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The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome: A Handbook for Time Travelers

Jonathan W. Stokes, illus. by David Sossella. Viking, $17.99 (144p) ISBN 978-1-101-99808-3

In the year 2163, the past is the new luxury vacation destination: with this travel guide in hand, readers are invited to visit ancient Rome by hopping in their Time Corp Time Machine Sedan. Stokes (the Addison Cooke series) keeps up the tongue-in-cheek conceit throughout, offering readers advice about the perils of the era (“Time Corp’s legal department requires us to mention that if the fires don’t kill you, the floods probably will”) and entertainment options (“Romans also enjoy a great variety of sports and spectacles, most of which involve witnessing violent death, all for a very attractive price”), as well as information on various rulers and conflicts. Sossella brings a droll sense of humor to his engravinglike cartoons, and sidebars offering “helpful hints,” dispatches from Time Corp’s unsavory corporate overlord, and faux Yelp-style reviews (“I only got to eat one family,” complains a lion in a one-star review of the Flavian Amphitheater) round out a very funny tour of Rome’s bloody and tumultuous past. Also available: The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution. Ages 8–12. Author’s agent: Brianne Johnson, Writers House. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Abraham Lincoln, Pro Wrestler

Steve Sheinkin, illus. by Neil Swaab. Roaring Brook, $13.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-250-14891-9

Sheinkin (Undefeated) kicks off the Time Twisters series with two titles, including this lively Abraham Lincoln–themed romp. When stepsiblings Doc and Abby express their distaste for learning about history, Lincoln himself emerges from a cardboard box portal to give them an earful. After they follow Lincoln back in time, he informs them that he and other famous figures are sick of being called dull: “Since you insist on saying our lives are boring, well then we’ll show you. You can read about us sitting in chairs, staring at the wall. See how you like it.” Swaab’s b&w cartoons play up the outlandish circumstances as Sheinkin has Lincoln facing off against a professional wrestler before recognizing that he needs to return to his rightful historical role (an afterword reveals the ways in which Sheinkin used real-life details about Lincoln, including his tendency to crack jokes). The truth about historical figures, Sheinkin suggests, is more interesting than the myths, and Lincoln’s story concludes with hints about the historical mix-ups that will figure into subsequent books. Available simultaneously: Abigail Adams, Pirate of the Caribbean. Ages 7–10. Illustrator’s agency: Shannon Associates. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Mummies at the Museum

Wong Herbert Yee. Holt/Ottaviano, $12.99 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-62779-462-6

In this first book in the Hammy and Gerbee series, schoolmates Hammy the hamster and Gerbee the gerbil pursue a gleeful rivalry with Anna and Hanna, twin girl mice in their elementary school class. The girls know the right answers; the boys, not so much. In this comic’s early chapters, the four pupils settle in with their new teacher, Miss Capybara. Yee’s loose, scribbly line makes for adorable figures; Miss Cap’s whipped-cream hairdo and cat’s-eye glasses are particularly fetching. Victory and defeat are evenly distributed: Hammy and Gerbee fail to beat the twins at spelling (“B-A-N-A-N-N-A”) but succeed in using reverse psychology to get Anna to choose to the science museum for their field trip (“I sure hope Anna picks the art museum!”). The fast-paced later chapters see the class arrive at a mummy exhibition to view the tomb of Ratakomen. The enticing similarity between toilet paper and mummy wrap gives the boys an idea, but instead of disgracing themselves, they foil a crime. This is relaxed, congenial entertainment: Hammy and Gerbee are after easy laughs, and fans of broad humor will be satisfied. Ages 6–9. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Winner Take All

Laurie Devore. Imprint, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-08288-6

Darker and weightier than many stories about rivals falling in love, Devore’s second novel draws a blurry line between honest emotions and calculated moves. Although they are both top students at their prestigious private school, Jackson Hart has several things that Nell Becker, the principal’s daughter, lacks—namely wealth, status, and a carefree attitude that makes getting to the top look easy. Jackson has always been serious-minded Nell’s nemesis, but their relationship changes during the spring of their junior year, when Nell finds that she has more in common with Jackson than she thought and stops denying her physical attraction to him. Knowing Jackson has used other girls, Nell is determined not to lose control of her feelings, viewing their flirtations as a game she intends to win, but victory comes with a higher price than she anticipates. The pace is somewhat slow, but Devore (How to Break a Boy) offers an in-depth examination of the protagonists’ complicated psyches and less-than-perfect home lives. Its hard-hitting message about the pressures placed on teens to succeed will be relevant to many readers. Ages 17–up. Agent: Diana Fox, Fox Literary. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Truly Devious

Maureen Johnson. HarperCollins/Tegen, $17.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-233805-1

Johnson kicks off a riveting mystery series set at the Ellingham Academy, a prestigious school built on a Vermont mountain by industrialist tycoon Albert Ellingham. His goal was to make learning a game—and free—for the exceptional students accepted to the school. But soon after it opened in 1936, Ellingham received a mysterious threat written in rhyme (and signed “Truly, Devious”), Ellingham’s wife and daughter were kidnapped, and a student was killed. In the present, 16-year-old Stevie Bell is obsessed with true crime (and often beset by panic attacks), and she feels a bit like a fraud at Ellingham. With Holmesian powers of observation, she hopes to solve the Ellingham case, but the school’s deadly past resurfaces when a student from her dorm is killed. Jumping between past and present, Johnson’s novel is deliciously atmospheric, with a sprawling cast of complex suspects/potential victims, surprising twists, and a dash of romance. As in her Shades of London books, Johnson remains a master at combining jittery tension with sharp, laugh-out-loud observations. Ages 14–up. Agent: Kate Schafer Testerman, KT Literary. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Together at Midnight

