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Displacement

Kiku Hughes. First Second, $24.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-2501-9353-7

Mixing fact and fiction in this autobiographical graphic novel, debut author Hughes follows a teen experiencing Japanese internment firsthand through time travel to the WWII era. Japanese American Kiku Hughes, 16, feels disconnected from her Japanese heritage, and she knows little about her family’s history, which includes internment in Utah’s Topaz Relocation Center. On a trip to San Francisco with her mother, an ephemeral fog transports Kiku from the site of her maternal grandmother’s childhood home to the past. Later, pulled from her Seattle home during the Trump Muslim ban, Kiku spends more than a year interned as a Japanese prisoner alongside her then-living maternal grandmother. She struggles over whether to introduce herself and manages to cope with the help of fellow prisoners Aiko Mifune and love-interest May Ide. Through Kiku, readers learn key details about this moment in history, among them the murder of James Wakasa and the further relocation of people who voted, in a loyalty questionnaire, against serving in the U.S. military and renouncing their ancestry. Art features straightforward linework with full-color, often spare backgrounds that focus on characters. Though Kiku doesn’t exert her will on the past, Hughes centers that powerlessness to create a compelling story about an oft-overlooked period of U.S. aggression against its own citizens. Ages 12–up. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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A Map to the Sun

Sloane Leong. First Second, $24.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-25014-668-7

In a color palette like a Venice Beach sunset, Leong makes an ensemble of struggling teens shine in this uplifting and visually explosive graphic novel. Ren, who is androgynous and Black, and Luna, a cheery hapa surfer from Oahu, have two things in common: basketball and families splintered by trauma. The new biology teacher, Marisol Weylan, recruits them for the underfunded school’s first girls’ basketball team, along with Jetta, a rebellious Navajo girl who falls for the advances of the predatory boys’ coach; So-Young, a tall Korean kid who hides behind an online avatar; and Ren’s bestie Anella, a Black teen who is harassed and underestimated because of her weight. Anella observes, “No one out there is rising for me. Whatever, I can live in the dark,” a sentiment that could be true for each girl, until they begin to rise for each other and themselves. Coach Weylan encourages the teammates to identify their own weaknesses so they can support one another with their strengths, and gradually, that’s exactly what happens. Leong elevates the classic ragtag-sports-team narrative by giving her characters grit and gravitas, and rendering their world of malls, convenience stores, and slumping apartment buildings in brilliant reds and purples. In multiple panels, she positions a bright orange basketball like the sun: the thing that pulls them into its orbit and illuminates the group in full electric color. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jennifer Linnan, Linnan Literary Management. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Cracking the Case of the Missing Egg (Farm Crimes #1)

Sandra Dumais. OwlKids, $16.95 (48p) ISBN 978-1-77147-415-3

A “day like any other on the farm” takes an exciting turn when animals Pig, Dog, Cow, Sheep, and Raccoon, hearing a “blood-chilling scream,” discover that someone has stolen Hen’s egg. The barnyard friends know there’s only one thing to do: with three hearty rings of Cow’s bell, they summon Insp. Billiam Van Hoof, World’s #1 Goat Detective. As the animals track down clues, finding bits of straw, a broken eggshell, and a yellow feather, it quickly becomes clear that the over-the-top inspector, with his assorted paraphernalia (“detective sandals”) and goofy disguise (a dashing mustache), is truly terrible at solving mysteries. Dumais’s paneled illustrations add extra brightness and humor to the mystery as Hen stomps around in pink bunny slippers and Sheep nervously knits. Intermediate readers will welcome the engaging inspector for investigative fun. Ages 6–9. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Bridge

Bill Konigsberg. Scholastic, $18.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-338-32503-4

