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She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World

Chelsea Clinton, illus. by Alexandra Boiger. Philomel, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4172-3

Mitch McConnell’s dismissal of Elizabeth Warren during a Senate confirmation hearing immediately became a feminist rallying cry. Clinton (It’s Your World) and Boiger (Max and Marla) further transform it into a lovely, moving work of children’s literature that might even win over those cynical about celebrity efforts in that space. Clinton succinctly summarizes the lives of women who “did not take no for an answer”; each story reiterates “she persisted” in bold type and is paired with an inspiring quote. Familiar figures (Helen Keller, Sally Ride) join ones who may be new to some readers, like union activist Clara Lemlich and Claudette Colvin, the teenager whose courageous decision to keep her seat on a Montgomery bus helped “inspire Rosa Parks to make the same choice nine months later.” Boiger’s celebratory watercolors effortlessly mix drama and playfulness: a luminous Harriet Tubman guides escaped slaves to freedom; a few pages later, babies beatifically float around Virginia Apgar as she examines an infant. Clinton’s mother isn’t profiled, but readers will spot her portrait in a gallery scene that opens this polished introduction to a diverse and accomplished group of women. Ages 4–8. (May)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Welcome to the Slipstream

Natalka Burian. Merit, $17.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-5072-0075-9

Seventeen-year-old Van Lowell feels out of her depth after being whisked to yet another city by her mother, Sofia, who runs a consulting business and manages her manic and depressive episodes—both with mixed results. Van, Sofia, and Van’s longtime nanny, Ida, have just moved from Uzbekistan to Las Vegas, where Sofia will be working with a local casino and hotel. Having been out of medication for weeks, Sofia almost immediately quarantines herself in the hotel, and Van finds a needed outlet by joining a band with her new friend and crush, Alex. After Sofia disappears into the desert with her “astrotherapist” on a spiritual mission, Van heads to Sedona to track her down. The psychological pressures Van is under are deeply felt as she worries that she will become like her mother and struggles to adapt to her family’s fluctuating circumstances. While the detour into the realm of cults and con artists makes for a slightly disjointed narrative, Burian sensitively investigates the complexities of caring for someone who has no desire to be saved. Ages 14–up. Agent: Kate Johnson, Wolf Literary Services. (June)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Unlikelies

Carrie Firestone. Little, Brown, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-316-38286-1

After 17-year-old Sadie Sullivan is brutally assaulted at a farmer’s market during an altercation with a drunk man, she’s left feeling shaken and isolated from her friends, despite being hailed as a hero. (The man had an infant and a shotgun in his car, and the entire “incident,” as Sadie thinks of it, was captured on video and has been circulated widely, naturally.) After this jarring beginning, Firestone (The Loose Ends List) offers a mix of humor, friendship building, and altruism as Sadie and four other teens form a band of vigilante do-gooders called the Unlikelies. Together they take on injustices and perform kind acts, sometimes as small as leaving nice comments on a website, and use an unexpected windfall of illegal diamonds to fund grander projects. Firestone touches lightly on racism (Sadie is of Iranian descent on her mother’s side) and dives deep into heroin addiction. It’s a memorable blend of the serious, madcap, and romantic that, while over the top in some regards, champions the Unlikelies’ values of kindness, bravery, and respect. Ages 14–up. Agent: Sara Crowe, Pippin Properties. (June)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Sandcastle Empire

Kayla Olson. HarperTeen, $17.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-06-248487-1

Questions of justice, privilege, and inequity hang over Olson’s smart, fast-paced debut, set in a near-future Earth racked by climate devastation and war. Seventeen-year-old Eden lost everything, including her father, when citizens calling themselves the Wolfpack took over in a populist uprising amid planet-transforming floods. Eden and others now work in gulags, suffering daily indignities from the brutal Wolves. Following a bloody battle, Eden makes a break for it, setting sail along with three fellow runaways. They head for the fabled refuge of Sanctuary Island, but upon arrival it appears to be deserted. After they locate a temple full of deadly traps, and a trio of boys arrives on the island, Eden discovers that her newfound safety is fleeting at best. Eden, who narrates, is both brave and aware of her flaws. Readers will enjoy sinking into the thoughtfully constructed details of Olson’s ravaged future Earth, as well as a number of terrifying action sequences that build to a game-changing twist and the potential for more to come. Ages 14–up. Agent: Holly Root and Taylor Haggerty, Root Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Liberty: The Spy Who (Kind of) Liked Me

Andrea Portes. HarperTeen, $17.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-242199-9

Paige Nolan’s parents, lauded investigative journalists, have disappeared under mysterious circumstances in Damascus and are presumed dead. After Paige, a Bryn Mawr student, uses her significant martial arts abilities to take out a pair of belligerent “open carry” enthusiasts at an Applebee’s, she attracts the attention of Madden, a handler from a top-secret government agency, who offers Paige a job and suggests that her parents may still be alive. Following some extensive physical training, Paige is off to Moscow to find Sean Raynes, a Snowdenesque hacker/whistleblower, who might be able to help find her parents. Portes (The Fall of Butterflies) gives her multilingual heroine a sharp-edged, love-it-or-hate-it voice that addresses the reader as a friend/coconspirator (“What we are looking at right now, you and I, is a very, and I mean very fancy restaurant in Moscow. This is, like, where Vladimir Putin has his lunch, when he’s not bare-chested fishing, bare-chested invading neighboring countries”). Though this spy caper is a bit slow to ramp up, it’s a blast once it does, and the ending suggests future missions for Paige. Ages 13–up. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (June)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Hundredth Queen

