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Safety Stars: Players Who Fought to Make the Hard-Hitting Game of Professional Hockey Safer

Sue Irwin. Lorimer (Orca, dist.), $9.95 trade paper (136p) ISBN 978-1-4594-0846-3

Professional hockey fans will appreciate the blend of history and action in this collection of profiles of players whose injuries and personal experiences have led to changes in the game’s equipment and rules. Irwin concisely demonstrates how players have bucked criticism and taken a stand to help the sport evolve and become safer, including the stories of the Montreal Canadiens’ Jacques Plante, the first goalie to wear a mask in 1959; contemporary superstars Marc Staal, Patrice Bergeron, and Sidney Crosby; and a Canadian boy with the goal of making AEDs (automated external defibrillators) available in hockey rinks and other public places. An addition to the Recordbooks series, Irwin’s account, written at a fourth-grade reading level, offers intriguing facts and back-story on a perennially important topic. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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A Cut Too Far

Herman Brown. Lerner/Darby Creek, $7.99 paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-4677-8096-4

Bullies and the bullied take to social media with scary results in one of five titles kicking off the Suspended series, written at a fourth-grade reading level. For years, Chace has endured taunting for his jaw deformity and crooked teeth, largely at the hands of class bully Ivan. But when Ivan targets Chace’s mother’s Iranian-American boyfriend, Tahir, calling him a Muslim terrorist, Chace snaps. The battle escalates via fake website profiles, and Chace’s ultimate retaliation—a violent online threat—gets him suspended, among other consequences. The briskly moving story spotlights the powerful ripple effect of cyberbullying, and Chace’s own change of heart suggests one form of positive resolution for an increasingly prevalent and troubling problem. Simultaneously available: The Confessional, High Drama, Over the Tracks, and Testing the Truth. Ages 11–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Ship of Death

Benjamin Hulme-Cross, illus. by Nelson Evergreen. Lerner/Darby Creek, $4.99 trade paper (64p) ISBN 978-1-4677-8090-2

This wisp of a tale about a ghost ship helps launch the Dark Hunter series of thrillers, written at a third-grade reading level and starring demon fighter Mr. Blood and his young assistants. When a weather-beaten ship appears in the harbor and drops anchor with no apparent crew or passengers, Mr. Blood, Edgar, Mary, and the harbor master investigate. The sleuthing team finds a room full of human bones, as well as mysterious forces trying to do them in before they discover how to put the haunted ship to rest. Ample suspense and adventure, brief chapters, and Evergreen’s shadowy b&w illustrations will have readers sailing through this story and eager for Mr. Blood’s subsequent adventures. Simultaneously available: The House of Memories, The Marsh Demon, The Red Thirst, The Stone Witch, and Wolf Trap. Ages 9–14. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden

Kevin DeYoung, illus. by Don Clark. Crossway, $16.99 (132p) ISBN 978-1-4335-4244-2

Pastor and author DeYoung (What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?) impressively distills the Bible into 10 chapters, writing in a colloquial, occasionally humorous tone that reflects the book's origins in a sermon, as an endnote explains. Throughout, DeYoung emphasizes mankind's fallibility (of Isaac's children: "Great blessings. But not-so-great people. Isaac was sort of a weakling. Jacob was a selfish trickster. And Judah did such dumb stuff, we don't even want to talk about it") while hinting at the salvation that lay ahead with the birth of Jesus. Just as successful and integral are the moody illustrations provided by Clark, cofounder of design/illustration studio Invisible Creature. Dominated by dark shades of green, teal, crimson, and violet, the images are close cousin to the work of midcentury illustrators like Mary Blair, striking notes both triumphant and ominous; when God decides to flood the Earth ("They didn't deserve to enjoy God's world anymore. So God took it from them"), a black shadow swallows an image of the globe, as if seen from space. DeYoung aims for a broad Christian audience and hits the mark. Ages 8–12. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Shantideva: How to Wake Up a Hero

Dominique Townsend, illus. by Tenzin Norbu. Wisdom, $22.95 (64p) ISBN 978-1-61429-058-2

Townsend, in her first book for children, presents the teachings of eighth-century Indian Buddhist monk Shantideva, focusing on simple, concrete actions, like kindness and reconciliation, as habits that can change the world. In seven brief chapters, Townsend shows how Shantideva, who "liked to lie around sleeping when the other monks were studying," wins over a dubious assembled crowd. Framed in crisp red borders, Norbu's delicately detailed illustrations draw from the Tibetan tangka genre, bringing a traditional note to Townsend's decidedly contemporary language. As Shantideva shares his thoughts on anger, patience, attachment to earthly possessions, and other topics, Townsend compares the life of a bodhisattva—a being who is "awake" (wise and kind)—to that of a superhero: "Other superheroes have special powers or cool stuff, but anyone can become a bodhisattva." Clear, direct writing makes Shantideva's teachings accessible and meaningful ("If we take pleasure only in the rewards we get, it is like licking honey off a razor—very sweet but also dangerous"), making this a strong jumping-off point for readers eager to explore Buddhist teachings in greater depth. Ages 5–up. (July)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Shanghai Sukkah

Heidi Smith Hyde, illus. by Jing Jing Tsong. Kar-Ben, $7.99 paper (32p) ISBN 978-1-4677-3475-2

