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Paint by Sticker Kids: Create 10 Pictures One Sticker at a Time

Workman. Workman, $9.95 paper (34p) ISBN 978-0-7611-8941-1

This nifty activity book riffs on the paint-by-numbers concept, instead using colorful numbered stickers—included in 11 sheets at the end of the book—that readers can use to complete 10 geometric pictures of a truck, puppy, rabbit, shark, and more. Applying the stickers transforms the white outlined shapes into colorful tableaus that resemble digital 3-D models; perforated pages let readers tear out the finished images to display. With its combination of number-matching, precision, and art-creation, it's a clever idea that ought to appeal to left- and right-brained readers alike—even if they don't lay the stickers exactly right. "Don't worry if the lines are a bit off," assures the introduction. "They look like the irregular stones in a mosaic." A companion book for adults is available simultaneously. Ages 5–9. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/20/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Lucy & Andy Neanderthal

Jeffrey Brown. Crown, $12.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-385-38835-1

Brown’s (the Jedi Academy series) episodic graphic novel about a clan of Neanderthals starts out low-key enough, as goofy Andy, his much smarter sister Lucy, and other children bicker over tool-making and food-gathering. (After debating mammoth-hunting options, they settle on “the usual,” i.e. “Chase one down and stab it until it stops moving.”) Two archaeologists pop up at the end of each chapter to demonstrate how the objects that Lucy and Andy use and make—their tools, the bones they chew on, even their teeth—reveal information about their lives. The female Neanderthal bones show just as much wear and tear as the males, the scientists point out; they may have done the same kinds of work. Hints sprinkled throughout about a lost spear and missing mammoth meat build to a climax as Andy and Lucy’s group encounters a smoother, more sophisticated, and possibly menacing group of humans. Readers with an interest in fossil discoveries won’t be able to put this down, while those who have never given cave life a thought may find themselves with a new interest. Ages 8–12. Agent: Marc Gerald, Agency Group. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/20/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Seven and a Half Tons of Steel

Janet Nolan, illus. by Thomas Gonzalez. Peachtree, $17.95 (36p) ISBN 978-1-56145-912-4

After the twin towers fell on 9/11, one of the beams recovered from the site was melted in a foundry and used to form the bow of a Navy warship, the USS New York. Nolan (PB&J Hooray!) treats the attack gently (“The World Trade Center towers came down. Almost three thousand people lost their lives”), then moves on to the warship’s construction and triumphant launch. Gonzalez’s (Toad Weather) breathtaking spreads dazzle. Early on, he presents a quiet, haunting image of the catastrophe as a woman crosses a New York City street crowded with taxis. All appears normal until viewers notice a reflection in a car’s side mirror in the foreground, which shows one of the jets streaking toward its target. Later, sunset-illuminated cloudscapes form vast, stirring backdrops for the USS New York at sea. The emphasis is not on damage and destruction, but on America’s power to recover. Teachers and parents looking for picture books that celebrate the nation and its military will welcome Nolan and Gonzalez’s work. Ages 7–10. Author’s agent: Steven Chudney, Chudney Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Deborah Warren, East West Literary. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/20/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles

Mara Rockliff, illus. by Hadley Hooper. Candlewick, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7893-7

In an account as lively as it is informative, Rockliff (Mesmerized) commemorates the centennial of a daring, dangerous, and successful publicity stunt undertaken to promote women’s voting rights. With car travel in its infancy, suffragists Nell Richardson and Alice Burke—accompanied by a black kitten, a typewriter, and a sewing machine—set off on an around-the-country automobile tour to draw attention to the women’s suffrage movement. The pair met with schoolchildren, attended parties, “dodged bullets at the Mexican border... drove on through the desert... and got lost for days” before completing a circuit around the perimeter of the United States. Hooper’s (The Iridescence of Birds) airy mixed-media illustrations use brayered swaths of color to back lively vignettes of the activists consulting maps, pushing their stuck car out of the mud, or stopping to stick a daffodil behind a horse’s ear. Various shades of the movement’s signature color, yellow, feature prominently throughout, and endnotes offer additional details on the early automobile, as well as other key figures and milestones in the women’s suffrage movement. Ages 5–8. Author’s agent: Jennifer Rofé, Andrea Brown Literary. Illustrator’s agency: Marlena Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/20/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Smaller Evil

Stephanie Kuehn. Dutton, $17.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-101-99470-2

With his drug-addicted father in and out of jail and his neglectful mother wishing him out of the house, 17-year-old Arman seeks solace and guidance in Beau, a charismatic adult who promises a way to free Arman from his feelings of inadequacy. Arman joins Kira, a fellow classmate, and Dale, her boyfriend, on a retreat with Beau. Instead of the campsite expected, the three find themselves on the Evolve compound, a center of more than 100 devotees committed to uncovering their truest selves through exercises that challenge their abilities and memories. When the compound’s leader disappears and factions within the camp turn ugly, Arman, Kira, and Dale must decide whether they are being manipulated and how to escape. Balancing Arman’s experience with Beau’s inner thoughts, Kuehn (Delicate Monsters) elevates the religious cult novel with this sophisticated psychological mystery centered on the concept of the double effect—that the “greater good outweighs the smaller evil.” Though certain characters are more archetypal than three-dimensional, the book’s philosophical undertones and uncertain ending are transfixing. Ages 14–up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/20/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Scary Out There

Edited by Jonathan Maberry. Simon & Schuster, $18.99 (512p) ISBN 978-1-4814-5070-6

