April 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

New Books by Megan Frazer Blakemore, Charles De Lint, Margi Preus | Grades 5-8 Fiction Review

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redstarAuxier, Jonathan. The Night Gardener. 384p. Abrams/Amulet. May 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419711442.

Gr 4-6– Storytelling and the secret desires of the heart wind together in this atmospheric novel that doubles as a ghost tale. Irish immigrants to England, Molly and Kip make their way to the Windsor house in search of employment. The great house stands in the shadow of a menacing tree, which locals speak of only in fearful whispers. Despite her young age and the warnings of a local storyteller, Molly uses the power of her own words to secure work, but soon realizes that all is not right in the house. Constance, Bertrand, Penny, and Alistair Windsor each struggle with personal demons, and strange footprints appear at night. A malevolent spirit, the Night Gardener, haunts the estate, dooming its inhabitants with foul dreams while the tree grants wishes to entrap the recipients. Molly and Kip must face their own dark secrets to release the Gardener’s hold and end his evil enchantments. Auxier gives readers a spooky story with depth and dimension. Molly’s whimsical tales illustrate life’s essential lessons even as they entertain. As the characters face the unhealthy pull of the tree’s allurements, they grow and change, revealing unexpected personality traits. Storytelling as a force to cope with life’s challenges is subtly expressed and adds complexity to the fast-paced plot. Readers of Mary Downing Hahn or Peg Kehret’s ghost novels will connect with the supernatural elements and the independent child protagonists of Auxier’s tale of things that go bump in the night.–Caitlin Augusta, Stratford Library Association, CT

redstarDe Lint, Charles. Seven Wild Sisters: A Modern Fairy Tale. illus. by Charles Vess. 260p. Little, Brown. 2014. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316053563; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316239950. LC 2012045328.

Gr 3-7 –The girl from The Cats of Tanglewood Forest (Little, Brown, 2013) returns as elderly and reclusive Aunt Lillian. This delicious companion novel, set many decades after the first story, features Sarah Jane Dillard (the middle daughter in a family of seven redheaded sisters), who befriends Aunt Lillian and unwittingly gets involved in the fairy world. Sarah Jane tells her parts of the story in first person, while her sisters (two sets of twins and two singletons) weave theirs in third person. When Sarah Jane stumbles upon an injured spirit called a “sangman” and assists him, she angers the bee fairies, who have a longstanding feud with the sangman. Aunt Lillian has always told Sarah Jane stories about fairies and the Apple Tree Man, so she is the one Sarah Jane turns to for help. Soon Sarah Jane’s sisters are kidnapped, half by the bee fairies and the other half by the sangmen. Aunt Lillian and Sarah Jane attempt to rescue the girls before they are killed or trapped in the fairy world forever. The sisters each have distinct skills and personalities, which de Lint develops marvelously. In an artist’s note, Vess informs readers that his novel was previously published in a limited edition with black-and-white pen-and-ink drawings. Here he has added 26 new illustrations, which are beautifully colored with sepia tones and carefully applied color. After a satisfying conclusion, hints are made that more stories will be forthcoming, possibly with a love interest for Sarah Jane.–Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA

redstarDe los Santos, Marisa & David Teague. Saving Lucas Biggs. 288p. HarperCollins. Apr. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062274625; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062274649.

Gr 5-8 –Margaret O’Malley’s father is sentenced to death for crimes she knows he did not commit. She watches as he is taken from the courtroom, his voice calling out to her with a verse from a poem. It is a vow that could carry her to a world gone by, but is not to be used. His clever explanation of string-theory physics and her family’s “quirk” of being able to relocate, although briefly, into history sends her on a quest to save him from bitter, vindictive Judge Biggs’s sentence and from the people who are still trying to silence him. Margaret goes back to 1938 and witnesses the events that caused Lucas Biggs to become the person he is today. The authors weave a tale of justice and family bonds with threads of historical fiction accented with the fantastical physics of time travel. The heroine begins to realize that the very stuff that makes people who they are—that combination of all their life experiences—can sometimes shift the very fabric of history. At least that’s what Margaret is hoping, because the only way to save her father is to first save corrupt Lucas Biggs from himself.–Cheryl Ashton, Amherst Public Library, OH

redstarGavin, Rohan. Knightley & Son. 272p. Bloomsbury. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781619631533; ebk. $11.99. ISBN 9781619631540.

