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First Words: Early Learning at the Museum

Photographs by the trustees of the British Museum. Nosy Crow, $7.99 (22p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0584-8

The latest entry in a series of board books drawing on the visual treasures of the British Museum pairs word and image to introduce youngest readers to the richness of the world’s material culture. Crisp photos capture the textural differences of a variety of objects spanning many eras and places—everything from a tin toy bus made in Sri Lanka circa 1980, to an Egyptian ball dated 30 BCE–641 CE, to Julian Opie’s 21st-century print of fir trees. Every object is presented with appealing simplicity and described with a single noun in large, clear typography (bus, ball, trees). A visual index on the last spread pairs each image with its creator, place of origin, and date, expanding the book’s usefulness throughout the toddler years by gently pointing toward opportunities for further learning. Available simultaneously: Animals: Early Learning at the Museum. Ages up to 3. (May)

Reviewed on 04/26/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Where I End & You Begin

Preston Norton. Disney-Hyperion, $17.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-4847-9835-5

Norton (Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe) incorporates Freaky Friday–style body switching in this novel to explore the inner conflicts of two enemies crushing on each other’s best friends. On the night of a total eclipse in Carbondale, Ill., socially anxious Ezra intends to ask longtime crush Imogen to prom. Instead, he finds himself trapped inside the body of Imogen’s best friend, bold, brassy Wynonna, whose “favorite hobby” is making his life a “living hell.” Much to Ezra’s relief, the switch is only temporary, but then it keeps happening, and for longer periods of time. While in the girl’s skin, Ezra learns of Wynonna’s interest in his best friend, Holden, and seeks to soothe her estranged relationship with her father and guardian grandmother. In turn, Wynonna helps bridge the gap between Ezra and his younger sister, who has distanced herself since learning of their parents’ extramarital affairs. The frequent, rather abrupt body switches and cluttered plot, which includes a production of Twelfth Night that parallels the teens’ experience, prove more distracting than effective. Still, Norton’s novel offers thought-provoking ideas about gender, sexuality, and compassion with plenty of comedy along the way. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jenny Bent, the Bent Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/26/2019 | Details & Permalink

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When We Were Lost

Kevin Wignall. LB/Patterson, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-316-41779-2

Seventeen-year-old loner Tom Calloway, an orphan, has no desire to fly to Costa Rica for a school-sponsored environmental research trip, but the dates align with his flaky guardian’s yoga retreat, so Tom reluctantly signs on. Their plane crashes in the jungle, killing everyone aboard except for Tom and 18 of his classmates. Politician’s son Joel Aspinall takes charge, ordering the group to stay put, but Tom doubts a timely rescue; they should have landed hours before the crash, which, he believes, means the pilot likely disabled the transponders and flew off course. As resources dwindle and illness and animal attacks claim additional lives, the teens debate a hike toward civilization. But with tensions rising and factions forming, the wilderness isn’t the only obstacle to their continued survival. Wignall (the Mercian Trilogy) fully exploits the setting of his adrenaline-fueled adventure, which meditates on fate while exploring the effects of adversity and grief. The setup is a bit unoriginal, and the kids’ knowledge and skills occasionally strain credulity, but nuanced character interactions help ground the action-studded plot. Ages 14–up. Agent: Deborah Schneider, Gelfman Schneider/ ICM Partners. (June)

Reviewed on 04/26/2019 | Details & Permalink

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This Might Hurt a Bit

Doogie Horner. Simon Pulse, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5344-2717-4

