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Music: A Fold-Out Graphic History

Nicholas O’Neill and Susan Hayes, illus. by Ruby Taylor. What on Earth, $19.99 (22p) ISBN 978-1-9999679-4-9

Acclaimed composer and musician Nicholas O’Neill and author Susan Hayes band together to present this oversize nonfiction book, which folds out to an eight-foot illustrated timeline. In densely packed pages, the creators cover instruments, musicians, styles, technology, and innovation around the world, from bone flutes utilized in ancient music to autotune and contemporary beats. Taylor’s richly colored digital art provides endearingly simplified—if not entirely recognizable—illustrations of such varied figures as George Gershwin, Aretha Franklin, the Beatles, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Though likely to overwhelm if consumed in one sitting, this sprawling tome is ripe for perusal by middle graders interested in music history. Back matter includes a glossary, index, compiled playlist, authors’ notes, and a list of principal sources. Ages 10–14. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 05/29/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Sound: Shhh... Bang... POP... BOOM!

Romana Romanyshn and Andriy Lesiv, trans. from the Ukranian by Vitaly Chernetsky. Chronicle, $19.99 (64p) ISBN 978-1-4521-7978-0

This illustrated nonfiction primer presents a compelling foray into the many aspects of sound and how it shapes the world. In often poetic language, the married team defines sound and then differentiates between music and noise. Aided by intricate digital infographics done in muted pink, teal, and yellow, the narrative surveys topics including volume, language, and deafness, aptly accompanied by a full spread illustration of the one-handed manual alphabet used in Latinate finger spelling such as American Sign Language. Though the scientific doesn’t always cohere with moments of philosophical lyricism (“Sometimes it is hard for us to understand/ one another, and then we feel lonely”) and the scope of information makes this unwieldy as a leisure read, budding acousticians will find it a worthy resource. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 05/29/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Queen: The Unauthorized Biography (Band Bios)

Soledad Romero Mariño, illus. by Laura Castelló. Sourcebooks Explore, $14.99 (64p) ISBN 978-1-72821-091-9

This inaugural installment of the Band Bios series centers Farrokh Bulsara (1946–1991), better known by his stage name, Freddie Mercury. Beginning with an illustrated timeline of Mercury’s life, starting with his childhood in Zanzibar and Bombary, Mariño segues to accessible coverage of his childhood singing in a choir, performing in plays, and playing in a rock band; his college years at Ealing, meeting fellow art student Tim Staffell, the front man of the group that would become Queen; and finding worldwide success with the band of the “powerful, short, and undeniably striking name.” Castelló augments with scribbly graphic text art; illustrated quotes round out the visuals. The focus on dates and minutiae will likely make this more of a draw for established adult fans, but young readers may still find this a compelling look at British rock’s visionary “Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy” and the kind of magic Queen conjured. Simultaneously available: Depeche Mode: The Unauthorized Biography. Ages 4–8. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/29/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Queen of Tejano Music: Selena

Silvia López, illus. by Paola Escobar. Little Bee, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4998-1142-1

This engaging, narrative-heavy picture book biography of Mexican American superstar Selena Quintanilla (1971–1995) follows her journey from childhood to adulthood, illustrating her struggles and triumphs on her path to prominence. Through page-long subtitled sections (“A Family Band,” “The Language Challenge,” and more), López contextualizes Selena’s life and career, supplementing the narrative with quotations that allow readers a glimpse of her personality (on making little profit after a television appearance: “ ‘If we got five or ten dollars,’ Selena said, ‘we could go to Whataburger!’ ”). Escobar’s elaborate illustrations prove an enriching complement, portraying key scenes, significant players, and iconic outfits. The narrative elides mention of Selena’s death, choosing to end on a hopeful note, but back matter includes an illustrated timeline and further information on the subject’s life and death. Ages 6–9. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/29/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Baby Beats: Let’s Learn 4/4 Time!

Odd Dot, illus. by Ellen Stubbings. Odd Dot, $8.99 (10p) ISBN 978-1-250-24145-0

Animalian marching band members move from practice to performance in this board book introduction to musical notes and meter. As an array of creatures sporting red jackets and neat black boots gather on a daisy-sprigged lawn, musical bars form in the sky above. Text establishes quarter notes as the baseline of 4/4 time. (“Count out loud,” the text urges, as “One! Two! Three! Four!” appears in four-count bars.) Subsequent spreads key four-syllable words to whole notes (“Alligator!”), two-syllable words to half notes (“Lion! Tiger!”), and monosyllabic words to quarter notes (“Fox! Cat! Rat! Bat!”). The unconventional treatment may prove confusing (Mary is transcribed as a half note instead of the traditional two quarter notes), and the final spread uses symbols and lyrics not previously introduced, but Stubbings’s animals, which march with verve, should delight the intended audience. Simultaneously available: Let’s Learn 2/4 Time! and Let’s Learn 3/4 Time! Ages up to 3. (May)

Reviewed on 05/29/2020 | Details & Permalink

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He Must Like You

Danielle Younge-Ullman. Viking, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-984-83571-0

When town grandee and notorious lech Perry Ackerman again harasses Libby at the restaurant where she works and she upends a pitcher of sangria over him (resulting in a viral video and attendant #MeToo blowback), it’s because his behavior is the last in a long series of straws. She’s recently had an encounter with a carefree, privileged coworker that turned into nonconsensual sex, and she’s been in a long-term relationship that saw her coerced into “mercy shags.” She really needs her job, too, because her controlling, erratic father has informed her that her parents have spent her college fund and that she must move out after graduation so he can turn her room into an Airbnb. A school assembly about sex and consent gives Libby the words to frame and name her experiences and further understand toxic masculinity. Younge-Ullman (Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined) candidly considers rape culture and consent, offering clear examples of what’s not ok. Seeing Libby learn that she can address experiences that make her uncomfortable and begin to ask for what she wants, needs, and deserves is satisfying. Ages 14–up. Agent: Emmanuelle Morgen, Stonesong. (July)

