to trust, Pete decides to emulate his detective hero Sam Spade. He will investigate his father’s past—could his dad really be a communist?—and find out who reported his family to the FBI. Avi, a master of historical fiction, vividly recreates not only the neighborhoods and pop culture of period Brooklyn, but the runaway paranoia that dominated daily life in the early years of the Cold War. With each clue Pete uncovers, the tension picks up, engaging readers in solving the dual mystery of his father’s past and identifying his accuser whose name is kept a well-concealed surprise until the last moment. In clever digressions, detective Pete mentally rewrites mundane observations with hard-boiled hyperbole. He describes the sunlight in his bedroom: “It didn’t promise much and left early.” Strong supporting characters add subtle but important details about a period in American history that may not be fully studied in classrooms. Insightful readers will pick up on warnings about the abuse of government power. VERDICT As a mystery, historical fiction, and love letter to 1950s Brooklyn, this novel succeeds on every level.–Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

redstarHolt, Kimberly Willis. Dear Hank Williams. 224p. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780805080223.

Gr 4-7 –The year is 1948, and Tate P. Ellerbee is writing to her favorite singer, Hank Williams, as part of a pen pal assignment at school. Although her letter writing is one-sided, Tate continues to send Hank details of her life. She tells Hank about her actress mother and famous photographer father. Tate lives with her Aunt Patty Cake, who she describes as being like the sun because no matter what happens, she’s always there. Her Uncle Jolly is the comic relief, as he has one heartbreak after another in his pursuit of a wife. Holt skillfully uses foreshadowing and the element of surprise in a twist ending. Included are some glimpses into the anti- Japanese and anti-communist feelings after the war. The author also highlights the Louisiana Hayride and Grand Ole Opry shows broadcast on radios throughout the country during that time period. The strength of this novel lies in the insight Tate develops as she deals with tragedy and depends on the love of family. VERDICT Artfully told, this middle grade novel pleases on many levels.–D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH

redstarKelly, Jacqueline. The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. 352p. Holt. Jul. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780805097443.

Gr 4-6 –Thirteen-year-old Callie Vee returns in this stand-alone sequel to the Newbery Honor–winning The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Holt, 2009). Callie’s thirst for scientific discovery remains strong, as does her parents’ disregard for any plans for the future that don’t involve debutante balls and marrying a well-respected gentleman. In between recording questions and observations in her journal, Callie and brother Travis attempt to make pets of an armadillo, a blue jay, and a coyote mix, to mostly disastrous results. Humor and little heartbreaks abound as Callie learns animal care under the tutelage of Dr. Pritzker, the town’s veterinarian, but her accomplishments are ignored and even ridiculed in favor of Travis’s smaller contributions. The devastating 1900 Galveston hurricane drops 17-year-old cousin Aggie, traumatized by the storm, into their household. Relationships with secondary characters, such as the family’s cook, Viola, and Dr. Pritzker, are charming and well developed. Mother remains cold and lacking in fondness for Callie. A brief overview of Callie’s relationship with her grandfather and their scientific inquiries provide a basic background for readers unfamiliar with the story. Aggie is not a particularly sympathetic character, but her business and financial sense are great influences on Callie. Chapters are introduced by quotes from Charles Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle. Callie and Travis’s relationship is tender and believable yet still reflects the imbalance and unfairness of the gender divide. The conclusion leaves open the possibility for further adventures. VERDICT Recommended for fans of the original novel and strong readers who enjoy character-driven narratives.–Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA

redstarWilliams-Garcia, Rita. Gone Crazy in Alabama. 304p. HarperCollins/Amistad. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062215871; lib. ed. $17.89. ISBN 9780062215888; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062215901.

Gr 4-6 –In this final volume in the trilogy that began with the acclaimed One Crazy Summer (2010), and continued with P.S. Be Eleven (2013, both HarperCollins), sisters Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern Gaither have been sent for the summer from Brooklyn to rural Alabama to reunite with their grandmother, Big Ma; their great-grandmother, Ma Charles; and their Uncle Darnell, a Vietnam vet recovering from drug addiction. Caught in the middle of a family feud between Ma Charles and her half-sister, Miss Trotter, the girls grapple with mixed feelings and new revelations about their family and its history. Narrator Delphine, 12, is charged with keeping her sisters in line and keeping the peace amidst their constant bickering, as well as readjusting to Big Ma’s discipline. When Vonetta disappears during a tornado, Delphine must confront her guilt and resentment as well as face her mother, Cecile, who has traveled from California in concern for her missing daughter. Much of the narrative includes backstory from the previous titles, which is important for context, though new readers will want to read the previous books to fully appreciate this novel. This final installment is rich in atmosphere and clearly conveys the sisters’ distinct personalities, their loyalty to one another, and their special place in their complex family. An author’s note elucidates the connection between Native and African Americans, and a family tree details the Gaither girls’ roots. VERDICT A must-have conclusion to this beloved middle grade series.–Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

