Another Me: A Novel / Eva Wiseman. 10.20.2017

Tundra Books ISBN 9781770497160

YA Grades 10-12 Rating: 4

When his merchant father is severely beaten by some of the hateful citizens of Strasbourg, 17-year-old Natan takes over his father’s work and, as a result, meets Elena, the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. Unfortunately, the two come from opposite worlds–with her being a Christian and him a Jew, they might as well be oceans apart. With the severe restrictions placed on the Jewish community and the Black Death spreading blame and suspicion, Natan and Elena must keep their blossoming love a secret.

One night on his way home from meeting Elena, Natan stumbles upon a group of men trying to poison the city’s well with the intent to cast blame on the Jews of the city. With this discovery, the fate of his people and loved ones now rests in Natan’s hands. Before he can act, Natan’s plans to save his people are struck a fatal blow–or so it seems. However, in a twist of fate or by Hashem’s will, Natan finds the help he needs in the most unexpected way.

Amidst the historical setting of the Middle Ages, Another Me by Eva Wiseman brings to life the factual events of the devastating bubonic plague and the Jewish persecution in Strasbourg through a fictional story of young love and sacrifice, with a central plot shrouded in Jewish mysticism. The story is told from the alternating first-person perspectives of Natan and Elena. This gives readers a more complete understanding of the events that occur and insight into the thoughts and emotions of both main characters, creating empathy for each one’s inner conflicts.

The unique plot is full of suspense and mystery, driven by an underlying need to discover Natan and Elena’s ultimate fate. The mood of the story is somber and bleak, befitting its time and place, the grim circumstances of death and persecution, and the foreboding sense of heartache to come. Through the pain and suffering of loss, however, a story of self-less love shines through the darkness, providing a victory all its own.

Justina McBride, CLJ

In Plain Sight / written by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. 10.19.2017

Roaring Brook Press ISBN 9781626722552

PRI K-Grade 3 Rating: 5

Little Sophie finds missing items for her grandpa in the book, In Plain Sight. Sophie’s grandpa lives with Sophie and her parents. Every day when Sophie comes home from school, she helps grandpa find something that he “lost” during the day. Every so often he even has a treat for her, but the best treat of all is time spent with a man she loves.

Richard Jackson writes a sweet story, and Jerry Pinkney’s lovely illustrations made In Plain Sight a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book. With a few simple words, and a few detailed paintings, Jackson and Pinkney illustrate the love between the members of this family. Grandpa has a twinkle in his eye as he “loses” items each day, and part of the fun of reading this book is looking for the missing item that is hidden in the illustrations.

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

Wolf Hollow: a novel / by Lauren Wolk. 10.18.2017

Dutton Children’s Books ISBN 9781101994825

INT Grades 5-8 Rating: 5

Eleven-year-old Annabelle is keeping a secret: Betty Glengarry, the new girl at school, is a bully. Annabelle endures Betty’s abusive words and actions for fear that Betty will harm Annabelle’s younger brothers. However, when Annabelle’s youngest brother becomes the recipient of Betty’s harmful schemes, Annabelle breaks her silence, telling her parents the truth. When Betty is confronted about her actions, she denies everything and, instead, makes alarming accusations about Toby, the strange drifter who wanders the surrounding hills and woods.

Living under the suspicions and bitterness of the past and current world war, Toby is the perfect target for Betty’s meanness. No one knows much about the quiet man, other than he fought against the Germans in France in World War I. Some think he is crazy, someone to fear, but Annabelle has only ever known kindness from him. Can Annabelle prove Toby’s innocence?

A 2017 Newbery Honor Book, Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk is a gripping coming-of-age story about a girl who finds her voice in her Pennsylvania home town and uses it to stand up for justice and kindness. The plot speaks to the power of words that can do both harm and good and how prejudices and superstitions can blind others from seeing the truth before them. The tone of this book is somber, full of raw honesty that will evoke a gamut of emotions, particularly outrage, anger, and sorrow; however, Annabelle’s compassionate heart, determination to stand for truth, and her special relationship with Toby will inspire hope, courage, and love. Some endings are not always beautiful or happy–sometimes they are harsh and painful, but still they have the power to shape a life forever, just as words do. Such is the way that Annabelle’s story ends; it is an ending that challenges its readers to be a voice for truth and justice, to be the fruit rather than the frost.

There are some traumatic events portrayed in this book, including a young girl losing her eye, a boy being cut by a metal wire, as well as two deaths.

Justina McBride, CLJ

Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States / edited by George Thomas Kurian and Mark A. Lamport. (Five volumes) 10.17.2017

Rowman & Littlefield ISBN 9781442244313

Advanced Interest Rating: 4

Reviewing a multi-volume reference work such as the Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States means examining the introduction(s), the contributor and editor lists, and select articles. Here they are, in turn:

Introductions

The two primary editors, George Thomas Kurian and Mark A. Lamport, have extensive experience in editing such works and show every evidence that they performed their task with professionalism and according to the methods standard for such volumes. They assembled a highly educated crew of editors and contributors.