Gr 7 Up –Darkus Knightley’s father has been in a coma for four years. During that time, Darkus went through his detective dad’s files and began trying to solve unfinished cases. His father suddenly wakes up and strangely enough, his recovery coincides with an uptick in crime. The crimes seem to be related to people reading a book called The Code. The elder Knightley is worried about including his son in his investigations; he is convinced that all of the little schemes and crimes are linked into a nefarious network he calls The Combination. Darkus becomes essential, however, when his father’s data drive is stolen, thereby leaving Darkus as the only person who remembers and knows all of the case file information. Joining father and son is Tilly, Darkus’s gadget-savvy stepsister. Can they figure out the connection between all of the seemingly random crimes? Is there a Combination? Gavin has created a fun “Sherlock Holmes”–style adventure, with modern twists and a bit of humor. The combination is skillfully done. This is a quick and fun read; a great choice for choice looking for a new mystery to dive into.–Saleena L. Davidson, South Brunswick Public Library, Monmouth Junction, NJ

redstarHerrera, Robin. Hope Is a Ferris Wheel. 260p. Abrams/Amulet. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419710391. LC 2013026392.

Gr 4-6 –Quirky Star Mackie, who lives in a trailer park and has blue hair, desperately wants to make some friends in her new town. She decides that starting a poetry club is the perfect vehicle. Unfortunately, there aren’t many other 10-year-olds as enamored with Emily Dickinson as she is. The only other kids who will join her club are a couple of boys in detention and a brother/sister team. Star has many dreams—she longs to meet her father, hopes her beloved big sister, who is coping with an unexpected pregnancy, will be happy again, and wishes most of all for a true friend. Herrera’s first novel is quite accomplished, with plenty of heart and humor, especially apparent in the spelling assignments Star has to complete but refuses to turn in, as she uses them as a sort of journal. Star is a unique, determined, and loving child making the best of a bad situation; readers cannot help but root for her.–B. Allison Gray, Goleta Public Library, CA

redstarPreus, Margi. West of the Moon. 224p. Abrams/Amulet. Apr. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419708961. LC 2013023250.

Gr 5-8 –Astri is 13 when she is sold by her aunt and uncle to a goat farmer named Svaalberd to serve as an unpaid laborer. Defiant but practical, she spends months with the brutal and superstitious Svaalberd, cooking, cleaning, and caring for the goats, before she escapes the farm with her fellow captive, the mysterious Spinning Girl. Astri fetches her younger sister, Greta, from her aunt and uncle’s house, and hightails it with Svaalberd’s “treasure” to the coast in order to sail to America. At its most basic, this is a tale about a girl escaping a poverty-stricken life in mid-19th century Norway. But from the beginning, the mystical and wondrous elements of Norwegian folktales are woven into the narrative, lending a timeless quality to a story inspired by the author’s family history. The harsh realities of that time period, from rickets to tetanus, take on a strange, magical, and often terrifying aspect, as seen through Astri’s naive eyes. She compares her servitude to Svaalberd with the story of White Bear King Valemon, who steals a young girl away, but really, Svaalberd is more like a troll to Astri. Folktales inspire the protagonist and allow her to imagine her own situation as a sort of legend—but in real life, actions have consequences. The decisions Astri makes to survive come to haunt her, and with her regret comes a new maturity, strength, and an ability to face her future in America. Enthralling and unflinching, this historical tale resonates with mythical undertones that will linger with readers after the final page is turned.–Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library

redstarSovern, Megan Jean. The Meaning of Maggie. 224p. Chronicle. May 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452110219.

Gr 4-7 –In this humorous, fast-paced “memoir” set in Atlanta in the early 1990s, Maggie recounts the past “year that changed EVERYTHING!” She aspires to become President of the United States and continually mentions being an avid reader and excellent student. She struggles socially though, studying alone at lunchtime, not getting flowers on Valentine’s Day, and procuring many teacher signatures in her yearbook, but very few from peers. On Maggie’s 11th birthday, her father leaves his job as an airline ticket agent because his legs “won’t wake up,” (he is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis) and her mother begins full-time work as a domestic at an elegant hotel. Maggie has a caustic relationship with her older sisters who spend more time with hair, makeup, and boys than studies. She is determined to find a cure for her father, who falls out of his wheelchair, loses the ability to eat independently, suffers a seizure, and is hospitalized with a massive infection. As his multiple sclerosis worsens during the year, the fifth grader realizes how hard her mother works at her job and at home and that her mother and sisters have tried to shield her from the grim reality of her father’s disease. Meanwhile, Maggie’s parents tell stories of their adventuresome hippie pasts to encourage their daughters to live life to the fullest. They share their love of Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, and other bands of that era, and hold their family together with love, hard work, respect, and courage. Maggie learns that she can survive getting a B, run an entire mile, and bravely face her father’s illness and extend support. Readers will appreciate Maggie’s humor and rejoice in her growth. This is a remarkable story of a working-class family pulling together in the face of a serious illness.–Laura Scott, Farmington Community Library, MI

redstarVenkatraman, Padma. A Time to Dance. 320p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399257100. LC 2013024244.

