The Story Peddler / by Lindsay A. Franklin. (The Weaver Trilogy, 1) 10.17.2018

Enclave ISBN 9781683701361

YA Grades 9 and up Rating: 5

Lindsay Franklin debuts a new young adult fantasy series where storytelling is a gift, one that a wicked king wants to control.

In The Story Peddler, an orphaned peasant girl Tanwen tells stories and weaves crystalized sculptures that she sells to her audience under the tutelage of a cruel mentor. Her dream is to become a Royal Storyteller someday. Tanwen travels around the countryside, selling “crowned” stories (official versions of the stories the way the king wants them told). One day she is telling a story and feels compelled to speak different words, words that tell the truth, but not the “crowned” version. That brings her to the attention of the king, and not in a good way. As the king’s guardsmen hunt her down, she is “rescued” by a band of rebels–story weavers with various gifts who teach her more about her gift. Tanwen discovers secrets about her gift and her family. On the run, will Tanwen find her destiny?Franklin does an excellent job of creating a world where spoken words have magic as they take on new meaning.

The cover shows colorful threads that the storyteller weaves together in telling the story. Her word pictures capture the imagination of the reader and the action builds with each turning page. Tanwen, Brac, Mor, and the other weavers are engaging characters. The dialogue is witty, the plot has several twists and turns, and the faith element is light but still inspirational (Creator vs. goddesses). This is a good vs. evil battle fantasy that will be enjoyed for its colorful imagery, rebels, traitors, unlikely heroes, a princess, a king, and more.

Recommended for young adults, older teens, and fantasy fans, especially fans of Mary Weber, Nadine Brandes, and Sara Ella. Watch for book 2, The Story Mage coming in 2019.

Carol R. Gehringer,

Conspiracy of Silence / by Ronie Kendig. 10.16.2018

Bethany House ISBN 9780764217654

Adult Rating: 5

Tzivia Khalon, an archaeologist, seeks to redeem her professional reputation following a disaster that happened three years earlier. She thinks her most current discovery will do just that in Conspiracy of Silence. Little does she know the threat found within the biblical era discovery. A special ops soldier, Cole “Tox” Russell, presumed dead by all who love him, returns when his country needs him to neutralize the assassin of the former vice president. As Tox assembles his team, forces are at work to access and proliferate a toxin that could kill those with whom it comes into contact. Haven “Kasey” Cortes, FBI deception detector, once had a schoolgirl crush on Cole, and now holds his freedom in her hands. Tox and his team must find not only the assassin responsible for so much death, but also those bent on spreading a plague.

Ronie Kendig’s suspenseful plot moves quickly. In addition to locating and taking down the assassin, the team of characters must find the source of the plague as well as its remedy before it spreads throughout the world. This mission takes them from the United States to Saudi Arabia, to India then Jerusalem, and finally to Syria and beyond. Each piece of the puzzle seems to add a new layer of history or mystery to their search. In addition to the high stakes plot, the characters face some life-changing realizations–if they can see them. Cole fears hurting those he loves more than anything and must overcome that fear if he is to have any meaningful relationships with them. Tzivia’s lack of faith blinds her to possibilities that could solve a devastating outbreak of a plague. Kasey feels dwarfed by the shadow of her sister which sometimes blinds her to feelings others have for her. As they seek answers and justice, they also seek redemption–some professional, some relational, and some spiritual. And whether they see it or not, Kendig shows that God is there–offering redemption and rescue all along the way.

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask about Having a Disability / by Shane Burcaw; photographs by Matt Carr. 10.15.2018

Roaring Brook Press ISBN 9781626727717

PRI Grades 1-5 Rating: 5

Shane Burcaw answers questions about living with spinal muscular atrophy in Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask about Having a Disability.

The author has a small body and extremely weak muscles due to SMA. He candidly addresses the curiosity of young readers by explaining that he is “just a little different”. Photographs by Matt Carr capture Burcaw’s personality and show his many capabilities alongside his physical challenges.

Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask about Having a Disability is written with sincerity, humor, and insight. The author’s openness and positive outlook help to educate readers of all ages about living with a disability.

An Author’s Note contains additional reflections of the author and information about his non-profit organization.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

Grand Canyon / by Jason Chin. 10.12.2018

Roaring Brook Press ISBN 9781596439504

INT Grades 3-5 Rating: 5

Using a narrative of a girl and her father hiking throughout the canyon, going from present day to the past and back again, Jason Chin’s Grand Canyon presents information appealing to the imagination of third to fifth graders. The journey enables children to understand how rivers wind through earth, eroding the soil for millions of year, creating what is the Grand Canyon, a cavity 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and more than a mile deep. The illustrations in this 2018 Caldecott Honor Book add a lot to the narrative by capturing the feel of this high desert landscape and each elevation’s own ecological zone.

