April 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

A Wise Vole, a Powerful Hurricane Katrina Tale, & Well-Crafted Dystopian Adventure | Middle Grade

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redstarMcGhee, Alison. Firefly Hollow. illus. by Christopher Denise. 304p. S. & S./Atheneum. Aug. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442423367. LC 2013004705.

Gr 3-5 –The denizens of Firefly Hollow deal with loss, maturation, and friendship in this gentle novel. Firefly wants to fly to the moon. Cricket wants most to be the catcher in a baseball game like his hero, Yogi Berra. The miniature giant Peter (a human child) wants his best friend back. These three youngsters help one another to cope with various losses and fears. Watching over them is Vole, an elderly creature who has his own quest to follow. McGhee sensitively portrays the pains of growing up as well as themes of prejudice, death, overcoming fears, and the power of friendship. It is a lot to juggle but the author does it gracefully, effortlessly interweaving the characters’ stories. Young readers may not grasp some of the nuances, such as what happened to Peter’s best friend. However, readers will root for the appealing characters and enjoy their world. Denise’s illustrations are lovely, adding tremendously to the charm of the book. VERDICT Fans of Kate DiCamillo and E.B. White will enjoy this charming tale of unlikely inter-species friendships.–B. Allison Gray, Goleta Public Library, CA

redstarPatrick, Denise Lewis. Finding Someplace. 256p. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks.Aug. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780805047165.

Gr 4-6 –Reesie Boone’s been looking forward to her 13th birthday for a long time. As her big day approaches, people are focused on a hurricane warning, and everyone’s leaving New Orleans. Reesie’s family is staying put despite evacuation warnings; her father is a policeman and can’t miss work. Hurricane Katrina hits while Reesie is at the neighbor’s house picking up her birthday cake. Rising water forces everyone in the house up to the attic, where they chop a hole through the roof and are picked up by a rescue boat. That’s just the beginning of Reesie’s trouble. Her mother can’t forgive her father for putting his job before his family, and takes Reesie back to her hometown in New Jersey, where she must process the trauma she’s gone through as well as the loss of her home and everything she owns, and living apart from her father. Patrick does an superb job conveying the way Hurricane Katrina impacted families in New Orleans. Though important lessons can be learned from the book, the narrative allows readers to discover them organically. The pacing of the book mirrors the build up of the storm, starting out slowly, and picking up momentum. The nearly yearlong span helps readers understand that traumatic experiences take time to process. Patrick excels at creating believable, multigenerational communities. Main and secondary characters are profoundly impacted by their experiences during the hurricane. Reesie’s character intentionally evolves from a protected, fairly self-involved young teen to a complex character recovering from depression and shock. Though Reesie lives through a national disaster, something most readers will not have experienced, her voice and concerns are authentic and relatable. VERDICT A powerful read for middle grade readers already familiar with the hurricane or those learning about it for the first time.–Juliet Morefield, Multnomah County Library, OR

redstarSolomons, David. My Brother Is a Superhero. 304p. Viking. Jul. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780451474773; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698191549.

Gr 4-6 –It was just plain bad luck (he had to pee) that 11-year-old superhero-loving Luke wasn’t present when the spaceship hovered next to the tree house and the alien turned his 15-year-old studious brother, Zack, into a real superhero. Zorlon gave Zack three glowing stars on his chest, six unnamed powers, and a warning, “Nemesis is coming.” Luke is jealous and furious that he wasn’t chosen. His brother knows nothing about being a superhero—he won’t even wear a cape! Now it’s up to Luke to teach Zack, aka Super Guy, how to act like a superhero, to help him discover his powers, and to find out who or what Nemesis is, all while keeping Zack’s new identity a secret. This becomes harder than just keeping his mouth shut as their nosy neighbor, Lara, is determined that she and Luke will discover Super Guy’s true identity. Throw in Zach’s crush on Lara’s older sister, trying to be a superhero while keeping your parents clueless, being kidnapped by a fiendish comic book store owner while trying to save the world, and you’re got a non-stop action-packed, laugh-out-loud winner of a story. The main characters are finely drawn and their voices are authentic. The format of the book with its font size and generous white space make it accessible and appealing. VERDICT A great book that will charm reluctant readers as well as anyone who has ever dreamed of being a superhero. It also makes for a fun read-aloud.–Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC

redstarTanner, Lian. Icebreaker. 304p. Feiwel & Friends. Aug. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250052162.

Gr 5-8 –Come aboard the Oyster, a ship that has been sailing a frozen ocean for 300 years. Its mission is to survive the global reign of the Anti-Machinists who have destroyed everything mechanical and all knowledge that goes along with it. Life on the vagabond ship has evolved into a tense society of tribes separated by job function but united against the outside world. Only 12-year-old Petrel, dismissed as “Nothing Girl,” doesn’t fit in anywhere and has only two talking rats, Mister Smoke and Missus Slink, as friends. When a boy found on an ice floe is taken on board, his suspicious presence upsets the crew, but Petrel is determined to protect the stranger, whom she names Fin. But it’s no accident that Fin was found there. Can he be trusted? And who is the Oyster’s “sleeping captain”? A carefully structured plot foreshadows the dramatic climax and reveals secrets at just the right time, keeping readers engaged throughout. Tanner’s evocative prose allows readers to feel every dark, noisy crevice of the ship as well as the chill of the frozen wasteland that surrounds it. Unique, fully realized characters add cross-gender appeal. VERDICT Tanner, author of the “Keepers” series (Delacorte), has created a strong start to a new trilogy that will have readers eagerly awaiting the next installment.–Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

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

Avi. Old Wolf. illus. by Brian Floca. 160p. S. & S./Atheneum/Richard Jackson Bks. Aug. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442499218; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442499249. LC 2014003381.

