Subscriber-Only Content. You must be a PW subscriber to access feature articles from our print edition. To view, subscribe or log in.
Site license users can log in here.

Get IMMEDIATE ACCESS to Publishers Weekly for only $15/month.

Instant access includes exclusive feature articles on notable figures in the publishing industry, the latest industry news, interviews of up and coming authors and bestselling authors, and access to over 200,000 book reviews.

PW "All Access" site license members have access to PW's subscriber-only website content. To find out more about PW's site license subscription options please email: PWHelp@omeda.com or call 1-800-278-2991 (outside US/Canada, call +1-847-513-6135) 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, Monday-Friday (Central).

Starling

Isabel Strychacz. Simon & Schuster, $19.99 (448p) ISBN 978-1-5344-8110-7

For most of her life, Delta Wilding, 18, has lived with her paranormal-obsessed father, Roark, and sister, Bee, 16, in the Wild West, a semi-sentient house on the outskirts of Darling, Calif. Seventy-two days ago, however, Roark entered their hallway closet and disappeared. The girls have nobody to turn to—Darling’s residents despise the peculiar Wildings, and Mayor Tag Rockford wants a reason to run them out of town—so their only recourse is to lie low and hope their emergency funds last until Roark returns. When something lands in the Wildings’ woods, shaking the ground and illuminating the sky, Delta and Bee investigate. To their shock, they find extraterrestrial Starling Rust, who resembles a teenage boy but for glowing skin, black eyes, and a forked tongue. Taking him home to prevent others from discovering and exploiting him, the sisters clash regarding what to do next. If the worldbuilding is slightly flimsy and the villains cartoonish, Strychacz’s debut boasts evocative writing; a compelling love triangle between Delta, Starling, and Delta’s sometimes-boyfriend, 18-year-old Tag Rockford III; and a kaleidoscopic third-person narrative that adds complexity to the mostly cued-white cast. Ages 12–up. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/22/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Rules for Vampires

Alex Foulkes. Aladdin, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5344-9835-8

Luminous gray–skinned Lady Eleonore von Motteberg, or Leo, as she prefers, has reached a young vampire’s rite of passage: at 111 years old, she’s ready to hunt and eat her first human. After an accident left Leo without a right leg, her confidence never quite recovered, but her distant, perfect mother and querulous older sister expect her to complete her Hunt of the Waxing Moon on the first try. Her father is frequently absorbed in experiments, and her butler-knight, Marged, has high expectations for her charge. When Leo’s first hunt doesn’t go as planned, she is left with a significant problem: there are now two cued-white ghosts loose in the town of Otto’s End. Minna has unfinished business with the other, the Orphanmaster, and she expects Leo’s help. As the duo races against the clock to defeat the Orphanmaster before he grows too powerful, they begin an unlikely friendship as they learn more about their own strengths. Young readers will find the protagonists’ exploration of friendship, consequences, and the world resonant. With light humor and paranormal charm, Foulkes’s voice shines in this spooky debut. Ages 8–12. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/22/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
A Kind of Spark

Elle McNicoll. Crown, $16.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-593-37425-2

In McNicoll’s contemporary debut of advocacy and allyship, an autistic 11-year-old seeks to memorialize the women once tried as witches in her Scottish village. School is a mixed bag for Addie: while librarian Mr. Allison supports her interest in sharks, and new girl Audrey represents a promising friendship, teacher Ms. Murphy mocks Addie openly in class, and the tween can “see the stares, hear the whispers and the giggles” among her classmates. At home with her presumed-white family, older sister Keedie, who’s also autistic, understands many of Addie’s experiences, including the strain of masking in a largely neurotypical world, but faces her own difficulties at university. Keedie’s twin Nina, meanwhile, is often irritable and jealous of her sisters’ bond. During a school lesson about women who were tried, tortured, and executed for witchcraft, deeply empathic Addie draws parallels between history and her own present-day interactions, and begins to campaign for a memorial, undeterred by the town council’s detractors. Though the unvarnished cruelty that Addie experiences can be painful to read, McNicoll, herself neurodivergent, portrays with clarity Addie’s neurological reality, interpersonal bonds, and thoughtful reflections. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/22/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Freedom Swimmer

Wai Chim. Scholastic Press, $18.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-338-65613-8

