The 57 Bus / by Dashka Slater. 11.6.2018

Farrar Straus Giroux ISBN 9780374303235

YA Grades 9-12 Rating: 5

The 57 Bus is a moving story about two teenage boys from different parts of town with different beliefs. Sasha loves to read, makes up his own language, wears skirts, and refers to himself using the pronouns “they” and “them. Sasha has classified himself as agender. Richard has had some trouble in the past, but he is eager to help others. He likes to cut up and make people laugh, but also works hard to get good grades in school. Their brief encounter happens on one of the public buses when they’re heading home from school. Richard’s friends think it would be funny if Richard lit the sleeping Sasha’s skirt on fire. Richard, thinking it would be a harmless prank, doesn’t see the harm because he never thought Sasha would become engulfed in flames. Richard thought the little flame would just die out.

Dashka Slater has touched on some very sensitive and controversial subjects in this book: racism and confusion with gender identity. Sasha has struggled to fit in and realize who “they” are. Richard has had to make up for the bad decisions in his past and now he’s facing prison time for an act that he didn’t think completely through. Due to his actions, he could also potentially be charged for a hate crime. The boys’ families demonstrate struggles, strength, and forgiveness, as Richard’s prank doesn’t just affect Richard and Sasha–it also affects both of their families. This story affirms that people should have the right to be themselves, even if it’s confusing to others, and that nobody should ever be harmed for how they dress or because they are different.

There is some strong language; recommended for public and high school libraries.

Trina Chase, CLJ

Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education / by Raphaële Frier; illustrated by Aurélia Fronty. 11.5.2018

Charlesbridge Publishing ISBN 9781580897853

INT Grades 3-9 Rating: 5

Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education by Raphaële Frier details the true story of Malala Yousafzai, youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Growing up in Pakistan, Malala joins her father in speaking out when the Taliban impose restrictions on education for girls. By age 13 she has become a noted activist for children’s rights in her country and in 2012 she survives an apparent assassination attempt by the Taliban. After recovering at a hospital in England, Malala continues to be a voice and advocate for girls all over the world.

This compelling picture book is absorbing and inspirational. Many young readers will likely have heard of Malala without fully realizing the extent of her courage and leadership. Author Raphaële Frier narrates the dramatic events of Malala’s childhood in the present tense, conveying the sense that her story is very much ongoing. Extensive end notes include photos, speech excerpts, a timeline, map, and historical information that greatly expand the reading level and audience.

Vivid illustrations by Aurélia Fronty show Malala’s world from a variety of perspectives, including both peaceful times and times of violence.

A Batchelder Award Honor Book, Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education is an eye-opening and though-provoking biographical picture book. Though violent acts are presented carefully, parents may wish to preview the material before sharing with younger readers.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

Mere Science and Christian Faith: Bridging the Divide with Emerging Adults / by Greg Cootsona. 11.2.2018

IVP Books ISBN 9780830838141

Adult Rating: 5

Greg Cottsona, writer and researcher with a Ph.D. from Theological Union, draws from his experience in ministry with young adults (emerging adults to use Cottsona’s terminology and referring to 18-30 year olds) and his theological expertise, to explore how faith and science are not in a wrestling match where one will be the victor. Mere Science and Christian Faith is written conversationally rather than didactically, and provides a field guide that identifies challenges and creative ways faith can integrate and collaborate with science, whether in concern for environment, an understanding of human sexuality, or the ubiquitous presence of smart media which changes how we relate to each other and the community. Quotes from young adults that relate to chapter themes are sprinkled throughout the narrative. Current scientists like Katherine Hayhoe and Elaine Ecklund are cited, as well as writers on the philosophy of science like Ian Barbour, and theologians like Arthur Peacocke.

Cottsona notes that emerging adults are leaving the church in record numbers or that increasing numbers identify as “spiritual but not religious.” He is concerned that the church too often creates a suspicion of mainstream science, and that when the church does talk about science, it often focuses on conflict instead of embracing that God as first cause works through secondary, intermediate, and natural causes. He sees it as a natural given for mainstream scientists to hold onto Christian faith.

Both the narrative and footnotes point readers to further resources in print and online.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets / by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth; illustrated by Ekua Holmes. 11.1.2018

Candlewick Press ISBN 9780763680947

INT Grades 3-7 Rating: 5

It has been said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In Out of Wonder, Kwame Alexander, along with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, take this concept to heart. With a collection of their own inspiring poems, the authors celebrate 20 of their favorite poets by incorporating some of the poets’ styles, voices, and techniques into their own poetry.

This collection is sectioned into three parts, each beginning with a short introduction on how the following poems celebrate its specific poet. Under each poem’s title, the name of the poet being honored is listed. At the end of the book is a short biography for each poet. It is recommended that one begin with the biographies before reading the poems, as the biographies explain many of the references in the poems about each poet.

It is easy to see why this beautiful collection of poems has won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for 2018. The mixed media illustrations are a gorgeous collage of color, geometric shapes, and bold and subtle images of nature, people, and places. Each illustration brings visual life to its accompanying poem, reinforcing the lessons, truths, and themes shared within.

