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The Way to Bea

Kat Yeh. Little, Brown, $16.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-316-23667-6

At the end of sixth grade, avid poetry writer Beatrix “Bea” Lee had close friends, but she’s starting seventh grade as a social outcast after embarrassing herself at a pool party. Bea tries to fly under the radar, but as the school newspaper’s new poetry editor, she starts making friends who embrace her as she is: Briggs, the Broadside’s exuberant editor in chief, and Will, an autistic student who hangs out in the newspaper office. Will is obsessed with walking the hedge labyrinth on a nearby private estate, and Bea decides to help. She’s also having a secret correspondence: someone has begun reading and responding to the poems Bea writes in invisible ink and hides on school grounds. Yeh (The Truth About Twinkie Pie) homes in on the pain of not fitting in and of being discarded by a trusted friend (in a telling detail, Bea’s narration avoids even saying her former friends’ names, using only their initials). Bea’s social missteps will be excruciatingly relatable to many readers, and her slow journey to self-acceptance is moving and wise. Ages 8–12. Agent: Sarah Davies, Greenhouse Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Just Dance

Patricia MacLachlan. S&S/McElderry, $15.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-4814-7252-4

In a characteristically subtle novel set in rural Wyoming, MacLachlan intertwines past and present as she explores the truest meaning of family, home, and fulfillment. Ten-year-old Sylvie Bloom’s mother, a soprano who once performed in grand European concert halls, now uses her musical talent to calm their farm animals (she reserves The Magic Flute for the chickens). Her voice also mesmerizes her daughter, son, and husband, who huddle by the bathroom door when she sings arias in the shower. Sylvie ponders, with some anguish, how her mother could have abandoned her glamorous former life: “It is hard to believe that loving my father is enough. It is hard to believe that Nate and I are enough.” Ironically, as fourth grade ends, the restless narrator longs for “something different” herself, which she finds in a summer job writing (in verse) the sheriff’s log in the local paper: “Not invited!/ A murder of crows/ sly/ sleek/ Eating the Bean field.” Sylvie’s close bonds with her brother and an array of supportive adults distinguish this memorable story, which showcases MacLachlan’s gifts for rich characterization, honest emotion, and deceptive simplicity. Ages 7–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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An A to Z of Monsters and Magical Beings

Aidan Onn, illus. by Rob Hodgson. Laurence King, $17.99 (56p) ISBN 978-1-78627-067-2

In a breezy alphabetical bestiary, Onn introduces monsters and supernatural beings plucked from fables and myths, including ghosts, imps, krakens, and werewolves, as well as less-familiar cryptozoological entities, such as the Eloko of African legend, Scotland’s practical joking Far Darrig, and the headless Chinese giant Xing Tian. Hodgson illustrates each creature in a scribbly, naïve style as Onn describes them in a manner reminiscent of a field identification guide (“The Leviathan has mighty fins, enormous horns, and very bright eyes. It is one of the biggest and meanest creatures to swim in the seas”). Onn offers only minimal details about these beings—the book seems more interested in being quippy than informative. But the alternately cautionary and jokey tone of the text should keep readers entertained. Of yeti, he writes, “Perhaps they would stop for a selfie if you offered them ice cream.” Ages 6–9. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Scariest Book Ever

Bob Shea. Disney-Hyperion, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4847-3046-1

Shea’s ghost narrator talks a good game about being brave, but readers will see right through him—especially after he spills orange juice on himself and spends the rest of the book “naked.” (In a marvelous design touch, spot gloss is used to make the ghost barely visible.) The ghost sends readers to check out the “scary dark woods” outside, which turn out to be home to a chipper rabbit who organizes a costume party. After finally venturing outdoors, the ghost gets the fright of his afterlife when he sees the partygoers in costume. “Why didn’t you warn me?” he scolds readers. “Are you trying to scare me more to death?” Playing a candy colored palette against stark blacks and whites, Shea’s chic, retro graphics gleefully balance fright and fun: even amid pumpkin picking, costume making, and craft projects, the forest’s trees look as sharp as knives. Ages 6–8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (July)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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This Book Is Full of Monsters

Guido van Genechten. Clavis (Legato, dist.), $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-60537-360-7

This metafictional guide to monsters dares readers to keep turning the pages: “Are you really sure? Because you can still turn back,” read tattered street signs on the opening endpapers. Throughout, van Genechten (the Little White Fish series) serves as a monster guide, cautioning readers about the peculiarities and dangers of each creature. “No! Don’t touch it! That tail is poisonous!” he warns as a goofy-looking pink and green monster hikes across a forest at night, carrying its long, bumpy tail. Most of the monsters look more dopey than fearsome (and, oddly, none are given names), but the final few pages may provoke some light fright among readers as they discover a hoglike monster locked in a darkened cage and are invited to turn on the lights and let it out, only to have it leap toward them in the closing pop-up scene. Ages 4–up. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Spooky Express Texas