Their overall introduction to this five-volume encyclopedia gives guidance to its structure and insights into its purpose. Importantly, they write that the contributors were purposefully selected from across the Christian theological spectrum and yet that “this Encyclopedia aims to present Christianity in the United States from a neutral perspective.” (xxviii) As children of particular Christian traditions themselves, however, Kurian and Lamport admit to necessarily using “emic” and “etic” anthropological perspectives—in other words, they are not neutral but are still trying to be. The reference is scholarly but is written by professors with genuine personal connections to the Christian faith.

(The editors also relate that a full 1800 of the 2825 entries are biographies.)

Contributors and Editors

Credentials are given for each contributor, and their qualifications are far from lacking. Few “big names” are listed—exceptions include David Dockery, John Fea, Nathan Finn, Michael A.G. Haykin, H. Wayne House, Timothy Larsen, David Naugle, Ron Sider, A.J. Swoboda, and Kenneth Taylor. Of course, Martin Marty wrote the foreword. The list of contributors has a notable but not overwhelming evangelical flavor.

Among the editorial advisory board are some prominentnames as well, including Ken Minkema and Doug Sweeney, both noted as experts in the work of Jonathan Edwards. Garth Rosell, Kate Bowler, Christopher Evans, and Justo González also appear.

A Sampling of Articles

Sampling articles throughout the volumes led this reviewer to one conclusion: aside from special introductory articles that were intended to be lengthy, the entries are admirably short, as are the bibliographies. “Word of Life,” for example, listed relevant dates and names and provided little in the way of interpretation. “Ladd, George Eldon” did give some interpretation, explaining briefly some of the major contributions Ladd made to 20th century theology. (1306) Michael A. G. Haykin’s article on “Packer, J.I.” is similarly not dry: it uses the “neutral” language of an encyclopedia entry, but anyone who knows the theological back stories will hear Haykin’s “emic” perspective underneath the surface. (1733) An entry on “Parochial Schools” offers—again, with admirable brevity—key history, some interpretation, current statistics, and even a section on “future challenges.” (1744)

A few oddities—topics left out, topics included—will occur in any such large-scale work, but this reviewer thought it odd that Christians for Biblical Equality had an entry (528) while its counterpart the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood did not. The Acts 29 church planting network was included (17), but there was no entry for Bob Jones University, whose story lasts a good deal longer and weaves in and out of American presidential politics and even Supreme Court Decisions.

Mark L. Ward, Jr., CLJ

Defiance: A Post-Apocalptic YA Tale of Survival / by L. R. Burkard. (Pulse Effex series, 3) 10.16.2017

Lilliput Press     ISBN 9780998966304

YA     Grade 10 and up     Rating: 4

With Defiance, L. R. Burkard concludes her story of three teen girls (Andrea Patterson, Lexie Martin, and Sarah Weaver) living in a post-apocalyptic United States. The story is told through their viewpoint, as they experience life after an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) disaster.

Over the course of the three books, the girls grow from spoiled, self-centered girls to mature young women, capable of holding their own in a world very different from what they knew. They learn to value simpler things, to work as a team, to see value in life as it now exists. In the face of foreign soldiers, nuclear strikes, and guerrilla armies, the girls learn to adjust to life beyond survival. They make the best decisions they can, given the circumstances, relying on God to get them through the darkest of times. Can they face these times with defiance and carve out a new life for themselves?

Burkard excels at telling an engaging story; the first-person point of view helps to create real characters the reader can relate to, even if the reader doesn’t agree with their choices. Unlike the earlier books in the series, in Defiance other characters’ points of view are added to the girls’ voices in the narrative. Andrea and Lexis have teen romances, but their relationships are chaste. Adults will find it a clean read (no drugs, alcohol, or sex) with no graphic violence, and it may cause them to think about how they would face such a disaster.

Recommended for public and school libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: Pulse (Jul/Aug/Sep 2016), and Resilience (Jan/Feb/Mar 2017).

Over the Ocean / written and illustrated by Taro Gomi. 10.13.2017

Chronicle Books ISBN 9781452145150

PRI PS-Grade 1 Rating: 5

A child gazes across the ocean and wonders what is on the other side in Taro Gomi’s Over the Ocean.

More ships? Big farms? Cities, small houses, and stars? Gomi’s bright illustrations show the reader all that the child can imagine: far-away people and animals, a fair with fun rides, a country made of ice, and perhaps even another boy or girl gazing back from the opposite shore.

A single boat moving across the water in the distance connects the vibrant scenes, which are rendered with clever detail and a richly-hued palette. The author/illustrator places the reader behind the child on the beach, as if sharing in his or her gentle contemplation.

This picture book was originally published in Japan in 1979 and, upon translation into English and release in the United States, received the 2017 Mildred L. Batchelder Award. With succinct text and a relatable theme, Over the Ocean is a soothing and thoroughly enjoyable read-aloud that speaks to the power of imagination and wonder.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

A Teen’s Guide to the 5 Love Languages: How to Understand Yourself and Improve All Your Relationships / by Gary Chapman. 10.12.2017

Northfield ISBN 9780802414359

YA Grades 7 and up Rating: 5

Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, is joined by Paige Haley Drygas in this book aimed at teenagers and their relationships.

