This suspenseful sci-fi story packs the kind of energy and danger teen readers thrive on.

PLAGUE COUNTRY

Fifteen-year-old author DeBellis’ debut young adult novel is a futuristic, dystopian tale that pits a group of teens against a new virus.

This science fiction story opens as protagonist January makes one last desperate trip into the chaotic, decimated town of Dyruit. A bubonic plague–like disease has been tearing through the region in the wake of a devastating economic collapse that wore the country’s resources down to bare bones. January and her sister, Cara, are fleeing south to Traxa, the capital, where it’s said to be safe—and where they believe their parents have been living since they mysteriously left the girls seven years earlier. This sisterly bond and inevitable rivalry keeps these characters sympathetic and relatable throughout the book. As they drive south in one of the area’s few remaining cars, they see scenes of depleted natural resources and devastation. When their car dies, the girls pick up their belongings and begin to walk—a gun in easy reach. Soon they happen across a boy named Nev and coerce their way into his car. The close quarters make it easy for Cara to begin trusting Nev, but January’s suspicion takes longer to wear off. Upon arriving in Traxa, the sisters start the fearful search for their parents’ whereabouts. As the story progresses, readers see Nev become only the first of several friends for the girls; it’s these friendships that help the teens survive the challenges ahead and regain hope. The plot, characters and voice of DeBellis’ novel will engage teen readers from the very first page. The pacing is spot-on, keeping things moving without leaving readers in the dust. While the events are far from readers’ experiences, the characters’ emotions and interactions are relatable to today’s teens. Though the story doesn’t draw strict references to the present, some readers might consider it a disturbingly realistic vision of the future.

This suspenseful sci-fi story packs the kind of energy and danger teen readers thrive on.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2012

ISBN: 2940013737808

Page Count: -

Publisher: Amy DeBellis

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2012

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children.

THE NIGHT IS YOURS

On hot summer nights, Amani’s parents permit her to go outside and play in the apartment courtyard, where the breeze is cool and her friends are waiting.

The children jump rope to the sounds of music as it floats through a neighbor’s window, gaze at stars in the night sky, and play hide-and-seek in the moonlight. It is in the moonlight that Amani and her friends are themselves found by the moon, and it illumines the many shades of their skin, which vary from light tan to deep brown. In a world where darkness often evokes ideas of evil or fear, this book is a celebration of things that are dark and beautiful—like a child’s dark skin and the night in which she plays. The lines “Show everyone else how to embrace the night like you. Teach them how to be a night-owning girl like you” are as much an appeal for her to love and appreciate her dark skin as they are the exhortation for Amani to enjoy the night. There is a sense of security that flows throughout this book. The courtyard is safe and homelike. The moon, like an additional parent, seems to be watching the children from the sky. The charming full-bleed illustrations, done in washes of mostly deep blues and greens, make this a wonderful bedtime story.

Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55271-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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