“Being alone, being ignored, not fitting in, peer pressure... man, there are so many kinds of fear out there,” writes editor Maberry in his introduction to this horror anthology, featuring short fiction and verse offerings from more than 20 members of the Horror Writers of America, including Cherie Priest, R.L. Stine, Ilsa J. Bick, and Kendare Blake. Ghost stories and brushes with Death mingle with modern terrors like addictive video games and cyber-stalkers to provide a wide range of unsettling, chilling tales. Some stories are easy to relate to, such as Carrie Ryan’s “What Happens to Girls Who Disappear,” about a girl who just wants to be special, or Zac Brewer’s “Death and Twinkies,” about a boy contemplating suicide on a bridge. Others pump up the adrenaline, like Christopher Golden’s “What Happens When the Heart Just Stops,” set in a dystopian future where nighttime belongs to flying terrors. While most of the stories are solid, several end abruptly or ambiguously, making for a few too many unfulfilling moments. As a whole, though, this collection hits the mark. Ages 14–up. Agent: Sara Crowe, Harvey Klinger. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/20/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit

Jaye Robin Brown. HarperTeen, $17.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-227098-6

Joanna has always been out as a lesbian to her minister father, but now that he is remarrying and moving them from tolerant Atlanta to a small Georgia town, he asks her to “lie low.” Initially, it doesn’t seem so bad: it’s only a year until she graduates from high school, and it turns out that finding friends who share her Christian faith is kind of great. Then one of Jo’s new friends reveals that she has feelings for her, and that she isn’t interested in hiding. Brown (No Place to Fall) ably depicts Jo’s conundrum: if she tells the truth, she breaks her promise to her father; if she doesn’t, she risks losing the first girl she’s been serious about. Faith matters in this book, but so do family, friends, and being funny. The dialogue is snappy—Joanna is sharp tongued and sometimes bratty—and the characters aren’t types. Rather, they’re individuals navigating a complicated world, which makes for a rich and satisfying read. Ages 14–up Agent: Alexandra Machinist, ICM. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/20/2016 | Details & Permalink

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In-between Days

Vikki Wakefield. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4424-8656-0

Australian author Wakefield (Friday Never Leaving) sets this reflective novel in the desolate town of Mobius, where 17-year-old Jacklin “Jack” Bates has moved in with her older sister, Trudy. Mobius is about as depressed a town as it gets (Jack describes it as “a populated dead end, a wrong turn, a sleepy hollow”), and the story meanders among inhabitants who aren’t sure what to do with themselves. When it comes to the malaise and stagnation of life in Mobius, Wakefield’s writing is unflinchingly honest, though the story lacks tension. Jack does her job, loses said job, fights with Trudy, hooks up with a 21-year-old, learns to drive, has philosophical conversations with a drifter named Pope, struggles to reconcile with her estranged parents, and has other small adventures, but the events don’t really coalesce to lend a driving force to the narrative. Even so, readers who let themselves sink into Wakefield’s descriptions of small-town life, its constraints, and frustrations will enjoy following Jack as she searches for meaning, finding love and purpose in the unlikeliest people. Ages 14–up. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/20/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Poppy

Mary Hooper. Bloomsbury, $17.99 (288) ISBN 978-1-61963-496-1

A veteran of historical YA fiction, Hooper (Velvet) brings readers to the cusp of WWI as she introduces Poppy Pearson, a parlor maid at a Downton Abbey–like estate outside London. To help with the war effort, Poppy decides to leave the de Vere estate to become a volunteer nurse. Poppy is shy but capable, excited about the adventures that await her in her new role but also shocked by the sight of soldiers with terrible wounds and the reality of death that surrounds her. Hooper doesn’t shirk from describing the horrors of war (“Private Jones had lost an arm and was full of shrapnel; Private Brown had lost an arm and an ear, and couldn’t remember how”), but she balances them with Poppy’s kindhearted determination, as well as the potential for a class-defying romance (and possible heartbreak) once Freddie de Vere’s eye lands on Poppy. As the war continues and social norms are tested, Hooper gives readers a vivid glimpse into the lives of young men and women seeking to redefine themselves in a world in turbulent transition. Ages 13–up. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/20/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Last Cherry Blossom

Kathleen Burkinshaw. Skyhorse/Sky Pony, $16.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-63450-693-9

This debut novel, set in Hiroshima during WWII and inspired by Burkinshaw’s mother’s childhood, sets the stage for tragedy. Seventh-grader Yuriko lives with her widowed newspaper magnate Papa, her Aunt Kimiko, and her annoying five-year-old cousin, Genji. Burkinshaw uses newspaper headlines, radio messages, and official propaganda to introduce each chapter, placing events in historical context and sometimes offering ironic contrasts between the reality of war and the official party line. War colors all aspects of the lives of Yuriko and her classmates as they practice wielding bamboo spears in gym class, fighter planes fly overhead, and Yuriko’s best friend hides a contraband jazz record after Western products are banned. Just as Yuriko’s Papa takes a new wife and her aunt remarries, she learns a series of family secrets. In some cases the incorporation of historical and cultural information into Yuriko’s narration can feel artificial (“I’m not sure why Japan annexed Korea”), but the eventual bombing of Hiroshima proves nightmarishly horrifying, and readers will readily empathize with Yuriko’s losses and will to survive. Ages 11–13. Agent: Anna Olswanger, Olswanger Literary. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/20/2016 | Details & Permalink

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