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Indi Surfs

Chris Gorman. PowerHouse/Pow!, $16.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-57687-765-4

Gorman, a photographer and surfer himself, draws inspiration from close to home (his daughter is named Indi) as he follows a young surfer through her day. From the opening pages, in-your-face type and equally arresting b&w images create a visceral sense of Indi’s power and competence. “Indi is a surfer,” Gorman begins, opposite a head-on portrait of the girl, who stares solemnly at readers, strands of her short-cropped hair swirling. “She lives on an island. The beach is her playground.” Light teal accents begin to bleed into the b&w imagery in screenprint-like images that have the feel of a digital update of Robert McCloskey’s work. The blue of the ocean gives way to a warning shade of pink in a sequence in which Indi is knocked off her surfboard and “falls... and she falls... and she falls,” as Gorman shows her being tossed by powerful, towering waves. “She never gives up,” he continues as Indi rests on her board, catching her breath in calmer water. Readers won’t need to live anywhere near the sea to recognize Indi’s strength, determination, and capability. Ages 3–7. (June)

Reviewed on 04/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Boats for Papa

Jessixa Bagley. Roaring Brook/Porter, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-62672-039-8

Buckley, a beaver, lives with his mother at the shore. Papa isn’t with them; what happened to him isn’t revealed, but it’s clear that mother and son are coping with a big loss. Buckley spends his days creating increasingly more elaborate boats for his father from driftwood he finds on the beach, lovingly launching each one with a note, “For Papa. Love, Buckley.” “If it doesn’t come back to shore,” Buckley tells his mother, “I’ll know he got it!” One day, Buckley discovers that all the boats have come back—and he learns something important about his mother’s love as well. Bagley makes an impressive debut with this somber but never maudlin story about sadness, resilience, and an emotional coming of age. The pen-and-watercolor renderings of her two characters can feel slightly blocky and awkward, but it’s a deeply empathic story with an accomplished sense of place. In beautiful tones of blue and brown, she immerses readers in the coastal world where Buckley and his mother are trying to make sense of their lives. Ages 3–7. Agent: Alexandra Penfold, Upstart Crow Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 04/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Putting the Monkeys to Bed

Gennifer Choldenko, illus. by Jack E. Davis. Putnam, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-24623-4

Having explored shyness and insecurity in picture books like Louder, Lili and A Giant Crush, Choldenko turns her attention to a boy whose mind won’t stop racing. After reading a story with Mama, it’s bedtime for Sam, but when she leaves the room, a trio of monkeys spring to life; one is dressed like an organ grinder’s monkey, another wears a leopard-print dress, and the third is a sock monkey. Rowdy shenanigans ensue (“They smash and bash and crash-crash-crash”), as do loud complaints from Mama. In characteristically exaggerated cartoons, Davis (Peanut Butter and Homework) has fun picturing both the rambunctiousness that Sam and the monkeys get up to and the torrent of questions that keep him awake (“Do pirates sleep with their eye patches on?”). The monkeys are basically an externalization of the jitters plaguing Sam, and Choldenko’s buzzy narration itself quiets as Sam uses breathing techniques and reads to the monkeys on his way to falling asleep—self-calming techniques that many readers may find helpful themselves. Ages 3–5. Author’s agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown. (June)

Reviewed on 04/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada

Jimmy Fallon, illus. by Miguel Ordóñez. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-250-00934-0

Ten years after Fallon’s Snowball Fight!, the Tonight Show host returns with a witty reminder that as much as parents may try to shape their children’s destinies, kids will do as kids will do. Ordóñez (Marina and the Little Green Boy) deploys a barnyard’s worth of father-child animal pairs, framed in square panels with fathers on the left and their offspring on the facing pages. In speech-balloon dialogue, the elder cows, sheep, bees, rabbits, donkeys, and other animals shout an encouraging “Dada!” at their children, whose responses are more typical to their species—a “squeak” for a triangular gray mouse or a “ribbit” for a squat green frog. The fathers’ expressions range from concerned to downright irate, but the baby animals couldn’t be more pleased with themselves. The comparatively loquacious closing pages round up all the animals (“Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time...”), and the young animals finally make their proud papas’ dreams come true. A punchy and deceptively simple story that will make for some fun readalouds. Ages 1–3. Author’s agency: Creative Artists Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Water Is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle

Miranda Paul, illus. by Jason Chin. Roaring Brook/Porter, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-59643-984-9

Two siblings from a mixed-race family engage in water-related activities throughout the year in a poetic exploration of the forms that water takes. First seen exploring a pond behind their idyllic home, the boy and girl are driven indoors by a rainstorm and warm up with steaming mugs of cocoa on their front porch: "Drip. Sip./ Pour me a cup./ Water is water unless.../ it heats up./ Whirl. Swirl./ Watch it curl by./ Steam is steam unless.../ it cools high." From there, Paul (One Plastic Bag) moves through the seasons as clouds become fog, which transitions to rain that gathers in puddles. In winter, the children and their friends skate on the frozen pond, and spring's return brings the story full circle. As usual, Chin (Gravity) blends naturalistic detail with a glint of whimsy (in one spread, patchy clouds form the shape of a dragon in a wagon), evoking the seasons through shifts of light and changing foliage. A closing section shares additional information about the water cycle, rounding out a story as enchanting as it is informative. Ages 6–10. Author's agent: Karen Grencik, Red Fox Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 04/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Tiny Pretty Things

Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. HarperTeen, $17.99 (448p) ISBN 978-0-06-234239-3