Opening in 1962 and then resuming in 1968, and inspired by her father’s experiences, Chim (The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling) tells a powerful tale of two boys who have seemingly nothing in common as they toil through the years under China’s Communist regime. Ming Hong, 11, has survived the Great Leap Forward, though it left him an orphan, and now works diligently in the fields with his friends. When city boys from the Party’s reeducation program come to Dingzai village, Ming doubts whether they’ll fit in. Despite this, Ming befriends the charming and respected Li, and through evening swims and candid conversations, the two become confidants, sharing secrets, forbidden thoughts, and dreams. As Li’s growing fondness for village life and their ideals is noticed by his comrades and he is rendered an outcast, Li decides to act on their dream and suggests the impossible: a daring escape to freedom. This stark, compelling historical narrative, enriched with sensory details and interwoven Chinese, effectively recounts the fierce resolve and bravery of the real-life freedom swimmers. Front matter includes a note on phonetics; back matter features an author’s note saluting the real-life freedom swimmers, including her father. Ages 12–up. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/22/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Ga’s/The Train

Jodie Callaghan, trans. into the Mi’gmaq by Joe Wilmot, illus. by Georgia Lesley. Second Story, $17.95 (36p) ISBN 978-1-77260-200-5

Callaghan (who is Mi’gmaq) crafts a quiet, informative tale following a black-haired, light brown–skinned Indigenous child learning about her family and community’s terrible years in residential schools. On a Canadian reserve, Ashley walks home from school and, when passing the abandoned train station, sees her great-uncle. Because Uncle wants her to know what was lost there, he recounts how the train would bring rice and potatoes, which were only available from the outside. One day, his Giju’ cried as she sent her four oldest children to the station, where they were loaded onto trains and taken to a residential school. “They told us we were no longer Native,” he tells Ashley. “And if we put up a fuss, we were hit, sometimes worse...” Emphasizing sensory details in the present day, the prose is straightforward; Uncle’s traumatic experiences are gently worded for the picture book audience. Lesley’s pastel-like drawings, rendered in a light color palette, vividly capture the story’s emotions in multiple close-ups of Indigenous characters. But it’s Wilmot’s side-by-side Mi’gmaq translation that leaves the deepest impression of the language and culture that was lost—and, thankfully, regained for Ashley’s generation. Back matter features a glossary and a brief note on Canadian residential schools. Ages 6–9. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 10/22/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
I Am Odd, I Am New

Benjamin Giroux, illus. by Roz MacLean. Schiffer Kids, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7643-6241-5

Ten-year-old Giroux, who is autistic, wrote this affecting poem about the experience of being different for a fifth-grade school assignment, and the work went viral. Here, the acclaimed poem is accompanied by MacLean’s gentle, sensitive illustrations, rendered in assured fine lines and a light palette. Written from the perspective of one who feels like an outsider, the poem un-self-consciously grapples with challenging emotions, and the artwork mostly represents the rhymes literally, drawing on color and perspective to illustrate the narrator’s isolation. In one solitary scene, a light-skinned, bespectacled child sits in a room shaded blue: “I want to not feel blue.” But rainbow colors and an inclusive cast of children fill the page when the narrator expresses a discovery: “I am odd, I am new./ I understand now/ that so are you!” Later, paper airplanes soar with the suggestion that different shouldn’t mean separate, providing an answer to the poem’s hopeful concluding sentiments about finding where one belongs. Front matter includes a forward by the National Autism Association. Ages 5–8. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/22/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Bubbles... Up!

Jacqueline Davies, illus. by Sonia Sánchez. HarperCollins/Tegen, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-283661-8

A remarkable fusion of text and images captures the effervescent freedom of swimming underwater: “PLUNGE!/ Under/ under/ under/ Bubbles... up!” A black-haired, light-skinned young swimmer in bright orange goggles and a striped bathing suit is at the pool with Mom and golden-haired “young one”; this is the older child’s chance to show what they can do. The movement of rising air bubbles serves as metaphor for the youngster’s exuberance: “mouth bubbles/ nose bubbles/ ear bubbles/ rear bubbles... up they rise/ And you burst through! Surface like a porpoise!” Liveliness characterizes the child’s play in the water, and Davies (Panda Pants) plays with words, too: “You under-sit. You under-talk. You under-smile. You under-walk.” Sánchez’s (Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away) inspired typography amps up the spreads; verses float in spreads of cool blue water and streams of bubbles, their movements mimicking the swimmer’s. Even a sudden thunderstorm and the clearing of the pool can’t dampen the story’s spirits. Later, as the child surfaces triumphantly with “young one”’s yellow duck, Davies affirms both swimmer and reader—“You! You... the superhero!...Wonderful you. You are a wonder”—in this fully immersive reading experience. Ages 4–8. (May)