Jennifer Castle. HarperTeen, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-225051-3

After New York City teenagers Kendall and Max witness a near-fatal bus accident (and worry they didn’t do enough to avert it), they agree to complete seven random acts of kindness between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The only rule: the actions can’t be as simple as just throwing money at someone. Fueled by the guilt of “bystander syndrome,” Kendall and Max attempt to put some positive energy into the world. As they work together—stopping to talk with a homeless veteran, comforting a child whose father has disappeared, etc.—they realize that they have a great deal in common, and maybe the kiss they shared months before wasn’t such a mistake after all. Castle (What Happens Now) alternates between the teens’ first-person perspectives as New Year’s Eve approaches, interspersing brief dispatches from the recipients of their beneficence that highlight the secret struggles ordinary people carry with them every day. In giving voice to these men and women, Castle expands the story from a feel-good romance into a reflection on what makes us human. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jamie Weiss Chilton, Andrea Brown Literary. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Say You’ll Remember Me

Katie McGarry. Harlequin Teen, $18.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-373-21237-8

Striking and spirited, 17-year-old Elle Monroe is the only daughter of the governor of Kentucky, and her privileged, high-profile upbringing includes many expectations and little freedom. Hendrix “Drix” Pierce has led a life of poverty, disadvantage, and mistakes that have cost him. Elle and Drix meet by chance, and their chemistry is immediate, but the governor’s reelection and Drix’s plea deal for a crime he didn’t commit threaten any chance of romance. As they get to know each other in secret, Drix desperately tries to improve himself and stay out of prison, while Elle attempts to better understand who she is beyond what focus groups, her parents, and their staffers think. Steamy sensual scenes accent ideas about love and respect while other key moments challenge notions about loyalty, family, and power. Elle and Drix narrate alternating chapters with a naturalness and ease that echoes their relationship; there’s a smooth flow from scene to scene, and the story never flags. McGarry (the Thunder Road series) delivers a romantic tale with substance, and Elle and Drix are characters worth getting to know. Ages 13–up. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary & Media. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Turn It Up!

Jen Calonita. Point, $17.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-338-16115-1

Sophomores Lidia Sato, Sydney Marino, and Julianna Ramirez attend the private Bradley Academy in Florida where the Nightingales, the school’s female a cappella group, may have to disband due to a shortage of talented singers. An unexpected kiss from Griffin Mancini, a popular lead singer with the male Kingfishers a cappella group, threatens to ruin the friendship between Nightingales co-captains Lidia and Sydney, as well as the Nightingales’ comeback. Meanwhile, new student and songwriter Julianna doubts her singing ability after not making the Tonal Teens group at her old high school. Lidia and Sydney’s misunderstanding, group infighting, and Julianna’s lack of confidence jeopardize the Nightingales’ chances of bringing home a trophy from the upcoming Turn It Up competition. Although the three protagonists are talented and hardworking, Calonita (the Fairy Tale Reform School series) tends to emphasize their insecurities and immaturities for the sake of drama, and their decidedly first-world problems may not win them much sympathy. A rushed ending ties up the story’s loose ends at warp speed. Ages 12–up. Agent: Dan Mandel, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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All That Was

Karen Rivers. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-374-30246-7

Ever since they became best friends in preschool, Sloane and Piper have been two peas in a pod, dressing alike, fixing their hair the same way, and doing everything together. But now Piper is dead and Sloane believes that she is to blame. In this gripping novel, the events leading up to Piper’s death are vividly and painfully replayed in the minds of Sloane and Piper’s boyfriend, Soup. A sinister undercurrent permeates the story, hinting that the friendship between the girls’ wasn’t quite what it appeared on its surface. There were times that Piper was too dependent on Sloane and times that Sloane failed to break free from Piper, even after Piper started dating Soup (whom Sloane loved) and pushed Sloane into a relationship with a boy—a man, really—whom Sloane couldn’t stand. Although Rivers (Before We Go Extinct) leaves some questions unanswered, Sloane and Soup realize some important truths about the past and present as they tentatively reach out to each other. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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All Three Stooges

Erica S. Perl. Knopf, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-399-55175-8

Twelve-year-old Noah Cohen loves spending time with his best friend Dash and Dash’s father, who turn sleepovers into raucous comedy nights. Noah and Dash are both preparing for their bar mitzvahs, and Noah is dismayed to discover that his is scheduled for the same day as the bat mitzvah of Noa Cohen, his homophonic Hebrew school nemesis. But when Dash’s father commits suicide, Dash withdraws completely, leaving Noah desperate to reconnect with him. After Noah finds Dash’s missing phone, he holds onto it, reading and responding to several of Dash’s text messages, a violation that results in Noah’s bar mitzvah being postponed and much soul searching with help from his rabbi, older sister, and two mothers. Perl (The Capybara Conspiracy) has created a moving coming-of-age journey steeped in Jewish traditions and comedic history, elegantly balancing humor with an honest look at the impact of suicide. While the book’s many references to famous comedy routines may not be instantly funny to those unfamiliar with them, Noah’s genuine voice and tricky situation will have readers pulling for him. Ages 10–up. Agent: Carrie Hannigan, Hannigan Salky Getzler. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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