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Dugout: The Zombie Steals Home

Scott Morse. Graphix, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-338-18809-7

Twins they may be, but Stacy and Gina just don’t get along. Their rivalry extends to the baseball field, where they pitch for separate Little League teams. While Gina embraces her family’s secret, witchcraft, Stacy refuses, frustrated by related rumors that swirl around her family. But then Gina casts a spell on Stacy and her team that backfires, summoning a zombie who may not be entirely evil but definitely throws them a curveball. After Stacy accidentally curses Gina, creating a ghost, the two must push past their mutual animosity and figure out how to get rid of both unwanted creatures before their grandmother comes home. Tales of sibling rivalry may not be new, but Morse (the Magic Pickle series) uses his graphic skills to elevate the familiar themes—artfully defined facial expressions are particularly notable and amusing. The supernatural elements and their resolution allow for the girls to realize their personal preferences, physical and magical alike, and the teammates’ running gags (a kid brother deeply obsessed with boots, for example) provide a steady supply of humor. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (June)

Reviewed on 04/19/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Patron Saints of Nothing

Randy Ribay. Kokila, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-525-55491-2

Passionately and fearlessly, Ribay (After the Shot Drops) delves into matters of justice, grief, and identity in this glimpse into the life and death of a fictional victim of President Duterte’s war on drugs in the Philippines. In Michigan, Filipino-American high school senior Jay Reguero is struggling to decide what to do with his life when the sudden death of his cousin Jun raises painful questions about the violent drug war, and an unknown Instagram user convinces Jay that his cousin was wrongly executed. Sick of his relatives’ refusal to discuss Jun’s death and guilty that he let their once-close pen pal friendship lapse, Jay convinces his parents to send him to the Philippines to reconnect with his extended family and—unbeknownst to them—look into the mystery surrounding Jun’s death. There, Jay connects with a culture he barely remembers from childhood visits and uncovers secrets that his cousin kept and his relatives are determined to forget. Ribay employs a delicate touch in portraying the tension inherent in growing up the child of two cultures, Filipino and American. Jay is a compelling character whose journey from sheltered and self-centered to mature, though clearly a work in progress, is well earned. Ages 14–up. Agent: Beth Phelan, Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/19/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Eve of Man

Giovanna Fletcher and Tom Fletcher. Random House, $18.99 (464p) ISBN 978-1-9848-3011-1

This YA collaboration by married duo Giovanna Fletcher (Some Kind of Wonderful) and Tom Fletcher (The Christmasaurus) explores what would happen if girls stopped being born for 50 years. Miracle baby Eve, 16, the only female born in over five decades, is expected to save humankind by procreating when she comes of age. Raised in a technological castle in the sky, Eve’s only companions are the “Mothers,” some of the Earth’s remaining women, and Holly, a hologramlike companion piloted by three young men, among them Bram. Eve has been promised to one of three carefully selected male suitors, but she is more interested in Bram-as-Holly. A chance meeting between them fosters attraction, and Bram—son to one of the most brilliant minds at the Extinction Prevention Organization (EPO)—breaks protocol when he falls in love with Eve. As Bram and Eve begin to question their roles, and that of the EPO, the lies they have been told fall apart. This fast-paced novel requires some suspension of disbelief (surely a society so technologically advanced would employ science, not an arranged partnership, to continue the species), but readers fond of a dystopian romance will enjoy Eve and Bram’s journey in this series starter. Ages 14–up. Agents: Stephanie Thwaites, Curtis Brown UK, and Hannah Ferguson, Hardman & Swainson. (June)

Reviewed on 04/19/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Like a Love Story

Abdi Nazemian. HarperTeen/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-283936-7