Konigsberg (The Music of What Happens), a suicide survivor aiming for “a complete discussion of suicide,” per an author’s note, tells this iterative story of 17-year-olds crossing paths on the George Washington Bridge, where both are considering jumping. Depressed Aaron Boroff, who is white, dreams of music fame and having a boyfriend; he is “deeply sick of himself and his stupid brain” and can’t imagine that changing. Korean-born adoptee Tillie Stanley’s convinced that she’s weak and unlovable; she’s been ghosted by the guy she was seeing, bullied by an ex-friend, and her father’s basically pretending she doesn’t exist. Alternatingly following Aaron, Tillie, and the people affected by their deaths—including those who never got to know them—the story is told several ways: with each, both, and neither jumping. Ending on a hopeful note, the book depicts Aaron and Tillie bonding and trying to keep each other going. Konigsberg’s approach underscores depression’s coercive power and the gifts of human connection, and he sharpens a universal story by populating it with distinctly individual characters. An author’s note and resources for people experiencing suicidal ideation conclude. Ages 14–up. Agent: Linda Epstein, Emerald City Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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We Are Not Free

Traci Chee. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-358-13143-4

Spanning three years, from March 1942 to March 1945, Chee’s accomplished novel about America’s treatment of Japanese Americans is told by 14 Nisei teenagers who have grown up together in San Francisco’s Japantown. The book traces their varied trajectories, beginning with their initial deportation to a nearby incarceration camp, then a second move to the more developed compound of Topaz City, Utah, where prisoners are forced to pledge loyalty to the U.S. or to Japan through a questionnaire, and “No-Nos”—those who refuse U.S. allegiance and military service—are deported to yet another camp. Inspired by Chee’s family history, the book powerfully depicts, as an author’s note states, “a mere fraction of what this generation went through.” Varying between first-, second-, and third-person narration; letters and verse; and even one chapter told by “all of us,” each interconnected story has a distinct voice (a provided “Character Registry” is useful for keeping track of the many characters and relationships). The individual tales are well crafted and emotionally compelling, and they resolve into an elegant arc. Ambitious in scope and complexity, this is an essential contribution to the understanding of the wide-ranging experiences impacting people of Japanese ancestry in the U.S. during WWII. Ages 12–up. Agent: Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Stitchers (Fright Watch #1)

Lorien Lawrence. Amulet, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4197-4692-5

Following her policeman father’s untimely death, 13-year-old Quinn Parker vows to discover the secret behind the Oldies—a group of seemingly unaging elderly neighbors in whom her dad was interested. She’s convinced there’s a supernatural influence behind their youthful appearance; fellow seventh grader Mike Warren is certain it’s scientific. Their curiosity is particularly piqued when octogenarian Mr. Brown becomes a strong runner overnight—one who bears the exact same calf scar as Quinn’s late father. Determined to learn the truth, the intrepid pair delve into the long and eerie history of the neighborhood, entering into a fake relationship as “the perfect cover” for the time they spend together. But as they investigate, the Oldies take an increased interest in Quinn and Mike, adding extra danger to the case. With this creepy debut, Lawrence pits her heroes against a generational power imbalance and the unsettling, universally recognizable fear of aging. While readers may guess the Oldies’ true nature before the revelation, the antagonists are satisfyingly menacing, and Quinn’s struggles—grieving her father’s death, juggling friendships—ground this series opener, giving it a healthy dose of heart. Ages 10–14. Agent: Kathleen Rushall, Andrea Brown Literary. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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All He Knew

Helen Frost. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-374-31299-2

In this poignant free verse novel spanning 1933–1945, six-year-old Henry, who becomes deaf following a fever, arrives at the Riverview Home for the Feebleminded after, deemed “unteachable,” being rejected by a school for the deaf. Without knowing where he has been taken or how long he’ll stay, Henry navigates dorm life, peer relationships, and often-cruel “men with keys,” such as Blanket Man, who yanks the children’s covers off to wake them. In portraying Henry’s perspective, Printz winner Frost deftly sketches his heightened senses and keen observations, such as regarding the institution’s oppressive stench (“something like potatoes/ forgotten in a corner of the kitchen”), alongside chilling abuse, including boys confined in straps for days. The viewpoint shifts between Henry and his older sister Molly, who tells her brother’s story and describes family struggles to save enough to visit, and then widens to include a kind conscientious objector, 17-year-old Victor, who notices Henry’s intelligence after arriving in Riverview to work in lieu of enlisting to fight in WWII. An author’s note describes the family member who inspired the story and includes dated poems by his sister, the author’s mother-in-law. Frost balances descriptions of institutional abuse with strong characters and enduring hope. Ages 10–14. Agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Stealing Mt. Rushmore

