Subscriber-Only Content; You must be a PW subscriber to access the backissue database. PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital edition via our app or online. For more information on PW's new integrated subscription plan, click here. If you are currently a PW subscriber, click "Login" for full access to the site (if you have not done so already, you will need to set up your account for the new system by going here), or click the "Subscribe" button to become a PW subscriber. Email service@publishersweekly.com with questions.

Login or Subscribe
Brother Giovanni’s Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born

Anna Egan Smucker, illus. by Amanda Hall. Eerdmans, $17 (34p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5420-9

Drawing from the semi-apocryphal origins of the pretzel, which trace the baked good to a monk in medieval Europe, Smucker (Golden Delicious) introduces Brother Giovanni, “the best baker his monastery had ever had.” With the bishop scheduled to visit the monastery, the children the monks teach must learn to recite their prayers before his arrival. Giovanni tries singing, making “mean” faces, and dancing with the children, but while these attempts bring him closer to the children (the genial monk’s efforts to frown have the children rolling on the floor with laughter), they don’t help them learn their prayers. Taking inspiration from the medieval setting, Hall (The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau) ornaments her bright, playful paintings with filigrees and other decorative elements. When Brother Giovanni has his eureka moment—using the shape of two arms crossed in prayer to create a snack for the ages (and a delicious reward for the children)—he is flanked by two trumpet-playing angels, and a pretzel rests above his head like the flame of the Holy Spirit. It’s a winning blend of the holy and the holey. Ages 4–8. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
One Good Deed

Terri Fields, illus. by Deborah Melmon. Kar-Ben, $17.99 (24p) ISBN 978-1-4677-3478-3

Fields (Burro’s Tortillas) and Melmon (Baby Wants Mama) present a pay-it-forward story that shows how one kind action—sharing some fresh-picked mulberries with an elderly neighbor, for instance—can turn an unfriendly neighborhood into one overflowing with generosity. As Fields introduces the residents of Lancaster Street, she uses repetition to emphasize how each of them almost unconsciously realizes how they can help someone in need. “Then she had a thought she’d never thought before,” she writes of Mrs. Thompson, the recipient of the mulberries, who gives one of the pies she bakes with the berries to Mr. Riley next door. He helps retrieve a basketball from the roof of a garage, the young basketball players call time-out to rake the leaves of a neighbor who’s on crutches, and so on. Playing into the idea that Lancaster Street “seemed dark and gloomy” even on sunny days, Melmon shows the neighborhood literally brightening with each page turn. A closing reference to these deeds as mitzvahs is the only religious element in the story—it’s clear that these actions cross all backgrounds and belief systems. Ages 3–8. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans

Don Brown. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $18.99 (96p) ISBN 978-0-544-15777-4

Brown follows The Great American Dust Bowl (2013) with the story of the hurricane that destroyed New Orleans. He traces the sequence of events that left the flood levees breached and the city flooded with “a disgusting stew of oil, seawater, feces, rubber tires, foul linen, house paint, shattered lumber, and rot of all kinds.” It’s a grim, heartrending account. Thousands were stranded in venues utterly lacking in supplies or facilities. The crucial question of why the city’s African-American community suffered disproportionately is not dealt with on its face, but Brown’s artwork reflects the city’s diversity, and he recounts the victims’ indignities and outrages with deep sympathy. The author quotes President George W. Bush’s fulsome words for the head of FEMA—“Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”—then observes, “The President’s praise confuses many Americans.” Lively, dynamic sketching gives the artwork a sense of urgency and immediacy. It is as important to tell the story of a nation’s failures as it is to record its triumphs, and this is a crucial contribution. Ages 12–up. Agent: Angela Miller, Miller Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
Baba Yaga’s Assistant

Marika McCoola, illus. by Emily Carroll. Candlewick, $16.99 (136p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6961-4