When Reza, a closeted teen, moves from Toronto to New York City (“by way of Tehran”) in 1989, the city feels like the epicenter of the AIDS crisis. In a heart-wrenching and bittersweet unfolding of events, he gravitates toward Art, the only openly gay student at his school, and to Art’s best friend, Judy, who represents everything he feels that he should desire. Though Reza tries his hardest to keep his attractions secret, dating Judy despite his chemistry with Art, he finds that he can’t live a lie, whatever that might cost him. A first-person narrative moves among the three characters as they discover their inner truths at a time that sometimes feels apocalyptic for their community and loved ones. Under the nurturing guidance of Judy’s gay activist uncle, the characters subtly investigate different family dynamics. The intense and nuanced emotions evoked by the characters’ journeys help to give this powerful novel by Nazemian (The Authentics) a timeless relevance. Ages 13–up. Agent: Curtis Brown, Curtis Brown Ltd. (June)

Reviewed on 04/19/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love

Edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond. Simon Pulse, $18.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5344-2185-1

Contributed by a multicultural group of authors, including Jay Coles, Sara Farizan, and Sandhya Menon, and representing a blending of genres and cultures, this #OwnVoices anthology considers the ways that food can feed both body and soul. Interconnected stories follow different inhabitants of Hungry Heart Row, where the residents are close and the myriad restaurants and bakeries feed more than just a hungry stomach. In Rebecca Roanhorse’s startling “The Missing Ingredient,” a biracial daughter just wants her mother to move on from her late Native American father’s failing restaurant. In Rin Chupeco’s vividly imagined “Sugar and Spite,” the magic whispered into Old Manila’s Soup No. 5 comes with a careful interview to make sure it’s used correctly. And Elsie Chapman’s “Kings and Queens” explores the burdens of serving dishes that can send a message of forgiveness or certain death. Emphasizing the importance of love, family, and culture, and written with delectable descriptions, each story is best savored like a favorite dish: slowly and with great relish. Ages 12–up. (June)

Correction: Sara Farizan's name was misspelled in a previous version of this review.

Reviewed on 04/19/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Shouting at the Rain

Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Penguin/Paulsen, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-399-17515-2

Endearingly blunt, stubborn Delsie lives year-round on Cape Cod, where she watches game shows with her Grammy and eagerly consults her weather station. This summer, though, the storm that’s brewing has nothing to do with the weather. Her friend Brandy has begun wearing makeup and made a new friend who doesn’t hide her disdain for Delsie. In addition, everything about the island begins to remind her of the mother who abandoned her when she was little. Delsie finds strength and solace in her neighbors’ kindness and a surprising connection with a new kid, Ronan, who is struggling with his own loss. In kid-friendly prose, Hunt (Fish in a Tree) balances Delsie’s unfettered sense of adventure with her tweenlike insecurities. Socioeconomic disparity between Delsie and her wealthier friends is handled in a matter-of-fact way—it’s apparent, but the author doesn’t linger on it. The book’s coming-of-age lessons about acceptance and friendship, though relevant, can feel didactic; Delsie makes some rather sudden revelations about what’s really important in life. Still, her sweet desire for a family and her unexpected realization that she’s had one all along make this story well worth reading. Ages 10–up. (May)

Reviewed on 04/19/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Odd Gods (Odd Gods #1)

David Slavin and Daniel Weitzman, illus. by Adam J.B. Lane. HarperCollins, $13.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-283953-4

In this first in a planned series, Slavin (Young Dick Cheney) and newcomer Weitzman introduce Oddonis, twin of popular, handsome Adonis and imperfect son of deities Zeus and Freya. The opposite of most deities, Oddonis isn’t strong, athletic, or artistic, and he has no idea what his talent is. Oddonis’s similarly awkward cadre of friends includes pal Mathena, goddess of math and poultry, and best friend Gaseous (son of Uranus and Refried Bean Queen Chalupa), whose farts smell of “feta cheese, a wet ferret, and feet.” Running against his brother for class president, Oddonis seeks to become the voice for the “odds” of Mount Olympus Middle School, find his unique godly power, and impress his father. Oddonis’s transition from outsider to a leader who sees his individuality as a strength shines through the nonstop gross-out humor and silliness. Frequent nods to well-known mythological figures will draw in readers interested in the topic, and black-and-white illustrations by Lane (Stop Thief!), which amplify the comedy, will appeal to readers of graphic hybrids. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (May)

