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The Great Thanksgiving Escape

Mark Fearing. Candlewick, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6306-3

Gavin is the picture of irritation after his parents dump him with a bunch of drooling, toy-munching toddlers while waiting for “turkey time” at Grandma’s house. Luckily, he finds a partner in crime in cousin Rhonda, and they make their way past several holiday hazards in order to reach the outdoor swing set. Fearing revels in his portraits of cinematically exaggerated horrors like the “Hall of Aunts!” (“We’ll be pinched and smothered for sure!” cries Rhonda) and a basement full of teenage “zombies” staring at their digital devices. Rhonda’s advice to Gavin—“Sometimes you have to make your own fun”—will serve readers well on Thanksgiving Day or any time of year. Ages 5–8. Agent: Sean McCarthy, Sean McCarthy Literary Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Thanksgiving for Emily Ann

Teresa Johnson, illus. by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Scholastic/Cartwheel, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-545-77370-6

It may be Thanksgiving, but a girl named Emily Ann is feeling downright Grinchlike: “There was food to be cooked/ and chores to be done./ With everyone busy/ there was no time for fun.” Emily is just about to “play a funny trick”—hiding the turkey—when her mother mistakes her mischief for helpfulness. That compliment, along with seeing her homemade place mats on the table and her large family gathered together, are enough make Emily Ann realize, “They really didn’t matter,/ all her Thanksgiving woes.” Brantley-Newton’s exude holiday bustle and family warmth, which help carry the story through a few verbal contortions created in pursuit of a rhyme. Ages 3–5. Illustrator’s agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Gobble, Gobble, Tucker!

Leslie McGuirk. Candlewick, $7.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6887-7

McGuirk’s white pup Tucker returns in his fourth holiday board book (following Ho, Ho, Ho, Tucker!, Tucker’s Spooky Halloween, and Tucker’s Valentine), and like most humans, he’s excited about the food that Thanksgiving involves: “He wants to help, too, especially if someone drops some food!” Tucker also helps out with cleaning and crafting, plays around with his canine cousins, and is (briefly) anxious when it seems like the “big meal” is happening without them. (Rest assured, there are plenty of leftovers for all dogs in attendance.) McGuirk sticks to a simple, celebratory narrative, and her gouache cartoons and hand-lettered text give the book a homey feel that’s just right for the holiday. Ages 2–5. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Grace and the Guiltless

Erin Johnson. Capstone/Switch Press, $16.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-63079-001-1

Johnson debuts with an atmospheric Western, first in the Wanted series, starring vigilante Grace Milton. When the brutal Guiltless Gang, led by Elijah Hale, slaughters Grace's entire family in order to steal their silver-rich ranch, Grace narrowly escapes with her wild stallion, Bullet, and her father's gun. Since Hale has the crooked sheriff in his pocket, Grace must seek justice on her own. After a short time in the Arizona desert, she and Bullet are injured and dehydrated. An English boy, Joe, who was long ago adopted by the Ndeh (Apache) tribe, rescues her, teaching her to fight and survive. Nearly everyone Grace meets advises her to move on or turn to the law for help, but her stubbornness and determination drive her forward. Johnson delivers cinematic action and striking descriptions of the landscape typical of the genre, and a dusting of romance enriches Grace's life without becoming the main impetus driving her or the story. By the end, Grace's quest has just begun, and readers should be taken with how she has evolved into a gutsy, cutthroat heroine. Ages 14–up. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World

Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick. Little, Brown, $17 (240p) ISBN 978-0-316-32793-0

Adapted with McCormick (Never Fall Down) from the adult bestseller, this inspiring memoir by activist Yousafzai sketches her brave actions to champion education in Pakistan under the Taliban. Her father runs a school in the Swat Valley, where Malala proves an eager student; as the Taliban gains influence, she increasingly becomes an international spokesperson for girls' right to learn. The narrative begins with a prologue in which a Taliban gunman boards her school bus and asks, "Who is Malala?" The authors then offer insight into the cultural and political events leading up to the shooting that followed and Yousafzai's dramatic recovery. Yousafzai highlights the escalating tensions as the Taliban takes hold—including the strictures against girls attending school, the obliteration of Western influence, violence, and the eventual war—but also brings the universal to life as she quarrels with her brothers, treasures her best friend, and strives to earn top grades. A glossary, color photo inserts, and an extensive timeline help establish context. It's a searing and personal portrait of a young woman who dared to make a difference. Ages 10–up. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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