Overall, this book is an excellent addition to any child’s library, as well as the classroom. It would make a great springboard for a poetry unit. Students will learn about some of the world’s greatest poets, ranging from Rumi to Robert Frost to Maya Angelou. They will be exposed to a variety of different forms of poetry, such as the guided structure of haiku and the creative liberty of free verse. Along the way, they are sure to be inspired to create their own poems following the methods highlighted in each unit.

Justina McBride, CLJ

Big Cat, Little Cat / by Elisha Cooper. 10.31.2018

Roaring Brook Press ISBN 9781626723719

PRI PK-Grade 1 Rating: 5

Elisha Cooper wrote and illustrated this delightful picture book for the youngest of readers.

In Big Cat, Little Cat, a white cat lives alone. One day a new little cat shows up to live with him. The first cat shows the little black cat where to eat, drink, and rest. Days go by, and the little cat grows up. They spend years together until one day the older cat leaves. Then a new little cat comes to live with him, and the cycle begins all over again.

Cooper pens a picture book with bold black and white illustrations, with bright yellow accents. He presents a story that shows the role animals play in our lives, as well as the friendship of two cats. Readers will enjoy viewing the simple text and drawings over and over again, and personalizing it with their own experience of family pets. The departure of the older cat is told simply, and off-stage, yet it offers a venue for discussion. Cooper, the author of several picture books, draws on his personal experience with cats to deliver a warm message that the love experienced by pet lovers continues even during loss. The repetition of text and artwork is what makes this book a welcome addition to the library.

Recommended for public and school libraries, and especially pet lovers. It is especially a suitable book to share with families experiencing the loss of a pet. A 2018 Caldecott Honor Book, Big Cat, Little Cat is a touching story that will be read and enjoyed over and over again by readers, both parents and children alike.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

With Love, Wherever You Are / by Dandi Daley Mackall. 10.30.2018

Tyndale ISBN 9781496421227

Adult Rating: 5

Helen Eberhart has her future all planned out: finish nurse’s training and get a job in the city and see the world. Love and war were not a part of that plan. Intern doctor Frank Daley has no desire for a career in the military; however, when Pearl Harbor is attacked, Frank has little choice but to sign up for deferment rather than risk being drafted and unable to finish his residency. Surely this war will be over before he graduates.

As the war drags on, Helen and Frank find themselves enlisted in the military, awaiting shipment overseas. While waiting on transfer orders, their paths cross at Percy Jones Hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan and love quickly grows, leading to a swift marriage before they are both sent to different parts of Europe.

Amid the grim brutality of war and separation, Helen and Frank rely on their letters to sustain them through the hardships and heartaches they each endure. Will their young love prove strong enough to survive the fiery destruction of war or will it burn to ashes before it ever has a chance to deepen?

Dandi Daley Mackall’s With Love, Wherever You Are is an inspiring World War II romance novel based on the true love story of the author’s own parents. Her personal insight gleaned through her parents’ letters and stories lends a poignant authenticity and heart to this novel that sets it uniquely apart from others of its genre. That this story has a factual basis also adds to the suspense of the plot as readers cannot wait to find out how Frank and Helen’s story will end.

The narrative is told from the alternating perspectives of Helen and Frank. Their letters, dispersed throughout, bridge the gap between their separate experiences and show how their relationship grows. The primary theme is that true love is strong enough to survive the test of time and distance. This novel is more than a romance novel; it is a story of heroism and sacrifice that honors the men and women who gave their lives in service to their country.

Justina McBride, CLJ

Imagine series / by Matt Koceich. 10.29.2018

Imagine: The Great Flood / by Matt Koceich.

Barbour ISBN 9781683221296

Imagine: The Ten Plagues / by Matt Koceich.

Barbour ISBN 9781683223801

INT Grades 3-6 Rating: 4

Matt Koceich creates a new adventure series for readers that will capture their imagination as they experience the biblical events in these books.

In The Great Flood, Corey Max’s family is planning a move across the country, but 10-year-old Corey is not looking forward to it. While chasing his dog into the woods, Corey falls. Suddenly, life as he knows it–disappears. When he awakes, Corey is back in ancient Mesopotamia, just before the flood takes place. Corey experiences the story of Noah’s ark firsthand, including opposition to Noah’s venture.

In The Ten Plagues, 11-year-old Kai Wells faces a school bully. When the confrontation turns into a fight that knocks her out, everything changes. Kai wakes up in a field in ancient Egypt where the Israelites are enslaved. Moses goes to Pharaoh to ask for their freedom, and Kai experiences the story of the ten plagues that God sends to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go.

Koceich creates a world where a significant event is experienced through the eyes of an 8- to 12-year old. Like the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshish, this biblical historical fiction series allows the reader to experience history through the eyes of a young person. Historical details, engaging narrative, and a thrilling adventure await in each book. A third book, The Fall of Jericho, is expected in fall 2018.

