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Blood and Germs: The Civil War Battle Against Wounds and Disease (Medical Fiascoes #1)

Gail Jarrow. Calkins Creek, $18.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-68437-176-1

Drawing from extensive archival sources, Jarrow (The Poison Eaters) debuts her Medical Fiascoes trilogy by skillfully narrating Civil War stories of soldiers who died not from bullets but from diseases such as typhus, typhoid, tuberculosis, gangrene, and malaria, and of the doctors and nurses who tried to save them. As Jarrow tells it, epidemics raged as fiercely as battles during the Civil War—thousands of soldiers died from measles and smallpox, which were so contagious that entire military regiments had to be disbanded and sent home. In the winter of 1862–63, one in six Confederate soldiers had pneumonia, but worst of all was chronic diarrhea, which “killed more Civil War soldiers than any other disease.” The book skillfully incorporates 19th-century newspaper typefaces and archival photographs, and employs eye-catching headings such as “Mercury and Maggots” and “Malignant Pus.” Jarrow also packs her pages with profiles of little-known heroes, such as Alexander Augusta, the first Black doctor to become a commissioned surgeon in the Union Army, and military doctor Mary Walker, the only woman to ever receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. The book’s timeline, glossary, and bibliography are also valuable resources. Ages 10–14. (Oct)

Reviewed on 09/25/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Apple (Skin to the Core)

Eric Gansworth. Levine Querido, $18.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-64-614013-8

Originally conceived as a series of paintings, this ambitious memoir in verse by Gansworth (Give Me Some Truth), an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation, explores intersectional identities alongside matters of generational and personal experience, erasure, and memory: “So much of my culture feels on the verge of vanishing. I wonder what part of that I’m contributing to with my own lack of knowledge.” Gansworth first describes his family’s history, beginning with his grandfather’s time in Native American boarding schools, where “you are being taught systematically to forget so that you will have nothing left to pass on to your children.” Subsequent sections detail variations on feeling like an outsider: Onondaga Gansworth’s childhood on a Tuscarora reservation, the way his early interest in art and pop culture (Batman, the Beatles) made him stand out among his peers, and his adulthood as a gay man after leaving the reservation. Phrases and concepts circle and repeat throughout—“apple,” for example, appears both as a pejorative (“red on the outside, white on the inside”) and in reference to the Beatles’ Apple Records, after which the work is structured—creating a raw, layered story about love and loss of community, culture, and place. Family photos, black-and-white reproductions of the author’s paintings, and project “liner notes” round out the telling. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jim McCarthy, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/25/2020 | Details & Permalink

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How We Got to the Moon: The People, Technology, and Daring Feats of Science Behind Humanity’s Greatest Adventure

John Rocco. Crown, $29.99 (264p) ISBN 978-0-525-64741-6

This expansive illustrated history of the Apollo space program delves ambitiously into the collective efforts and engineering feats required to send the first astronauts to the moon. In David Macaulay-esque style, pages brim with labeled diagrams, close-ups, and cutaways showcasing myriad technologies, including the inner workings of a rocket engine and the intricacies of spacesuit design. The book’s seven sections profile many lesser-known scientists, engineers, technicians, and seamstresses who comprised a workforce 400,000 strong. Scientific principles also get full billing, often accompanied by simple experiments easily conducted at home. Using realistic colorized drawings—many replicated from archival documents and photos—Rocco (Big Machines) maintains a consistent, accessible aesthetic throughout, while present-tense narration creates an exigent tone. In a culminating chapter about the Apollo 11 mission, for example, everyone involved “hop[es] and pray[s] that the parts they built, the stitches they sewed, and the programs they wrote and wove will all work perfectly.” This paean to ingenuity and collaboration, which also functions as a rocket science primer, is nothing short of stellar. Research notes, extensive source lists, a further reading list, acronyms, and an index conclude. Ages 10–up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/25/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Lost Spells

Robert Macfarlane, illus. by Jackie Morris. Anansi International, $26 (120p) ISBN 978-1-487007799

