Against the ominous backdrop of the influenza epidemic of 1918, Annie, a new girl at school, is claimed as best friend by Elsie, a classmate who is a tattletale, a liar, and a thief. Soon Annie makes other friends and finds herself joining them in teasing and tormenting Elsie. Elsie dies from influenza, but then she returns to reclaim Annie’s friendship and punish all the girls who bullied her. Young readers who revel in spooky stories will relish this chilling tale of a girl haunted by a vengeful ghost.
Janet: The cover tells readers exactly what they’re getting into, which I appreciate. The back is entirely too tell-y, but then, I don’t read horror anyway. Although the title is taken from a rhyme I rather like.
Nafiza: Ooo, creepy. I will read this as field research for my next book. I don’t much like the cover; it’s a bit too monotone for my sake but I’m curious about the story.
Jane: I’m not really feeling the cover – the expression on the girl’s face looks like she’s kind of bored and just pretty unimpressed with this whole haunting thing. I also don’t like that the back summary seems to give everything away! Still, I know a lot of kids like spooky ghost stories, so there will probably be an audience for this one.
Kyle is dreading his first trip aboard the school bus. Luckily, his big brother, James, is a school bus expert. James gives Kyle ten rules for riding the bus that he absolutely, positively must obey if he wants to avoid getting laughed at or yelled at, pushed around, or even pounded. During his fateful ride, Kyle grapples with each unbreakable rule. Along the way, he discovers that the school bus isn’t so bad, and he may even have a thing or two to teach his brother.
Janet: Kyle looks like he’s 90? The back is clear that this is for a very young audience. I wouldn’t run for this, but realistically if I saw it I’d pick it up and read it standing in the library.
Nafiza: This poor kid. I’d pick up this book but I’d better be ensured a happy ending.
Jane: That title is a bit of a mouthful! And yeah, Kyle…kind of looks like he’s melting! His mouth just doesn’t look right, nor do his fingers. It’s kind of jarring. But ugh, I took the school bus for years, and man, did it ever SUCK, so I’m sure plenty of kids will relate to this!!
In this delightfully creepy novel from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award winner Ronald L. Smith, twelve-year-old Simon thinks he was abducted by aliens. But is it real, or just his over-active imagination? Perfect for fans of Mary Downing Hahn and Louis Sachar.
Twelve-year-old Simon is obsessed with aliens. The ones who take people and do experiments. When he’s too worried about them to sleep, he listens to the owls hoot outside. Owls that have the same eyes as aliens—dark and foreboding.
Then something strange happens on a camping trip, and Simon begins to suspect he’s been abducted. But is it real, or just the overactive imagination of a kid who loves fantasy and role-playing games and is the target of bullies and his father’s scorn?
Even readers who don’t believe in UFOs will relate to the universal kid feeling of not being taken seriously by adults that deepens this deliciously scary tale.
Janet: I like owls. This is a fantastic cover. Colours, use of scale and looming black branches, all work to create a solid MG horror effect. Aliens are Not my jam, but camping? RPGs? Bring it.
Nafiza: I find it amusing that the book notes it is perfect for Mary Downing Hahn fans when in fact our first cover is a Hahn cover. Anyway, aliens are not my thing. I will let Janet do the honors.
Jane: Oh, wow, this sounds interesting. I like stories where you aren’t quite sure what’s real and what’s imagined.
Eleven-year-old Isabella’s parents are divorced, so she has to switch lives every week: One week she’s Isabella with her dad, his girlfriend Anastasia, and her son Darren living in a fancy house where they are one of the only black families in the neighborhood. The next week she’s Izzy with her mom and her boyfriend John-Mark in a small, not-so-fancy house that she loves.
Because of this, Isabella has always felt pulled between two worlds. And now that her parents are divorced, it seems their fights are even worse, and they’re always about HER. Isabella feels even more stuck in the middle, split and divided between them than ever. And she’s is beginning to realize that being split between Mom and Dad is more than switching houses, switching nicknames, switching backpacks: it’s also about switching identities. Her dad is black, her mom is white, and strangers are always commenting: “You’re so exotic!” “You look so unusual.” “But what are you really?” She knows what they’re really saying: “You don’t look like your parents.” “You’re different.” “What race are you really?” And when her parents, who both get engaged at the same time, get in their biggest fight ever, Isabella doesn’t just feel divided, she feels ripped in two. What does it mean to be half white or half black? To belong to half mom and half dad? And if you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole?
It seems like nothing can bring Isabella’s family together again—until the worst happens. Isabella and Darren are stopped by the police. A cell phone is mistaken for a gun. And shots are fired.
Janet: That cover is perfect. So much of Isabella’s feelings and situation is conveyed, and the title is part of the art. The back copy – I would wish the last paragraph wasn’t there, or at least the final two sentences – but wow. Tbr for sure.
Nafiza: Oh man. Wow indeed. Yes, this is going to rip my heart out but I am ready.
Jane: What a beautiful cover! And what a powerful story.
A wordless picture book about a visit to the museum and the power of art and imagination.
After passing a city museum many times, a boy finally decides to go in. He passes wall after wall of artwork until he sees a painting that makes him stop and ponder. Before long the painting comes to life and an afternoon of adventure and discovery changes how he sees the world ever after.
Janet: And the boy’s name is…? Oh. Wordless picturebook. Right. The cover suggests fantasy or fantastic realism; you know this is about art and imagination before you look at the blurb. Very tempting!
Nafiza: I like the art style and I do love wordless PBs. Jane, have you read this one already? TBR this one.
Jane: I haven’t read this one yet, but oh how I love wordless picture books!! And this one looks incredible!! Museums! Art! Imagination! Creative interpretation! Gimme, gimme, gimme!!
Charlotte and Emily must enter a fantasy world that they invented in order to rescue their siblings in this adventurous and fiercely intelligent novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.
Inside a small Yorkshire parsonage, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne Brontë have invented a game called Glass Town, where their toy soldiers fight Napoleon and no one dies. This make-believe land helps the four escape from a harsh reality: Charlotte and Emily are being sent away to a dangerous boarding school, a school they might not return from. But on this Beastliest Day, the day Anne and Branwell walk their sisters to the train station, something incredible happens: the train whisks them all away to a real Glass Town, and the children trade the moors for a wonderland all their own.
This is their Glass Town, exactly like they envisioned it…almost. They certainly never gave Napoleon a fire-breathing porcelain rooster instead of a horse. And their soldiers can die; wars are fought over the potion that raises the dead, a potion Anne would very much like to bring back to England. But when Anne and Branwell are kidnapped, Charlotte and Emily must find a way to save their siblings. Can two English girls stand against Napoleon’s armies, especially now that he has a new weapon from the real world? And if he escapes Glass Town, will England ever be safe again?
Together the Brontë siblings must battle with a world of their own creation if they are to make it back to England alive in this magical celebration of authorship, creativity, and classic literature from award-winning author Catherynne M. Valente.
Janet: Oh! The balloon is a rose window. How lovely! I like that each of the children is given a distinct character through posture and facial expression. I imagine Nafiza will read and review – looking forward to it!
Nafiza: It’s Valente. It’s research. It’s on my TBR!
Jane: So pretty! So pretty!! AAAAHHH so pretty!!! I’m always a bit hesitant about books based on actual people, especially ones that are obviously (maybe???? who knows!!!) fictional – as a history major, the blurred line between fictionalized biography and nonfiction biography can drive me a little nuts. But Valente has proven her writing chops, so I think this one should be good.