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Pop-up Peekaboo Pumpkin

Clare Lloyd, illus. by Victoria Harvey. DK, $9.99 (12p) ISBN 978-1-4654-5276-4

Children can help Little Black Cat find her friends by opening full-page flaps that trigger modest pop-ups in five scenes. Digitally collaged illustrations feature photos of gourds, brooms, and other seasonally appropriate items; Little Black Cat and her friends are all stuffed toys, which, along with the lavender night sky that serves as backdrop, creates a cozy atmosphere to match the Lloyd’s rhymes (“Hootie Owl finds a house/ and hears an eerie sound./ Who’s hiding here, behind the door,/ waiting to be found?”). The hide-and-seek aspect of each scene adds just the right note of light mischief for children who are celebrating their first Halloweens. Up to age 3. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary

Martha Brockenbrough. Feiwel and Friends, $19.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-12319-0

Brockenbrough’s ambitious and impressively researched project gives equal weight to Alexander Hamilton’s personal and professional lives and to the history of the founding and early years of the United States. Tracing Hamilton’s amazing journey from his illegitimate birth in 1755 on the West Indies island of Nevis to his death by duel in 1804, Brockenbrough (The Game of Love and Death) dives into the extraordinary life of this accomplished and multifaceted historical figure. Packed with characters and detailed descriptions of the major historical events of the late 18th century, including many Revolutionary battle scenes, the book’s scope is somewhat daunting; even readers newly obsessed with Hamilton, thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster musical, may feel overwhelmed at times. The colloquial tone is approachable, though attempts to create suspense through dramatic pronouncements (“It would be unlike anything the world had ever seen”) become a little worn. Nearly 80 pages of back matter include a family tree, timeline, list of major Revolutionary battles, bibliography, and footnotes, as well as around two dozen short essays on topics that include duels, wig wearing, and Federalism. Ages 12–up. Agent: Sarah Davies, Greenhouse Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion

Chris Barton, illus. by Victo Ngai. Millbrook, $19.99 (36p) ISBN 978-1-5124-1014-3

Dazzling in their own right, newcomer Ngai’s illustrations strikingly depict the dazzle ships of WWI, more than 4,000 British and U.S. merchant and warships that were painted with wild colors and patterns. These “dazzle” designs, explains Barton (88 Instruments), “were supposed to confuse German submarine crews about the ships’ direction and speed” and keep them safer from torpedo fire. Ngai runs with the camouflage theme in energetic scenes that are crisscrossed with geometric and organic patterns and lines: in one spread, the uniform jacket of British naval officer Norman Wilkinson, who proposed the dazzle painting idea, is masked by the curvilinear patterns and hues of the ocean waves in the background. “Sometimes desperate times call for dazzling measures,” writes Barton in conclusion, underscoring the importance of creative problem solving. Reflective author and artist notes, a timeline with b&w photographs, and a reading list wrap up a conversational, compelling, and visually arresting story that coincides with the 100th anniversary of its subject. Ages 7–11. Author’s agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Gail Gaynin, Morgan Gaynin. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Nothing

Annie Barrows. Greenwillow, $17.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-266823-3

Fifteen-year-old best friends Charlotte and Frankie believe that their lives are hopelessly dull compared to those of the characters in most of the YA literature they read. As if to prove her point, Char decides to write a novel based on their day-to-day existence. Though the girls are certain that the book will be as interesting as watching paint dry, they are surprised to learn that sophomore year can be exciting, if you pay attention. In her first work for teens, Barrows (the Ivy & Bean series) writes a realistic story about girls growing up in a suburban California town: Char and Frankie hang out, sometimes drink or smoke a bit, and think about kissing, growing up, taking chances, and feeling awkward. Their story unfolds through third-person chapters that alternate and overlap with Char’s borderline stream-of-consciousness book project: some readers will love her brash honesty, while others will find it distractingly rambling. And while plenty happens to Barrows’s characters, contrary to their own expectations, the book never exposes much about the secret lives of teenage girls. Ages 14–up. Agent: Liza Dawson, Liza Dawson Associates (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Jane, Unlimited

Kristin Cashore. Penguin/Dawson, $18.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-8037-4149-2

Cashore’s first novel in four years covers an eventful weekend in the life of 18-year-old Jane, an orphan raised by an aunt whose recent death has left her niece unmoored. When a former tutor, Kiran, invites Jane to her family’s island mansion, Tu Reviens, Jane accepts, arriving with everything she owns, including 37 handmade umbrellas. A cast of guests, servants, Kiran’s twin, and a basset hound is quickly introduced, as are a raft of suspicious activities. The story then restarts five times in five genres—spy thriller, horror, science fiction, mystery, fantasy—sometimes repeating information verbatim from a previous section. Each new version is a little weirder than the last, and the overall effect is less Choose Your Own Adventure than Groundhog Day on acid, set within a framework that pays homage to several classic novels, most notably Du Maurier’s Rebecca. These shifts require a reader patient enough to follow the story’s many contradictions until Jane discovers why she’s at Tu Reviens and, ultimately, what she wants. An ambitious departure for Cashore that will reward (and perhaps demand) many re-readings. Ages 14–up. Agent: Faye Bender, the Book Group. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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All About Mia

Lisa Williamson. Scholastic/Fickling, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-338-16397-1