Graphic Novels

redstarLucke, Deb. The Lunch Witch. illus. by Deb Lucke. 180p. (The Lunch Witch: Bk. 1). Papercutz. Mar. 2015. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781629911625.

Gr 3-7 –Bad business has left the witch Grunhilda with no choice; she must find a new job. Her limited skill set leaves her with few options, though, for “nobody really believes in magic anymore.” On her first day as lunch lady for the local elementary school, her secret is discovered by an underachieving little girl who decides to blackmail her. Nonetheless, Grunhilda chooses to help, but her good intentions lead to trouble. Funny thing is, turning into a toad is the exact lesson Madison needs. Muted colours, irregular human designs, and brown, food-stained paper give the impression that something is a little bit off…just like a cafeteria lunch. This is quite a fitting look for a witch now serving her potions to school children. At first glance, this uncommon yet internally consistent style may deter children accustomed to the usual fare. However, given the chance, the misadventures of this witch will have no problem pulling readers in. VERDICT A quirky, sometimes murky, but always silly graphic novel tale.–Rachel Forbes, Oakville Public Library, Ontario, Canada

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

Altebrando, Tara. My Life in Dioramas. illus. by T.L. Bonaddio. 224p. ebook available. Running Pr. May 2015. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9780762456819. LC 2014949682.

Bildner, Phil. A Whole New Ballgame. illus. by Tim Probert. 224p. Farrar. Aug. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780374301309.

Birdsall, Jeanne. The Penderwicks in Spring. 352p. (The Penderwicks). Knopf. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780375870774; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780375970771; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780307974594. LC 2014023537.

Blackthorn, J.D. Crown of Three. 416p. S. & S./Aladdin. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481424431.

Bradford, Michael. Button Hill. 264p. Orca. Apr. 2015. Tr $9.95. ISBN 9781459807556; ebk. ISBN 9781459807570.

Calonita, Jen. Flunked. 256p. (Fairy Tale Reform School: Bk. 1). Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Mar. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781492601562.

Cameron, W. Bruce. Ellie’s Story. illus. by Richard Cowdrey. 208p. ebook available. Tor/Forge/Starscape. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780765374691.

DeFelice, Cynthia. Fort. 208p. Farrar. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374324278.

Edge, Christopher. The Black Crow Conspiracy. 265p. Albert Whitman. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807507803.

Emerson, Kevin. Breakout. 304p. Crown. 2015. lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780385391139; Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385391122; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385391146.

Falkner, Brian. Battlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo. 368p. Farrar. Jul. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374300753.

Fogelin, Adrian. Some Kind of Magic. 232p. Peachtree. Apr. 2015. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781561458202.

The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War. illus. by Jim Kay. photos. 304p. Candlewick. Apr. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780763675547.

Grey, Jacob. Ferals. 288p. HarperCollins. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062321039; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062321053.

Hegarty, Shane. Darkmouth: The Legends Begin. Bk 1. 416p. HarperCollins. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062311252.

Howland, Leila. The Forget-Me-Not Summer. 352p. HarperCollins. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062318695; ebk. ISBN 9780062318718. LC 2014027413.

Jensen, Michael & David Powers King. Woven. 128p. Scholastic. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780545685726; ebk. $18.99. ISBN 9780545685733.

Jonell, Lynne. The Sign of the Cat. 352p. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. Jun. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780805096835.

Kelly, Mark & Martha Freeman. Astrotwins: Project Blastoff. 224p. further reading. glossary. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481415453.

Klavan, Andrew. Hostage Run. 352p. (The Mindwar Trilogy: Bk. 2). ebook available. Thomas Nelson. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781401688950.

Krisp, Caleb. Anyone but Ivy Pocket. 400p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062364340.

Levine, Gail Carson. Stolen Magic. 336p. HarperCollins. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780061706370; lib. ed. $17.89. ISBN 9780061706387.

Mabbitt, Will. The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones. illus. by Ross Collins. 304p. (Mabel Jones: Bk. 1). Viking. Jun. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780451471963. LC 2014030543.

