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Eat Pete!

Michael Rex. Penguin/Paulsen, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5247-3880-8

The hairy, snaggletoothed, horned monster who appears at Pete’s window isn’t some misunderstood creature in search of a friend, the kind of character that’s a fixture in so many children’s books. Nope, this monster has one goal in mind: “EAT PETE!” Pete doesn’t know that, though, and after greeting the monster as a new playmate, he comes up with lots of ways for the two to have fun. In fact, the monster has such a good time—racing and crashing toy cars, building with blocks, and playing pirates (the monster must walk the plank, and his expression of high melodrama is worthy of classic Hollywood)—that, while he gets dreamy-eyed and drools at the thought of eating Pete, he’s able to delay gratification, at least for a little while. The story ends more conventionally than it begins: the monster apologizes; the two friends hug it out. But readers should enjoy this clever tale from Rex (Goodnight Goon) about impulse control and its surprisingly sympathetic monster. Ages 2–5. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/15/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Tsu and the Outliers

E. Eero Johnson. Odod, $15.95 paper (88p) ISBN 978-1-941250-24-2

When largely nonverbal Tsu uses his voice, it often summons the local bigfoot, his only friend. An outsider at school, Tsu spends his time in the woods with his hairy companion, until a professor, who looks more ape than human, sets his eye on securing the creature. Along with his servant, Chuba, a chupacabra, the professor springs a trap for Tsu and his friend, leaving Tsu to choose between the safety of his companion and his own future path. Johnson’s story is intriguing, though it leaves readers with more questions than answers (how did Tsu acquire this friend?), and the absence of cathartic moments proves frustrating. In addition, the busy artwork can make panel sequence hard to follow, particularly during action scenes. Despite its slightly flawed execution, this series opener offers a compelling premise and an enjoyable read. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 12–up. (May)

Reviewed on 06/15/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The City on the Other Side

Mairghread Scott, illus. by Robin Robinson. First Second, $23.99 , $16.99 ISBN 978-1-62672-457-0

Isabel, the cosseted daughter of a San Francisco socialite, comes into possession of a magical necklace with a jewel-like heart that shields her from harm. It belongs to Seelie fairy princess Id’naress, and Isabel agrees to help return it before it falls into the hands of the evil Coscar, an Unseelie prince. As she and her sidekick, Benjie, evade one capture attempt after another, Isabel breaks free of her sheltered upbringing. Turn-of-the-20th-century San Francisco is reimagined as a city with a double existence—human civilization and fairy realm—while the 1906 earthquake functions as fallout from the fairy war. Swirling, Art Deco–flavored artwork by Robinson (The Civil War Handbook) offers a wealth of fairy splendor. Scott (Science Comics: Robots and Drones: Past, Present, and Future) crafts a story that operates smoothly and stays taut, though fairy characters lean to the archetypal, from the sneering Coscar (“Give it to me or be destroyed”) to the noble Id’naress (“This war was not my desire”). There’s freshness in the nonwhite main roles—Isabel is Latina and Benjie is Filipino—though the focus stays on the book’s fantasy rather than on culture. Ages 8–12. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/15/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The Lies They Tell

Gillian French. HarperTeen, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-264258-5

In this thoughtful mystery from French (Grit), 18-year-old Pearl Haskins was one of the last people to see the Garrison family alive the night their house burned to the ground. Pearl’s father was the gatekeeper at the Garrison house; blamed for the tragedy, he has since lost most of his caretaking jobs on Mount Desert Island, a Maine summer retreat. Pearl’s job as a waitress at the local club brings her into contact with the island’s elite, including the enigmatic Tristan Garrison, the lone surviving family member, who has returned for the summer. Pearl is determined to clear her father’s name and get to the bottom of what happened to the Garrisons, despite the warnings from her fellow townies. But what will learning the truth cost her? Pearl is an empathetic character, and French does an excellent job of highlighting the tension between social classes in this slow-burning mystery, as well as the difficulties of navigating family drama. Ages 14–up. (May)

Reviewed on 06/15/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The History of Jane Doe

Michael Belanger. Dial, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7352-2881-8

Belanger’s contemplative first novel seriously addresses first love, depression, and grief from the perspective of an amateur historian grappling with an unexpected loss. High school senior Raymond Green is struggling to understand what happened with his ex-girlfriend, referred to as Jane Doe. Jane and Raymond’s relationship didn’t end happily, and Raymond is writing a history of Jane to unravel the events leading up to the book’s climax (“History isn’t a straight line from the beginning to the end. You’ve got to study everything in between. That’s where the real answers are”). Belanger gives Raymond a wry sense of humor, which balances the book’s heavy themes with a light tone, and Raymond’s conversations with his therapist are successfully used to impart important messages about mental health without feeling forced. Readers looking for a moving, realistic portrayal of depression will appreciate this exceptional debut. Age 14–up. (June)

Reviewed on 06/15/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles)

