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When the Anger Ogre Visits

Andrée Salom, illus. by Ivette Salom. Wisdom, $18.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-61429-166-4

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Art therapist Andrée Salom focuses on teaching children to recognize emotions—specifically, anger—as a first step toward coping with them. She gives examples of how anger feels in the body (“If the Anger Ogre is still swollen, tense, and hot,/ Offer it some honey of the sweetest kind you’ve got”), then offers suggestions for changing those feelings: relax, pay attention, and breathe. Ivette Salom’s colorful illustrations—which are heavy on the red-orange palette, suggesting anger—of children and creatures are lively and slightly Seussian. The drawings of the Anger Ogre, though, may be a bit scary for very young readers, but, if read with a parent or caregiver, this simple rhyming tale can help children recognize their angry feelings and learn a process for how to manage them. Andrée Salom teaches basic mindfulness, a trend in today’s classrooms, in a way that is imaginative, simple, and even fun. Overall, this succeeds at making sophisticated psychological information accessible to even the youngest children. Ages 3–7. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/20/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Just for Today

Saint John XXIII, illus. by Bimba Landmann. Eerdmans, $16 (34p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5461-2

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A prayer attributed to newly canonized Saint John XXIII, the pope who founded the watershed Second Vatican Council, is brought to gorgeous illustrated life by Italian illustrator Landmann (In Search of the Little Prince). The saint’s prayer is described as a “decalogue for daily living,” and spread after spread depicts a school-age boy in his daily activities, from awakening and getting dressed to reading a book at bedtime—Landmann depicts her own book. “Just for today” begins a series of injunctions that constitute a gentle invocation (“Just for today, I will try to live for this day alone”). The setting is ostensibly modern—clocks hang on walls—but a landscape filled with turrets, towers, and the blue hues of (presumably) Mediterranean sea and sky lend a slightly magical quality to the scenes. Multiple details are charmingly incongruous: miniature figures are tucked into several images, and birds abound, including an owl in a classroom and a bird bearing a pocket watch on a string as the boy lolls on a beach. Visually irresistible and inspiring. All ages. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/20/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Last of the Sandwalkers

Jay Hosler. Roaring Brook/First Second, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-62672-024-4

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A journey of discovery for a family of scientist-beetles becomes a journey of survival in Hosler’s entomological adventure, an intriguing look at life from only a few millimeters off the ground. Leading the team is Lucy, a resourceful “sandwalker,” and a keen, curious observer of the world, which she discovers is much larger than she previously thought after she and her team are betrayed and left for dead, far from their colony. Along the way home they encounter unfamiliar plants and animals that enthrall Lucy (even the ones trying to make a meal out of her). It takes the group’s combined will and wit to make it back home in one piece and share their findings (specifically the bones of what they call a “hue-mon”) with their intellectually isolated brethren. Hosler (Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth) peppers real-world facts throughout the story, showcasing the wild and wonderful ways bugs have adapted to nature. With that he mingles themes of family, forgiveness, and freedom of ideas, and even manages to make big-eyed, mandibled crawlers emotive without getting too cartoony. Ages 10–up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/20/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Mapmaker

Mark Bomback and Galaxy Craze. Soho Teen, $18.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-61695-347-8

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Screenwriter Bomback and author Craze (The Last Princess) team up for a thriller that offers a frightening glimpse into how technology can be abused. Tanya Barrett’s father’s death during an alleged research trip in Cambodia leaves her an orphan, living in an uneasy relationship with her stepmother. Tanya intends to spend the summer before her senior year of high school interning at MapOut, a thriving digital mapmaking company founded by her father and his best friend, Harrison. But after Tanya and Harrison’s son, Connor, snoop on her father’s computer, Connor disappears, and Tanya is kidnapped. Tanya narrowly manages to escape with only her preternatural “gift” (“It was part knack for gauging distances, part photographic memory of geospatial imagery”), the clue “Alaska,” and the hope of tracking down her father’s friend Cleo. Cinematic action propels the plot but the authors also devote attention to Tanya’s bottled-up emotions. MapOut’s goals and their privacy implications are thought-provoking, while the inconclusive ending necessitates a sequel. Ages 14–up. Agent: (for Bomback) Dorian Karchmar, William Morris Endeavor; (for Craze) Kim Witherspoon, Inkwell Management. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/20/2015 | Details & Permalink

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First There Was Forever

Juliana Romano. Dial, $17.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-8037-4168-3

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Lima and Hailey have been best friends since they were kids, but high school has changed Hailey. As the girls begin their sophomore year, Hailey has just lost her virginity to a near-stranger, has started hanging out with a group of partying mean girls, and is obsessed with hooking up with her longtime crush Nate. Lima feels abandoned by Hailey and is left to nurse her hurt and dismay about their changing friendship. Then Lima starts spending time with Nate and strong feelings grow between them—much to Lima’s horror and shame. Romano’s debut swims with emotion, and Lima’s introspective narration will draw readers into her exhilarations and anxieties, as well as her lush Malibu environs. The beauty of first love and the guilt of betraying one’s best friend register as palpable aches Lima carries with her in everything she does. Fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han won’t want to miss this sensitive exploration of romantic and platonic relationships in flux, and young women coming into their own. Ages 14–up. Agent: Logan Garrison, Gernert Company. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/20/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Endangered