Gr 6 Up –Despite the pressure from her parents to become an engineer, Veda dreams of being a dancer. She studies the classical Indian dance, Bharatanatyam, and has reached the competition finals. Impressed with her graceful lines and skill, the judges award her first place, and Veda is ecstatic. After posing for pictures, she is injured in an accident on the way home and her leg has to be amputated below the right knee. Devastated, she lies in her hospital bed devoid of hope until one day her doctor introduces her to a specialist from America. He sparks optimism in her because he understands that she needs to dance. Eventually Veda receives a prosthetic limb that allows her to walk and dance once again. She finds a new teacher for whom dance is more than a technical performance; it is an art form. Veda is placed with a student teacher, Govinda, who not only supports her as she relearns and strengthens her dancing but also becomes her friend. This exceptional novel, told entirely in verse, captures beautifully the emotions of a girl forced to deal with a number of challenges and how she overcomes them on her way to becoming a confident young woman. It is sure to appeal to readers who are also trying to find their place in the world.–Laura Fields Eason, Henry F. Moss Middle School, Bowling Green, KY

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

Acampora, Paul. I Kill the Mockingbird. 176p. Roaring Brook. May 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781596437425.

Baccalario, Pierdomenico. Suitcase of Stars. tr. from Italian by Maria Allen. illus. by Iacopo Bruno. 240p. (Enchanted Emporium Series: Bk. 1). Stone Arch. 2014.

Baity, Cam & Benny Zelkowicz. The Foundry’s Edge. 464p. (The Book of Ore Series: Bk. 1). Disney/Hyperion. Apr. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781423162278; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9781423179177. LC 2013029134.

BAJAJ, Varsha . Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood. 256p. Albert Whitman. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807563632.

Barker, M. P. Mending Horses. 320p. ebook available. Holiday House. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780823429486. LC 2013019208.

Baron, Jeff. Sean Rosen Is Not for Sale. 384p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062187505.

Berk, Josh. Say it Ain’t So. 288p. (A Lenny & the Mikes Mystery). Knopf. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780375870095; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780375970092; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780375987373.

Blakemore, Megan Frazer. The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill. 288p. Bloomsbury. May 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781619633483; ebk. $11.99. ISBN 9781619633490.

CHAINANI, Soman. A World Without Princes. 448p. (The School for Good and Evil Series: Bk. 2). HarperCollins. Apr. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062104922; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062104946.

Compestine, Ying Chang & Vinson Compestine. Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier. 240p. Abrams/Amulet. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419705403. LC 2013006284.

Cutler, Jane. Susan Marcus Bends the Rules. 112p. ebook available. Holiday House. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823430475. LC 2013023665.

DOWNEY, Jen Swann. The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand. 384p. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Apr. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781402287701.
Doan, Lisa. Jack the Castaway. illus. by Ivica Stevanovic. 152p. (Berenson Schemes Series: Bk. 1). Darby Creek. Apr. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781467710763; ebk. $13.95. ISBN 9781467724210. LC 2013011000.

Edwards, Bruce. The Age of Amy: The Thumper Amendment. 212p. Lambert Hill. 2014. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9780983760429; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9780983760436.

Epstein, Adam Jay & Andrew Jacobson. Starbounders: Rebellion. Bk. 2. 304p. HarperCollins. May 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062120274.

Farley, C. J. Game World. illus. by Yongjin Im. 288p. Akashic. 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781617753053; pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781617751974. LC 2013938805.

Fiedler, Lisa. Mouseheart. illus. by Vivienne To. 336p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry. May 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781442487819; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442487840.

Flood, C. J. Infinite Sky. 256p. S. & S./Atheneum. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481406581; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481406604. LC 2013023281.

Friedman, Laurie. Too Good To Be True. 158p. (The Mostly Miserable Life of April Sinclair Series: Bk. 2). Darby Creek. Apr. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781467709262; ebk. $13.95. ISBN 9781467724227. LC 2013026434.

Friesner, Esther. Deception’s Princess. 368p. Random House. Apr. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780449818633; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780449818640; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780449818657. LC 2013002948.

Fry, Erin. Secrets of the Book. 304p. Amazon/Two Lions. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781477847169.

Gatti, Alessandro. Sherlock, Lupin & Me: The Dark Lady. tr. from Italian by Chris Turner. illus. by Iacopo Bruno. 240p. Capstone. 2014. RTE $18.99. ISBN 9781434265234; pap. $9.25. ISBN 9781434265265.

Harper, Charise Mericle. Dreamer, Wisher, Liar. 408p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Apr. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062026750; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062202918. LC 2013008222.

