In the grand tradition of childhood adventures executed free from adult interference, this graphic novel takes readers on escapades involving two young monster hunters and the ghosts, goblins, and other wicked beasties lurking in the underbelly of their city.
Reluctantly relocated to a fictional location reminiscent of New York City, Charles takes up residence with his mother and father in a dilapidated historic hotel where he soon makes two new friends: Kevin, a black boy determined to set a world record of some sort, and Margo Maloo, self-styled “monster mediator,” a brown-skinned, pointy-featured girl whose glossy black hair flips in a manner strangely reminiscent of the collar of Dracula's cape. Charles is an endearing underdog, a chubby white boy who alphabetizes his personal library by subject and pours his aspiring journalistic ambitions into his blog. Over the course of three chapters, Margo helps Charles with the monster that emerges from his closet and, after some badgering, allows him to tag along as she answers pleas from other monster-plagued humans. Frequent humorous touches temper the fear factor for younger readers, while references to more advanced concepts such as gentrification add depth for older ones. Clever dialogue enhances this intriguing and multilayered story set in a fully realized world of monster and human coexistence.
A tough, ambitious, and courageous heroine is always welcome, and Margo and Charles are an odd couple kids will enjoy rooting for.
(Graphic fantasy. 8-12)
Kammie’s fallen down an abandoned well, beyond the reach of the three mean, popular girls who got her into this life-threatening mess.
Her perilous situation is really the culmination of a series of calamities that she gradually reveals in her unforgettable stream-of-consciousness monologue. First, her father was convicted of embezzling money from his employer, a charitable organization that provided wish fulfillment for critically ill children. She, her struggling mother, and her angry older brother moved from their foreclosed New Jersey home to a Texas trailer to be near her father’s prison. Her dog was hit by a bus. Her grandmother died. The misfortunes have piled one on top of another. Striving to find a new self and a few friends, Kammie let herself be victimized by the nearly interchangeable Kandy, Mandy, and Sandy, who have—perhaps intentionally—set her up for the fall into the well and then abandoned her there. With so many horrors crowding into her 11 years, Kammie’s tale should be a tragedy. Instead, it’s a brilliantly revealed, sometimes even funny, exploration of courage, the will to live, and the importance of being true to oneself. The catastrophe draws readers in, and the universality of spunky Kammie’s life-affirming journey will engage a wide audience.
Moving, suspenseful, and impossible to put down.
A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.
Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)
Hopkinson’s writing plumbs the depths in relating the undersea exploits of American submariners during World War II.
“The U.S. Navy fought the Pacific Ocean phase of World War II on a liquid chessboard,” according to Adm. Bernard A. Clarey, and while sailors and battleships island-hopped across the Pacific, the “Silent Service” of gallant submariners lurked below the surface, facing what naval historian Theodore Roscoe called “the overwhelming forces of the Unknown.” With an emphasis on first-person accounts—such as that of 15-year-old Martin Matthews, a young white man who lied about his age and joined the Navy just in time to be on the Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor—Hopkinson crafts a gripping narrative. It’s supplemented with three types of interspersed text: “briefings” with information about the war (including a section on African-American submariners), “dispatches” offering stories of interest and first-person accounts, and “submarine school,” about submarines and submariners. Numerous dramatic black-and-white photographs offer a parallel visual story. Told chronologically, from Pearl Harbor through the end of the war, with frequent news reports from above the surface, such as engrossing accounts of Bataan and Corregidor, the fascinating volume serves as a solid history of the war in the Pacific. Extensive backmatter includes a glossary, a timeline, facts and statistics about submarines, and links to resources.
Fascinating World War II history for history buffs and browsers alike.
(epilogue, bibliography, source notes)
Twelve-year-old Joseph Johnson searches the Northwest frontier for his missing horse and a new family.
When first his mother and beloved little sister die of typhoid, and then his father dies in a wagon accident, Joseph is left in the care of a drunkard, his Indian pony, Sarah, his only remaining family. When the drunkard sells Sarah to a swindler, Joseph reclaims his father's pistol, takes the money given for the horse, and sets out in pursuit, on foot, through unforgiving wilderness. He wants Sarah back more than almost anything—but he sees the stars as the campfire his family members sit around, and he plans to be the person they taught him to be. So when he finds a starving, abandoned Chinese boy, Ah-Kee, Joseph spends part of his horse money to feed him. Ah-Kee joins him on the trail, and together they battle grizzly bears, survive river rapids, cling to the outside of a steam train, and deliver a pioneer woman's baby—all without speaking a word of each other's language. Told in Joseph's authentic voice, this is true adventure with strong underpinnings of moral courage and love. Gemeinhart shines truth on difficult situations, such as Joseph’s shooting an outlaw, and the ending brings Joseph home: "There was plenty of sadness in the story, I reckon, but it wasn't sad all the way through."
When Meg’s family travels to New Zealand for six months, her best friend, Oscar, suffers a series of humiliations that lead him to try and take his own life.
After receiving the news of Oscar’s disappearance, Meg’s family returns to Ireland to find everyone searching. But after weeks without luck, only Meg and Oscar’s brother, Stevie, refuse to give up the hope that Oscar is still alive. Meg begins to piece together the events that led to Oscar’s desperate plummet off the town’s pier. Chapters told from Oscar’s point of view show that he is alive but in hiding. The two interlocking stories reveal the terrible plan designed to break Oscar’s spirit as well as the person responsible at its heart. While this is a sweet story of friendship and first love, it is also a road map for keeping hope alive. And while Oscar temporarily loses his way, he is quick to point out that others should never stop searching. Clueless adults, an over-the-top mean girl, and a picturesque small-town atmosphere all come together to make this a quiet story that may be the tiny push that someone thinking of giving up needs to keep going. Meg, a prototypical pale, Irish redhead, and Stevie, who uses a wheelchair and is absolutely indomitable, make a formidable team.
Sometime in prehistory, a crippled boy and his wolf companion face coming-of-age challenges.
Twelve-year-old Kai was not supposed to live. Born with a crippled foot, he would be a burden to his community, so his father left the infant Kai near a wolf den. Instead of killing him, though, the wolves nurture him. When Kai’s mother discovers her infant is still alive, she brings him back to the family, where he grows up bullied and considered cursed. One day, Kai brings home a weak, motherless wolf pup to raise—an unheard-of event. Beckhorn skillfully explores the early beginnings of the human-wolf interaction that led to modern-day dogs in heartwarming scenarios that show the growing bond between Kai and the pup, Uff. But when Uff is threatened by the community’s leader, Kai and Uff set out to try to survive on their own in the territory of the feared Ice Men. Painting her prehistoric world with now-extinct animals, pristine landscapes, and descriptions of survival techniques that will fascinate readers, Beckhorn also makes it an accessible one by giving Kai the fears and doubts of many adolescents searching for their roles in life. As Kai faces challenges, he comes to believe in his unique talents and, ultimately, in himself.
This bracing, well-told story, laced with themes of self-responsibility, compassion, and honor, is both vital and nourishing.
(Historical fiction. 9-14)