Books by Linda Newbery

Released: Nov. 9, 2010

Lucy loves her summers at her grandparents' cottage. She and her grandfather have a special ability shared by a select few: Their penchant for growing things and their love of the natural world means that they can both see Lob, an incarnation of the traditional green man who helps out in the garden, bestowing growing magic wherever he goes. When Lucy's dear grandfather dies and his garden is paved over for new homes, both Lucy and Lob are at a loss. Lucy invites Lob to come and live with her, but she and her family don't have a garden plot at their London home. The narrative traces Lucy's journey and Lob's—occasionally presenting Lob's point of view in haiku-like verses printed in large type—as they try to find each other again. With a decidedly old-fashioned feel, the story moves at a leisurely pace, keeping at the forefront the importance of connection to the earth and its seasons. Unfortunately, the rather flat characters, particularly Lucy, may not be compelling enough to make readers care. (Magical adventure. 8-11)Read full book review >
FLIGHTSEND by Linda Newbery
Released: Jan. 12, 2010

Just when her life seems to be falling apart, an English teen gains fresh perspective when she and her mother relocate to a rural village. After her baby sister is stillborn, 16-year-old Charlie watches her mother's depression spiral into a midlife crisis. Seeking total change, Charlie's mum pushes away her partner, Sean, resigns her teaching position and moves to Flightsend, a gloomy cottage she hopes will signal the end "to everything that's gone wrong." Charlie tries to be supportive but fears her mother's plans will dissolve along with Charlie's own social life. Gradually, however, Charlie finds a job, new friends and artistic talents and discovers she's a country girl at heart. To her surprise, life at Flightsend may be just the beginning she and her mother need. Set against the contemporary countryside and teeming with English idioms, this is a quiet, reflective story of a remarkably mature teen who confronts her challenging modern life with lots of old-fashioned sense and sensibility. Should appeal to like-minded female readers. (Fiction. 12-16)Read full book review >
POSY by Linda Newbery
Released: Jan. 6, 2009

A curious kitten tumbles around the house doing such silly cat things as spider-catching and sofa-scratching. Newbery's prose—"Posy! / She's a... / whiskers wiper, / crayon swiper. / Playful wrangler, / knitting tangler"—is as bouncy as her subject, and her characterizations will be easily recognized by anybody who shares living space with a feline. The brief text puts a spotlight on the illustrations, and they deserve it: Rayner's watercolor-and-ink creations are what separates this from other cute-kitty tales. The scribbly texture of the ink and the softness of the tabby-toned watercolors create an opposing energy that almost animates the images and serves Posy's pouncing, clawing and rolling well. The simplicity of telling that allows these images to take center stage creates a format dilemma, however—with only four to eight words per spread, the text seems more suited for a board book, but the beauty of the illustrations demands the large trim and creamy, matte stock. Preschoolers and even toddlers may well wish for more substance to support the sophisticated visuals. (Picture book. 2-4)Read full book review >
CATCALL by Linda Newbery
Released: Oct. 14, 2008

An eerie psychological tension drives this unsettling account of two brothers challenged by the ever-evolving nature of their family. Josh and his younger brother Jamie have been through a lot of changes. Although their divorced parents have maintained a friendly relationship and work hard to respect and reassure both boys, that doesn't change the fact that their worlds have been turned upside down, most recently by the birth of their half sister. On a trip to a wildlife park, Jamie undergoes a strange experience in which he believes a lion has communicated with him, and thereafter his behavior takes a turn for the bizarre. Josh, while coping with his own feelings of displacement, puzzles over how to help him. Jamie's odd conversion is chilling, and Newbery crafts a compelling picture of this loving family while deftly avoiding melodrama. However, the ending feels hasty, and though a scrapbook about cats maintained by Josh is central to the story, the inclusion of excerpts disrupts rather than enhances the narrative flow. (Fiction. 10 & up)Read full book review >
LOST BOY by Linda Newbery
Released: March 11, 2008

Matt Lanchester, biking on a country road near his new home in Wales, believes that he was nearly killed after he experiences a supernatural accident with a phantom speeding car. This incident is identical to the real accident that left a boy dead on the same spot years before. Matt's encounter with a crude shrine that bears the victim's initials—the same as Matt's—leads to further revelations: He feels a mystical connection between the victim, Martin Lloyd, and himself; and it seems as if Martin wants Matt to learn the truth about his death. There are several "lost boys" here—Martin, the roadside casualty, and a child who succumbed after losing his way on a mountaintop a century ago and whose death and his dog's valiant efforts to find him have become the stuff of local legend. Matt's lost, too: He's trying to discover truths about the present by making sense of the past. He's also navigating friendships, including a tenuous one with a pair of toughs who've wrongly accused an elderly, mentally confused townsman of being Martin's killer. The author fairly successfully interweaves contemporary events with the past and reality with the mystical to frame a mildly engaging story. (Fiction. 10-13) Read full book review >
AT THE FIREFLY GATE by Linda Newbery
Released: March 13, 2007