Macfarlane and Morris reunite to conjure the wonder of goldfinches and gorse, foxes and snow hares in this second volume of illustrated poems designed to spark a deeper love and appreciation for the natural world. But where their The Lost Words exhilarated, with its defiant reclamation of discarded dictionary words, this collection’s songs both describe and lament, swerving between ecstatic highs and plangent notes of sorrow: “Loss is the tune of our age, hard to miss and hard to bear.... But there has always been singing in dark times—and wonder is needed now more than ever.” Macfarlane’s lyrics—often, though not always, structured as acrostics—ring with consonance (“Thrift thrives where most life fails, falls,/ is cast adrift”) and wordplay (“Woodpecker, tree-wrecker”) to limn 21 ordinary wonders of the British countryside, many of which are also common North American species. Morris’s fluid artwork renders the elegant tilt of a fox’s snout, birds’ calligraphic flight patterns, and the eyelike whorls of silver birch bark. The glossary—“at once a puzzle and a key”—identifies each species depicted, turning poetry to practicality and allowing this petite volume to do double-duty as an artful field guide. One to treasure. All ages. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/25/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Sasha Masha

Agnes Borinsky. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-3743-1080-6

A good student well liked by his Baltimore classmates, 17-year-old Sasha Masha, who is white and Jewish, nevertheless begins his junior year lonely and inescapably sad. His adventurous, queer best friend has just moved away, and he’s beginning to feel disconnected from his peers and his body. A blossoming romantic relationship, his first, is by turns exciting and frustrating—he likes his driven, smart girlfriend but often feels that he is an “in-between” person whom she can never understand. Just when things feel truly unbearable, he encounters a group of queer teens whose informal lessons on LGBTQ community and history guide him toward self-acceptance and his first time wearing a dress. In straightforward first-person prose, debut novelist Borinsky captures the ups and downs of teenage soul-searching, struggling to define one’s gender, and coming out as trans. Though intersectionally diverse secondary characters can lack depth, they model refreshingly supportive behavior and encouragement. Sasha Masha—who uses he/him pronouns throughout the novel and is referred to by his deadname for the first half of the book—is a well-crafted, memorable protagonist whose voice rings true and whose experiences will resonate as he learns to accept that his journey, like any questioning person’s, is an ongoing one. Ages 14–up. Agent: Ross Harris, Stuart Krichevsky Literary. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/25/2020 | Details & Permalink

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My Heart Underwater

Laurel Flores Fantauzzo. Quill Tree, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-297228-6

In Southern California, Filipina American high school junior Corazon “Cory” Tagubio is stuck. She wants to make her Catholic immigrant parents proud (“I fight to climb back into the moment. To be the version of me that would make them happy”) and to act on her overwhelming romantic feelings for her white history teacher, Ms. Holden. All at once, her life comes crashing down: her father falls into a coma following a workplace accident, and Cory’s mother catches her and Ms. Holden crossing the line between student and teacher. Cory is promptly sent to the Philippines, where she stays with her older half-brother, Kuya Jun, whom she has only met on Skype. Feeling abandoned and alone, Cory slowly grows into herself, discovering different kinds of support through familial bonds and new friendships. This emotionally powerful YA debut sensitively portrays the tension between Cory’s American upbringing and attempts to stay true to her cultural roots. A first-person narrative peppered with largely untranslated Tagalog and Taglish adds a refreshing authenticity to Fantauzzo’s richly textured world. Ages 14–up. Agent: Andrea Morrison, Writers House. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/25/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Everything I Thought I Knew

Shannon Takaoka. Candlewick, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0776-7

“Sometimes things—glass, eggs, hearts—just break”: that’s what cross-country runner Chloe realizes when she collapses in her senior year and, diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, is told that she’ll die if she doesn’t get a new heart. Months after a transplant, she feels better physically but not mentally. Once a straight-A, type-A student, she’s now stuck in summer school, has memories she doesn’t recognize, and keeps dreaming about a terrible motorcycle crash. The only thing that feels right is her new hobby: surfing. She begins exploring transplant-related memory transfer and whether memory can live in a body’s cells. Is that why she now knows how to ride a motorcycle and to get to places she’s never been? Why she appreciates her summer school classmate, Jane, whom old Chloe would have disdained? As Chloe and Jane start sleuthing, Chloe and her surfing instructor, Kai, get closer, but is she risking her heart, emotionally and physically? Chloe and Kai’s well-drawn ocean adventures are exciting, as is their burgeoning romance, and, though some readers may find the final plot twist hard to swallow, debut author Takaoka weaves a compelling tale of following one’s instincts and for connections that outlast physical life. Ages 14–up. Agent: Nicki Richesin, Wendy Sherman Assoc. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/25/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Daughters of Jubilation

