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The Poison Eaters: Fighting Danger and Fraud in Our Food and Drugs

Gail Jarrow. Calkins Creek, $18.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-62979-438-9

A provocative chapter title “Embalmed Bees and Other Delicacies” opens this riveting chronicle from Jarrow (Spooked!) of the life of Harvey Wiley, the “Father of the Pure Food Law,” and the often gruesome events leading to the creation of America’s Food and Drug Administration. In gripping, relatable language, Jarrow follows Wiley’s rise from Indiana farm boy to head of the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Chemistry and, finally, director of Good Housekeeping magazine’s Bureau of Food, Sanitation, and Health. Sample advertisements, archival photographs, and political cartoons enhance the text, and a timeline, glossary, and sidebars—such as “How a Bill Becomes Law: The Basics”—further equip readers to navigate the science and politics involved in Wiley’s lifelong fight to protect the public from adulterated food, quack medicines, and fraudulent claims. Historical headlines, such as “Human Test-Tubes. Wiley, Government Chemist, Continues His Work,” bring to life the enormity of Wiley’s controversial methods in the eyes of the public. The “More to Explore” section makes this easy-to-read work a fine classroom resource and an excellent addition to any collection. Ages 10–17. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Other F Word: A Celebration of the Fat and Fierce

Ed. by Angie Manfredi. Amulet, $18.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-4197-3750-3

This outstanding anthology of essays, illustrations, poems, and letters assembled and edited by librarian and writer Manfredi is a celebration of every body and presents a revolutionary message about fat acceptance and self-love. Bringing together 31 intersectional and diverse voices, the volume includes selections by gay, Latino, big and tall model Ady Del Valle; nonbinary Chinese-American writer S. Qiouyi Lu; and African-American plus-size model, blogger, and activist Saucyé West. Following Manfredi’s thoughtful, empowering note, Alex Gino’s opening essay, “Body Sovereignty: This Fat Trans Flesh Is Mine,” sets the tone for the volume with the powerful, straightforward message that individuals have the right to determine what is best for their own bodies and selves, regardless of size or societal assumptions about health or worth. Manfredi skillfully balances the contributions, interspersing research-based essays with poems and illustrations about self-care and self-acceptance, and pulls off the nuanced feat of representing an array of insights and topics relating to fat experiences. This empowering, stereotype-busting volume concludes with a section highlighting “Fat Fashion Resources” compiled by contributors. Ages 13–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Mighty Moe

Rachel Swaby and Kit Fox. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $19.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-31160-5

This thorough, fascinating biography examines how 20th-century women—and young Maureen Wilton in particular—battled the misconceptions and antagonism surrounding equality for female runners. In 1964, at age 10, Wilton’s older brother brought home a running race ribbon, and she knew that she wanted one, too, even though girls were not permitted to run in organized races at that time in Toronto. Undeterred, Wilton’s parents found a local running club with an open-minded coach. Soon, Wilton was running in races throughout Canada and the U.S., and she eventually came to hold the world record time in the marathon. Dubbed “Mighty Moe” by the press, Wilton proved the novel notion that female athletes could not only run, but run fast. While Wilton is unquestionably the star of this book, Swaby (Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed the World) and debut author Fox intersperse eye-opening anecdotes of other women runners who faced discrimination and opposition. While the gripping chapters jump around in both chronology and focus, they always circle back to the compelling story of Wilton, who, with the support of her parents and coach, unknowingly revolutionized an entire sport for women. Ages 10–16. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Mythologica: An Encyclopedia of Gods, Monsters, and Mortals from Ancient Greece

Stephen P. Kershaw, illus. by Victoria Topping. Wide Eyed Editions, $30 (112p) ISBN 978-1-78603-193-8

