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Flora and the Peacocks

Molly Idle. Chronicle, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4521-3816-9

Flora dances on in her elegant third picture book, following the Caldecott Honor–winning Flora and the Flamingo and its sequel, Flora and the Penguin. Working in a green-and-turquoise color scheme, Idle wordlessly traces Flora’s encounter with two peacocks, whose outstretched tails echo the semicircular shape of the fan Flora holds as she dances. One peacock takes to Flora and the other feels left out; glued-in flaps help move the story forward while amplifying the emotional tug-of-war. One broken fan later, a massive foldout brings the story to a moving finale in which kindness and compromise win the day. Ages 3–5. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (May)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Brothers Unite

Justin LaRocca Hansen. Dial, $10.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-8037-4094-5

In this first book in the Secondhand Heroes trilogy, Hudson and his younger brother, Tucker, know something is up when the umbrella and woolen scarf their mother picks up for them at a yard sale appear to have lives of their own. The castoffs give the brothers superhuman powers; quick to see the possibilities, they improvise costumes, naming themselves Stretch and Brella. Hansen (Monster Hunter) gives the boys worthy villains to defeat and enthusiastic schoolmates to cheer them on. Piling on the fantasy gratification, Hansen teleports them to a medieval village where they meet a dragon, a fire-breathing mentor who cuts them no slack: “Also, I am female. If I hear he or him again, in reference to me, I will incinerate you. Continue.” Hansen meticulously drafts and colors every panel in painterly detail, giving his figures volume and heft. Smart characterization (including a memorable walk-on by a talking squirrel that sounds like a surfer bro), breathlessly paced adventure, and a dire cliff-hanger ending will make readers hope they don’t have to wait long for the sequel. Ages 8–12. Agent: Sarah Warner, Warner Literary Group. (July)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Saved by the Boats: The Heroic Sea Evacuation of September 11

Julie Gassman, illus. by Steve Moors. Capstone Young Readers, $14.96 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5157-0275-7

Author and editor Gassman (the Little Boost series) calls upon her firsthand experience of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in this frank account of the boat evacuation that carried thousands to safety. The narrative provides a grim, age-appropriate recounting of the Twin Towers’s destruction before describing how 500,000 people escaped Manhattan via the water: “Boats of all sizes sped into the harbor. Tugboats, ferryboats, private boats, party boats.... each vessel carried a captain and crew who were ready to serve.” Quotations from boat captains punctuate the story, while a limited color palette contributes to the somber tone. Newcomer Moors places his intricate line drawings against a stark gray-beige backdrop. The only vivid color is the turquoise of the clear sky, which is later used for the spotlights that shine upward in place of the towers. Survivors, subtly differentiated with their dusty gray coloring, wear expressions of shock and sadness. An author’s note details Gassman’s personal water-evacuation story, and a glossary (including victim and tragedy) rounds out this inspiring tale of how an impromptu flotilla offered refuge and hope, “a light on the city’s darkest day.” Ages 6–10. (July)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Memory Book

Lara Avery. Little, Brown/Poppy, $17.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-316-28374-8

Samantha “Sammie” McCoy, 18, has big plans: win the National Debate Championships with her friend Maddie, become class valedictorian, attend NYU and law school, and become a human rights lawyer. These plans are derailed when she’s diagnosed with Niemann-Pick, a terminal illness that will rob her of her memory and physical abilities before killing her. Through journal entries that Sammie writes to her future self, including occasional excerpts from text and email exchanges, Avery (Anything but Ordinary) crafts an emotionally charged story about a young woman who has kept her eyes trained on the future, only to learn that all she has is now. Determined to make the most of the time she has left, Sammie begins a relationship with her longtime crush and attempts to have “normal” teenage experiences like attending parties and getting drunk. Though the marketplace is crowded with stories of teens coping with serious illness, Avery’s novel stands out for its strong characters, a heartbreaking narrative that shifts to reflect Sammie’s condition, and a love story that will leave many readers in tears. Ages 15–up. Agency: Alloy Entertainment. (July)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Collar and the Cavvarach

Annie Douglass Lima. Annie Douglass Lima, $2.99 e-book (304p) ASIN B00WSB9W8K

What looks, at first blush, like a Hunger Games pastiche turns out to be anything but. First in the Krillonian Chronicles series, Lima’s novel is an uneven but gripping tale of loyalty, captivity, and redemption. In a world similar to ours technologically, but with notable differences that include emperors and the legal sale of humans, Bensin is a teenage slave whose only goal is buying freedom for his younger sister, Ellie. It’s no easy task, so Bensin hatches a series of plans that come to rather abrupt ends. After a few brushes with the law and trouble with his owner, Bensin realizes that cavvara shil, a style of martial art practiced with a specialized weapon, may be his ticket to a better life for Ellie. Though the dialogue and descriptions tend to be more functional than expressive, the multifaceted story winds through questions of social justice, ethics, and personal growth. Bensin begins the novel as a somewhat flat, single-minded everyman, but after he partners with his coach, Steene Mayvins, he develops into a more rounded, mature, and dynamic character. Ages 14–up. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Season

Jonah Lisa Dyer and Stephen Dyer. Viking, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-451-47634-0

