By Jessica Dee Humphreys & Michel Chikwanine
Kids Can Press, 2015, $17.95
Genre: autobiography, middle grade, Democratic Republic of Congo, war, military
By Tor Seidler
Middle grade fiction, survivor, realistic animal fantasy
Let me begin by saying the reason I picked up this book is because my 11-year-old daughter came into my room, hugging the book to her chest, and said, "This is the best book I've ever read. You have to read this book, Mom."
Naturally, I had to read it. In one sitting as it turned out! Animal fiction is not my favorite genre. Don't get me wrong, I've read Watership Down and most of the Redwall series just to name two. Animal fantasy is just not my favorite genre, and when I have a "to-read” pile that I will never get through. However, I knew from the first page that this book, Firstborn, by Tor Seidler, is something special. (I say that with tingles, because it's that powerful.)
It is told from the point of view of Maggie the Magpie, who hates her name and would rather explore than search for sparkly stuff like most magpies. Gradually Maggie befriends a cantankerous old crow, who stands on the weathervane every day, looking out and speaking to no one. Through the old crow's influence, Maggie explores her surrounding world, which is how she comes to befriend Blue, the first-born son of the his pack's alpha. Blue is magnificent! Bigger than most, strong and wise, Blue is the perfect heir to pack leadership. Except Blue also doesn't conform to the behavior expected of him, especially when he befriends a coyote--considered a lesser breed and detested and scorned by the pack. Maggie and Blue experience many adventures together, like Blue's capture and escape from taggers at Yellowstone National Park. Along the way they meet different animal friends, and through these different animal characters, children will understand and relate to the book's themes of death, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, identity, self-discovery, and why exactly a name matters.
I expect this book to become a classic, in part because of its beautiful, prose-like writing, and yet simple language. Suspenseful moments will appeal to boys and girls as well as reluctant readers. Destined for "classic" status? Time shall tell. But Firstborn will forever be one of my All-Time Favorites at childressink.com.
by DK Publishing
Edited by Allison Singer
Age: 13-17, adult interest, all ages
Nonfiction, careers, careers for kids
This is straight up the best book I've seen on the subject in twenty years. Easy to understand, excellent information, I highly recommend for anyone still deciding what they want to be when they grow up. Read more about this book in my interview with its editor, Allison Singer.
Gr 6 Up—A typical library's collection of career books can quickly become dated or out of touch. Enter this manual. With simple graphics, bright colors, and a vast compendium of information, this guide will engage teens who are wondering, "What now?" Each page contains a job description, information on related careers and salaries, and a skills guide. The book explains precisely how to go from dipping a toe into the waters of a particular job to the highest positions within the field. The index is well organized, and the entries are nicely cross-referenced. The material can be dry or a bit vague at times, especially for readers who would be interested in discovering real-life applications. However, it should be useful for students, and the wide scope of knowledge will keep it current for longer than many comparable titles. VERDICT This strong addition will be fun for browsers as well as for those selecting college majors and making job decisions.—Erinn Black Salge, Saint Peter's Prep, Jersey City, NJ -School Library Journal
By E.R. Frank
Contemporary YA fiction, edgy, mature readers, ages 14+
Though this is fiction, it’s not for the faint of heart. A horrific, utterly realistic look at the tragedy that is the sex-trafficking industry.
Dime is the fictional story of a thirteen-year-old foster child who thinks she’s been rescued by Daddy when he gives her a REAL winter coat with pockets and promises, promises, promises. Dime is quiet and observant; she listens and sees. And she can read. As she experiences what it means to be one of Daddy’s girls, she is allowed to go to the library -- but for what a price! Ultimately, books lead to her self-sacrifice and salvation from slavery.
Written from the point of view of Dime as she struggles to write the last letter she will ever write, sometimes she writes as Money (a quick fifty then maybe an hour of sleep before her 1 a.m.), sometimes as Truth (the girl mouthed, "help me"). And it is in Truth that Dime finds her strength.
In flawless writing, the reader exists inside Dime's head, witnessing eight-year-olds stolen, traded, and trained well by Big Ray; taking in her realizations, emotions, and her systematic compartmentalizing of the things her brain can and cannot hold at one time. (WhatWhatWhat?)
Observant, quiet, yet always perceiving, Dime carefully crafts a plan to save an unborn child. An unborn child born to eleven-year-old Lollipop, who Dime is to deliver as doctor-in-charge, in the hotel bathroom. During the nine-month pregnancy, Dime plans and watches. And when the time finally comes, you will be unable to put the book down.