Kara Lee Corthron. Simon & Schuster, $18.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-481-45950-1

Corthron (The Truth of Right Now) brings ancestral magic to Jim Crow South Carolina in this historical YA fantasy. Sixteen-year-old Evalene “Evvie” Deschamps has always known that she, like the generations of Black women in her family, possess magical abilities they call “Jubilation.” Following puberty, it becomes more difficult for Evvie to control her magic, which begins with a bad headache and causes accidents when her temper flares. Nervous about hurting her loved ones, Evvie trains with her formerly estranged grandmother while managing her responsibilities as an older sister, her job as a babysitter for a white family, and a new relationship with her childhood crush. The purpose of her training shifts from general control to protection when she is stalked by a strange and sinister white man who claims to know everything about her, including her Jubilation. While the first-person narrative, told in a 1960s Southern dialect, aids in characterization and setting, the novel’s harrowing plot is in places disturbing. Emotional, magical worldbuilding, however, redeems the distressing narrative by weaving it with grounding bonds of familial love and protection. Ages 14–up. Agent: Laurie Liss, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/25/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Come On In: 15 Stories About Immigration and Finding Home

Edited by Adi Alsaid. Inkyard, $18.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-335-14649-6

Edited by Alsaid (We Didn’t Ask for This), this topical anthology successfully unites 15 short stories depicting a variety of immigrant experiences. A diverse group of protagonists populates the tales—characters of various belief systems, ethnicities, and sexual orientations hail originally from Iran, Japan, Puerto Rico, and more countries, and settings include Argentina, Fiji, and Mexico. The theme of belonging plays a major part in each story: in Misa Sugiur’s “Where I’m From,” a girl’s roommate’s parents insistently asks the girl where she’s “really from.” A nuanced exploration of culture and social issues also enriches most narratives, as in Alaya Dawn Johnson’s “Volviéndome,” in which the protagonist, disillusioned with her father’s notions of faith, engages in a toxic relationship with a much older man until her discovery of her own strength concludes the story on a joyful note. The heroine of Yamile Saied Mendez’s “Family/Everything,” likewise, adjusts to leaving her family behind after being the first to get into university. Though brief, each contribution provides a snapshot of the many meanings the word “home” can evoke, making for a thought-provoking read. Authors’ notes interspersed throughout lend autobiographical richness to the memorable anthology. Ages 13–up. Agent: Peter Knapp, Park Literary Group. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/25/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Of Salt and Shore

Annet Schaap, trans. from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson. Charlesbridge, $16.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-62354-230-6

With this haunting story, author-illustrator Schaap weaves together elements remniscent of Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” and Burnett’s The Secret Garden to construct a gothic fable. After a shipwreck occurs during a storm, 11-year-old lighthouse keeper’s daughter Emilia Waterman, called Lampie, is taken from her father, who is blamed for the wreck. Inhabited by a bare-bones staff serving an absentee admiral, her bleak new cliffside home, the Black House, is reportedly haunted by a monster. Lampie eventually discovers that the “monster” is Edward, the reclusive, abrasive son of the admiral, who has scaly skin and a fish’s tail. Over time, she befriends the boy she nicknames Fish, who’s determined to learn how to walk on land despite his “deformity.” After a visit to a traveling fair reveals clues about Fish’s parentage, Lampie and her new friend wind up in an escapade that will change their lives. Formal language and multiple perspectives result in a narrative distance that, while appropriate for a fairy tale, betrays a lack of focus as the story develops. The inclusion of an era-appropriate “freak show,” though delicately handled, may still disturb some readers. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/25/2020 | Details & Permalink

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