The worst day of 16-year-old Kirby’s life was when his sister, Melanie, died. A year later, he’s worried about getting beaten up at school for pulling a prank that ended badly the night before—and he’s not looking forward to facing his parents about the secret journal his mother found in his room, either. In his observant and expressive first-person voice, Kirby describes his experiences with bullies, his grief after losing Melanie, and his family’s recent move from suburbia to the rural town of Upper Shuckburgh, a quiet place that sometimes “feels like the moon.” Horner’s YA debut lacks fully developed characters and emotional depth (laughs come at the expense of local people, who are typecast as crass rednecks). But humor diffuses the tension built from Kirby’s various attempts to escape his fate, and witty observations, such as Kirby’s appraisal of his mother and father (“Trying to figure out my parents is like trying to put a tuxedo on a squirrel: difficult, dangerous, and not worth the photo”) feel fresh. Ages 14–up. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House. (June)

Reviewed on 04/26/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Haunted

Danielle Vega. Razorbill, $17.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-451-48146-7

This spooky supernatural tale by Vega (the Merciless series) follows a well-trod horror arc: high school student Hendricks moves with her parents from Pennsylvania to a small New York town, where she senses a sinister presence in rambling old Steele House—the infamous site of a murder-suicide. The move follows Hendricks’s toxic relationship with her controlling ex-boyfriend, Grayson, whose behavior escalated into violence and stalking. Though Hendricks settles into a new social life quickly, with a cast of distinguishable characters, she wrestles with unease at the house and sees visions of Grayson’s reappearance. When Hendricks’s baby brother is physically attacked by a ghost, she approaches outsider Eddie, who lost both his siblings to Steele House. Vega’s narrative is at its best when Hendricks’s haunted past foreshadows and mirrors the paranormal events, raising questions about the impact of trauma on the present. The intrigue unravels into familiar scares and cinematic genre tropes (a child ghost with inky black eyes, a visit to a tarot shop), but Vega maintains psychological tension up until the uncertain conclusion, leaving enough loose ends to suggest a sequel. Ages 14–up. Agent: Josh Bank and Joelle Hobeika, Alloy Entertainment. (June)

Reviewed on 04/26/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Rest of the Story

Sarah Dessen. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $19.99 (448p) ISBN 978-0-06-293362-1

Dessen explores her signature themes of family and romance in this layered contemporary novel driven by anxiety-prone protagonist Emma Saylor’s curiosity about her late mother’s life. Emma’s mother, who succumbed to an overdose in 2011, left Emma and her father clinging to each other, her father deeply reluctant to discuss Emma’s mother and her family. Years later, unexpected circumstances land Emma, now 17, on the shores of the lake her mother grew up on for a several-week stay with maternal grandmother Mimi. There, she finds two communities (one working-class, one wealthy), spends time with cousins she didn’t know she had, and meets the handsome boy whose father was once her mother’s best friend—all while hearing stories, seeing photos, and discovering long-held secrets about her mother’s wild teenage years and a single, terrible loss. Dessen takes her time building Emma’s life on the lake, developing each familial relationship from the ground up, and illuminating layers of newness and personal, familial, and class conflict as Emma searches for bits of her past. A rich, patient story about a teen girl who craves family and an understanding of her roots after suffering a tragic loss. Ages 13–up. Agent: Leigh Feldman, Leigh Feldman Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 04/26/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Five Midnights

Ann Dávila Cardinal. Tor Teen, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-29607-8

Biracial “Gringa-Rican” Lupe lives in Vermont but visits Puerto Rico for the summer to see her father’s family in this riveting novel. Soon, her love of true crime bleeds into reality when she visits the first of several peculiar crime scenes overseen by her police-chief uncle. When she discovers that someone—or something—is targeting five estranged friends who once called themselves los cangrejos, she’s intrigued. But when she learns her cousin was also a cangrejo, the crime hits close to home. She pairs up with recovering addict Javier, also a cangrejo, to venture into the world of gang-related drug crimes and try to save her cousin before it’s too late. With a compelling plot and characters that explore alcoholism and addiction, this novel is not only a thrilling mystery but one that will speak to anyone whose life has been touched by these diseases. The spirit of Puerto Rico is infused throughout Cardinal’s solo debut, which is peppered with accessible Spanglish and a peek into Puerto Rican cuisine and barrios. A gripping horror read. Ages 13–up. Agent: Linda Camacho, Gallt and Zacker Literary Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/26/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Grief Keeper