Not only do our thoughts linger with Dime months after finishing the book, but it is through ground-breaking, powerful characters and books like Dime that knowledge will spread and perhaps spark change to end the abomination that is the sex trade.
Ultimately satisfying but not a neat and tidy ending, this is one for discussion, especially among high-school students. Be warned, this book is disturbingly graphic in places, but it has stirred in me a consuming anger. What kind of person knowingly participates and perpetuates this destruction of innocence?
In response to hearing of recent news in MY STATE’S SEX TRAFFICKING INDUSTRY, and hearing the testimony of those who have been involved in the sex-trafficking industry, I have been compelled to feature this book on this day, this book that has haunted and remained with me since I read it in one sitting after first receiving the ARC (Advanced Reading Copy).
Releasing May 2015, unforgettable, timely, thought-provoking, realistic, revolutionizing, read this book and share it. Raise your voice and do something. But I say:
"If anyone causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." Matthew 18:6-7
By Bethany Hamilton
Nonfiction, healthy living, physical, emotional and spiritual wellness, ages 8 and up
Since I was one of the editors blessed to work on this project, I have an intimate knowledge of its contents. And I am testifying today that this book helped me lose 37 pounds and become more physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy.
I've said before, there have been times in my editing life when I am working on a book and realize, This is going to powerfully affect lives. Body & Soul, by Bethany Hamilton, is one of those books. Bethany's inspirational story only serves as a backdrop, in that she shares how she had to overcome obstacles to remain an award-winning surfer, such as regaining her balance with only one arm. In Body & Soul, Bethany addresses issues girls face with self-esteem and perceptions of girls portrayed in the media. Bethany stresses for girls (and everyone) to view themselves as God does. From there, she offers healthy lifestyle tips, with exercises specially developed by her personal trainer for teens, plus recipes, nutrition information, and so much more. Bethany offers a way to healthy living, which includes spiritual health as well as physical.
As I edited the book, I closely examined my own life. I'd already reduced processed foods, but I doubled my efforts to "eat clean." I made myself eat breakfast, though I had never been a breakfast person (besides coffee--and yes, I know all the literature). As for exercising, I already did at least 30 minutes daily, so I didn't really increase my time. However, I added more strength training and calisthenics. I also changed my mindset about exercise. My 30 minutes a day didn't always have to be an all-out, full-force workout. Extreme exercising does not always allow the body to relax, which is important for reducing stress. I walk, bike, clean, garden, ski, sled, skate, and play with the kids. I mix it up and have fun!
Finally and most importantly, I examined where I was in my relationship with God. And I made changes. Hard changes. Change is scary, but it's inevitable. Knowing who I am, as a child of God, gives me strength and helps me remember: With God for me, whom shall be against? With God for me, whom shall I fear?
By Melissa Caughey
Storey Publishing, 2015, $16.95
Genre: nonfiction, chickens, activities, healthy living
Wolf by Wolf, by Ryan Graudin
Little Brown, $18.00
Middle-grade/YA crossover fiction, alternate historical fiction, Germany, Hitler, motorcycle racing, suspenseful adventure
Brilliant writing, colorful language, suspense, twists, intrigue, this book hooks you from page one and transports you to an alternate 1955, where Hitler won WWII, and a child survivor of holocaust experiments gained an secret skill she hid from the Germans which helped her escape. Rescued by the resistance, the time comes, an opportunity arises, and Yael share her secret, skinshift, the ability to change into anyone else. Disguised as Adele Wolfe, winner of last year’s race, who waltzed with Hitler, Yael enters with the plan to win and take down Hitler during the winner’s waltz. Unfortunately, after the race begins, Yael realizes Adele may not have been the German darling everyone thought, and before, Yael can win, she must convince the other racers and watch her back for all the enemies the real Adele left in her trail.
The Honest Truth
By Dan Gemeinhart, Scholastic Press, 2014, $6.99
Genre: Realistic fiction, Animals, Mute, Fantasy, Contemporary
ISBN 13: 978-0-54566-574-2
By Joel Ross
Middle-grade adventure-fantasy, steampunk dystopian, Recommended for reluctant readers, boys and girls, with YA and even adult crossover-interest--it's that good!
First the fog destroyed the earth, then fogsickness ravaged humanity, until only the highest mountains are habitable, and they are ruled by the wealthy Five Families. In this steampunk, high-fantasy-adventure, four friends live as pirates, sailing their make-shift air raft over the Fog, scavenging for treasures. Because they have a secret. Chess is unaffected by fogsickness, and the wealthies would love to use him as their Fog Diver.
An additional FYI, all four of my kids wanted this book when it first arrived, that's ages 19, 16, 15, and 11.