Lamar Giles. HarperTeen, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-229756-3

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Nicknamed “Panda” at school because of her mixed-race heritage, Lauren Daniels has yet another identity. On her anonymous photo-blog, Gray Scales, Panda exacts a mixture of revenge and justice on teachers and students who earn her wrath, taking incriminating photos and uploading them for all to see. After someone catches her in the act, Panda is left on the wrong side of a terrible game of blackmail and photographic one-upmanship, one with real consequences for herself, those she has exposed, and those she cares about. Giles (Fake ID) crafts an unpredictable psychological thriller filled with murky choices and colorful characters. It’s not hard to connect this story to social justice movements online or the crusading aspect of Anonymous, making it a timely and unsettling story. While the levels of misery get quite high, Giles also keeps redemption and help within reach for most of the characters. The novel’s strength rests in its underlying moral complexity and in its resourceful heroine, who bounces back from some well-meaning mistakes. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jamie Weiss Chilton, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/20/2015 | Details & Permalink

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One Thing Stolen

Beth Kephart. Chronicle, $17.99 (280p) ISBN 978-1-4521-2831-3

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Nadia Cara’s family relocates to Florence from Philadelphia so her history professor father can write a book on a 1966 flood that devastated the Italian city. The book project stalls, but more troubling is Nadia’s sudden transformation from academic prodigy to secret-keeping thief. Inexplicably, she begins to lose the ability to speak while simultaneously becoming obsessed with constructing bird nests from random items she steals around town. For the first two-thirds of the novel, Nadia narrates her own story, but it can be difficult to reconcile the inconsistencies in her voice: sometimes, her language is lyrical, at other times, she’s unable to answer a simple question. The last third of the story is told by Nadia’s best friend, Maggie, who arrives from Philadelphia in a desperate effort to help her friend reconnect with the real world. Like Nadia’s faux bird nests, this is a novel with many layers, ambitiously constructed, but the choice to have most of it told by a poetic narrator said to be in the throes of losing her language skills ultimately makes it less than convincing. Ages 13–up Agent: Amy Rennert, Amy Rennert Agency. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/20/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Shark Curtain

Chris Scofield. Akashic/Black Sheep, $13.95 trade paper (356p) ISBN 978-1-61775-313-8

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Strange, artistic Lily Asher has frank conversations with Jesus, and after her beloved dog dies saving her life, she worries that she is growing a tail and sometimes barks and howls. Though it’s not always clear what is happening in a scene, given Lily’s unusual way of seeing the world, it’s easy to empathize with this unreliable narrator growing up in Portland, Ore., in the 1960s, where she experiences very real traumas, including her aunt’s accidental death, a peeping neighbor boy, and angry fights between her parents. This is a dense book and something of a time capsule, presenting a suburban America where Lily’s mother is prescribed a “happy pill” and no one talks about the girl being sexually abused next door. Throughout, first-time author Scofield creates striking images that will stay with readers, such as when Lily meets a blind girl riding a white horse at night, or when she tries to get Jesus to stop visiting her by writing “I’M NOT HERE” in masking tape on her bedroom window. Ages 12–up. Agent: Carrie Howland, Donadio & Olson. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/20/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Punch Like a Girl

Karen Krossing. Orca, $12.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-4598-0828-7

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After being sexually assaulted by her ex-boyfriend, Matt, at a party, 17-year-old Tori keeps the incident a secret, and her pain manifests as anger that she finds difficult to control. She shaves her head, alienates her family and her best friends, and begins to lash out physically. It starts with Tori defending her friend Jamarlo at the mall: she punches a guy who made a homophobic comment about him, after which her parents force her to do community service to avoid potential police charges. Threatening text messages from Matt and his new girlfriend only fuel Tori’s anger, and another fight lands her temporarily in the hospital. The children at the women’s shelter where Tori volunteers help her understand that speaking out can be “another way of fighting back,” a tactic she has to use when one of the children is abducted. While Krossing (The Yo-Yo Prophet) acknowledges the importance of self-defense, the story makes clear that sharing one’s pain is equally important. Tori’s anger is palpable throughout, and her emotional evolution is empowering. Ages 12–up. Agent: Harry Endrulat, Rights Factory. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/20/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Be Not Afraid

Cecilia Galante. Random, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-385-37274-9

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Galante (The Sweetness of Salt) crafts a chilling atmosphere in this slowly simmering horror story. Seventeen-year-old Marin developed a peculiar condition after her mother’s suicide: the ability to see the physical manifestations of people’s pain in the form of colorful orbs. Overwhelmed by the “pain shapes” constantly in her line of vision, Marin wears dark sunglasses to her Catholic high school. She stays under the radar until one day when another student, Cassie, erupts into an enraged, seizurelike fit during Mass and directs her aggression squarely at Marin. As it becomes plain that Cassie’s affliction isn’t epilepsy but something more sinister, Cassie’s brother, Dominic, senses that Marin is somehow involved. Marin’s narrative is calculated in its revealing of information, and readers may begin to doubt her reliability. Like many works of horror, Galante’s story is at its best when at play in the shadows; the conclusion may strike some horror fans as a bit conventional. Yet the author thoughtfully addresses questions of good, evil, spirituality, and suffering, while the story’s paranormal elements offer moments of legitimate terror. Ages 12–up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/20/2015 | Details & Permalink

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