Carnegie-nominee Newbery successfully interjects a supernatural storyline into a well-crafted, contemporary narrative about a pre-teen boy's adjustment to a new household. After moving with his parents from London to a rural English village, small, 11-year-old Henry not only worries about making new friends, but he is concerned about the nocturnal appearances of a mysterious, cigarette-smoking man at his garden gate. In a consistently subtle manner, Newbery parses out clues about the identity of the spectral stranger—a WWII airman—and the man's relationship with Henry's kind-hearted, elderly neighbor, Dottie. The sensitive Henry seems to make friends at his new school a bit too easily, yet his strained relationship with Dottie's moody, sometimes mean-spirited teenaged niece is convincing. While it may be too slow for some modern sensibilities, this beautifully written, atmospheric novel is cut from the same character-centered cloth as such classic British ghost stories as Phillipa Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden and Lucy Boston's Children of Green Knowe books. In addition, readers will get an engaging glimpse of 20th-century English military history. A worthwhile addition to any collection. (Fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
SET IN STONE by Linda Newbery
Released: Nov. 14, 2006

A heady, mesmerizing Victorian tale of intrigue, family and art. In 1898, aspiring young artist Samuel Godwin is hired by imposing Mr. Farrow as tutor for his daughters, Juliana, 19, and Marianne, 16. They live at Fourwinds, a gorgeous estate that has statues that are "Pagan and classical both at once," representing winds on three sides of the building. The missing West Wind is the focus of Marianne's passionate enthusiasm—and perhaps madness. Juliana's demure comportment implies an abiding pain. Their mother has recently died, their former governess fired, the sculptor banished. Charlotte, the current governess/companion, is ever-attentive but secretive; even in the chapters that she narrates, readers don't know her past. A few chapters are epistolary, and the rest are Samuel's. Newbery's touch is graceful as she unveils layers of the mystery to Samuel, Charlotte and readers—not always at the same time. Even when the revelations darken, evocative, intoxicating writing and a gothic touch keep the suspense coming. A worthy descendent of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
SISTERLAND by Linda Newbery
Released: April 13, 2004

Newbery smoothly weaves together past and present in two distinct, gripping storylines that eventually merge. Seventeen-year-old Hilly's grandmother, Heidigran, has Alzheimer's and moves in with Hilly's family. Sometimes the third-person-limited narration is from Heidigran's perspective as her consciousness slides between present and past. Often the viewpoint is Hilly's, baffled by snippets of detail that Heidigran insists upon, but that make no sense to anyone else. A young Jewish girl named Sarah leaves 1939 Germany by Kindertransport; how does this relate to Heidigran, who came to England from Germany after the war? Who is the "Rachel" whom Heidigran keeps mentioning? Relationships between two sets of sisters are rocky; old secrets surface throughout the family, touched by anger and confusion. Hilly's budding romance with an Arab Palestinian named Rashid and her friend Reuben's romance with Rashid's brother Saeed bring new confrontations with racism, homophobia, and violence. Things lost to the Holocaust, even identities, can't always be reclaimed—but Hilly can try. Gracefully character-driven and humane. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
THE SHELL HOUSE by Linda Newbery
Released: Aug. 13, 2002

Two stories, past and present, twine together in this haunting British exploration of faith and sexuality. In the past, Lt. Edmund Pearson, scion of a landed family, finds love and loses his faith in the trenches of WWI. In the present, Greg, a working-class teenager, finds himself struggling with both. Physically uniting the two stories is Graveney Hall, the seat of the Pearsons; in its full splendor in the WWI storyline, it has been reduced to a burned-out shell by Greg's time. The parallel stories play off each other perfectly; at the beginning of the novel, Edmund is unabashedly in love with Alex—and Alex with Edmund. Greg is far less certain of himself. He has begun to cultivate a quiet and rewarding friendship with Jordan, a swimmer whose body becomes the subject of some fabulously sensuous writing. At the same time, he encounters Faith while taking photographs around the grounds of Graveney Hall; her outspoken Christianity becomes both an irritant and a fascination for him as he rather chaotically tries to sort out his maturing relationship to the world. If the novel is prone to frequently stagy discussions of God and sex in both times, it is also magnificently paced, unfolding deliberately according to its own rules. Both the ardent Edmund and the less-certain Greg are well realized and thoroughly engaging. The secondary characters are somewhat less so—both Alex and Jordan seem almost too good to be true, although appealing in that goodness, and Faith is simply a cipher, more an eponymous symbol than a human being. These flaws aside, it stands as an ambitious, multilayered, and above all literary contribution to a literature that all too often seeks to dodge complexity. Newbery's fluid prose has been retained almost entirely intact from the original British, grounding the story firmly in its all-important setting—a welcome change from the trend among American publishers to try to pretend that Britain is simply a far-flung extension of the States. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >