A wonderfully imaginative tale of overcoming obstacles and finding special powers.

Lake of Clustered Stars

Native American folklore and magical realism combine in a young boy’s life in this debut children’s book. 

Jamie’s idyllic life in the Hudson Valley is much like any other child’s—he plays, he laughs, and he loves his family. After breakfast one morning, Jamie notices his grandfather dropping toast crumbs through a grate in the floor, and he doesn’t think much of it—until a tiny pink nose pokes through and takes the little feast. Then one day, Jamie awakes to find his parents frozen and his grandfather vanished. Ollie—the mouse owner of the little pink nose that Jamie saw earlier—tells him that the Wharwhoops, large, treelike creatures, are after him, and they must escape in order to help the boy’s family. Ollie and Jamie embark on an adventure through the Hudson Valley’s many rolling hills in search of the Great Manitou—the ruler of all things—and they encounter many creatures along the way. Jamie also discovers that he may have special powers that he’s hidden all along. Will he save his parents and find his grandfather? Or will the Wharwhoops flex their mighty roots and take the family’s spirits for all of eternity? Santa Teresa’s childhood in the Hudson Valley is clear as soon as the reader begins turning the pages of this work. He mixes traditional Native American folklore with the romanticism of being a kid, and it all culminates in a delightfully dreamy result. Children and adults alike should be charmed by the evocative tale—there’s just enough drama to pique the interest of older kids but not so much that it would be frightening for the younger set.  Kids should be able to relate to Jamie’s quest—surmounting hurdles, facing fears, and ultimately looking within to see him through. Paek’s colorful illustrations are an alluring addition to the book—there’s a surreal quality to them that pairs perfectly with the folklore backbone of the volume. The only caveat? There should be more images, because they’re so lovely to look at.

A wonderfully imaginative tale of overcoming obstacles and finding special powers.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-58776-968-9

Page Count: 110

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath...

GREGORY AND THE GRIMBOCKLE

In this debut middle-grade novel, a lonely boy finds friendship and learns about the magic of human connection.

Defined by the large mole on his lip, 10-year-old Gregory has grown distant from his family. He is friendless and withdrawn. Then one night a strange little creature emerges from Gregory’s mole. It is riding a (quite lovable) cockroach and can change size. This is the Grimbockle. The Grimbockle—one of many Bockles, who, like Palmer Cox’s Brownies, live at the peripheries of human awareness—tends to the exoodles that bind people together. Exoodles are long, transparent, noodlelike threads and are usually invisible. Once Gregory has his eyeballs painted with Carrot Juicy, though, he can see them. He joins the Grimbockle and the roach, traveling the exoodles as if on a high-speed roller coaster. Exoodles wither and die when people don’t look after their relationships. The Grimbockle is trying to repair a particularly sickly exoodle that links a boy to his mother. Can Gregory help—and can he mend the exoodles in his own life? Schubert follows delightedly in the footsteps of Roald Dahl, opening her unfortunate young protagonist’s eyes to a previously unseen world both weird and wondrous (yet for all its outlandish magic, oddly logical). The scenario is one of riotous imagination, while the Grimbockle himself—brought sweetly to life in black-and-white illustrations by Kraft—is a sprightly and good-natured little person, full of the type of singsong infelicities found in Dahl’s beloved nonhuman characters: “Is you ever seeing glimpses of squiggles in the corners of your twinklers but then they is disappearing in a snippety blink?” “ ‘Exoodles!’ shouted the Grimbockle in triumph. ‘Sometimes, hoo-mans is getting so twisty and wound up in extra exoodles that they is feeling gloomy blue and heavy all day long.’ ” The story is perhaps too much of a parable to fully match Dahl’s template; the adventure is safer and the threats less dark. Nonetheless, readers should fall willingly and with thrilled abandon into the fizzy, fanciful world of Gregory and his Grimbockle friend.

A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath surface appearances.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9911109-3-3

Page Count: 153

Publisher: New Wrinkle Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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