Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story / by Caren Stelson. 6.23.2017

Carolrhoda Books ISBN 9781467789035

YA Grades 5-12 Rating: 5

Sachiko shares a Nagasaki bomb survivor’s story of the devastation that changed her family’s lives in 1945, chronicled through extensive interviews with author Caren Stelson.

Sachiko was six when a U.S. military plane dropped a second atomic bomb on Japan just prior to the end of the Second World War in the Pacific. Thousands of adults and children died that horrific day, including several of Sachiko’s siblings. More people, including Sachiko’s extended family, died in the days, weeks, and years that followed. As she matured, she wrote of the influence Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi had on her growing conviction to embrace non-violence and teach others to do the same. As a result, Sachiko decided to publicly share her story of the bombing and radiation sickness in the hope that it never happens again to anyone. Extensive bibliographical references and an index aid additional study.

The author inserts in-depth historical summaries of events and facts in special sections between episodes of Sachiko’s story. The carefully researched historical information add a wider and deeper context for the intimate details of Sachiko’s personal experiences, allowing knowledge and empathy to grow in readers. Tight writing, strong verbs, and original metaphors join with compelling themes and facts–all these transform this shocking and tragic story, a Robert F. Sibert Honor book, into a compelling revelation. Sachiko rises above painful ashes and waves a bright banner of hope that future tragedies can be avoided if difficult truths are known.

Connie Brown, CLJ

The Drum of Destiny / by Chris Stevenson. 6.2.2017

Stone Arch Books ISBN 9781496526731

YA Grades 5-9 Rating: 4

The American Revolutionary War is an exciting time for a boy, especially for a 12-year-old New Yorker. An avid reader and fluent in French (thanks to his patriot father who owned a book store and his mother’s French roots), Gabe suddenly finds himself orphaned and thrust into the home of a staunch British loyalist. The Reverend Loring, with ten children of his own, treats Gabe more like a servant than a child.

Crisis strikes during dinner one night when Gabe refuses to toast King George III of England and is cast out of the house. He finds himself on the street where the only families that exist are gangs of thieves or pickpockets. Spending a solitary night by a river, Gabe finds a drum that inspires him to travel to Boston in hopes of becoming a drummer boy in George Washington’s army. The only problem is that he doesn’t know how to play the drum. Would they still accept him? Can he make it on foot from New York City to Boston?

Through a series of mishaps on the road, Gabe learns the consequences of indecision and of ignoring good advice. He also painfully realizes that war recognizes no age.

Chris Stevenson leads the reader on a geographic tour and action-packed journey through old Manhattan and across King’s Bridge at the northern tip of the island toward Boston, as Gabe confronts troubles, dangers, and sickness, and finds friends as well as foes. He even meets Benedict Arnold! Significant historical information is conveyed through the characters’ eyes, making the facts meaningful in context and easy to remember.

Although Gabe’s resolve and determination are tested and often waver, he learns courage by staying true to his goals and to himself and grasps the importance of earning the respect of others by being truthful. The Drum of Destiny is an engaging historical adventure filled with life-lessons for young and old alike.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History / by Karen Blumental. 5.8.2017

Feiwel and Friends ISBN 9781250060143

YA Grades 10-12 Rating: 4

Karen Blumental’s Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History is in many ways a book about firsts. Clinton was the first student commencement speaker at Wellesley College. She was the first woman to become a full partner at Rose Law Firm. She was the first female U.S. Senator from the state of New York. She was the first woman to be a presidential candidate in every primary held in each state. She was the first former First Lady to seek the presidency. In her life, Clinton has blazed her own path in pursuing the things that are important to her. She has also made some shifts–she began her political activism as a Goldwater girl, but by the time she started coming into the limelight, she had become a staunch Democratic operative.

Blumenthal also attempts to show the side of Clinton that perhaps is not seen so much by the public. This includes her surprise when she discovers that some women do not like or feel insulted by her, and also the information that she carries a Bible with her everywhere she goes. For someone who is wondering where to start to learn about Mrs. Clinton, this book is a great place to start. It is comprehensive without getting bogged down in minutiae. It offers a portrait that shows the complexity of its subject and is at the same time fair. This book would be a welcome addition to a public library.

