New school, new rules, and a mysterious new…friend?
Fourteen-year-old Henry Walker and his mother relocated from Texas to Seattle so he could take advantage of a military dependent’s scholarship at the prestigious Clinton Academy while his father is in Afghanistan. Bethany befriends Henry right away and introduces him to another girl, who crushes on him. Though he’s really not ready to say he’s gay out loud, Henry’s more interested in enigmatic, intelligent, and (usually) unfriendly Julius Drake. (Lacking clues to the contrary, readers will infer that the principal characters are white.) When the popular star of the swim team attempts suicide and adults inexplicably decide Henry and Julius might have bullied him, Bethany and the boys investigate, uncovering a social media–centered mystery. Someone is catfishing the popular guys in Clinton Academy, and only Henry and his new friends can expose them. Gay-romance writer Harris aims at her youngest audience yet with this first title in the Life and Times of Julius Drake series, an obvious homage to Sherlock Holmes. The Holmes-ian Julius and Watson-esque Henry even have a Mrs. Hudson in Julius’ nanny, Mrs. Hundstead. (The boys’ relationship is tame, though this school is like many others in its hormone-fueled rumor mill.) The reason the boys begin the investigation could not be more flimsy; however, the mystery heats up three-quarters of the way in, and the denouement and setup for Book 2 are satisfying.
A picture book about a child who looks upward, higher and higher, to take in God’s creations.
A boy sits in his crib, looking up at a mobile. He then begins to see the many things that God has created, starting with his loving parents. Looking higher, he sees a variety of vibrant trees—oak, maple, and evergreen—and then several birds, including sparrows, robins, and hummingbirds. The child’s eyes then take to the heavens, discovering clouds, storms, and the sun, moon, and stars. Finally, the child is taught that God made him, as well: “That is why I know that God loves me!” The book ends with Psalm 139:13-14, which reads, in part, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Debut author Keller makes sure that the discoveries’ progression flows naturally, and he specifies different types of trees and birds in a way that’s both captivating and educational. The repeating Christian message of “God made…” drives the book’s point home but, surprisingly, never comes off as preachy. Also, it effectively affirms the child’s (and reader’s) worth as icing on the cake. Debut illustrator Brandes’ brilliant drawings and vivid, illustrated borders do justice to the beauty of what they portray.
Flowing text and outstanding images work together to teach a vital Christian message.