Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Egg & Spoon, is like The Prince and the Pauper on a train, but with girls, in Tsarist Russia.
It's a reinvention of Baba Yaga as a wisecracking time traveler bound by her own peculiar set of social conventions. (Doctor Who much?)
It's a very Russian tale of tortured intellectuals, hunger and fear.
It's a very Russian tale of imperial pomp and courtly excess in which a Faberge egg can be lost in a treasure room and life sized Matryoshka Dolls can be discarded to float down the Volga and find lives of their own.
It's a cavalcade of Russian myth from Baba Yaga's chicken legged house to the Ice Dragon of the North via The Firebird.
It might also be a parable about global warming and positive action and the redemptive power of kindness.
In short, it is epic in scope, rich in everything, funny, clever and thought provoking.
Just read it, it's extraordinary.
Egg & Spoon is being marketed as a teen book, but there's not much here that an advanced middle grade reader couldn't handle. Although be advised it may put them on the road to Dostoyevsky.
Published by Candlewick September 2014
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Twin siblings, one boy and one girl, each have half the story of a family tragedy which has left them emotionally distant from one another. We hear this story at different times in their lives. Noah is 13 years old, but Jude is 16. Their voices are authentic and raw with loss and fear. Noah and Jude are both artist's and it's their development as artists that leads to their eventual reconnection and redemption. In the meantime, their artistic sensibilities allow us to see things with their strangely altered perceptions.
This book is an incredible work of magical realism with a strong emphasis on nascent sexuality and a plot that you will never fully foresee.
A truly beautiful book for teenagers.
Published by Penguin September 16, 2014
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Twelve year old March McQuin has not had a normal childhood. His father is a jewel thief and has taught him every trick in the book. But when his Dad dies, falling from a roof, March has to work to unravel the puzzle of his last words "find jewels". What follows is a middle grade heist book with circus skills, crooked cops, eccentric millionaires and a daring escape from a juvenile care home. Unbelievable high adventure for ages 10+.
Published by Scholastic June 1, 2014
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Anika Dragomir is a pretty confident teen and she's number two in school popularity, standing right behind Becky Vilhauer, who is totally evil. Slowly but surely Anika breaks away from Becky, by overturning a rumor and dating an unpopular guy she starts a train of events that ends in both triumph and tragedy.
Anika is one of the best characters I've ever read in a YA book. She is completely off-hand about so many outrageous things, not least that she feeds her McJob boss ground up Valium to mellow him out during her shift. And yet, she's far from shallow or stupid. Anika's voice is hilarious and really sweeps you up in the plot. Then the plot makes you think.
There's an author note at the start of the book which says:
"This is a novel based on my ninth-grade year of junior high. I wrote this story because I wish I could go back in time and give this message to myself."
Which also makes you think.
For Ages 12+
Published by HarperTeen, September 2, 2014
Monday, September 1, 2014
Ellie is struggling with middle school, everything is different and she's finding it hard to fit in. Then one day her Mom brings home a 13 year old boy who turns out to be Ellie's scientist grandpa! He just discovered the secret to eternal youth and he's desperate to replicate the experiment. Scientific discovery makes incredible things possible, but what happens when the desire for discovery goes too far? A surprisingly complex moral question tackled well in this funny book for ages 8-12.
Published by Random House August 26, 2014