Beatty, Robert. Serafina and the Black Cloak. 304p. Disney-Hyperion. Jul. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781484709016; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781484715116.

Bernstein, Jonathan. Bridget Wilder: Spy-in-Training. 320p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Sept. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062382665.

Brown, Jennifer. How Lunchbox Jones Saved Me From Robots, Traitors, and Missy the Cruel. 240p. Scholastic. Aug. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781619634541.

Cabot, Meg. From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess. 192p. (Princess Diaries). ebook available. Feiwel & Friends. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250066022.

Caterer, Claire M. The Wand & the Sea. 384p. ebook available. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Jun. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442457447.

Choldenko, Gennifer. Chasing Secrets. 288p. bibliog. chron. ebook available. Random/Wendy Lamb Bks. Aug. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385742535.

Coville, Bruce. Diary of a Mad Brownie. illus. by Paul Kidby. 256p. (Enchanted Files). Random. Jun. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385392471; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780385392488; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385392495. LC 2014026335.

Davis, Kent. A Riddle in Ruby. 432p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062368348; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780062368362.

Freeman, Martha. The Secret Cookie Club. 304p. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481410465; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481410489.

Grove, S.E. The Golden Specific. 528p. (Mapmakers: Bk. 2). Viking. Jul. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780670785032. LC 2014034892.

Jensen, Daintry. The Hidden Forest. illus. by Alan Baker. 128p. Green Writers. Jun. 2015. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9780990973348.

Kitchings, Taylor. Yard War. 224p. Random/Wendy Lamb Bks. Sept. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553507539.

Lord, Cynthia. A Handful of Stars. 192p. Scholastic. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545700276; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545700290.

McKay, Hilary. Binny in Secret. 288p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Jun. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442482784; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442482807.

Margolis, Leslie. If I Were You. 224p. Farrar. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780374300685; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780374300692.

Moulton, Erin E. Keepers of the Labyrinth. 304p. Philomel. Aug. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399164590; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698172555.

Mowry, Barbara & Dave Bettinger. Crystal and Breanna: The Secret of Blackridge Farm. illus. by Christina Fletcher. 283p. ebook available. Outskirts. 2015. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781478743231; pap. $17.95. ISBN 9781478742500. LC 2015900025.

Ogilvie, Isabel. The Luchair Stones. 240p. (The Red Dragon Chronicles: Bk. 1). Phoenix Yard. Jul. 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781907912436.

Oliver, Lauren & H.C. Chester. Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head. 368p. (Curiosity House: Bk. 1). HarperCollins/Harper. Sept. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062270818; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062270832.

Paquette, Ammi-Joan. Princess Juniper of the Hourglass. 288p. Philomel. Jul. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399171512; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698190917. LC 2014030626.

Collodi, Carlo. The Patua Pinocchio. tr. from Italian by Carol Della Chiesa. illus. by Swarna Chitrakar. 188p. Tara. 2015. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9789383145126.

Rosengren, Gayle. Cold War on Maplewood Street. 192p. Putnam. Aug. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399171833.

Smith, Dan. My Brother’s Secret. 304p. Scholastic/Chicken House. Jul. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545771559; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545771603.

SMITH, Ronald. Hoodoo. 224p. Clarion. Sep. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544445253; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780544445277.

Thomas, Shelley Moore. Secrets of Selkie Bay. 224p. Farrar. Jul. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780374367497; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780374367503.

Towell, Katy. Charlie and the Grandmothers. 240p. Random. Aug. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780375868603.

Waldron, Kathleen Cook. Between Shadows. 100p. ebook available. Coteau. 2015. pap. $8.95. ISBN 9781550506129.

Wishinsky, Frieda. Avis Dolphin. illus. by Willow Dawson. 160p. Groundwood. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781554984893; ebk. $14.95. ISBN 9781554984909.

Middle Grade Graphic Novels

Brown, Jeffrey. The Phantom Bully. illus by Jeffrey Brown. 176p. (Star Wars: Jedi Academy: Bk. 3). Scholastic. Aug. 2015. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780545621267; ebk. $12.99. ISBN 9780545666442.

Elder, Josh. Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure. illus. by Adam Archer & Ian Herring. 208p. DC Comics. 2015. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781401249267; ebk. $11.99. ISBN 9781401257378.

Exley, William. Golemchik. illus. by William Exley.24p. Flying Eye Books/Nobrow. Jun. 2015. pap. $5.95. ISBN 9781907704796.

Schweizer, Chris. The Creeps: Night of the Frankenfrogs. illus. by Chris Schweizer.128p. Abrams/Amulet. Aug. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781419713798; pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781419717666.

Sellner, Joelle. Punky Brewster. illus. by Lesley Vamos. 112p. (Punky Brewster: Bk. 1). Roar Comics/Lion Forge Comics. Jul. 2015. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781631403149.

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