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Teeny Little Grief Machines

Linda Oatman High. Saddleback, $9.95 trade paper (252p) ISBN 978-1-62250-883-9

It’s never been easy for 16-year-old Lexi to live with her dysfunctional family. But when her infant stepsister dies suddenly, her father goes to jail for his second DUI, and her autistic stepbrother goes missing on Lexi’s watch, the cumulative grief and pressure cause Lexi to come unmoored, and she suffers a depressive breakdown. Lexi unflinchingly shares her emotions as she narrates her experiences in the brief poems that serve as chapters in this Gravel Road Verse volume, which is written at a third-grade reading level. Though Lexi lacks a strong support system at home, High depicts Lexi receiving professional medical help for her illness while introducing positive adult figures at her school. Lexi makes a solid and hopeful recovery in a way that suggests a new phase of her teenage life and doesn’t come across as pat or predictable. Simultaneously available: Otherwise. Ages 15–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Meet Kaylee/Meet Alana

Jeff Gottesfeld. Saddleback, $14.95 trade paper (324p) ISBN 978-1-62250-768-9

In a book that flips over to offer the same story from two perspectives, Gottesfeld kicks off the Stripped series, written at a fourth-grade reading level, about teens living and striving for the good life in Las Vegas. After Kaylee loses her cleaning job and is evicted from her drug-addicted aunt’s apartment, the teenager leaves Los Angeles for Sin City. She quickly meets some supportive, equally down-on-their-luck friends and finds herself in the good graces—and employ—of Alana, whose father owns a lavish hotel and casino on the strip. A subplot about local bloggers threatening to reveal Kaylee’s backstory and bring down Alana’s father feels over the top, but readers seeking glitzy plotlines and some good-hearted young people to root for should be satisfied. Also available: Wedding Bell Blues, Independence Day, and Show Down on the Strip. Ages 15–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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All You Are

Elizabeth Karre. Lerner/Darby Creek, $7.95 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-1-4677-4477-5

A mysterious figure, “some kind of black guy fairy godmother,” appears in Da’Quan’s dream, offering him an unusual way to break into the popular crowd, in one of four novels launching the Gift series, written at a fourth-grade level. Da’Quan receives the gift of “channeling,” enabling him to tune in to another person’s essence. As a result, he acquires his friend Daniel’s basketball skills, Shaquetta’s fashion sense, and Terrell’s comic antics. With this supernatural boost, Da’Quan sits at the cool lunch table and lands the girl he’s been crushing on, but channeling also gives him negative traits like insecurity, anger, and inappropriate outspokenness. The story’s friendships, family dynamics, and high school setting ring true as Da’Quan learns that trying to be his best self is the better play. Simultaneously available: Calling the Shots, Certain Signals, and No Regrets. Ages 11–18. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Hardball

Steven Barwin. Orca, $9.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-4598-0441-8

In this Orca Sports title, written at a fourth-grade reading level, the baseball team at Gulf Coast High is focused on winning games and impressing college scouts. But thanks to star first-baseman (and first-class jerk) Wade, the players are also facing nasty freshman hazing and a steroid scandal. Griffin, the story’s narrator, is believably caught in a tempest of confusing problems, and in a satisfying turn of events, he musters the courage to stand up for what’s right. Baseball fans may wish that more of the action took place on the diamond instead of following the exploits of Wade, the product of a difficult home life, whose deep mean streak makes it hard to see through to his redeeming qualities. Ages 10–up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Alibi

Kristin Butcher. Orca, $9.95 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-1-4598-0767-9

The spooky abandoned house on this book’s cover suggests something a bit more sinister than what’s going on in Butcher’s fast-paced addition to the Orca Currents line of books, written at a third-grade level. Fifteen-year-old Christine is eager to spend a two-week summer vacation with her eccentric great-aunt Maude in tiny Witcombe, British Columbia, where Maude owns an antique shop. Christine’s stay kicks off with a bang, when she is sucked into a mystery involving a series of local thefts and a cute lifeguard at the town pool. A breezy pseudo-Scooby-Doo vibe whisks readers forward as Christine does clumsy surveillance and suspects are considered, until a humorously unlikely culprit is unearthed. Butcher has just scratched the surface of her likeable and entertaining cast, whose future adventures would be welcome. Simultaneously available: Siege by Jacqueline Pearce. Ages 10–14. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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You Call That Art?! Learn About Modern Sculpture and Make Your Own