The breathtaking walk covers an astonishing variety of plants and animals that have lived within its walls for millennia. In Chin’s illustrations, one grasps many details about geology, geography, and biology. A double foldout clearly offers testimony that the Grand Canyon is much more than a big hole in the ground.

Along the way, children also gain an appreciation for Southwestern biomes, sedimentary geology, and the discoveries to be made in observing and being close to nature. Chin provides further notes and illustrations covering the canyon’s history, ecology, human settlement, and geology in the closing section of the book.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats / by Dori Hillestad Butler ; Illustrated by Nancy Meyers. 10.11.2018

Peachtree Publishers ISBN 9781561458776

PRI K-Grade 2 Rating: 4

King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats by Dori Hillestad Butler is a short chapter book with illustrations that is ideal for beginning readers, as well as an appealing mystery story for early elementary students.

King is a dog explaining the Case of the Missing Dog Treats from his point of view. He loves the dog treats his friend Kayla is making, but he must share this time. When some go missing the thought is King has taken them. He has not, so he is determined to find out who has taken the treats and clear his name. King wants to prove he is not a bad dog.

Readers will be eager to find out what happens next as the story holds their interest to the end. King is a lovable dog, and readers will feel for him and hope he can solve the case and prove he is a good dog. Problem–solving skills are also presented as the mystery progresses through the book.

Colorful illustrations by Nancy Meyers throughout the book go along perfectly with the story. These are nice visuals adding details to the storyline and depth for the reader.

Did King really gobble up the treats he loves so much instead of sharing? Or does he find who actually took the missing dog treats? Find out all the answers in this adorable mystery perfect for beginning readers.

Charity R. Bartley Howard, CLJ

My Kite is Stuck! And Other Stories / by Salina Yoon. 10.10.2018

Bloomsbury Children’s Publishers ISBN 9781619638877

PRI K-Grade 2 Rating: 5

Playful and colorful, My Kite is Stuck and Other Stories by Salina Yoon is a Duck, Duck Porcupine! picture book starring three friends–a chatty Big Duck, a quietly resourceful Little Duck, and a kind Porcupine. Designed for ages 5-7, this is a charming read for little listeners not yet reading and early readers starting on the reading path. There are three different adventures including “My Kite is Stuck”; the other stories are “A New Friend” and “Best Lemonade Stand.”

Working together, problem solving, welcoming others, and a good amount of silliness are all part of these cute stories. The author tells short engaging stories with beautiful visuals spoken through bubble quotes by the characters. The reader will find important educational elements sprinkled throughout as well as some colors and numbers too.

Everything about this book is a value from the literary presentation and colorful, well-done illustrations to the delightful messages and stories of friendship. Early readers might find some words to learn, but there is plenty of repetition to help them catch on to any bigger words such as “porcupine” and “lemonade.”

My Kite is Stuck and Other Stories is a delightful book perfectly designed to read aloud, with lovable characters and fun messages. This would also make a great book for older siblings to read to younger siblings.

Charity R. Bartley Howard, CLJ

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut / by Derrick Barnes. 10.9.2018

Bolden ISBN 9781572842243

PRI K-Grade 3 Rating: 5

Derrick Barnes presents a picture book tribute to the importance of a new haircut in the life of a teenage African-American youth.

In Crown, a young boy goes to the barber shop for a haircut and experiences how self-confidence, swagger, and more comes from a fresh haircut. According to the author, the text is “actually a poem I was inspired to write after seeing an illustration from one of my illustrator buddies (shout out to Dan Tate) of his teen son after a trip to the barber.”

Barnes writes that boys go in as lumps of clay and exit with their new haircuts, which make them look sharper, get better grades, be more attractive to the girls, and so on. A “fresh cut” has the power to make the boys fly! Barnes’ delightful read-aloud celebrates the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys experience after their fresh cut. It has the power to change how they see themselves and the world around them. Nationally-recognized illustrator Gordon James used colorful oil on board paintings to convey the joy-filled event of the boys, inviting the reader along for the experience.

Recommended for school and public libraries. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut was a 2018 Newbery Honor Book, 2018 Caldecott Honor Book, 2018 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book, 2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, 2018 Ezra Jack Keats New Author Award winner, as well as the recipient of starred reviews in a number of journals.