Reviewed on 04/19/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Nixie Ness, Cooking Star (After-School Superstars #1)

Claudia Mills, illus. by Grace Zong. Holiday House/Ferguson, $15.99 (128p) ISBN 978-0-8234-4093-1

In the sugar-dusted opening scene of this engaging series debut, Nixie Ness observes that “the only thing better than baking cupcakes was baking cupcakes on a Friday afternoon with your best friend in the whole world.” Mills (the Franklin School Friends series) spices things up with a turn of events that rocks Nixie’s sweet world. Her mother starts a new job, and her best friend Grace (whose parents work outside the home) is now spending afternoons not with Nixie, but at the house of another third grader, Elyse (who has an adorable new pet). Nixie’s response to this news captures her theatrical flair: “Elyse’s house? With Elyse and her kitten?” Nixie begrudgingly attends an after-school cooking camp, where she masterminds botched plans to win Grace back. Mitigating that drama is Nixie’s deepening rapport with three fellow cooking campers—perfectionist Vera, brainy Nolan, and cut-up Boogie—who expand her definition of friendship and her appreciation of differences. Zong’s (Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas) fetching cover illustration of sloppy chef Nixie is an auspicious foreshadowing of the final interior art, not seen by PW. A recipe concludes. Ages 7–10. (June)

Reviewed on 04/19/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Wall: A Timeless Tale

Giancarlo Macri and Carolina Zanotti, illus. by Mauro Sacco and Elisa Vallarino. Happy Fox, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-64124-038-3

Told as a dialogue between a willful king and a tactful servant, this fable from an Italian team looks at what happens when a country shuts out people who don’t look like others. “How did so many different people end up in my kingdom?” the monarch complains, before ordering the servant to “banish everyone who doesn’t look like me.” Married illustrators Sacco and Vallarino populate their spreads with hundreds of small faces all crowded together. At first, they’re a rainbow of colors—a fine representation of diversity. The king and his servant, seen among the throng, are blue; after the ban, mostly blue faces remain on one side of the page, divided in some spreads from the colorful group by a pop-up wall. “Build a wall to make them stay out of my kingdom!” the king says. “Most Magnificent Majesty,” the servant counters, “you already sent the wall builders away.” Readers will see before the doltish king does that it takes a diverse populace to create the richness of edifices, art, and science the king desires. Macri and Zanotti (We Are All Dots) make it clear that shutting people out only weakens a kingdom, and they do it with laughter, not argument. Ages 7–9. (July)

Reviewed on 04/19/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Perfect School Picture

Deborah Diesen, illus. by Dan Santat. Abrams, $4.99 paper (32p) ISBN 978-1-4197-3509-7

In a picture book based on the school photos almost every child has endured, Diesen (the Pout-Pout Fish series) focuses on a boy who plots to ruin his school picture. He wakes up with bed head, which Santat (The Princess and the Pit Stop) captures with faux-Polaroid mug shots of the boy’s hair sticking up like a wave. He rummages for his favorite shirt—“You might call it ‘stained.’ You might call it ‘wrinkled.’ You might even call it ‘smelly.’ You wouldn’t be wrong”—and then has a close encounter with some maple syrup. School offers a paint-splattered art assignment; Santat imagines a project that combines birdhouses and macaroni. But when the picture-taking moment arrives, things don’t go quite the way the narrator has planned. The narrator’s over-the-top voice makes reading aloud a must (“Wasted! Useless! Ruined...”) as Diesen portrays a boy who’s honing his mischief-making skills. Santat’s digital artwork chronicles the child’s emotional ride, from simmering rage to fiendish calculation to impatient exasperation. It’s high-energy comedy that involves only minor destruction. The small paperback includes a bound-in cardboard picture frame. Ages 5–7. (July)

Reviewed on 04/19/2019 | Details & Permalink

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