Michael Wilhelm, CLJ

Broken Ground / by Karen Halvorsen Schreck. 5.5.2017

Howard Books ISBN 9781476794839

Adult (YA)      Rating: 5

Ruth envisions an idyllic life with the man she loves, going to college, and becoming a teacher. When a terrible tragedy shatters her life, Ruth must decide how much she wants to live–and how to escape a domineering father. Her choice propels her on a journey through America’s 1930s western landscape dotted with Hoovervilles and plagued by state-sponsored racism.

After an assault and a false accusation derail her dream of school and uproot her again, she embarks on a new journey into the world of Mexican workers fighting illegal deportations. In the midst of her own grief and struggles, Ruth rises above herself and discovers the redeeming qualities of service to others that transforms her life and that of those around her. Teaching the Mexican children, she learns that every child should feel content, that education is a universal right, and that God is the God of all cultures and languages.

Through thoughtful narrative, engaging dialogue, and descriptive scenes, Karen Halvorsen Schreck portrays a little-known part of American History. In addition, Broken Ground is a powerful reminder of the redemptive quality of suffering that leads to fruitful growth in God, and that proves that all things do work together for good, if you are open to God’s call and willing to go wherever that takes you.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

Waking Beauty / Sarah E. Morin. 4.10.2017

Enclave Publishing ISBN 9781621840435

HS Grades 9-12 Rating: 5

Seventeen-year-old Prince Arpien has devoted his life to training for this moment, his dramatic rescue of the Sleeping Beauty. Bending to place his waking kiss, he pauses at the 100-year-old layer of dust covering the beauty’s lips. This was definitely not accounted for in his rescuing plan; however, a quick dust with his sleeve rights the much-anticipated moment, or so he thinks.

One thing after another continues to infringe upon Arpien’s grandiose plans, not least of which is his fair maiden’s less than enthusiastic response to his spell-breaking kiss. How can Arpien rescue a sleeping princess afraid to wake up, afraid to hope, afraid to believe? What will it take to break the spell of Voracity’s evil curse? The prophecies of the old tales speak of the return of the Prince of Here and There, but who can depend on a prince no one has seen or heard from in over a century?

A Christy Award finalist for 2016, Waking Beauty by Sarah E. Morin is a beautifully unique allegorical spin on the traditional fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty. The novel starts off slow and on a slightly silly tone; however, as the plot develops, a rich and rewarding tale unfolds, weaving its gentle spell until the final page. The characters and insightful Christian parallelism make this book a gem in its fantasy genre.

The story is told from the alternating perspective of the three main characters, each of whom possesses their own unique appeal. Pretentious Arpien with his flourishing speeches and bows grows to be an example of self-sacrifice and unconditional love. Brierly’s cold indifference and refusal to wake up will initially frustrate but her vulnerability will incite compassion. Nissa, daughter of the present ruling family, is the black velvet that makes the diamond shine more brilliantly, with her unwavering faith and servant heart. Without direct Christian references, the author carefully constructs a fresh picture of the spiritually fallen state of humanity and the redemptive work of Christ. Overall, as the characters discover, the task of waking beauty will slowly reveal a different kind of beauty, one tried by fire and gloriously refined.

Justina McBride, CLJ

 

No Ordinary Fairy Tale series / by R. J. Anderson 4.7.2017

Knife / by R. J. Anderson (No Ordinary Fairy Tale, 1)

Enclave ISBN 9781621840510

HS Grades 7-10 Rating: 4

Rebel / by R. J. Anderson (No Ordinary Fairy Tale, 2)

Enclave ISBN 9781621840596

HS Grades 7-10 Rating: 4

Arrow / by R. J. Anderson (No Ordinary Fairy Tale, 3)

Enclave ISBN 9781621840657

HS Grades 7-10 Rating: 5

Author R. J. Anderson pens an unusual fairy tale series, one that was previously published in the United Kingdom and is now available for American readers.

In Knife, a young fairy–Knife–is determined to discover why the fairy realm Oakenwyld has lost its magic and how they can get it back. Their numbers are dwindling and only female fairies are left. Fiercely independent Knife is unafraid of the crows, the humans, or even the Fairy Queen herself. She befriends Paul, a human, who joins in her quest to save her dying fairy realm. How will her friendship with Paul change all their lives?