Reviewed on 05/29/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Ever Cursed

Corey Ann Haydu. Simon Pulse, $18.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5344-3703-6

For the last five years, 17-year-old Princess Jane has been unable to eat due to the Spell of Without. Cast by young witch Reagan, the Slow spell can’t kill Jane, but it has trapped the Queen of Ever in a glass box and withheld love, hope, memory, and sleep, respectively, from Jane’s younger sisters upon their 13th birthdays. With only four days to break the spell before it turns True—and deadly—Jane must join forces with Reagan. But breaking it requires discovering the truth about Jane’s father, the king, and the reason for the inequality between the monarchy and the hungry townspeople. Haydu (Eventown) peppers the novel, told in alternating perspectives by Jane and Reagan, with familiar fairy tale symbols and tropes made fresh through attention to the inventive history of the witches that protect Ever. Affecting scenes showcase the threat of sexual violence that the kingdom’s females face from powerful princes and kings who deem resistors hysterical, and a breathless stream-of-consciousness style echoes the feelings of the two young women contending with Ever’s history, outdated beliefs about princesses and witches, and the way forward in a broken kingdom. Ages 14–up. Agent: Victoria Marini, Irene Goodman. (July)

Reviewed on 05/29/2020 | Details & Permalink

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All These Monsters

Amy Tintera. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-358-01240-5

Clara Rivera Pratt, 17, lives in Dallas with her abusive father and codependent mother, so when the opportunity to join Grayson St. John’s vigilante monster-killing squad arises, Clara forges her father’s signature and hops a bus to try out. St. John’s recruits are trained to battle scrabs; the humanlike creatures with nearly impenetrable skin and long, sharp claws—fairly contained in America—are wreaking havoc in Asia and Europe. Under the leadership of Grayson’s friend Julian, Clara and a handful of others are dubbed “Team Loser” due to their inexperience, but they’re cleared to head to Paris for training. The team miraculously survives the first scrab attack, and after enduring several hard-fought battles, its members become minor social media celebrities. But not everything Clara has been led to believe about the scrabs is necessarily true. Tintera (the Ruined trilogy) has created a fully fleshed alternative world in which monsters, both literal and figurative, lurk around every corner. Peppered with explosive fight scenes, this action-packed novel moves at a swift pace, featuring robust, emotionally resonant characters. Ages 14–up. Agent: Emmanuelle Morgen, Stonesong. (July)

Reviewed on 05/29/2020 | Details & Permalink

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A Peculiar Peril (The Misadventures of Jonathan Lambshead #1)

Jeff VanderMeer. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $19.99 (656p) ISBN 978-0-374-30886-5

Jonathan Lambshead plans to spend his summer inventorying the English countryside manor of his dead grandfather, Dr. Thackery “Thwack” Lambshead—a task the 16-year-old orphan must complete before inheriting Thwack’s estate. Assisting are classmate Danielle Rackham, 17, and her adopted brother, Dirk Wulf Rackham—a grad student with a prosthetic left leg and a damaged right foot. Thwack left Jonathan cryptic instructions regarding bird-children, a quest, and the Order of the Third Door, which Jonathan suspects are dementia-inspired nonsense. Then he finds a portal to Aurora, an alternate Earth full of talking animals and vegetables where warlock Aleister Crowley (aided by his bat-monster familiar and Napoleon’s disembodied head) intends to capture an alchemical energy source and use its power to become Lord of Everything—actual Earth included—unless Jonathan and company can stop him. First in a duology, adult author VanderMeer’s sprawling YA debut offers a riotous, slyly sophisticated take on the hero’s journey. Boldly drawn characters, sublimely ridiculous worldbuilding, and a witty, prismatic narrative further distinguish the unique tale. Ages 12–up. Agent: Sally Harding, CookeMcDermid. (July)

Reviewed on 05/29/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Love, Jacaranda

Alex Flinn. HarperTeen, $18.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-062447-869

The elements comprising this dramatic, jauntily plotted epistolary novel will be familiar to consumers of romantic literature, though they’ve been updated with a modern sensibility. After a video of her singing at the Southern Publix where she works goes viral, 16-year-old Jacaranda Abbott is plucked from foster care by a mysterious benefactor. What begins as a thank-you email to him turns into a diary-style narrative, though it’s never quite believable that she would confess so much to a stranger. “John Smith” provides a full ride to Michigan’s Midwestern Arts Academy, where Jacaranda blossoms into a star and falls in love with her suitemate’s rich, generous cousin, Jarvis. Jacaranda worries that her secret—her mother is in prison for hitting an abusive boyfriend with her car—will alienate her from her peers. Jarvis harbors a secret of his own, one that many readers will guess before story’s end, and the two must confront their differences. Flinn (Girls of July) integrates serious issues such as class dynamics, the myth of meritocracy, and domestic abuse without seeming heavy-handed. For better or worse, she doesn’t investigate them deeply; this novel is best consumed as wish-fulfillment fantasy for any teenager who belts show tunes in the shower. Ages 13–up. Agent: Erica Silverman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (July)

Reviewed on 05/29/2020 | Details & Permalink

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