Hawkins, Rachel. Rebel Belle. 352p. Putnam. Apr. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399256936.

Healy, Christopher. The Hero’s Guide To Being an Outlaw. 320p. (Hero’s Guide Series: Bk. 3). HarperCollins/Walden Pond. Apr. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062118486; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062118509.

Humphrey, Anna. Ruby Goldberg’s Bright Idea. illus. by Vanessa Brantley Newton. 144p. S. & S./Little Simon. Apr. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781442480278; ebk. $9.78. ISBN 9781442480315.

Jobin, Matthew. The Nethergrim. 368p. Philomel. Apr. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399159985.

Jones, Diana Wynne with Ursula Jones. The Islands of Chaldea. 352p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062295071; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062295095.

Kinard, Kami. The Boy Problem: Notes and Predictions of Tabitha Reddy. illus. by Kami Kinard. 272p. Scholastic. Apr. 2014. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780545575867.

Klise, Kate. The Greatest Star on Earth. illus. by M. Sarah Klise. 144p. (Three-Ring Rascals Series: Bk. 2). Algonquin. May 2014. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781616202453.

Lubar, David. Wipeout of the Wireless Weenies: And Other Warped and Creepy Tales. 176p. Tor/Forge/Starscape. Apr. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780765332141; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781429946629.

Mackall, Dandi Daley. The Secrets of Tree Taylor. 288p. Knopf. May 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780375868979; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780375968976; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780375899829. LC 2013001577.

Morris, Jackie. Song of the Golden Hare. illus. by Jackie Morris. 36p. Frances Lincoln. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781847804501.

Nagai, Mariko. Dust of Eden. 128p. Albert Whitman. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807517390.

Osborne, Jill. Riley Mae and the Rock Shocker Trek. Bk. 1. ISBN 9780310742944.

––––. Riley Mae and the Ready Eddy Rapids. Bk. 2. ISBN 9780310742999.

ea vol: 256p. (Faithgirlz!/The Good News Shoes). Zonderkidz. 2014. pap. $7.99.

Pakkala, Christine. Jasmine and Maddie. 192p. Boyds Mills. Apr. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781620917398.

PAUL, Donita K. One Realm Beyond. 416p. (Realm Walkers Series: Bk. 1). Zondervan. 2014. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780310735809.

Petruck, Rebecca. Steering Toward Normal. 336p. Abrams/Amulet. May 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419707322.

Pflugfelder, Bob & Steve Hockensmith. Nick and Tesla’s Secret Agent Gadget Battle. illus. by Scott Garrett. 256p. Quirk. May 2014. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781594746765; ebk. ISBN 9781594746819. LC 2013911823.

Prager, Ellen. The Shark Whisperer. illus. by Antonio Javier Caparo. 288p. (Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians Series: Bk. 1). ebook available. Scarletta. May 2014. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781938063442.

Raabe, Emily. Lost Children of the Far Islands. 288p. Knopf. Apr. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780375870910; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780375970917; ebk. ISBN 9780307974976. LC 2013014768.

Rylander, Chris. Codename Zero. 352p. HarperCollins/Walden Pond. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062120083; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062120106. LC 2013032327.

Salerni, Dianne K. The Eighth Day. 320p. HarperCollins. May 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062272157; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062272171.

St. Antoine, Sara. Three Bird Summer. 256p. ebook available. Candlewick. May 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763665647. LC 2013946623.

Terry, Teri. Shattered. 320p. (Slated Trilogy: Bk. 3). Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399161742.

Turner, Amber McRee. Circa Now. 288p. photos. Disney/Hyperion. May 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781423176398; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9781423187837. LC 2013035304.

Wells, Marcia. Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile. illus. by Marcos Calo. 256p. Houghton Harcourt. Apr. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544238336; ebk. ISBN 9780544289727. LC 2013024153.

Wexler, Django. The Forbidden Library. illus. by Alexander Jansson. 384p. Penguin/Kathy Dawson. Apr. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803739758.

Whitby, Adele. Beth’s Story, 1914. 160p. (Can You Unlock the Secrets of the Manor Series). S. & S./Simon Spotlight. Jun. 2014. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781481406314; Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481406321.

White, J. A. The Thickety: A Path Begins. 496p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. May 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062257246; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062257277.

Wilde, Oscar. Stories for Children. illus. by Charles Robinson. 76p. O’Brien Press. Apr. 2014. Tr $23.95. ISBN 9781847175892.

Zettel, Sarah. Bad Luck Girl. 368p. (The American Fairy Trilogy: Bk. 3). Random House. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780375869402; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375969409; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780375983207. LC 2013013855.

Ziegler, Jennifer. Revenge of the Flower Girls. 240p. Scholastic. May 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545561419; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545561433.

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