Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March Recommendations


In The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill, Xan rescues baby Luna from the woods. But Xan is a witch and Luna accidentally drinks moonlight, filling her with powerful magic. Pitted against them are a nearby town who thinks Xan is evil, a Council of Elders who really IS evil, and a Sorrow Eater wth a masterful plan. Fun, original fantasy, and winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal. (MG)

In The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon, Natasha’s family is scheduled to be deported to Jamaica this very night. Daniel has an interview to get into Yale—his family wants him to attend but he’s not so sure. When they meet in NYC, Daniel spends the day convincing Natasha they are fated to fall in love. It's told in multiple POVs, including Natasha's and Daniel's, but we also hear the random and not so random thoughts of people they come into contact with. An extremely engaging story about life, love, fate, and the universe. (YA)

And in The Bone Witch, by Rin Chupeco, Tea learns she is a bone witch on the day of her brother Fox’s funeral, when she accidentally raises him from his grave. With Fox along as her familiar, headstrong Tea is hustled to the capital city to be taught to manage her power. She learns to dance, fight, and navigate political intrigue in the district’s teahouses, but ultimately she will be sent to fight the “strange and terrible” monsters which haunt the land. This is fantasy world-building at its best, and includes a colorful cast of characters. First in a series. (YA)

Picture Books:

Egg, by Kevin Henkes, features three eggs that hatch and one that doesn’t. There’s lots of waiting, pecking, and three fun surprises. Design-wise, this book is a comfortable square shape, and is illustrated in Easter candy (or dyed-egg!) colors.

The Journey, by Francesca Sanna, is the moving story of a mother and her two children fleeing from one unnamed country to another. Narrated by one of the children, it’s a beautiful and timely book about refugees, appropriate for the picture book crowd.

Wolf in the Snow, by Matthew Cordell, tells the wordless (except for sounds) story of a girl and a wolf. Each is lost in the snow, and each wants to get home to a loving family. It’s interesting how expressive these scribbly-line paintings are!


Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Bone Witch--Shelf Awareness

YA Review: The Bone Witch

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco (Sourcebooks Fire, $17.99 hardcover, 432p., ages 12-up, 9781492635826)

Tea learns she is a "bone witch" on the day of her brother Fox's funeral, when she accidentally raises him from his grave. While witches are fairly commonplace in the Eight Kingdoms, bone witches, or Dark asha, are feared and reviled for their ability to control the dead. Nevertheless, they wield their "complicated and exclusive and implacable" death magic to keep people safe from the daeva--"strange and terrible monsters" commanded by servants of the traitorous False Prince. Twelve-year-old Tea discovers she commands her new-found magic with ease.

Along with Fox, now serving as her familiar, Tea is hustled to the capital city by Lady Mykaela, another Dark asha, to be trained to manage her power. The headstrong Tea takes her place in House Valerian, where she learns to dance, fight and navigate political intrigue in the district's teahouses. Tea's growing awareness of the price Dark asha pay to control the daeva makes her increasingly wary of dedicating her life to the endeavor. But when a particularly fierce daeva wreaks havoc during a ceremony, Tea steps in to save Lady Mykaela and takes her own craft to a much more dangerous place.

The Bone Witch is fantasy world-building at its best, and Rin Chupeco (The Girl from the Well; The Suffering) has created a strong and colorful cast of characters to inhabit that realm. Interspersed with Tea's narrative are short chapters describing her future exile "at the end of the world." Readers will feel the impending doom in this enticing, highly original fantasy, but must wait until the sequel for answers. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI.

Discover: In this strikingly original fantasy, 12-year-old Tea learns she is a powerful "bone witch" who can control the dead.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

March's Book of the Month--Wolf Hollow

March's Book of the Month is WOLF HOLLOW, by Lauren Wolk. This impeccably crafted, wonderfully heartfelt middle grade story was recently awarded a Newbery Honor. I love that it's sophisticated, yet still feels accessible to young readers.

Twelve-year-old Annabelle lives a quiet life in rural Pennsylvania, until Betty Glengarry shows up with all of her cruel, bullying ways. Annabelle must protect her two small brothers, and also shell-shocked World War l veteran, Toby, even when town sentiment tries to dictate otherwise. Annabelle’s courage and compassion will touch readers as she learns to stand up for what she knows is right in this pitch-perfect coming of age story.

It’s interesting to me that the author chooses to use a prologue to introduce readers to Annabelle’s story. In it, adult narrator Annabelle indicates she is looking back at her own childhood and describing, as she puts it, the way that, at age twelve, she learns to lie. The device allows Wolk to use a more adult tone throughout, which suits the quiet yet strong Annabelle very well. There’s a bit of an epilogue, too, which brings us back to grown Annabelle describing how that year, the year she turned twelve, she also learned to tell the truth.

This haunting, yet hopeful, story shows the power of one young girl acting on her convictions. It’s an important message, artfully imparted.