May 28, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teen Tales, History, and Puns Round Out Penguin’s 2016 Summer List | Preview Peek


Although I’ve attended countless publisher previews over the years, I’ve always tried to resist the temptation to identify what the hot titles will be. But this time, I’m going to stick my neck out and point to three middle grade novels from the Penguin Young Readers Group summer 2016 preview that are worth keeping an eye on.

Make way for Wolf Hollow (Dutton; May) by Lauren Wolk; The Gallery (Dial; June) by Laura Marx Fitzgerald; and A Clatter of Jars (Philomel; May) by Lisa Graff.

Wolf Hollow is Wolk’s entree into the middle grade realm; it features a young girl in a small Pennsylvania town standing up to a bully shortly after World War II. In The Gallery, we have Martha, a servant in New York City during the roaring twenties who has a (supposedly) insane mistress. She solves the mystery of her employer using clues hidden in paintings in—you guessed it—the gallery. Graff, as in her novel A Tangle of Knots, weaves recipes—this time for cool summer beverages—in with the fantasy of A Clatter of Jars.

Titles shining a light on teen issues figure prominently on this summer list. Beth Revis deals with mental illness in A World Without You (Razorbill; July). While John Corey Whaley handles depression and LGBT issues with a dose of humor in Highly Illogical Behavior (Dial; May), Jenn Marie Thorne has set The Inside of Out (Dial; July) in the same high school as in The Wrong Side of Right. In the latter, Daisy makes the (wrong) decision to pose as gay to support a friend. Introverted teens may find comfort in the nonfiction title Quiet Power (Dial; May). It is based on Susan Cain’s book and TED Talk for adults, with new tips for younger readers.

Intriguing candidates for lighter beach reads also make an appearance. Young adults can get into the Olympic mood with Tumbling (Viking; June) by Caela Carter. In it, five lifelong friends, ages 15 to 21, find their relationships complicated by competition. Set Pride and Prejudice in Texas in the middle of debutante season and you have The Season (Viking; July) by Jonah Lisa Dyer and Stephen Dyer, complete with the Dallas Dip and a Denim to Diamonds Ball.

Looking for new historical fiction options? You can start them young with the picture book Diana’s White House Garden (Viking; May) by Elisa Carbone and illustrated by Jen Hill. It is based on the true story of Diana Hopkins, the daughter of FDR’s advisor Harry Hopkins. She lived in the White House and started a victory garden under the supervision of Eleanor Roosevelt. At the preview, I learned that Hill did incredible research for her illustrations, down to the china pattern used for a White House tea.

Joseph Bruchac took a different tack for middle grade readers, offering a book on Native American history. Talking Leaves (Dial; August) tells the tale of Sequoyah, a Cherokee silversmith, and the creation of the Cherokee alphabet. For older readers, Stacey Lee depicts the Chinese experience during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake in Outrun the Moon (Putnam; May). The recent  popularity of the musical Hamilton may have prompted the reissue of Judith St. George’s The Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton  and Aaron Burr (Puffin; June). Regardless, it will be great fun to read the book while listening to the original cast recording.

Young readers who giggle at puns will adore Milk Goes to School (Philomel; June) by Terry Border. It follows Milk on her first day at school, where her classmates find her spoiled (Get it!?). The whimsy continues with Me and Annie McPhee (Philomel; June), rife with rhymes. Oliver Dunrea and Will Hillenbrand have teamed up to create this clever counting book. The art of minimalism shows up this season, thanks to Jack Mack, who has written a book using only two words. In Playtime? (Philomel; May), the title counts as one. The second is “bedtime,” spoken by a little boy to his gorilla, who likes the first word much better.

Beard Boy (Putnam; May) by John Flannery and illustrated by Steven Weinberg is an homage to facial hair (in a good way). Zachariah OHora has also crafted a tribute in The Not So Quiet Library (Putnam; July). Rather than razor stubble, his ode is to the library of his childhood. You gotta love that.


Last, but certainly not least, Poor Little Guy (Dial; June) celebrates the most diminutive among us. In this sweet story, Elanna Allen has a tiny, spectacle-wearing fish take on a ravenous octopus.





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Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.