In Rebel, fifteen-year-old Linden, Knife’s foster daughter, is the youngest and smallest fairy, yet the dying queen asks her to go out into the human world and find other fairies to save Oakenwyld. Fifteen-year-old Timothy is staying with his cousin Paul and his wife who are friends of the fairies. Disillusioned by his missionary parents’ faith, Timothy also doesn’t believe in fairies. When Linden begs him for help, Timothy gets caught up in the struggle against evil threatening both their worlds. Will they find the legendary white stone that could save her fairy realm?

In Arrow, fairy Rhosmari is one of the Children of Rhys who live on the magical Green Isles, with limited contact with the outside world and its evils. Sworn never to use violence against others, the Children of Rhys refuse to help when an evil fairy empress gathers an army to destroy the fairies at Oakenwyld and other locations in Britain.

Rhosmari leaves the Green Isles in search of her former betrothed Garan who took the Stone of Naming to Oakenwyld. Having lived all her life in a secluded community, she experiences culture shock when she meets the other fairies. The empress wants Rhosmari because of her access to the Children of Rhys. She is torn–if she fights the empress, she can never return home; if she refuses, she puts the others in jeopardy.

The writings of C. S. Lewis and Tolkien inspired Anderson to write fantasy stories from a Christian worldview for a general audience. Anderson does a good job creating the fairy world. Just like the human world, there are good and bad fairies, loyal and rebellious ones. These fairies are not like the fairies from Sleeping Beauty or Peter Pan; they are a community unto themselves with their own rules and roles (hunter, gatherer, healer, leader). Set in the United Kingdom, the fairies tie in with the Celtic legends in the area. Her No Ordinary Fairy Tale series has a light faith element in Knife and a stronger presence in Rebel and Arrow.

Knife received critical acclaim in the UK and was nominated for the 2009 Carnegie Award. Rebel was a 2016 Christy award nominee (Young Adult category). Arrow is a worthy conclusion to the series and potential future award winner.

Recommended for teen readers in public libraries and school libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

To Get to You / by Joanne Bischof. 4.5.2017

Mason Jar Books ISBN 9781514637500

HS Grades 9-12 Rating: 5

Eighteen-year-old Riley Kane is desperate to get to the girl who holds his heart and whose family is depending on his arrival during a time of crisis. When his source of transportation fails him and he has no other alternative, Riley must reach out to the last man he wants to see or ever need. To the world, Jake Kane is one of the greatest pro surfers of his time, but to Riley, he is the world’s worst dad, the man who walked away from him and his mom years ago.

Swallowing his hurt and anger for the sake of the girl he loves, Riley accepts his father’s offer to drive him from California to New Mexico. Will they be able to survive the week-long trip or will the roadblocks of hurt, bitterness, and regret be too great to maneuver through?

Worthy of its honor as a 2016 Christy Award finalist, To Get to You by Joanne Bischof is a poignant tale of a father and son who discover second chances and forgiveness on the Pacific Coast Highway in an old Volkswagen van. The story is written from Riley’s perspective, revealing his honest struggles and vulnerability while endearing himself to readers in the process. Riley is a new Christian, complete with mohawk, piercings, skull t-shirt, and a less than perfect past, while Becca, the girl he loves, is a home school graduate with a purity that Riley desires to honor. The contrast in their lives is a beautiful picture of how God looks at the heart rather than the exterior and how His perfect grace is making all things new. The romance between Riley and Becca, which is a secondary focus of the plot, is full of purity, sweetness, and sacrificial love. Holding center stage is Riley and his father’s journey, which is full of painful remorse and lost time that will bring tears but also, in the end, renewed hope for God’s ability to bring healing and restoration.

The overarching theme of this story is surrendered brokenness, held together and made more perfect by the beautiful mystery of grace.

Justina McBride, CLJ

Four Winds / by Lisa T. Bergren. (River of Time: California, 2) 3.28.2017

Bergren Creative Group, Inc. ISBN 9781540508195

HS (Adult) Grades 9 and up Rating: 4

Lisa Bergren concludes her new young adult historical fiction series featuring a contemporary teen living an extraordinary adventure in 1840 California.

