Juvenile

A BOY CALLED BAT by Elana K. Arnold 

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Bat got his name because his initials are B. A. T. But it stuck because of the way Bat flaps his arms when he gets excited or overwhelmed. And because of his extra sensitive hearing, which sometimes requires him to wear earmuffs.  It’s okay with him because a bat is an animal, and Bat loves animals.  When he grows up, he is going to be a vet like his mom.  When his mom brings home a newborn skunk kit, Bat is ecstatic.  It will be a perfect pet! There are only two problems.  First, Bat still has to spend Every Other Fridays at his dad’s house, which is bad both because it breaks up his normal routine and takes time away from the kit.  And second, his mom says they have to turn the kit over to a skunk rescue in a month.  Bat can’t change Every Other Fridays, but he embarks on a mission to change his mom’s mind about the skunk rescue.  Step One: contact international skunk expert Dr. Jerry Dragoo.   

A sweet story about a boy’s love for his pet and struggle to find a place in his community.  This novel will be best for readers who have graduated from transitional to full-fledged chapter books (typically grades 3-4). 

FROGKISSER by Garth Nix

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When Princess Anna of Trallonia hears her older sister Morven scream, she isn’t sure whether it is a big deal or not.  After all, screaming is one of Morven’s favorite pastimes.  It turns out to be sort of a big deal.  Anna’s step-step-father, the Evil Duke Rikard, has turned Morven’s latest suitor into a frog.  After swearing an oath to change him back, Anna learns that the task may be more complicated than she thought, as it will require a magic lip balm with ingredients such as the blood of a retired druid and freshly plucked cockatrice feathers.  More troubling is the news that Duke Rikard plans to have her killed.  So Anna and Ardent, the royal dog, set off on their quest for the magic lip balm, collecting a gaggle of transformed creatures along the way.

Hilarious, quirky, yet grounded by relevant social commentary, this fairytale is delightful from beginning to end.  I highly recommend it to teen and tween fantasy readers!  

MIDNIGHT WITH OUT A MOON by Linda Williams Jackson 

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Rose is out picking cotton when she hears the news that Levi was shot and killed for registering to vote. She is grief stricken and can’t understand why her grandmother seems to think Levi deserved to die for trying to vote.  There are a lot of things Rose doesn’t understand about Ma Pearl.  Like why she lets Queen lie in bed all day while Rose and Fred Lee work in the field.  Is it really just because Queen’s skin is lighter than Rose’s?  When Rose’s Aunt Belle comes to visit from St. Louis and tells Rose about her work with the NAACP, Rose is torn between worry for her aunt and the others who are “stirring things up” and her dream of leaving Mississippi and starting a new life up North. But when a boy from Chicago is lynched in her town for whistling at a white woman, Rose must figure out for herself where she stands and how she can change her world.

This novel does not shy away from the brutal reality of Emmett Till’s murder. Rose’s authentic point of view invites readers to share in the fear, anger, and grief of living through that summer in Jim Crow Mississippi.  But the courage and sense of self-worth that Rose develops on the wake of the tragedy is inspiring.  I highly recommend this novel to middle grade and teen historical fiction fans who are mature enough to process the violence of the subject matter or who are reading with adult guidance.  

PRISONER OF ICE AND SNOW by Ruth Lauren

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When Valor’s twin sister was arrested and thrown into the infamous juvenile ice prison, didn’t care that she had stolen a priceless heirloom and destroyed a strategic alluance with another country.  Sasha was her sister, and Valor would break her out.  But first she had to get herself thrown in.  A purposely failed attempt to assassinate Prince Anatol earns her a life sentence.  But the prison is more terrible and difficult to break out of than Valor imagined.  And she soon realizes that Sasha is innocent and Prince Anatol is up to something.  Starting to regret that she didn’t kill him when she had the chance, Valor dodges the prince’s watchful eye as she attempts to plan a daring escape for herself and a growing gaggle of friends–despite the fact that no one has ever escaped before. 

This novel has hints of Disney’s Frozen in the icy environment and fierce sisterly love, but features unique characters and a noteworthy lack of magic.  Middle grade fantasy fans will enjoy this promising new series opener.

GARVEY’S CHOICE by Nikki Grimes

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Garvey wishes his father could accept him for who he is.  He just doesn’t like sports.  He likes reading.  His father’s comments sting, and the only thing that seems to soften the blow is eating.  And eating.  The more weight he gains, the more he is tormented by his father and his classmates.  Can Garvey find a way to connect with his father and love himself?

Told in a series of poems, Garvey’s story tackles the struggle to overcome the judgments of others and find a sense of self worth.  Despite Garvey’s difficult relationship with his father, they do love one another and ultimately will gain a deeper understanding for each other as they grow closer.  Short and full of beautiful language, this new novel from Nikki Grimes will appeal to middle grade realistic fiction readers, poetry lovers, and even reluctant readers who may be encouraged by the short chapters and abundant white space.

GHOSTS by Raina Telgemeier

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Cat is not happy about having to move from beautiful, sunny Southern California to cold,  rainy, miserable Bahia de la Luna.  But the weather will be better for her little sister Maya’s health.  Despite her illness and difficulty breathing, Maya is always cheerful and doesn’t seem to mind leaving all her friends behind.  In fact, she almost immediately makes a new friend: a boy Cat’s age who just happens to lead the town ghost tours.  Cat is less than thrilled.  She hates ghost stories.  But things get far worse when the ghosts turn out to be real.  Spirits of the dead hang around in Bahia de la Luna awaiting the Day of the Dead festival, and their presence will force Cat to confront her sister’s mortality.

With an infusion of folk fantasy, this graphic novel tackles the topic of a terminally ill sibling with a realistic range of emotions–from resentment to fear to sadness.  This novel will appeal more to realistic fiction fans than ghost story aficionados, though it has elements of both genres.

ONCE UPON AN ALPHABET: SHORT STORIES FOR ALL THE LETTERS by Oliver Jeffers

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In this humorous, illustrated collection, Oliver Jeffers tells twenty six brief stories in verse, each featuring a different letter. Great for readers who like their stories funny and a bit absurd, this book is on an elementary school interest level and will likely engage fans of Shel Silverstein.  I highly recommend it!