Masha has lost her grandmother, who loved and nurtured Masha after her mother’s death. Her stories led Masha to believe that her grandmother had known the fairy tale witch Baba Yaga personally. So when Masha sees a newspaper ad asking for an assistant (“enter Baba Yaga’s house to apply”), she strikes out for the famous chicken-legged dwelling. The trials that Baba Yaga challenges Masha with allow her to work through some dark memories and offer a chance to resolve present-day problems, too, including the loss of her father’s attention to a new fiancée. Though newcomer McCoola’s dialogue wobbles a bit early on (“I’m tired of being overlooked. I need to do something useful for someone”), it tightens up quickly as Masha battles a bear, bathes a closetful of snakes, and sweet-talks Baba Yaga’s house into letting her enter (“I think the porch and stairs add grace to your proportions”). Carroll’s (Through the Woods) spidery, delicate drawings convey deliciously understated creepiness. Strong, complex characters and the inventive fusion of contemporary and fairy tale elements make this a noteworthy collaboration. Ages 10–up. Agent: Jen Linnan, Linnan Literary Management. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
Somewhere There Is Still a Sun: A Memoir of the Holocaust

Michael Gruenbaum, with Todd Hasak-Lowy. S&S/Aladdin, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4424-8486-3

Written in first-person present-tense narration, this riveting memoir traces the increasingly appalling events that took place from 1939–1945 in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, as seen through the eyes of Gruenbaum. As the book opens, 10-year-old Misha protests his growing awareness of injustice: “Every day is a new, stupid rule and worse food and no soccer.” Watching the German army enter Prague, he feels more curiosity than dread until he sees a couple jump to their death holding hands. Miseries ensue: the ghetto, yellow stars, his father’s murder, increasing danger, hunger, and humiliation—all leading to the family’s arrival in the Terezin concentration camp. There, Misha joins a group of 40 boys who live, work, and play under the stern but loving care of Franta, a young man who calls them the “Nesharim,” and demands high moral character: “We will let nothing separate us from our humanity.” The ingenuity, love, and defiant courage displayed by Misha, his parents, Franta, and others counteract incessant degradation and terror, creating an inspiring testament to human resilience. Ages 10–14. Agent: (for Gruenbaum) Amy Berkower, Writers House; (for Hasak-Lowy) Daniel Lazar, Writers House. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
After the Red Rain

Barry Lyga, with Peter Facinelli and Robert DeFranco. Little, Brown, $18 (400p) ISBN 978-0-316-40603-1

In the far-off future, humankind has so ravaged the planet that plants and other life forms are nearly extinct. While a corrupt government exercises control over its remaining citizens, a strange boy named Rose turns up in 16-year-old Deedra’s home territory and inspires a quiet uprising that has her questioning everything, from the machines she builds at her factory job to the news provided via “wikinet” feed. The dystopian setting bears disturbing similarities to the modern world, serving as a cautionary tale about our own lasting impact on the planet. While the authors paint a frighteningly believable landscape, the characters remain opaque. Deedra, forced to be independent since her orphanage shut down when she was 12, becomes suddenly and inextricably dependent on Rose soon after meeting him. Their magnetic attraction also comes at a cost to Deedra’s heretofore best friend, Lissa, who—despite her own harrowing subplot—is all but forgotten. Loose ends and unanswered questions leave room for future books. Ages 15–up. Agent: Kathleen Anderson, Anderson Literary Management, and Steve Fisher, APA Talent and Literary Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
Reawakened

Colleen Houck. Delacorte, $17.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-385-37656-3

When high school senior Lilliana Young becomes mystically tethered to a resurrected Egyptian mummy, her upper-crust, micromanaged New York City lifestyle is turned upside down. Lilliana and Amon, the resurrected prince and carrier of the Eye of Horus, travel to Egypt in search of Amon’s brothers, who are needed to complete a thousand-year-old ritual that will prevent Seth, the “Dark One,” from rising. They meet the Grand Vizier, an archeologist devoted to helping the brothers, but trouble emerges in the form of an unknown necromancer who intercepts their every move with flesh-eating demons, poisonous dust, and zombies. Along the way, Lilliana must decide whether to sacrifice herself to prevent the world’s “unmaking.” In this series opener, Houck (the Tiger’s Curse series) introduces a fantasy teeming with Egyptian characters and mythological stories come to life. Though the Amon’s thematic metaphors (“My throat is as dry as a sandstorm in the desert”) are trying, and the scenes between adventures can be tedious, Houck’s moving depiction of the love between Lily and Amon is memorable. Ages 14–up. Agent: Robert Gottlieb, Trident Media Group. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
Zeroes

Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti. S&S/Simon Pulse, $19.99 (560p) ISBN 978-1-4814-4336-4

Westerfeld (Afterworlds), Lanagan (Yellowcake), and Biancotti (Bad Power) weave a sprawling adventure about a group of superpowered teenagers who call themselves Zeroes. When one of their number, named Scam for his ability to tell people exactly what he needs them to hear, is detained after being in the wrong place at the wrong time, the others reunite after months apart, some less eager than others. Events quickly escalate, and soon half the group is in hiding, while the authorities and the mob hunt for them. The plot meanders, but the authors give their characters plenty of depth, skillfully blending human dilemmas with superhuman abilities. With the exception of Crash, who can bring down technology with a thought, these aren’t flashy, cinematic powers; subtle yet powerful, they largely revolve around coercion and manipulation. Mob and Bellweather can influence the emotions of crowds; Anonymous is nearly impossible to perceive or remember; and blind Flicker telepathically sees through the eyes of those around her. With action, romance, and thorny ethical questions, it’s a book with a little something for everyone. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
Mechanica

Betsy Cornwell. Clarion, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-547-92771-8

In a kingdom that both needs and fears faeries, orphan Nicolette’s late mother was a gifted mechanist, who created tiny clockwork animals and other creatures brought to life through Fey magic. On her 16th birthday, Nick discovers her mother’s hidden workshop—a welcome distraction from stitching new gowns for her cruel stepsisters, Piety and Chastity, in time for them to meet the young prince who will soon marry. There’s no need of fairy godmothers in this feminist retelling of Cinderella, since Cornwell (Tides) gives Nick all the tools necessary to make magic on her own (though she also puts her in the way of some helpful new friends). Nick’s narration can be claustrophobic; even as Nick’s social circle expands, readers remain largely inside her head. (That said, Cornwell’s evocative writing makes Nick’s intelligent mind a fine place to spend time.) Fans of fairy-tale updates will find it easy to lose themselves in this bright, romantic story, whose hero shows she can not only have it all but also do it herself. Ages 12–up. Agent: Sara Crowe, Harvey Klinger. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Letter for the King

Tonke Dragt, trans. from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson. Scholastic/Fickling, $18.99 (528p) ISBN 978-0-545-82022-6

Following its 2013 release in the U.K., which marked its first English translation, this 1962 Dutch children’s classic now hits American shelves, allowing a wider audience to enjoy this old-fashioned tale of knights, quests, and derring-do. Sixteen-year-old Tiuri is on the brink of achieving knighthood when he answers a call for help that launches him on an journey to deliver a letter of vital importance to a neighboring kingdom. His trek through the wilderness is long and hazardous, filled with allies and enemies—from the justice-seeking Gray Knights to the ominous Red Riders—and perils at every turn. There’s a timeless charm to Tiuri’s quest, a mixture of innocence and death-defying adventure, invoking chivalric ideals and a sense of refinement. Dragt conjures up elements of Tolkien and the Arthurian mythos, combining the traditional hero’s journey with an episodic structure, as though the novel was made for serial storytelling, or to be read aloud. Though some modern readers might find the story tame or slow-paced compared to more recent offerings, the rich language, lush descriptions, and sense of wonder allow it to hold its own against any competitor. Ages 12–up. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
X
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.