In this oversize collection, 50 Greek gods and goddesses, monsters, and other characters are rendered in lavish, stylized collages, one spread for each entity. Scholar Kershaw provides a straightforward description of each character or group’s origins, traits, and their role within the tapestry of Greek mythology (“Gaia belonged to the first generation of divinities who came into existence out of Chaos”). Figures—from the Twelve Labors of Heracles, “The Odyssey,” the Trojan War, and the Argonauts—include the Harpies, the Minotaur, the Muses, and well-known deities. Debut illustrator Topping brings a wealth of energy and richness to each composition, infusing them with individuality and diversity; the spreads carry the graphic boldness of poster art. Rather than creating a comprehensive telling of the tales, Kershaw provides a veritable who’s who of the pantheon and a solid introduction to primary figures; the enigmatic art further captures the mystery, passion, and intrigue of Greek mythology. Ages 7–10. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Stage Dreams

Melanie Gillman. Graphic Universe, $10.99 paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-5415-7284-3

The Ghost Hawk—otherwise known as Flor—is a queer Latinx bandit with a bird-of-prey helpmate who wields a six-shooter and wears a leather hat atop her voluminous black mane. In the New Mexico Territory circa 1861, stagecoach passengers pass the time making conversation about Civil War strategies and Southwestern desperados. On cue, Flor swoops in, demanding loot and kidnapping a Southern belle, who modestly hides her face under a green bonnet. “Fine young ladies always make for the best ransoms—and company!” Flor quips with a lascivious wink. (“Despite appearances, it ain’t my intent to hurt you,” she later says, while tying her captive to a tree.) When Flor removes her prisoner’s bonnet, however, she meets an angry, green-eyed, apparently transgender beauty named Grace, who is en route to “the theater in San Francisco” and on the run from “conscription” into the Confederacy. Both are smitten, and nervy Flor now has an accomplice for a daring plot involving a sly tailor, ball gowns, and espionage. Euphemisms and ambiguity leave readers to connect the dots in this Wild West whirlwind, though Grace’s peach-fuzz facial hair implies trans identity. Gillman, whose As the Crow Flies was named a Stonewall Honor Book, delves into queer history and spins a witty and extravagant yarn about a dashing duo. Ages 13–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Red Zone: An Earthquake Story

Silvia Vecchini, illus. by Sualzo, trans. by Anna Barton. Amulet, $15.99 (144p) ISBN 978-1-4197-3368-0

Translated from the Italian, Vecchini’s meditative graphic novel is a response to the 2016 earthquakes in Italy. When a quake disrupts the evening stillness, teenager Matteo watches as a lamp swings, Giulia’s pencil skitters off her drawing, and crockery tumbles. Then the dusk-blue background vanishes to black as the electricity fails. Matteo huddles with his preschool-age stepsister, lighting the space with his phone. The remainder of the book—in earthy clay hues on white—follows the quake’s aftermath. People move into a tent city, their village declared an off-limits “red zone.” Children sketch their memories, and one draws an air raid; he and his dad were already refugees. Matteo’s dad returns the family’s old camper to Matteo’s mother and her new partner so the kids have a temporary home. Matteo, Giulia, and their grieving friend Federico, who cannot find his dog, sneak into their old neighborhood to confront their fears because, otherwise, “your thoughts make shadows that get in the way of reality.” With many traumatized characters and limited explanations, readers may need to backtrack; a second pass reveals subtleties as the survivors adapt. Sualzo’s clear, expressive artwork amplifies the mood of anxiety but does not show graphic injuries, while the panels effectively balance wordless panels and dialogue to convey uncertainty amid aftershocks. Winner of the 2018 Attilio Micheluzzi Award in Italy, this sensitive offering makes expert use of the graphic format to tell an ultimately hopeful story about young survivors. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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We Speak in Storms

Natalie Lund. Philomel, $17.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-525-51800-6