In this contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice, Megan McKnight (standing in for Elizabeth Bennet) is a college soccer star and tomboy whose mother demands she go through the prestigious Dallas debutante season with her twin sister, Julia, representing Jane. Megan and Julia are debutante royalty—all of the women in their family have been debs—and live on a struggling cattle ranch, which their mother hopes to sell to solve their financial woes. The Dyers, a married screenwriting team, send the twins to party after lavish party, with suitors swirling around them, including two for Megan (Hank, in place of Mr. Wickham, and Andrew, a Darcy figure). The authors paint Megan in broad strokes, portraying her as the unlikeliest of debs and playing up the physical comedy (Megan goes to her first event of the season with a wicked black eye) before giving her a dramatic transformation from clumsy tomboy to polished—but not too polished—debutante. Austen fans will enjoy recognizing classic Pride and Prejudice moments and appreciate the message about staying true to oneself. Ages 14–up. Agent: Simon Lipskar, Writers House. (July)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Remix

Non Pratt. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4424-9775-7

Though British teenagers Kaz and Ruby are reeling from breakups, both of them are determined to enjoy their last weekend together before some big transitions. With Ruby’s brother leaving for America and wild child Ruby facing the possibility of being held back at school, the two best friends head to Remix, a music festival featuring their favorite band, Goldintone. Pratt (Trouble) viscerally illustrates the idiosyncrasies of the music festival world with its grungy bathrooms, mosh pits, and random encounters with strangers. Kaz and Ruby have always been there for each other, but their relationship hasn’t been equal: according to mild-mannered Kaz, “Where Ruby leads, I follow.” When Kaz meets a new friend who threatens to take Ruby’s place and Ruby receives attention from a famous rock star, they both have to decide what is most important and whether their friendship can survive the changes in store. Writing in the teens’ alternating voices, Pratt easily shifts between friendly late-night campfires and profound moments of realization, including an affecting consideration of sex without love, en route to an emotional and satisfying conclusion. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jane Finigan, Lutyens & Rubinstein. (July)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Lost & Found

Katrina Leno. HarperTeen, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-223120-8

Frances and Louis live on opposite sides of the U.S., but they have been in touch for years through an online chat group for those coping with trauma. (Frances has lost her parents—one to jail, one to a mental institution—while Louis feels responsible for the accident that cost his sister her legs.) After Louis gets a tennis scholarship and a letter from Frances’s late mother reveals shocking (and probably untrue) details about Frances’s “real” father, the two make plans to meet each other in Texas and answer burning questions about their identities and futures. Frances and Louis have heavy psychological burdens, but Leno (The Half Life of Molly Pierce), alternating between the teens’ perspectives, uses their optimism and sense of humor to bring lightness to the story. Leno takes her time building each protagonist’s present and the past that informs it, which—while helpful for character and background—draws out the wait until their inevitable meeting. But patient readers will be rewarded with a rich, romantic story about two thoughtful teenagers on a quest for meaning. Ages 13–up. Agent: Wendy Schmalz, Wendy Schmalz Agency. (July)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Learning to Swear in America

Katie Kennedy. Bloomsbury, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-61963-909-6

In Kennedy’s engrossing and entertaining debut, a 17-year-old Russian physicist must help NASA stop an asteroid that is hurtling toward Earth. Yuri Strelnikov arrives in the U.S. with only three weeks until BR1019 is expected to hit, but his age and his specialty (antimatter) make it hard for him to get his scientific colleagues to take him seriously. When he meets Dovie Collum, an artistic and quick-witted high-school student, and her unusual, loving family, Yuri gains a few new reasons to figure out how to avert global disaster. Yuri is delightfully droll, and Dovie awakes in him a zest for life as well as a sense of family he has never known. Dovie and her family inspire Yuri to think outside of the box, even if it means going against his colleagues in order to save the planet. The science Kennedy weaves throughout the story is fascinating and accessible, and Yuri and Dovie’s gentle romance is pitch-perfect. This novel is made to savor—readers will want to catch every nuance of Kennedy’s multidimensional characters. Ages 13–up. Agent: Kate McKean, Howard Morhaim Literary. (July)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Flying

Carrie Jones. Tor Teen, $17.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7653-3657-6

With nods to numerous science fiction and fantasy works (including Dr. Who, Heroes, and World of Warcraft), this series opener from Jones (the Need series) is complex and nuanced while maintaining a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek vibe. Mana is a cheerleader—a flyer, to be exact—who excels at tumbling and loves what she does. She’s tiny, part Native Hawaiian, and protected on all sides by friends and family. When her mother goes missing and her crush starts spitting green acid, Mana has to figure out who to trust—quickly. Partnering with her best friend, Lyle, and an associate of her mother’s, Mana tries to come to terms with the existence of aliens, not all of whom want to share the Earth, while dealing with her burgeoning feelings for Lyle. Mana’s personal growth takes center stage as she learns to rely on herself during shootings, burglaries, and the development of mysterious new powers. Frequent twists and plentiful action keep the story moving briskly with only a few instances where disbelief needs to be suspended. Ages 13–up. Agent: Edward Necarsulmer IV, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (July)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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