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The Easter Story

Sophie Piper, illus. by Annabel Spenceley. Lion (IPG/Trafalgar Sq., dist.), $7.99 paper (32p) ISBN 978-0-7459-6513-0

Piper (Jesus Is Born) offers a straightforward retelling of the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, using simplified language that, while occasionally clunky, makes the major figures’ roles and motivations clear; Pontius Pilate is described as “the man who was in charge of all the punishments,” while Judas Iscariot conspires with the “priests” and “teachers” unhappy with Jesus, telling them, “I’ll help you catch him.... If you pay me.” Spenceley gives a solid sense of historical Jerusalem in scenes that don’t avoid the story’s betrayals and tragedies (including a image of the three crucifixes, shown at a distance) but largely underscore a message of joy and hope. Ages 2–5. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Tucker Digs Easter

Leslie McGuirk. Candlewick, $7.99 (28p) ISBN 978-0-7636-8536-2

The canine star of Lucky Tucker, Gobble, Gobble, Tucker! and other holiday board books returns in a whimsical Easter story, in which he uses his digging skills to aid the Easter Bunny as he hides his eggs. McGuirk’s naïf gouache images continue to charm (Tucker’s delighted reaction to the Easter Bunny costume he gets to wear is an especially fun moment), and Tucker gets to save the day not once but twice: helping the Easter Bunny in the first place, then helping the local children find the eggs, since the duo “hid them so well that no one could find them!” Ages 2–5. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Bunny Bus

Ammi-Joan Paquette, illus. by Lesley Breen Withrow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374-30225-2

Public transit gets a springtime makeover as Paquette (Ghost in the House) and Withrow (You’re My Boo) introduce the Bunny Bus, an anthropomorphized conveyance with a fluffy tail, two large ears, and a bucktoothed grin. Dapperly dressed owls, cats, and other animals clamber aboard: “Room for more? Of course! Pile on!/ The Bunny Bus rolls on and on.” Withrow’s scraggly pencils, lined-paper backdrops, and splashes of color and pattern create an exuberant atmosphere that’s only briefly interrupted when the overloaded bus temporarily breaks down, sending carrots and painted eggs flying. It’s a novel spin on familiar Easter themes. Ages 2–4. Author’s agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Chris Tugeau, Christina A. Tugeau Artist Agency. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Seeking a Bunny

Angela DiTerlizzi, illus. by Allie Smith. Little Simon, $7.99 (30p) ISBN 978-1-4814-7672-0

DiTerlizzi and Smith follow Seeking a Witch and Seeking a Santa with a third upbeat ode to the qualities that define a classic holiday figure. As readers proceed through the board book, a variety of animals stand in for the Easter Bunny: two green frogs (one wearing a pair of rabbit ears) are “seen hopping down the bunny trail,” and like the egg-hiding bunny, a donkey and pig “love to eat carrots./ And jelly beans, too.” Once again, DiTerlizzi’s punchy rhymes and Smith’s equally vivid cartooning combine to create an enticing holiday treat. Ages 1–4. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Caroline’s Comets: A True Story

Emily Arnold McCully. Holiday House, $16.95 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8234-3664-4

McCully (Queen of the Diamond; Dare the Wind) again sets her sights on groundbreaking women with this picture-book biography of Victorian-era scientist Caroline Herschel, the first woman to discover a comet. Dynamic pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations reveal a diminutive yet determined Caroline, her growth stunted and her face scarred by childhood disease. From inauspicious beginnings as a housekeeper and stocking knitter for her family, Caroline goes on to live with her astronomer brother in England and make valuable contributions to the field. Caroline’s own words, appearing as italicized excerpts from her autobiography, enhance McCully’s straightforward narrative: “William made a small telescope for Caroline. He taught her math so she could calculate the positions of stars. I found I was to be trained... I was ‘to sweep for comets.’ Caroline always did what her brother asked.” Despite the social constraints placed on unmarried women in the 18th century, Caroline thrives and achieves, becoming one of the first professional female scientists. A bibliography, glossary, and timeline wrap up a tale of resolve and perseverance that’s sure to encourage curious readers. Ages 6–10. Agent: Susan Cohen, Writers House. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Bone Snatcher

Charlotte Salter. Dial, $16.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-399-18634-9

British author Salter makes a memorable debut with this eerie psychological adventure. The tale opens with Sophie Seacove, a 12-year-old in a country much like England, being spirited away from parents who may (or may not) have sold her into servitude while gripped by something called sea fever. Sophie finds herself on an island known as Catacomb Hill, the once-grand estate of an inventor-businessman and his family, in the midst of a monster-infested sea. The inventor’s wife and twin sons remain on the island, along with an elderly caretaker, Mr. Scree. Sophie’s new job as Bone Snatcher is to feed the monsters—keeping them from devouring the island—and to stay alive herself. The secrets of the island appeal to Sophie’s storyteller soul, and with the help of the inventor’s mysterious nephew, Cartwright, she aims to solve the mysteries hidden in the decrepit house’s walls. An accessible narrative style combines with a darkly detailed environment—morbid and creepy moments are in no short supply—to spark imaginations. Ages 10–14. Agent: Kirsty McLachlan, David Goodwin Associates. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Mesmerist