Daphne Kalmar. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-250-15500-9

Set against the backdrop of the Nixon Watergate scandal, this leisurely work of historical fiction follows a working-class family weathering the summer heat and navigating a new reality in 1974 Boston. Twelve-year-old, horoscope-obsessed Taurus Susan B. Anthony, aka Nellie, lives with her father, a short-order cook who struggles to support Nellie and her three brothers—all named after Mt. Rushmore presidents—since his wife left five months previously. After discovering that she also took the $500 meant for the family’s summer trip to Mt. Rushmore, Nellie’s dad angrily retreats, leaving her to run the house. The girl decides to raise the money herself, even if it means selling her mom’s belongings. But despite rescuing a cheerful dog from an abusive owner, Nellie’s summer seems destined for losses social and familial, including any hope of her mother’s return. Nellie is a likable main character, laudably kind to her sensitive younger brother and loyal to her family, but a languishing pace further slowed by sprinkled-in cultural references may deter young readers. Ages 8–12. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Lupe Wong Won’t Dance

Donna Barba Higuera. Levine Querido, $17.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-64614-003-9

Higuera updates an age-old American PE tradition with thoroughly modern sensibilities in this earnest, comedic novel, which follows outspoken half-Chinese, half-Mexican seventh-grader Guadalupe “Lupe” Wong and her crusade to cancel square dancing. If 12-year-old ace pitcher Lupe gets all As this year, her uncle Hector, who works for the Seattle Mariners, has promised to secure a meetup with fellow “Chinacan” pitcher Fu Li Hernandez, “the first Asian/Latino pitcher in the major leagues.” Lupe’s hero happens to remind her of her dad, who died almost two years ago—which is why, besides becoming the “first woman pitcher in the majors,” she doesn’t “think [she’s] ever wanted something so bad.” But PE throws a killer changeup in the form of a square-dancing unit, and Lupe’s best subject will quickly become her worst if she can’t figure out how to rid Issaquah Middle School of it. The spring also brings shifting friendships, though, and when Lupe quarrels with one best friend—helicopter-parented Andy Washington, who is Black—and her other best friend—pragmatic, kind Niles Foster, who is on the autism spectrum—begins making new friends, Lupe must reflect on her priorities and relationships. Inclusive and emotionally resonant, Higuera’s debut is a home run, with a plot as multifaceted and compelling as her characters, whose nuanced voices and varied range of interests ring wholly true. Ages 8–12. Agent: Allison Remcheck, Stimola Literary Studio. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Forest of Stars

Heather Kassner, illus. by Iz Ptica. Holt, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-2502-9700-6

Hungry, homeless, and having lost her mother to the love bugs that devoured her grieving heart, Louisa LaRoche, 12, is intent on locating her father, who “lost his grasp on the world” and floated out a window before she was born. Finding a golden ticket to the Carnival Beneath the Stars, Louisa meets a crew of magical beings, including “Boy Beast” Strong the Ox, “Shadow Spinner” Mercy, and “Misfortune Teller” Fiona. Summoned as a mystique for her ability to levitate, the girl finds home and family in the carnival until bewitched shadows threaten, turning Louisa and her friends against one another. When one of the performers stands accused of stealing the troupe’s magic, Louisa navigates red herrings to discover who is behind the shadows. Kassner (The Bone Garden) creates an enchanted, lyrical tale with atmospheric scenes among Louisa, her friends, and guardian Quiet Si, half man, half marionette; Ptica’s black-and-white illustrations infuse the novel with the carnival’s eerie warmth. Though an abundance of poetic description can slow the narrative, Kassner’s theme, that family is where you find it, shines poignantly. Ages 8–12. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary & Media. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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