Recommended for school and public libraries, especially fans of the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshish. Hopefully these are the first of many books in this series for young readers.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

A Vintage National Parks Novel series / by Karen Barnett. 10.26.2018

The Road to Paradise / by Karen Barnett. (A Vintage National Parks Novel, Book 1)

Waterbrook ISBN 9780735289543

Where the Fire Falls / by Karen Barnett. (A Vintage National Parks Novel, Book 2)

Waterbrook ISBN 9780735289567

Adult Rating: 5

Margie Lane, senator’s daughter, wants nothing more than to shirk the bustle and expectations of high society to live a Walden-esque life in The Road to Paradise. Her opportunity to do so has come in the form of a job at Mount Rainier National Park, much to the dismay of Chief Ranger Ford Brayden, who has been put in charge of her duties there. The two share a love of the mountain, but forces are at play that could strip the wilderness of its wild wonders–and Margie is saddled with the responsibility to save Mt. Rainier. She’s not sure if she can, but she is willing to die trying.

Olivia Rutherford does everything she can to distance herself from her father’s history in Where the Fire Falls. A talented artist, Olivia accepts the guidance of her art dealer on everything from how to dress and wear her hair to friend choices to accepting an assignment–in Yosemite. Due to its connections with her father and his past, the last place Olivia wants to go is Yosemite. And due to her appearance as a flapper and the wealthy socialites accompanying her, Clark Johnson, handsome park guide and former pastor, does not want to lead the trio through the park. Olivia and Clark will only have a chance at life and love if they learn that not all is as it seems.

Karen Barnett’s writing offers readers an escape to the great outdoors just prior to the Great Depression. The setting of both books is vital to the story line–in both books the characters need to overcome a fear of some kind related to the park or wilderness. The descriptions aid in creating a book vacation to the great outdoors, but do not slow the pacing of the plot. Also, the characters’ sensibilities are shaped by the time in which the books are set. Filled with romance and adventure and a bit of mystery, the plots of both books move quickly. While both books are enjoyable reads, they both deal with some weightier matters through which the characters must work. Both books offer readers a chance to walk with the characters as they overcome fear, learn to accept and rely on Jesus, and learn to accept grace.

“Dis-grace is a human term, Clark. God invented grace. No one can take it from you.” (Where the Fire Falls, p. 333)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

Fault Lines / by Thomas Locke. 10.25.2018

Revell ISBN 9780800724375

Adult Rating: 4

Charlie Hazard’s meeting with the captivating and mysterious Dr. Gabriella McLaren is not by chance. Gabriella and her colleagues have opened an entirely new field into the human mind and its abilities, but to complete the study they need Charlie’s help. A rumored syndicate of the world’s rich and influential have learned of the new study and want it for themselves and they’ve hired Reese Clawson to do just that. Reese will use everything at her disposal to gain their knowledge or keep it from advancing any further. Charlie will have to rely on his military training to stay ahead of Reese Clawson to protect Gabriella, her team, and their study.

Thomas Locke doesn’t waste a moment grabbing the reader within the first paragraphs of chapter one. Locke can fashion a smoldering adventure packed with the right combination of action and mystery. Pulling the reader deeper, causing them to root for Charlie while simultaneously creating unsettling possibilities with an antagonist that seems to be prepared for Charlie’s every move, Thomas Locke forces the reader to turn the pages until the end.

Fault Lines is the prequel to Locke’s earlier two Fault Line novels, Trial Run and Flash Point.

Cicely Ben, CLJ

You’re Welcome, Universe / by Whitney Gardner. 10.24.2018

Knopf Books for Young Readers ISBN 9780399551413

YA Grades 9 and up Rating: 5

Whitney Gardner paints an eye-opening picture of the deaf community in You’re Welcome, Universe. This coming-of-age story about Julia, a deaf high school artist, brings to light the difficulties of making new friends, embracing your uniqueness, and following your dreams.

When her only friend snitches on her for spray painting over vandalism on school property, Julia gets kicked out of her deaf school and is forced to go to a “hearie” school. Even with the warm welcome from her new interpreter and a kind-hearted classmate, Julia is determined to push everyone away and focus on her art. Julia feels guilty for disobeying orders from her two moms to give up street art, but that won’t stop her from pursuing her dream.

Being known for her art becomes her obsession—her sole identity. She begins sneaking off at night to graffiti public property. But, each time she returns to one of her pieces, another artist has tagged his or her own art style to them. Sparking a graffiti war, Julia is furiously focused on creating a piece so perfect that nothing can be added. Can Julia keep fighting, even when the cops get involved? And could the culprit of the vandalism be the art teacher who’s vying for her street art to be preserved? Or the attractive coworker that she has crushed on for years? Or someone she would never expect?

Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award, dedicated to books that embody artistic expression of the disability experience, You’re Welcome, Universe uses art, texts, high school slang, and the perspective of a deaf woman to tell this unique “be careful what you wish for” story that will give teens a raw perspective on being deaf. You’re Welcome, Universe may not be appropriate for readers offended by provocative language, law-breaking, and revenge, and the fact that the protagonist professes that her “only god” is her favorite artist. Nonetheless, this book creates a broad range of emotions relevant to high school students, and may be recommended to young artists and those struggling to find their place in the world.

Rebecca Schriner, CLJ