Ronald L. Smith. Clarion, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-544-44528-4

Smith’s second novel (after Hoodoo) opens in 1864 England, where 13-year-old Jess and her mother have been running supernatural scams ever since her father’s mysterious death some years earlier. One séance goes badly astray when Jess returns from her supposed trance with a message she hadn’t intended: “Ring around the rosy, pocket full of posies. Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down!” The handwritten message, signed only M, terrifies Jess’s mother, who immediately takes them to London, looking for help from the eccentric (and not entirely human) Lord Balthazar. Jess learns that he and her parents were part of a secret organization, the League of Ravens, which has fought evil for centuries. Now, that evil has returned and Jess, who unknowingly carries the enormous powers of a mesmerist, must lead the fight. The shape of the story is familiar, but Smith deftly brings Jess and her fellow Ravens to life and ramps up the violence to a fever pitch at the climax. This tale, though not for the faint at heart, is certain to please young horror fans. Ages 10–12. Agent: Adriann Ranta, Foundry Literary + Media. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Pursued

Gary Urey. Albert Whitman, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8075-6684-8

When two children wind up in possession of teleportation devices after the inventors—their parents—are murdered, they become the targets of a worldwide manhunt, courtesy of Dr. Lennon Hatch, a ruthless billionaire determined to gain control of the technology. After being relentlessly pursued for a year, 13-year-olds Axel Jack and Daisha Tandala are separated, cast to distant parts of the world, and unable to reunite until their GeoPorts recharge in 72 hours. As Hatch’s people get closer to capturing them, Axel and Daisha’s only hope is to decipher their parents’ last clue and destroy the GeoPorts once and for all. In this fast-paced, globe-hopping adventure, Urey (the Super Schnoz series) delivers a gripping tale full of surprises, starring memorable protagonists set against almost overwhelming odds. There’s a certain tongue-in-cheek aspect to the story as well, with Urey giving ample attention to his egotistical, amoral antagonist (“He would give the people the ability to travel anywhere instantaneously. The Doctor would be King, and everyone else in Silicon Valley his court jesters”). A cliff-hanger ending leaves many questions unanswered for future books. Ages 9–12. Agent: Jill Corcoran, Jill Corcoran Literary. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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One Amazing Elephant

Linda Oatman High. Harper, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-245583-3

High’s (Planet Pregnancy) well-balanced novel about love, forgiveness, and the tightrope walk of friendship and family is centered in Gibsonton, Fla., “the strangest town in the nation.” Unlike the flamboyant circus side of 12-year-old Lily Rose Pruitt’s family—including her dear Grandpa Bill, dubbed “the Giant” at more than seven feet tall, and her estranged mother, Trullia, a trapeze artist—cautious Lily bottles up her emotions and avoids risks: “Keep it inside. That’s my motto.” Lily lives with her father in West Virginia, but when her grandfather dies unexpectedly, she flies to Florida alone for the funeral. There, she confronts her fear of the Amazing Queenie Grace (her grandfather’s elephant), forms friendships and makes a few enemies, tries to protect Queenie Grace from harm, and eventually comes to terms with her mother. The chapters alternate gracefully between Lily’s and Queenie Grace’s perspectives, and High effectively sketches how Lily gradually champions the elephant and recognizes larger issues around the ways performers abuse circus animals. Ages 8–12. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Leather Shoe Charlie

Gyeong-hwa Kim, illus. by Anna and Elena Balbusso. Eerdmans, $10 paper (36p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5473-5

Charlie is the proud owner of a pair of leather shoes made for him by his cobbler grandfather. But customers are few, and, like many other families during Britain’s 19th-century industrial revolution, Charlie’s family must leave their village for Manchester, the only place they can find work. His mother coughs, and neighbor women recommend tea, but there’s no money to buy it and nothing to sell—except Charlie’s shoes. Sell them he does, and with the proceeds he buys the tea. South Korean author Kim’s story ends there. Does Charlie’s mother recover? What will he wear on his feet now? Does he ever get to return to his village? Kim chooses to focus on Charlie’s saintly act, and his initiative and faithfulness as a son. The Balbusso sisters depict the industrial gloom of Manchester with liveliness and sensitivity, using curving, forceful strokes to emphasize the blackened factory chimneys, dark brick tenements, and Charlie’s dreams of shoemaking, which hang like ribbons in the smoggy air. Even without the satisfaction of knowing how things turn out, readers will feel as though they’ve encountered someone they care about. Ages 6–10. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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