Eric James, illus. by Marcin Piwowarski. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99 paper (32p) ISBN 978-1-4926-5314-1

This Texas-themed tale is one of 78 regional Halloween books, all releasing simultaneously, with details slightly tweaked for each American or Canadian setting. Two trick-or-treaters, dressed as a pirate and a superhero, board the Spooky Express train, which rides through the sky on tracks of mist and is filled with ghosts, ghouls, and other creatures: “There were big trolls from Lubbock/ that towered in size,/ and aliens from Austin/ with bright, bulging eyes.” As the train travels past El Paso, Dallas, and San Antonio, landmarks flash in the train’s windows, and when the engineer’s pumpkin head goes flying and the train swerves out of control, the children pull off a daring rescue. Polish artist Piwowarski’s digital illustrations capture the adventure in a bright, splashy style, and though there are some less-than- elegant rhymes in the mix, this supernatural train trip ought to be a crowd-pleasing ride. Ages 4–10. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Zip! Zoom! On a Broom

Teri Sloat, illus. by Rosalinde Bonnet. Little, Brown, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-316-25673-5

In a dark-humored counting book from the team behind Pablo in the Snow, 10 witches share a wild broom ride through the night. Sloat introduces the witches while counting up to 10 (“Seven chant. Eight incant./ Nine wicked witches rave and rant”), but after their midflight fight causes their shared broomstick to plunge, they drop off one by one: “Six plummet down, still holding on./ One gets zapped by lightning—gone!” (While Sloat’s humor tilts toward the edgy, the final spread reveals that all 10 witches survive the ordeal.) Working in ink and watercolor, Bonnet’s illustrations have a chaotic, wobbly quality that suits this story of a late-night haunting gone wrong. Readers will want to pore over the details of her eerie, monster-filled nocturnal scenes—and probably enjoy a bit of schadenfreude as each witch makes her dramatic exit. Ages 4–8. (July)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Halloween Good Night

Rebecca Grabill, illus. by Ella Okstad. Atheneum, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4814-5061-4

A parade of monsters gathers for some hijinks in this delightful bedtime riff on the “Over in the Meadow” nursery rhyme. Counting up to 10, newcomer Grabill introduces the creatures as they head to an unknown destination: “Yonder in the boneyard,/ where the bats swoop and dive,/ breathes an old granny zombie/ with her peeling zomblings five.” Direct address heightens reader anticipation (“Waiting in your closet for your bedtime once again”), but when the tiny werewolves, witches, and other creatures burst into a girl’s bedroom, she’s awake in her bed and not the least bit frightened. Grabill makes an oft-adapted rhyme feel utterly fresh, thanks to some excellent vocabulary choices and the funny exchanges between monsters young and old. Okstad’s scraggily rendered monsters are pink cheeked and cuddle worthy—the book captures the mischievous fun of Halloween, without the accompanying terror. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Victoria Wells Arms, Wells Arms Literary. Illustrator’s agency: the Organisation. (July)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Grimelda and the Spooktacular Pet Show

Diana Murray, illus. by Heather Ross. HarperCollins/Tegen, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-226449-7

Filled with magical mishaps, this sequel to 2016’s Grimelda: The Very Messy Witch finds Murray’s untidy heroine hoping to compete in an upcoming pet show. But is her cat, Wizzlewarts, “spooktacular” enough to face up against “pets with spikes and pets with scales... frogs and hogs and haunted snails”? Grimelda doesn’t think so, so she sets off to find a properly frightening pet, only to tangle with a monster eel and realize that Wizzlewarts is pretty formidable (especially since he has claws to rival those of the X-Men’s Wolverine). Grimelda’s pet-finding mission drags on a bit too long, but Murray’s sturdy rhymes offer lots of readaloud entertainment. Readers will be tickled by the topsy-turvy details Ross brings to Grimelda’s ramshackle hometown, where witches, gnomes, dragons, and unidentifiable beings live in harmony—except for the occasional monster eel attack, of course. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Brianne Johnson, Writers House. Illustrator’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (July)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Monster Trucks

Joy Keller, illus. by Misa Saburi. Holt, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-62779-617-0

On hiatus from their Halloween activities, various monsters “shift into a different gear” by taking on roadside work. Debut author Keller gets plenty of mileage from the titular pun, playfully matching monsters to appropriate trucks: a yeti sits behind the wheel of a snowplow, a witch “trades in her trusty broom” for a street sweeper, and a mummy rides an ambulance (“She’ll patch each monster’s bump and scrape/ with lots of bandages and tape”). In digital drawings with thick, chunky lines reminiscent of woodblock prints, Saburi shows each creature hard (and happily) at work. Keller offers extra reassurance for readers who may worry about a visit from this spooky bunch: “At rest in your bed, tucked in tight,/ don’t fear these monsters in the night.” After a hard day’s work, they are “much too tired to crawl and creep.” Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Mary Cummings, Betsy Amster Literary Enterprises. Illustrator’s agent: Kirsten Hall, Catbird Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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