Reviewed on 10/22/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Little Messy Marcy Su

Cherie Fu, illus. by Julie Kwon. Little, Brown, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7595-5609-6

Bouncy quatrains comprise the text of this classic-feeling contemporary romp. Fu creates a recognizably incorrigible character in young Marcy Su, the well-meaning but chaotic Chinese American protagonist of this domestic picture book debut. When Marcy’s exasperated mother, later pictured juggling an infant, asks mud-spattered Marcy to clean her room—and herself—before a Sunday visit from Wàipó and Wàigōng, Marcy and her ever-present yellow dog are determined: “Well, Marcy Su never did shrink from a task./ She thought, ‘I’ll do more than my mama had asked./ I’ll start out by running the washing machine./ Mama will say, ‘Your clothes! Hǎo gānjìng!’ ” Interspersed Mandarin is bolded, highlighted in varying colors, and smoothly incorporated into the rhyming couplets as Marcy’s cleaning plans quickly go awry, resulting in a comedic reversal. Warm illustrations by Kwon, done in colored pencil, bright watercolor washes, and digitally, amplify the fun with wryly expressive dot-eyed characters and fine-lined, intricate spreads of realistically rendered clutter. An accessibly cultural yet universal intergenerational tale. Back matter includes notes on pinyin and a Mandarin-English glossary with pronunciation tips. Ages 4–8. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/22/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
When Fish and Bird Meet

Chunhua Huang, illus. by Manon Gauthier. Reycraft, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4788-7532-1

In this lighthearted conversation, a googly-eyed fish and bird trade boasts about the different worlds they live in. A fish with a big nose and red lips and cheeks surfaces from a forest of water plants, nose-to-beak with a bird perched on a rock above it. “Why not come/ up here?” Bird calls. “Why not come/ down here?” Fish counteroffers. “Look!/ I can fly,” Bird announces. “Look!/ I can swim,” Fish replies, bubbles rising. “I can go/ down deep/ to the bottom/ of the sea,” Fish points out. “I can fly/ up high/ in the sky,” Bird retorts. The parallel jousting continues as Gauthier (Barbouillette!) collages with bold, childlike cut-paper shapes, covering them with lines and color. The collages are photographed; the resulting shadows add depth to the spreads. In this sprightly primer on words for action and location, Huang explores the ways that creatures are uniquely suited to their environments, with skills just right for them; the lesson is imbued with extra humor by Gauthier’s exuberant creatures, and the shapes around them mirror their energy with splashes of paint and scribbled lines. Ages 4–7. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/22/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars

Rachel Montez Minor, illus. by Annie Won. Crown, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-593-30937-7

In affirming rhymes, Montez Minor offers an encouraging picture book comparing readers to the sun, the moon, and the stars in turn: “You are like the moon...// Just like the moon/ makes oceans rise and fall,/ your dreams will attract all who you call.” Metaphors throughout are intangible and slightly uneven, but Won expands upon each verse with soft, luminous digital spreads, mainly following three smiling children of varying skin tones with their families. The kids occasionally partake in fantastical, dreamlike activities, as in a spread where a brown-skinned child wearing pilot’s goggles rises into the air in a life-size model of their toy plane amid a shower of golden stars. The book’s light tone, emphasizing compassion and interconnectivity, makes this a fitting bedtime read. Ages 3–6. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/22/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Forgot Password

Premium online access is only available to PW subscribers. If you have an active subscription and need to set up or change your password, please click here.

New to PW? To set up immediate access, click here.

NOTE: If you had a previous PW subscription, click here to reactivate your immediate access. PW site license members have access to PW’s subscriber-only website content. If working at an office location and you are not "logged in", simply close and relaunch your preferred browser. For off-site access, click here. To find out more about PW’s site license subscription options, please email Mike Popalardo at: mike@nextstepsmarketing.com.

To subscribe: click here.