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The Wearle

Chris D’Lacey. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-545-90018-8

D’Lacey’s Last Dragon Chronicles explored a time after dragons ceased to exist on Earth; in this prehistoric fantasy, which begins the Erth Dragons series, he follows the struggles of the initial dragon colonists who traveled to this planet from Ki:mera. Gabrial, a young dragon, wants to prove himself worthy of guarding the new hatchlings, but when disaster strikes, he’s stripped of his name and responsibilities. As Gabrial attempts to redeem himself, a bold human boy named Ren discovers a dragon hatchling, which brings him into conflict with his own community. As Gabrial and Ren’s stories collide, they attempt to save their peoples from a conflict that could destroy all of them. As in the Last Dragon Chronicles, there is a preponderance of G names where dragons are concerned, as well as odd stylistic choices that include the mid-word colons of dragonspeak (“i:mage,” “De:allus”) and the human, or “Hom,” terms for animals: instead of horses, rabbits, and butterflies, there are whinneys, hoppers, and flutterflies. Newcomers may be distracted by the linguistic quirks, but this remains a rousing adventure with sweeping aerial action scenes and a tense mystery at its center. Ages 8–12. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 12/02/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Crystal Ribbon

Celeste Lim. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-545-76703-3

At age 11, Li Jing is sent away from her beloved father and brothers, and married off for five pieces of silver. Her family assures her that she will be cared for by the Guos, but she is instead greeted by a life of servitude and harsh beatings. As a tongyang xi, Jing serves as caregiver for her three-year-old child husband. The Guos, in financial straits, sell Jing to a chinglou, where she is to become a courtesan. Refusing to resign herself to this life, she escapes with the aid of forces both human and magical. Set in 1102 C.E. in medieval China, Lim’s debut viscerally captures the harsh realities of Jing’s life. Despite the often difficult circumstances, Jing is surrounded by people and forces willing to help her, rewarding her kindness and persistence. These supportive presences, coupled with Jing’s encounters with magical spirits and the noble feats she accomplishes throughout her journey, give Lim’s novel a mythical air. Well-researched historical elements meet rich fantasy in this tale of determination and devotion. Ages 8–12. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 12/02/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Noodles’ and Albie’s Birthday Surprise

Eric Bennett, illus. by Milanka Reardon. Penguin Place, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-692-78885-1

Noodles the penguin and his fish friend, Albie, get a chance to save Christmas in this humorous follow-up to Noodles and Albie: A Penguin Journey. (Never mind that neither animal has heard of the holiday.) Bennett’s story primarily revolves around another celebration: Noodles’s birthday, which falls on December 24. Albie gives him a compass as a present, and Noodles quickly regifts it after they run into a “chubby tourist” dressed in red, stranded with his reindeer on an Antarctic ice floe. Bennett and Reardon both get in some good jokes: Santa describes how his new GPS system’s incessant instructions led him to go off-course, and during a visit to an underwater amusement park, Albie and Noodles take a spin on the Octowhirl ride, an actual octopus. The story meanders a bit, and Reardon’s artwork wavers uncomfortably between cartoonish and naturalistic in places, but readers should still get a kick out of the animals’ obliviousness to all things Christmas. A lighthearted Q&A with Albie—featuring questions about the Antarctic, how compasses work, and more—rounds out this warm friendship story. Ages 4–8. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 12/02/2016 | Details & Permalink

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I’ll Hug You More

Laura Duksta, illus. by Melissa Iwai. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4926-2618-3

Duksta returns to the two-in-one format of I’ll Love You More (2007), using a large cast of animals to celebrate the comfort inherent in a parent-child hug. Reading the book from one end reveals a child’s perspective (“I’ll hug you to say thank-you/ for getting my breakfast ready./ I’ll hug you and snuggle with you/ and my favorite teddy”), and flipping it over presents an adult’s take as a hug-filled day progresses from morning to night. Two purple ring-tailed lemurs kick things off both times, and the lemurs again appear in the middle, where the narratives converge. Iwai’s (Let’s Go to the Hardware Store) cheery, multi-textured illustrations highlight the sheer versatility of hugs one can give: a small hippo offers a one-handed, behind-the-back number as it eats cereal at the breakfast table, a ladybug uses all six limbs to cling to its parent, and two snakes entwine in a cozy, circular embrace. The rhythms of Duksta’s verse can be somewhat clunky, but her reassuring message comes through loud and clear. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Cathy Hemming. Illustrator’s agent: Chris Tugeau, Christina A. Tugeau Artist Agency. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 12/02/2016 | Details & Permalink

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