Chapman builds on the concepts he first wrote about in the first book: (1) service, (2) words, (3) gifts, (4) touch, and (5) time. The premise of A Teen’s Guide to 5 Love Languages is that if someone is speaking our primary heart language, we feel loved. Everyone wants to be loved but how we want to be loved is different. By learning about one’s primary language, it is easier to learn another’s language. We tend to show our love through our primary language, but that might not be the way others experience love.

The authors apply these languages to a teen’s relationships: friends, dating, and family. By understanding one’s primary language, a teen can strengthen their friendships, decrease conflict, socialize comfortably, connect more deeply with others, and lessen relationship drama, especially when dealing with anger and forgiveness.

A Teen’s Guide is a short but practical book–less than 200 pages. It has a number of illustrations, quizzes, reflection questions, main points set in a different font and type size (making them easy to find), and everyday examples to demonstrate different dialects of these languages. For example, words have the following dialects: appreciation, encouragement, praise, and kindness. For the language of words: it’s not what you say, but how you say it.

Recommended for teens and young adults, school libraries, and public libraries. Sixteen young adults and teens wrote reviews praising this book–although it is aimed at a teen audience, adults and parents could benefit from reading it.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Arena / by Holly Jennings. 10.11.2017

Random House ISBN 9781101988763

YA Grades 9-12 Rating: 4 (Not Recommended)

Among virtual reality athletes, Kali Ling is the best. She glorifies in killing other gamers and putting on a bloody show for her fans. But as soon as Kali unplugs and returns to the real world, she feels out of her element. The celebrity life barely tides her over—provocative photoshoots, screaming fans, drugs, and extramarital sex—until she can return to the game.

Her handler dubs her first female captain in RAGE tournament history and life couldn’t get better…until she wakes up next to her overdosed lover/teammate.

The VR organization hides his cause of death, and Kali is traumatized by how cruel reality can be. Their new teammate seems to be nothing more than a pretty face, but Kali knows he’s hiding something.

With the pre-season ending and the fight for the RAGE championship beginning, Kali must reunite her team before she goes from the top of the gamer world to the bottom. But when you die hundreds of times like Kali, the bigger battle may be remembering which world is the real one.

Holly Jennings’s Arena paints a picture of the famous lifestyle that leads readers to understand why many celebrities turn to substance abuse and scandal to survive. Kali begins as a selfish, unlikeable character but develops into a dynamic teen who fights to overcome her addiction to the VR world by committing to a greater cause. Her teammates, though unchanging, are solid supports for Kali’s development, and the ominous pressure from her fans and the RAGE sponsors provide enough resistance for the change to seem challenging.

While this book cannot be recommended because of vivid violence, descriptive sex scenes, extreme substance abuse, and overuse of obscenities, the story arch for this Alex Award-winning novel is phenomenal. Through beautifully descriptive language, the book shares the dangers of virtual reality and great reasons behind why we should place our identity in more than the opinions of others and our jobs. Readers will feel compelled to hunt for overlooked atrocities and seek ways to correct them.

Rebecca Schriner, CLJ

They All Saw a Cat / written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. 10.10.2017

Chronicle Books ISBN 9781452150130

PRI PS-Grade 3 Rating: *5

A child and assorted animals show their individual perspectives in They All Saw a Cat, a Caldecott Honor Book written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel.

As a brown and tan cat wanders “through the world” it is viewed by a young boy and 11 different animals, each seeing the cat in a distinct way. For example, the boy sees a pet, the fox sees prey, the fish (through its bowl) sees a blurry pair of eyes, the mouse sees a giant monster, and the flea sees a mass of cat hair.

With simple rhyming and use of repetitive phrasing, They All Saw a Cat entertains with a lively, playful tone. Author/illustrator Brendan Wenzel delivers a wonderful amalgam of color, drama, and humor with each turn of the page. His drawings are a creative mix of paints, pastels, pencils, and digital art that yield a bounty of scenes from pastoral to bold. Even the inside cover pages are imaginatively conceived.

They All Saw a Cat shows that we all see the world through different eyes. At the conclusion of the book, the cat sees its own reflection in the water–a reminder that we also see ourselves from a unique point-of-view.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives / by Kenneth C. Davis. 10.9.2017

Henry Holt and Company ISBN 9781627793117

YA Grades 5-8 Rating: 5

This very interesting, eye-opening book written for young people is certainly of great interest to adults as well. The lives of five black enslaved people are highlighted along with much of the history of slavery and the involvement of four of our US presidents, including their own history with slaves and their opinions and actions concerning slavery.

Billy Lee, Ona Judge, Isaac Granger, Paul Jennings, and Alfred Jackson all have a story to tell–stories that have been mostly missed in history books although their owners all hold their own place in our country’s past. Their stories allow readers to understand those whose enslavement helped to build our country but were not conceived in chains rather than liberty.

The book is filled with photos and includes timelines between each long chapter. It is highly recommended for school and public libraries.

Ceil Carey, CLJ