David A. Carter and James Diaz. Abrams, $24.95 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4197-1307-1

This interactive guide to the history of sculpture comes packaged with die-cut cardboard shapes that can be used to assemble six sculptures the size of a sculptor’s maquette (“a small study of the sculpture,” Carter and Diaz explain). The authors succinctly introduce significant works of sculpture from antiquity to the present day, then profile 10 prominent modern sculptors including Rodin, Brancusi, Duchamp, Noguchi, and Calder. Carter and Diaz explore central themes of and concepts behind various works of art, amid substantial information about the artists and their work. A fresh, hands-on opportunity for readers to reconsider the way they think about art. Ages 8–up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Little Red Riding Hood

Illus. by Clémentine. Little Gestalten (Prestel, dist.), $16.95 (28p) ISBN 978-3-89955-723-7

The story of Little Red Riding Hood unfolds in an accordion-style, postcard-size book with paper-cut scenes that make striking use of contrasting black, white, and red. The format lets readers open the book so that the story reads as a long narrative chain, or to simply flip the pages, with trees and buildings from earlier and later pages peeking through the die-cuts, creating the effect of a dense, deep forest. The extra-small font may challenge some young and adult readers alike, but the visually arresting and sometimes frightening compositions—the wolf is shown shoving Little Red’s grandmother into his gaping mouth, full of blood-red teeth—leave a strong impression. Ages 5–10. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Fairy-Tale Handbook

Libby Hamilton, illus. by Tomislav Tomic. Candlewick/Templar, $22.99 (20p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7130-3

Hamilton (The Monstrous Book of Monsters) offers a guide to common fairy-tale figures and settings. Preexisting knowledge of stories like Cinderella, Pinocchio and The Wizard of Oz are necessary—references to silver slippers and the Wicked Witch of the West appear, for instance, but without any mention of Baum’s story. Tomic’s artwork borrows from popular representations of fairy-tale characters and locations, while maintaining a sense of grace and novelty in his depictions. Interactive features include flaps (for seeking out hidden animals or discovering the secrets of princesses like Rapunzel and Snow White), mini-booklets, and pop-up wedding celebration. Fine as an overview for casual fairy-tale fans, but too unspecific and general to engage devotees. Ages 5–9. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Giant Game of Sculpture

Hervé Tullet. Phaidon, $29.95 (16p) ISBN 978-0-7148-6800-4

Tullet channels the joie de vivre of Press Here! in this wordless (and enormous) “book,” which takes interactivity to another level entirely. Cardboard, accordion-style pages—splattered and slathered with paint—feature die-cut holes, slots, and punch-out shapes. The latter can be placed into the various gaps, letting readers create an almost infinitely changeable piece of sculpture art large enough to do double duty as a modernist fort. “Experiment and make your sculpture unique by adding pieces of card, paper or other things you can find that will fit,” suggests the book’s cardboard case. One never knows what to expect from this genre-bending series, and this addition is no exception. Ages 5–8. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Aladdin: A Cut-Paper Book

Illus. by Agnese Baruzzi. Tango (IPG/Trafalgar Sq., dist.), $19.99 (14p) ISBN 978-1-85707-873-2

In a companion to 2013’s Pinocchio, Italian artist Baruzzi again uses dramatic cut-paper compositions to illustrate an abbreviated adaptation of a popular tale. Intricately cut black and brown paper is overlaid against jewel-toned backgrounds, creating silhouettes of Aladdin, the magician who tricks him into entering a mountain cave full of menacing stalagmites, and the ethereal genie who comes swooping out of the lamp that Aladdin rubs. The story itself races along quickly (the text is integrated into the negative space, creating a well-designed but sometimes claustrophobic reading experience). An elegantly illustrated adaptation that may be best appreciated by readers already familiar with the story. Ages 5–7. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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