In Four Winds, 17-year-old Zara Ruiz meets a handsome ranchero–Javier de la Ventura–when she travels back in time to California, 1840. She finds true love, a family (his extended family), and adventure–her three wishes. But is staying in the past really her future?

When she tries to return to her own time, it doesn’t work. Then the Ventura ranch is attacked, and Zara and Javier’s younger brother Manuel are kidnapped. This causes Javier to wonder if Zara wouldn’t be safer returning to her own time. As much as he loves her, can he help her find her way back? It didn’t work last time but can she return now? Does she want to leave true love behind–and will she?

Bergren is known for her detailed historical research, strong plot development, and excellent characterization. As in her earlier River of Time series, she writes strong female characters who are independent yet vulnerable, with men who are chivalrous and handsome. Four Winds is a clean romance (no more than heated kisses) with adventure and plot twists a-plenty.

Her series have a strong sense of faith (evident but not preachy), courtly love, and family. Although self-published, Four Winds is another worthy addition to Bergren’s growing list of young adult fiction.

Highly recommended for young adults, teens, and adult readers. Fans of young adult historical fiction will enjoy Bergren’s new series. Fans of her earlier River of Time series will be delighted with this addition.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Resilience / by L. R. Burkard. (Pulse Effex series, 2) 3.24.2017

Lilliput Press     ISBN 9780979215452

HS     Grades 10 and up     Rating: 4

L. R. Burkard pens a sequel to her suspenseful contemporary novel about a major disaster, told from the viewpoint of three teenage girls.

In Resilience, Andrea Patterson, Lexie Martin, and Sarah Weaver are friends with very different family situations. An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) hits the earth and technology no longer works. Now their biggest challenge is facing the rumors of foreign militia, U.S. government militia forcing people into government camps, and bands of raiders trying to take their supplies by force.

Andrea joins the Martin family and others on their farm. Lexie longs for the day when she and Blake can get married, and Sarah hopes to reach Aunt Susan’s home in Indiana. Will the U.S. be able to recover from this disaster? Will the girls survive to see another day? What will they have to learn just to survive and move forward?

Burkard uses first-person narrative by the three 16-year-old girls, similar to a journal format. The EMP disaster is a chilling possibility in our future. Ms. Burkard tackles an EMP from a young adult point of view.

By using each girl’s experience, the author depicts realistically what could happen. Resilience is more than just a young adult book–adults will find it a clean read (no drugs, alcohol, or sex) with minimal violence, a book that may cause them to think about how they would face the situation of the electric power grid failing.

Recommended for school and public libraries. The third book in the series, Defiance, will be available later this year (2017).

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Broken Trust / by Jill Williamson. (Mission League: Alaska, 3) 3.17.2017

Novel Teen Press     ISBN 9780988759497

HS Grades 9-12 Rating: 4

Award-winning author Jill Williamson continues her contemporary series, filled with spies and adventures–just the type of book to appeal to teens and tweens, especially boys.

In Broken Trust, Spencer Garamond wants to be a normal teenage boy: a basketball player who hopes to recover from an ACL injury in time to still have a shot at a scholarship. But Spencer isn’t a normal teen– he’s an agent-in-training in the Mission League. His training continues, this time on an outdoor survival trip to Alaska. Spencer is still juggling his relationship with Grace and trying to figure out where Nick fits in with things. When someone close to him appears to betray Spencer and the Mission League, it is hard to know whom to trust. Spencer wants to figure everything out.

In this series, Williamson successfully captures the teenage boy’s challenges and interests: spies, girls, sports, and drugs/alcohol temptation. Spencer is a young adult who struggles with faith issues. He is a reluctant member of the Mission League, yet he is willing to go on these short-term missions.

The series is filled with good and bad examples of teens. Spencer is never far from trouble, both from his own choices and from the actions of others. Despite his choices and injuries, he manages to learn from his experiences, making the reader eager to read his next adventure. As in the other books, the chapters are presented as filed reports, making the timeline easier to follow. Spencer will return for his final adventure in The Profile Match.

Recommended for teen collections in public libraries, church libraries, and school libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com