Carol R. Gehringer,

La Princesa and the Pea / by Susan Middleton Elya; illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. 10.2.2018

G. P. Putnam’s Sons ISBN 9780399251566

PRI PS-Grade 2 Rating: 5

Susan Middleton Elya pens a delightful retelling of the classic fairy tale (The Princess and the Pea). Beautifully illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, this bilingual picture book won the 2018 Pura Belpré Medal for Illustration.

In La Princesa and the Pea, the lonely prince finds the princess he thinks is perfect for him when she visits his castle. His mother, the queen, has a different opinion, as she often does. She has a secret test to see if the girl is indeed a royal princess and worthy of her son–and fit to be queen one day! The queen places a very small pea under 20 mattresses before the princess goes to bed. The prince has his own plan to make sure his future bride passes the test. But does the princess have a good night’s sleep or does she pass the ultimate test?

Author Susan Middleton Elya and illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal team up to present a charming retelling of a classic story with a Latina twist. The vibrant illustrations–done with acrylics, colored pencils, and graphite–mirror Peruvian artwork and are so enchanting that they won the Pura Belpré Medal. The lively artwork is inspired by indigenous Peruvians, and beautifully executed in the facial expressions of the queen, the prince, her cat, and even the print of the mattresses!

The book incorporates Spanish words in its rhymes and rhythm, and includes a glossary for the reader. Not only are the illustrations breathtaking, but the lyrical rhyming couplets in Spanish and English add to the pleasure of reading and re-reading the book over and over again.

Recommended for school and public libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved An Ecosystem / by Patricia Newman. 10.1.2018

Millbrook Press ISBN 9781512426311

YA Grades 4 to 9 Rating: 4

Thoughtfully organized with enticing photos of fluffy-faced otters, Sea Otter Heroes presents an interesting story of the relationship between sea grasses and sea otters in a California bay inlet. Utilizing the work of marine biologist Brent Hughes, students come to understand the role of sea otters in maintaining ecosystems. Studying the nutrient-polluted estuary fed by fertilizers and pesticides used in nearby farming, Hughes discovered that sea otters, the top predators in the food chain, help keep the sea grass algae-free through their feeding habits, which allows the fish population to grow and expand and, in the long term, preserves a natural barrier to storms.

Source notes, glossary, bibliography, suggested resources, and index add to the quality of this title. Sidebars called “Otterisms” both demonstrate and brighten the text. Clear, full-color photographs and illustrations offering scientific diagrams make it easy to see how Hughes’ theory was confirmed. The layout, done much like a picture book, may deter older readers. But since the story is presented as a mystery, clues unfold as the researcher discovers them. Why are the sea grasses in Elkhorn Slough flourishing when the waterway is one of the most polluted waterways in the country? This will help keep readers stay engaged. The final chapter on conservation includes relevant experiments and ways in which young people can help the environment on a daily basis.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Lucky Broken Girl / by Ruth Behar. 9.28.2018

Puffin Books ISBN 9780399546457

INT Grades 4-7 Rating: *5

A car injury binds 10-year-old Ruthie in a body cast and confines her to bed. Anger against those who caused the accident sits in heart like a stone, and having to depend upon her mother for EVERYTHING, because she cannot move, frustrates her and her mother. Fear becomes a new companion when Ruthie’s prolonged immobility indicates that she many never walk again.

Based on her own real-life experience as a child, Ruth Behar’s Lucky Broken Girl portrays a young girl’s struggle with a physical injury, assimilation in a new country, mastering a foreign language, and opening her heart to forgiveness and friendship.

The many months in bed make Ruthie complacent, and a new fear takes hold of her that is more paralyzing than the injury itself: the thought of getting out of bed, learning how to walk again, and participating in this new world in which she now lives. She is helped by a host of characters that pass through her room, each one giving her a gift through which she learns life lessons.

Her home school teacher introduces her to the world of books and reading that free her mind. An artist neighbor helps her find joy in painting through which Ruthie learns about perspective and its power to change how one sees the world. A nurse encourages her to stop entertaining fear in order to prevent it from settling inside her like an unwelcome guest. And from a school friend, she learns that little dreams are easy to lose, so she must dream big.

Lucky Broken Girl is a warm and delightful book providing insight and inspiration into the world of tragedy, loneliness, newness, and fear. But Ruthie learns to put away her anger against the driver who broke her and discovers how lucky she really is. Forgiveness becomes her first step toward healing, from the inside out.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