Being the middle sister is tough, especially for 16-year-old Irish-Jamaican Mia, whose older sister is academically perfect and whose younger one is a potential Olympian. When Grace the genius comes home pregnant, Mia can’t help thinking how differently her parents would react if she were in the same situation—they’re always on her case about drinking and staying out late, and not without reason. Mia has “the sort of curves that get grown men flustered,” and she relies on them to get attention; when she drinks, she puts herself into risky positions, though that’s not how she sees it. British author Williamson (The Art of Being Normal) effectively shows how Mia gets caught up in anger and resentment, making choices that alienate her from family and friends. Grace’s pregnancy eventually brings the sisters closer and gives Mia a chance to see that she’s more than just her looks. But Mia has been so busy carving a path of destruction that although the learning and growth that close the book come as a relief, they also feel a little unbelievable. Ages 14–up. Agent: Catherine Clarke, Felicity Bryan Associates. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Victoria in My Head

Janelle Milanes. Simon Pulse, $17.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4814-8089-5

Victoria Cruz, 15, has always done everything she needs to do to maintain her high GPA. She runs cross-country and track, but only because Harvard wants well-rounded students, and Harvard is the only option, as far as her Cuban parents are concerned. But Victoria has an active dream life, one with carefully curated playlists for everything she’s never done (“There’s a playlist for skinny-dipping, for sleeping under the stars”). Music is her secret passion, one she refuses to indulge until she meets 17-year-old Strand as he’s posting a notice seeking a lead singer for his band. With a nudge from her best friend, Victoria auditions for the band, and her boringly predictable life takes a dramatic turn. Milanes’s brisk and confident debut is ideal romantic reading. Though the plot is fairly typical, a robust supporting cast brings color and charm to a world that Victoria sees as all too ordinary, from bad boy Strand with his piercing blue eyes to almost-too-perfect bandmate Levi to Victoria’s strict but loving immigrant parents. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jane Dystel, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Genuine Fraud

E. Lockhart. Delacorte, $18.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-385-74477-5

Lockhart blends the privileged glamour of We Were Liars with a twisty, backward-running plot that’s slick with cinematic violence. Calling to mind her own The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, she offers a shrewd critique of the roles traditionally available to female characters in literature and film. This striking exploration of the nature of identity revolves around the relationship between Jule and Immie, two similar-looking orphans. Jule—a fierce physical fighter and self-taught expert at disguise—will do whatever it takes to escape her bleak past. Wealthy and charismatic Immie, by contrast, wafts pleasantly through life, living on Martha’s Vineyard while taking time off from college. Pushed into Immie’s privileged inner circle via a case of mistaken identity, Jule is swept into an intense friendship—and a series of events that play intentional tribute to Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, among other literary precedents. A bracing pace, a slew of far-flung locations, and a storyline that runs mostly in reverse will keep readers on their toes, never entirely sure of what these girls are responsible for or capable of. Ages 12–up. Agent: Elizabeth Kaplan, Elizabeth Kaplan Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Giant Pumpkin Suite

Melanie Heuiser Hill. Candlewick, $16.99 (448p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9155-4

In a warmhearted debut novel, Hill shows what happens when a serious-minded girl is forced to reevaluate her priorities and reach out to others. Twelve-year-old Rose Brutigan might not feel comfortable about her appearance (she’s grown seven inches since fall and towers over her twin brother, Thomas), but she’s confident about her ability to be a disciplined student both at school and when playing cello. As Rose prepares for an upcoming cello competition, Thomas and a neighbor, Mr. Pickering, need her help with another project: growing a giant pumpkin from a special and valuable seed. In spite of herself, Rose becomes increasingly absorbed by the gardening project and finds new neighborhood friends along the way, including reticent Mrs. Kiyo and noisy “Calamity” Jane, a girl Rose’s age. When a terrible accident renders Rose’s left hand useless and her precious cello broken, it takes the support of her newfound friends to carry her through hard times and open her up to new interests. Offering distinctive characters, a relatable plot, and some useful gardening tips, Hill’s story promotes connectivity in neighborhoods and communities. Ages 9–12. Agent: Carrie Hannigan, HSG Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Blue Marauders

Ted MacVeagh. Stone Pond, $14.99 paper (376p) ISBN 978-0-9972236-0-6

MacVeagh’s debut novel about a youth soccer team delivers both excitement and frustration. With the help of some adults, seventh graders Nick McCoy and Erik Steiner form a new soccer team, the Blue Marauders, in their small town, hoping for a shot at the playoffs in the competitive Tri-State League. Nick and Erik are both promising soccer stars, but Erik is more dedicated to doing well in school than Nick is. Drama and tension are heightened by the teammates’ varying skill levels and personalities, classmates who don’t play soccer, and a few strong-willed adults. As MacVeagh details the team’s season, he avoids predictability pitfalls, yet readers may struggle to connect with Nick, Erik, and their teammates, even as they root for them to succeed. The kids tend to talk and act like adults (“We want to win the rest of the games, and we don’t want you jeopardizing that”), and the story oddly centers Erik’s father, who steps in as coach. Sports enthusiasts should enjoy following the Blue Marauders, but general readers may find too much space is devoted to play-by-play recounting, terminology, and strategy. Ages 8–12. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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