Amy Spalding. Sky Pony, $16.99 (284p) ISBN 978-1-5107-2766-3

Seventeen-year-old Abby Ives is doing her best to stay positive. Her best friend and her college-age sister are both in romantic relationships that take up their attention. Her mother, a local L.A. celebrity, runs Eat Healthy with Norah! and disapproves of Abby’s “plus size dress size” as well as her homosexuality. Abby focuses on her new internship at Lemonberry, an inventive clothing boutique, and her plus-size fashion blog (“I was designing how other people saw me, and that felt powerful”). Drama ensues when never-been-kissed Abby falls for her fellow intern, photographer Jordi Perez, with whom she’s competing for a job. Less interesting is the subplot—researching the best cheeseburger in town for an app with Jax, her best friend’s boyfriend’s best friend—but Abby’s rambling voice is honest, charming, and absorbing. In a story about staying true to one’s passions, Spalding (The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions)) presents an interesting look at first love, social media, and private and public personas. Ages 12–up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/15/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings

Sarah Prineas. HarperCollins, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-266558-4

In this lively middle grade fantasy, the start to a new series, an apprentice librarian discovers the true hazards of his chosen profession when he steals his deceased master’s identity and takes up the position of royal librarian, despite his lacking age, experience, and proper qualifications. Even so, 15-year-old Alex is determined to prove his abilities, and to discover just why the libraries are kept under lock and key and his fellow librarians are all elderly, secretive, and dying mysteriously. When he learns that certain books are actually alive, malicious, and fatal to the unwary reader, he enlists the aid of his new queen, Kenneret, and her headstrong, dyslexic brother, Charleren, to stop this plague of murderous manuscripts before the kingdom falls to an unexpected threat. Alex and his new allies experience a delightful level of conflict and chemistry in a setting ripe for future exploration. Prineas (The Magic Thief) delivers a fast-paced, engaging adventure in which libraries are as deadly as any dungeon and knowledge can literally kill. Ages 8–12. Agent: Caitlin Blasdell, Liza Dawson Associates. (June)

Reviewed on 06/15/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The Foreseeable Future

Emily Adrian. Dial, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-399-53899-5

High school graduate Audrey is not looking forward to attending the northern California college where both her parents are professors. What does excite her is the idea of working as a nursing assistant over the summer. When she rescues a teen on the beach using her recently acquired CPR skills, Audrey’s life takes an unexpected turn: suddenly, she’s a local hero, and then—after a video of the event goes viral—a national one. Soon Audrey lands a job at a retirement center, becomes romantically involved with a fellow employee, and gains the confidence to follow her own dreams instead of meeting her parents’ expectations. A subplot involving tensions in Audrey’s parents’ marriage adds drama, as does Audrey’s excruciating decision-making process about whether to accept an attractive job offer far away from home or stay put to be with her boyfriend. In a story that raises the idea that college isn’t for everyone, Adrian (Like It Never Happened) creates a relatable heroine and a colorful cast of minor characters, including Audrey’s favorite retirement home resident, a former talent agent. Ages 14–up. Agent: Susan Ginsburg, Writers House. (May)

Reviewed on 06/15/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Hurricane Child

Kheryn Callender. Scholastic, $17.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-338-12930-4

Twelve-year-old Caroline Murphy was born during a hurricane, which is considered a curse in her home of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and she’s convinced that she’s the recipient of bad luck. Caroline’s mother left her alone with her father more than a year ago, sending occasional postcards that slowly dwindled to nothing; Caroline is bullied at school for her darker skin; and she begins to see a spirit dressed in black and wonders whether it means help or harm. When Kalinda arrives from Barbados, she strikes Caroline as a true individual, someone who can help her on her quest to find her mother, and things begin to look up. Then Caroline’s admiration of Kalinda becomes romantic love, which is not well received in her community, and she must face her feelings on all fronts. Callender’s debut novel contains absorbing descriptions of the island (“The paint gets big bubbles whenever it rains so that I can pick and pick and pick at them until they burst”) and is a folkloric tale about overcoming old narratives and creating new ones. Ages 8–12. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 06/15/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Front Desk

Kelly Yang. Scholastic/Levine, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-338-15779-6

Yang draws effectively on her own childhood in this lively debut, which offers a candid portrait of one Chinese-American immigrant experience through the eyes of a gutsy, empathetic 10-year-old. In 1993, when Mia Tang’s parents become managers of a California motel, she envisions bright times ahead: the motel has a pool, and Disneyland is just down the road. But the mean-spirited motel owner bans her from the pool and cheats her parents out of money they deserve, keeping Disneyland far out of reach. While her parents work tirelessly, Mia takes charge of the front desk—and much more. Believing that “sometimes, you have to... be creative to get what you want,” and flouting her mother’s repeated assertion that Mia’s English will never be as proficient as native-born Americans’, she writes letters—creatively forged—to aid others, including an African-American victimized by racial profiling and a Chinese immigrant abused by his boss. Mia’s story is one of indefatigable hope and of triumph over injustice, and her voice is genuine and inspiring. Ages 8–12. (May)

Reviewed on 06/15/2018 | Details & Permalink

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