Emily R. King. Skyscape, $9.99 trade paper (300p) ISBN 978-1-5039-4365-0

A show of loyalty and unexpected strength leads Kalinda, a sickly 18-year-old raised in the sisterhood temple of the Parijana, to the rajah’s throne as one of his numerous wives. But an attack by a bhuta, a magical creature that can create fire, signifies Kali’s own hidden powers and may hold the key to her escape from the kingdom. First in a planned series, King’s debut is built on a solid premise that draws on Sumerian mythology for inspiration, but the execution is left wanting. Kalinda falls for the first man she’s ever seen in her life, the mystery of her lineage becomes clear well before it’s revealed, and Kali’s interactions with the lecherous rajah remain mostly chaste until a jarringly erotic finale. Despite these shortcomings, the tale maintains a consistent thread as King embarks on a deep examination of sisterhood, first between Kali and her best friend Jaya, and later when she must fight the rajah’s other wives to keep her place within the palace. Ages 13–up. Agent: Marlene Stringer, Stringer Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Outside In

Jennifer Bradbury. Atheneum/Dlouhy, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4424-6827-6

In an inspiring and multilayered story partly based on the life of Nek Chand, a self-taught Indian artist, a homeless teenage orphan scrapes by with his wits on the streets of Chandigarh, a “young” city “built as a symbol of hope and new beginnings.” Running away from a gang of rich boys from whom he won money playing a game called gilli, Ram accidentally drops his winnings and watches Nek, a factory worker, discover the windfall. Intending to steal the money back, Ram follows Nek to a hideout in the woods, where he sees the man using found materials to create a small city with houses, gardens, and an army of laughing statues on property that doesn’t belong to him. From Nek and other friends, Ram learns the story of Rama, which Nek describes as “the story of all of India.... It is every story ever told wrapped into one.” In Ram, Bradbury (River Runs Deep) creates a gutsy, compassionate protagonist who longs to be “more than just a kid who has been left behind.” Ages 8–12. (June)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Girl with the Ghost Machine

Lauren DeStefano. Bloomsbury, $16.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-68119-444-8

Emmaline Beaumont was 10 years old when her mother died; two years later, her father remains so consumed by grief that it’s almost as if Emmaline has lost both parents. In a desperate attempt to bring his wife back, Monsieur Beaumont tinkers with his “ghost machine” night and day. When Emmaline’s attempt to destroy the machine doesn’t go as planned, she and readers are left pondering the question at the heart of the book: are precious memories of loved ones worth trading for the chance to interact with them one more time? Emmaline’s twin best friends, rational Gully and dreamy Oliver, represent the push and pull between hope and logic that plagues Emmaline and offer her new ways of understanding grief—until a new tragedy casts an even darker shadow on Emmaline’s life. Readers should be prepared for heaviness throughout: the relationships DeStefano (The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart) builds between her characters are sweet and piercingly true, but a deep sadness hangs over most of the interactions. Ages 8–12. Agent: Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Aleca Zamm Is a Wonder

Ginger Rue. Aladdin, $6.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-4814-7060-5

On Aleca’s 10th birthday, her best friend predicts that “today is the day everything changes for Aleca Zamm.” And she’s right: Aleca quickly discovers that, by saying her own name, she can stop time. What does she do with this newfound power? Pull pranks on her classmates, teacher, and principal and cheat on a math test, of course. But before Aleca can move on to dangerously altering the course of human events, her heretofore unknown great-aunt Zephyr shows up to assure her that she’s not a witch but a magically talented “Wonder.” After the funny opening chapters that focus on Aleca’s use (and misuse) of her powers, the novel takes a prolonged detour into the Zamm family’s history of magic. While entertaining, it doesn’t move Aleca’s story along very far, and things seem to end before they ever really begin. Nevertheless, Rue’s (the Tig Ripley novels) heroine is memorably mischievous and strong-willed, which bodes well for her future adventures. Simultaneously available: Aleca Zamm Is Ahead of Her Time. Ages 7–10. Agent: Abigail Samoun, Red Fox Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Blue Sky Yellow Kite

Janet A. Holmes, illus. by Jonathan Bentley. Peter Pauper, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4413-2482-5

In this unusual friendship story, originally published in Australia, a girl named Daisy is enchanted by a yellow fish kite she spies soaring in the sky. Following its line, she meets a boy, William, who shows Daisy how to fly it. She is so enamored of the experience that she flies the kite all the way home (“She does not look back once”), keeping it hidden away, partly out of guilt and partly because she isn’t ready to relinquish the kite. Bentley’s illustrations, which combine zigzagging pencil lines with airy splashes of watercolor, feel downright windswept—trees, grasses, the children’s hair, and the unfurling kite string seem to be in constant motion in nearly every scene. Holmes’s clipped text, by comparison, is more down to earth and doesn’t do much to evoke the joy the kite brings Daisy (“When she feels the kite catch the breeze, she releases it”). Although the author avoids spelling out Daisy’s conflicted emotions too blatantly, she never lets her speak (though William gets a few lines), which has the effect of keeping her heroine at arm’s length. Ages 4–8. (June)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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