As she did in Elan, Son of Two Peoples (2014), Hyde explores how Jewish traditions thrived in another cultural context, in this case the struggles and successes of European Jews who immigrated to China ahead of WWII. Although "Shanghai was nothing like Berlin," a boy named Marcus slowly adjusts to his new home, finding support in fellow young immigrants and a new Chinese friend, Liang. Liang points out that the approaching Moon Festival celebrates the harvest like the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, and lanterns from the festival eventually decorate the rooftop sukkah that Marcus and his friends build from bamboo. Rendered in an urban palette of pale grays and browns, Tsong's (A Bucket of Blessings) crisp digital collages come alive during the Moon Festival as a dragon races down the street during a parade and orange lanterns cast a warm glow on the night streets. Themes of friendship and perseverance come through strongly, and an afterword offers intriguing background information about (and archival photos of) the Jewish immigration to China. "During a time when most countries looked the other way," writes Hyde," China offered a haven." Ages 5–9. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Inker's Shadow

Allen Say. Scholastic Press, $19.99 (80p) ISBN 978-0-545-43776-9

In this companion to Drawing from Memory (2011), Say recalls his life as a teenager in the U.S. after leaving Japan for military school in California at age 15. The school, run by a friend of his father's, later expels Say; they don't think he will make "a wholesome American." As a minor with almost no income and a father whose psychological cruelty verges on sadistic, the boy finds himself at the mercy of his country's former enemy. Bullied and patronized ("I got nothing against you, buddy.... But my pop fought against you guys"), he is rescued by kindly strangers who recognize his artistic talent. In his loneliness, Say remembers the cartoon character Kyusuke, a sort of Japanese Pinocchio who provides him with a comic alter ego during his most anguished moments. "How could I forget?" the artist asks himself after his father visits from Japan to personally oversee his expulsion. "I'm Kyusuke! Who needs a father! Good-bye, Father!" The pages offer a wealth of graceful ink portraits, drawings, and paintings, and a provocative view of postwar America from the outside in. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Rain Wizard: The Amazing, Mysterious, True Life of Charles Mallory Hatfield

Larry Dane Brimner. Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek, $16.95 (120p) ISBN 978-1-59078-990-2

Brimner (Strike! The Farmworkers' Fight for Their Rights) brings to light the story of enigmatic, entrepreneurial rainmaker Charles Hatfield. Claiming to be able to enhance rainfall amounts with his secretive chemical mixing and evaporative techniques, the bookish Hatfield contracted with drought-plagued San Diego in 1915 to fill a reservoir in exchange for a big paycheck. Chapters alternate between Hatfield's rain-coaxing work at the reservoir and his life story, including one chapter on the history of pluviculture, or rainmaking. Large, color-tinted archival photos create visual interest, and ample white space keeps the fact-heavy narrative from overwhelming. When heavy storms in the winter of 1916 filled the reservoir (and damaged the city with floods), "Hatfield had fulfilled his agreement... Or had he?" Readers who study this well-researched tale hoping to discover if Hatfield did indeed contribute to the floods bearing his name may be disappointed. Whether Hatfield's methods were legitimate, coincidence, or a little of both is left to conjecture. However, the concluding author's note mentions two later scientists who indisputably used chemicals to seed clouds and cause rain. Ages 9–12. Agent: Karen Grencik, Red Fox Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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A History of Glitter and Blood

Hannah Moskowitz. Chronicle, $18.99 (280p) ISBN 978-1-4521-2942-6

Blending a faux-historical recounting with avant garde sensibilities in the form of rapid shifts in tense and perspective, this coming-of-age fantasy is set against the backdrop of a war-torn city where little hope remains. Amid a war fought between gnomes and fairies, Beckan, Scraps, Cricket, and Josha are the only four fairies left in the city of Ferrum. The self-styled pack ekes out a living thanks to prostitution, secure in the knowledge that the war won't touch them more than it already has—until Cricket is killed, eaten by gnomes. They are joined in the search for the remaining pieces of Cricket's body by Rig and Tier, both gnomes, and Piccolo, a "tightroper" who fights for the fairies. Despite the horrors of the adult war being fought around them, they attempt to forge a new pack and try to make sense of the massive changes. The abrupt changes in tense and point of view lend the narrative the chaotic feeling of a fever dream, while the edgier elements of this survival story (prostitution, cannibalism, etc.) feel glossed over. Ages 14–up. Agent: John Cusick, Greenhouse Literary Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Boy Most Likely To

Huntley Fitzpatrick. Dial, $17.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-8037-4142-3

Fitzpatrick returns to the theme of opposites uniting in this heartfelt companion to My Life Next Door (2012), which revisits the large, boisterous Garrett family. When the story begins, eldest daughter Alice is overwhelmed by the responsibilities of working at her parents' hardware store, chauffeuring her siblings around town, and tackling the family's mounting bills while her father is in the hospital. She cannot help but be irritated when her brother's screw-up buddy, Tim, gets kicked out of his house and usurps her one place of refuge, the apartment above the garage. Tim appears to be turning over a new leaf, but when the serious consequences of Tim's wild days come crashing down, it threatens to compromise Tim's plans for the future and destroy his blossoming romance with Alice. The well-defined characters, splashes of humor, and emotional entanglements of Fitzpatrick's previous works reappear in full force in this contemporary romance. Not every conflict gets resolved, but readers will sense that the Garretts and newcomer Tim will surpass their obstacles and thrive. Ages 14–up. Agent: Christina Hogrebe, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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