Alexandra Villasante. Putnam, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-525-51402-2

Villasante’s engrossing debut about two Salvadoran sisters recently arrived in the U.S. opens with plenty of tension: 17-year-old Marisol is being interviewed about the siblings’ request for asylum. They fled because their father disappeared, their brother was murdered by a fellow gang member, and both Marisol’s and 12-year-old Gabi’s lives were threatened, as well as their mother’s. Eventually, Marisol is offered the opportunity for asylum through participation in an ethically questionable medical trial to help relieve PTSD—by receiving and holding another person’s grief. The grief she takes on belongs to teenage Rey, who is devastated after her twin brother’s death, and to whom Marisol is immediately attracted. The girls bond over an American soap opera that Marisol loved to watch in El Salvador, but as Marisol absorbs Rey’s grief, both the experiment and their relationship unfold in unexpected ways. Though Marisol doesn’t initially reveal that others’ homophobia was a key reason for her persecution in El Salvador, her sexual identity gradually becomes clear to readers, and a closing flashback reveals a deeper truth behind the sisters’ flight. Villasante builds her novel about undocumented immigrants into a suspenseful story with credible relationships, satisfying character development, and elements of science fiction. Ages 12–up. Agent: Barbara Poelle, the Irene Goodman Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/26/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Cursed

Karol Ruth Silverstein. Charlesbridge Teen, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-58089-940-6

First-time author Silverstein offers an insider’s view of living with a chronic illness in this heartfelt novel set in Philadelphia. Every movement has become a struggle for ninth-grader Erica (“Ricky”), recently diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, who has had to move from her mother’s house to her father’s “bachelor pad” to avoid using stairs. In constant pain, irritated by “The-Disaster-Formerly-Known-as-My-Parents,” and tired of taunts from schoolmates, Ricky vents her frustration by cutting school—for six straight weeks—and cursing copiously, both of which sit poorly with her new school’s administrators. When she’s eventually caught skipping and forced to attend classes, she faces new obstacles if she wants to make it to 10th grade, including makeup work and after-school sessions with a strict teacher. She also finds some rewards, especially learning how to advocate for herself and developing a friendship with empathic classmate Oliver, a cancer survivor. Silverstein, who was diagnosed with arthritis as a teen, excels at evoking the physical and emotional pain Ricky endures without having Ricky’s condition define her. She emerges as a likable, relatable heroine whose wit and sense of hope will prove inspiring. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jen Linnan, Linnan Literary Management. (June)

Reviewed on 04/26/2019 | Details & Permalink

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A Small Zombie Problem (Zombie Problems #1)

K.G. Campbell. Knopf, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-553-53955-4

Campbell (Flora & Ulysses) leaps assuredly into middle grade fiction in this, well, spirited series opener featuring a cast of enchantingly eccentric characters. August DuPont lives in the garret of his family’s crumbling manse with his quirky Aunt Hydrangea, who, fearing for his safety, refuses to let the 11-year-old outdoors. August’s only knowledge of peers derives from a TV show about a group of friends—a program that he views, via telescope, on a TV located on a ramshackle houseboat nearby. Lonely and longing to “join the world,” August insists on accepting an invitation to visit Hydrangea’s equally offbeat sister, Orchid, estranged since she married a descendant of the ruthless entrepreneur who drove the DuPonts’ prosperous hot sauce company out of business. Venturing beyond the garden gate for the first time, August gets a whirlwind introduction to the real—and not so real—world when he meets an undead girl in a cemetery, who removes and offers him one of her eyeballs, then refuses to leave his side. With wry humor and inventive plotting, Campbell reveals August’s tangled, magic-tinged ancestry while shaping a poignant portrait of a boy—and a zombie—in search of friendship. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. Agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (June)

Reviewed on 04/26/2019 | Details & Permalink

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