Gigi, June, and Bette are aspiring ballerinas attending the cutthroat feeder academy for the America Ballet Company in New York City. All three are on the cusp of determining whether they'll be relegated to the corps, or if they'll land a coveted spot as a principal dancer. African-American Gigi is the sweet dancer no one saw coming, nabbing roles that vicious, blond Bette and eternal understudy June (who is half-Korean) would kill for. Maybe literally. Shifting among the girls' alternating points of view, first-time authors Charaipotra and Clayton skillfully craft three distinctive, complex characters; even amid moments of cruelty and desperation, the girls are layered with emotion, yearning, and loss. This enticing glimpse into the ballet world is rich with detail and drama as the authors highlight its glamour and darkness, while revealing how jealousy can lead to terrible consequences, and the challenge that race can present to nonwhite dancers. A not-entirely-conclusive ending leaves the door open for a sequel. A Cake Literary property. Ages 14–up. Agent: Victoria Marini, Gelfman Schneider. (May)

Reviewed on 04/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Rise and Fall of the Gallivanters

M.J. Beaufrand. Abrams/Amulet, $16.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4197-1495-5

Eighteen-year-old Noah and his friends are punk musicians growing up near Portland, Ore., in the early 1980s. Noah worries that he will grow up to be like his abusive father, his best friend Evan's debilitating headaches are getting worse—and girls all over town are disappearing, possibly at the hands of the German brothers who operate a big local brewery. When Ziggy, a David Bowie-esque stranger, mysteriously appears in Noah's life, he persuades the teen to enter his band in a contest at the brewery and try to "save the city from the evil brewing at PfefferBrau Haus." Beaufrand (Dark River) is a talented writer, but the book's tone is scattered: some of the people in Noah's life, like hippie burnout/record store owner JoJo, are more caricature than character, and the various tragedies the characters are negotiating disrupt the rhythm of the book. These punk protagonists are easy to root for, but too many simultaneous notes leave the book striking a discordant chord. Ages 14–up. Agent: Steven Chudney, Chudney Agency. (May)

Reviewed on 04/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Nowhere But Here

Katie McGarry. Harlequin Teen, $17.99 (496p) ISBN 978-0-373-21142-5

Launching the Thunder Road series, McGarry (Breaking the Rules) takes her signature brand of dramatic YA romances to the edgy world of motorcycle clubs. Seventeen-year-old Emily barely knows her biological father until circumstances force her to spend the summer with him in the small town of Snowflake, Ky. There, she becomes immersed in biker culture—her father is a high-ranking member of the Reign of Terror, a club that claims to emphasize family and legitimacy over crime and violence. As things heat up with a rival group, Emily is assigned protection: Oz, a sexy guy who has long dreamed of joining the Reign. If he keeps Emily out of trouble, he's in. Opposites attract, and steamy chemistry overrides common sense, leading to an illicit romance that won't end well if their parents find out. The core relationship sizzles and sparks with every glance and touch, and the underlying plot is solid. However, much of the story revolves around the deliberate and frustrating withholding of vital information from a clueless Emily, instead of straightforward answers. Ages 14–up. Agent: Kevan Lyon, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. (May)

Reviewed on 04/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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A Tale of Two Besties: A Hello Giggles Novel

Sophia Rossi. Razorbill, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-59514-805-6

This debut YA novel by Rossi, a cofounder of online community HelloGiggles.com (along with actress Zooey Deschanel, who contributes a foreword), examines a friendship in flux. Told from the alternating perspectives of and text messages between best friends Lily and Harper, the story follows these independent-thinking girls' separate high-school journeys. With encouragement from Harper and a pair of fairy wings that she has worn with her outfits since elementary school, "gawkward" Lily learned early on that "being different could be a power instead of a curse." When Lily enters an alternative private high school that champions individuality and is swept into a cultish club, its leader hijacks Lily's trademark look and makes wings a mandatory accessory for members. While a confused yet flattered Lily basks in her newfound popularity, typically confident Harper struggles socially in her public school and feels abandoned by Lily. Though the dialed-up theatrics and fanatical club protocol stretch believability, Rossi has a handle on teen voices and emotions, and offers a distinctive take on personal integrity, conformity, stereotyping, peer pressure, bullying, and loyalty. Ages 12–up. (May)

Reviewed on 04/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Seven Second Delay

Tom Easton. Holiday House, $16.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8234-3209-7

Economical, efficient storytelling pays off in this dystopian thriller from Easton (Boys Don't Knit), first published in the U.K. Seventeen-year-old Mila has grown up in the U, a near-future Europe torn apart by war. Mila and Julian, a mysterious "Agent" who teaches Mila survival skills, attempt an escape to the Isles, a refuge of luxury and safety analogous to the United Kingdom. There, Julian is killed, and Mila is captured, facing interrogation and possible deportation. Implanted with a "phone," a device that serves as a communications device and spy camera, Mila is under surveillance; her only chances of remaining undetected are the seven-second delay programmed into her phone and the reluctant sympathy of Adam, the government handler who monitors her desperate flight. The pace is breakneck as Mila faces both brutality and kindness, while contending with government forces indifferent to collateral damage and the suspicion that Julian might be her ultimate betrayer. A somewhat anticlimactic ending either suggests that Mila is resigned to living in a repressive, exploitive society, or serves as a setup for a potential sequel. Ages 12–up. Agent: Claire Wilson, Rogers, Coleridge and White. (May)

Reviewed on 04/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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