Lund interweaves the traumatic stories of storm victims separated by generations in her debut novel. Fifty years after a 1961 tornado tore through Mercer, Ill., a similar storm passes through the town, and several of the long-deceased return to the scene. While observing the living, the dead provide memories as well as commentary on their communal, ghostly present. After realizing that they are each being visited by a ghost, three loners—whose stories interweave with the ghosts’—connect. Brenna is bullied because of her Mexican heritage; Joshua is an ostracized gay teen; and Callie is coming to terms with her mother’s terminal cancer. Each of the ghosts brings understanding and comfort to the teens while seeking peace for themselves. Dot, an incest survivor with a powerful singing voice, counsels Brenna, who longs to write; Luke, a closeted teen, supports Joshua; and Mrs. Vidal, who survived the ’61 storm, comforts Callie. Through interconnected stories of pain and courage, Lund captures the pathos and resilience of a town still working through trauma in this lyrical ghost story. Ages 12–up. Agent: Sarah Davies, Greenhouse Literary Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Stone Rainbow

Liane Shaw. Second Story, $13.95 paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-77260-108-4

High school senior Jackson is just waiting for a chance to leave his small town, Thompson Mills, and its residents’ small minds, so that he can come out as gay and really start his life. But when a new student, Benjamin, shows up, he finds himself challenged in all new ways: Benjamin is out and proud, and Jackson is enamored. As the two begin a slow dance into romance, Benjamin pushes back against homophobia and is met with slurs, threats, and, eventually, violence. As Benjamin recovers, Jackson has to decide whether he’s willing to stand up in the face of danger and resist intolerance, or return to hiding his identity. Shaw (Caterpillars Can’t Swim) creates a realistically diverse cast in this slow-paced but full-hearted novel. While the story explores the intensity of both first love and vehement discrimination, it also presents joy and hope for its characters, and will likely find fans among YA readers. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Sam Saves the Night (Sleep Wakers #1)

Shari Simpson. Disney-Hyperion, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-368-00761-0

Sam, 12, is a lifelong sleepwalker who has sleep-sorted recycling and even sleep-built a tree house. Her behavior has prompted her family to move six times in 10 years, and family history—Sam’s father died while sleepwalking off a bridge—makes her mother even more desperate for a solution. Then they find an unconventional specialist, Dr. Fletcher, who detaches Sam’s consciousness from her body, a procedure that allows Sam’s body to slumber at night while her soul “accomplishes its purpose.” Sam becomes a SleepWaker, part of a large community of others who “show who they really are in the dark,” each joining a group of like-minded Wakers. But the community is under attack by “soul-napping” MeanDreams, led by school golden girl Madalynn, who shows her true malicious colors at night. Though Simpson’s debut can feel aggressively off-the-wall—the characters skew wacky and the plot is packed with over-the-top moments (it opens on its protagonist sleep-wielding a power saw)—Sam is realistically flawed as she deals with bullying and finding her place in the world. Filled with surprising twists, this series kick-off underscores essential truths about finding one’s unique spirit. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Sauerkraut

Kelly Jones, illus. by Paul Davey. Knopf, $19.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5247-6595-8

The hero of this funny, kindhearted novel is HD Schenk, a 12-year-old self-proclaimed “black geek”—he’s a biracial German-American— who dreams of building his own computer with help from his understanding parents, his best friend Eli, and others in his small town. His summer takes a turn when he discovers an old pickling crock among his late grandmother’s belongings. “All pickling crocks are haunted,” says a local mystery writer. Enter Marietta, the ghost of his German great-great-grandmother, who has an agenda of her own: get other to make her famous sauerkraut and win the title of Pickle Queen at the county fair. Jones weaves identity into the story seamlessly, and offers a model for incidental representation: the diverse cast of characters (including HD’s disabled veteran father and gay uncles, and Eli, who grapples with a learning difference), encounter casual racism as well as brief ableism and homophobia, but these incidents are more like bumps in the road than central plot points, and HD and company confront them swiftly and effectively. Jones’s nimbly constructed plot features no adversary beyond competing needs for time and attention in a happy family, and it doesn’t bother with the usual conflicts about who can see the ghost (everyone, eventually). Celebrating the collision of old and new worlds, this simple but smart saga will appeal to kids who like their ghost stories more sweet than sour. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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