Maberry, Jonathan. The Orphan Army. 400p. (The Nightsiders: Bk. 1). S. & S. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481415750. LC 2014014576.

McCullough, Kelly. School for Sidekicks. 256p. Feiwel & Friends. Aug. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250039262.

McNicoll, Sylvia. Best Friends Through Eternity. 192p. Tundra. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781770497108.

McQuerry, Maureen Doyle. Time out of Time: The Telling Stone. 368p. (Time out of Time: Bk. 2). Abrams/Amulet. May 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419714948.

McVoy, Terra Elan. Drive Me Crazy. 288p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062322432.

Marcionette, Jake. Just Jake: Dog Eat Dog. illus. by Victor Rivas Villa. 160p. Grosset & Dunlap. Mar. 2015. Tr $11.99. ISBN 9780448466934; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698198807.

Messner, Kate. All the Answers. 256p. Bloomsbury. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781619633742.

Morris, Paula. The Eternal City. 304p. Scholastic/Point. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545251334; ebk. ISBN 9780545662949.

Morrison, Megan. Grounded: The Adventure of Rapunzel. 384p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545638265; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545642705.

Oulton, Harry. A Pig Called Heather. 128p. Holiday House. May 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823432905. ebook available.

Parr, Maria. Adventures with Waffles. tr. from Norwegian by Guy Puzey. illus. by Kate Forrester. 240p. Candlewick. May 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763672812; ebk. ISBN 9780763677107. LC 2014939361.

Paul, Donita K. Two Renegade Realms. 416p. (Realm Walkers: Bk. 2). Zondervan. 2014. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780310735816; ebk. $7.99. ISBN 9780310735847.

Pearce, Jackson. The Doublecross: And Other Skills I Learned as a Superspy. 272p. ebook available. Bloomsbury. Jul. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781619634145. LC 2014025349.

Powell, Huw. Spacejackers. 320p. Bloomsbury. Jun. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781619635159.

Preus, Margi. Enchantment Lake: A Northwoods Mystery. 200p. Univ. of Minnesota. May 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780816683024.

Rorby, Ginny. How to Speak Dolphin. 272p. Scholastic. Jun. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545676052; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545676083.

Ross, Joel. The Fog Diver. 336p. Harper Collins/Harper. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062352934; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780062352965.

Shang, Wendy Wan-Long. The Way Home Looks Now. 272p. Scholastic. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545609562; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545609586.

Sharpe, Luke. Billy Sure, Kid Entrepreneur. illus. by Graham Ross. 160p. (Billy Sure, Kid Entrepreneur: Bk. 1). S. & S./Simon Spotlight. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481439480; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781481439473; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9781481439497. LC 2014949478.

Singleton, Linda Joy. The Curious Cat Spy Club. 256p. (Curious Cat Spy Club: Bk. 1). Albert Whitman. Mar. 2015. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780807513767.

Smith, Lane. Return to Augie Hobble. illus. by Lane Smith. 288p. Roaring Brook. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781626720541.

Southworth, John. Daydreams for Night. illus. by David Ouimet. 48p. Simply Read Bks. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781927018170.

Stauffacher, Sue. Cassidy’s Guide to Everyday Etiquette (and Obfuscation). 304p. Knopf. Jun. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780375830976; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780375930973; ebk. ISBN 9780375898990.

Vaughn, J.D. The Second Guard. 432p. Disney-Hyperion. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781423169093.

Walter, Jon. Close to the Wind. 304p. Scholastic/David Fickling. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545816625; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545822985.

White, Jen. Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave. 224p. Farrar. Jun. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374300845.

Graphic Novels

Almand, M. Nicholas. Orphan Blade. illus. by Jake Myler. 160p. Oni. 2014. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781620101209; ebk. $14.99. ISBN 9781620101506. LC 2014938499.

Kochalka, James. The Glorkian Warrior Eats Adventure Pie. illus. by James Kochalka. 125p. ebook available. First Second. Mar. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781626721333; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781626720213.

Slavin, Bill. Big Star Otto. illus. by Bill Slavin. 96p. (Elephants Never Forget: Bk. 3). Kids Can. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781894786966; pap. $7.95. ISBN 9781894786973.

YoYo. Return of the Queen. illus. by YoYo. 208p. (Vermonia: Vol. 8). Windmill. Mar. 2015. pap. $11.75. ISBN 9781477790915.

This article was published in School Library Journal's March 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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