Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New tween reads: the Titanic sinks, time-travel, and the Amazon

Every month the number of fascinating books for tween readers to explore grows larger. Here, for example, are just a few of the new books recently released -- from real-life stories to funny high-school fiction, there's lots to keep up with!

Titanic Sinks! Experience the Titanic's Doomed Voyage, by Barry Denenberg (Viking) Nonfiction. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the disaster, this attention-grabbing book in the form of a newspaper tabloid presents the history of the building, launching, and sinking of the Titanic in a fascinating narrative. Archival photographs, survivor's accounts, and re-creations of Titanic memorabilia accompany the well-researched facts that the author weaves into a riveting story. Those who can't get enough about the Titanic should also check out Allan Wolf's The Watch that Ends the Night, and fans of historical page-turners in general might also try Jim Murphy's gripping Blizzard!

We Dine with Cannibals, by C. Alexander London; illustrated by Jonny Duddle (Philomel Books) Adventure. Last heard from in We Are Not Eaten by Yaks, twins and reality-television junkies Oliver and Celia Navel are -- much to their dismay -- off adventuring again in this exciting and frequently ridiculous sequel. Traveling from the ruins of ancient temples to the shadowy forests of the Amazon, Celia and Oliver ride a llama, race rapids, fly an airplane, and learn the proper etiquette for a cannibal feast before all is said and done. Blending mystery and adventure with silliness and attitude, this second Accidental Adventure is a blast!

The Inquisitor's Apprentice, by Chris Moriarty; illustrated by Mark Geyer (Harcourt Children's Books) Historical Fantasy. In this fast-paced novel set in an alternate version of early-20th-century New York City, people practice magic in secret and Inquisitors investigate magical crimes and attempt to stamp out enchantment. When his ability to see spells being cast is discovered, young Sacha Kessler becomes the apprentice of the New York Police Department's star Inquisitor, Maximilian Wolf -- and his career as a detective begins with the case of the attempted murder of Thomas Edison. This sophisticated mystery brings both New York and the period to life and features other historical figures as well, making it a good bet for fans of Scott Mebus' Gods of Manhattan.

The Crazy Things Girls Do for Love, by Dyan Sheldon (Candlewick Press) Fiction. In this hilarious novel, attendance is up at Clifton Springs High School's environmental club since the drop-dead gorgeous new guy, Cody Lightfoot, joined. As vegan eco-friendly girls, previously eco-hostile queen bees, and girls from across all social boundaries compete to out-green each other leading up to the Earth Day fair that Cody is organizing, life at Clifton Springs gets a little crazy. This wry, fun, and deceptively deep novel about romance, friendship, and saving the Earth will keep you laughing and is a great pick for fans of Jennifer Cowan's slightly edgier Earthgirl.

Beswitched, by Kate Saunders (Delacorte Press) Time-Travel Fantasy. On her way by train to a school she does not want to attend (even temporarily), spoiled 21st-century English girl Flora Fox is transported not to posh Penrice Hall in the here-and-now, but to St. Winifred's boarding school ... in 1935. At first shocked by the prospect of life without a smartphone, regular hot showers, and lattes, Flora soon warms up to her roommates -- and learns that they have a mission for her to fulfill. First published in the UK in 2010, this highly entertaining novel is one that fans of memorable characters (and magic) should not miss.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Silly, scary and funny stuff for kids

Schoolwork got you down? Here are some new books for kids that are funny or scary, silly or just plain incomprehensible! Look for these books here on BookBag with the Amazon or World Catalog search boxes, and be prepared to laugh ... or shiver!

Bink & Gollie, by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee; illustrated by Tony Fucile (Candlewick Press) Fiction. Short, wild-haired Bink lives in a tiny cottage nestled in the roots of a big tree; tall, neat-as-a-pin Gollie lives in a sleek house in the big tree's branches. The two young neighbors are best friends despite their many differences, and this book tells three stories of their (somewhat fanciful) adventures in both pictures and words. Involving very bright socks, pancakes, a pet goldfish, and roller skates, these funny, lighthearted tales will tickle fans of Annie Barrows' Ivy and Bean books, Mo Willems' Elephantand Piggie stories, and the Clementine tales of Sara Pennypacker.

The Fabled Fifth Graders of Aesop Elementary School, by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade Books) Fiction. The infamous class that no one (except the extraordinary Mr. Jupiter) wanted to teach have all graduated to fifth grade...and, once again, none of the teachers wants to take them on. Fortunately, Mr. Jupiter is up to the task, and he's got all kinds of lessons in store for the kids from The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School (including one that involves singing guinea pigs). If you enjoy silly, fantastical stories with a moral--such as those in the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books--or wacky school stories like those in the Wayside Schoolseries, you'll have fun with The Fabled Fifth Graders of Aesop Elementary School.

Framed, by Gordon Korman (Scholastic Press) Humorous Mystery. Griffin Bing, "The Man with the Plan," and his mystery-solving friends Savannah Drysdale and Ben Slovak have moved up to middle school, where the new principal, Dr. Egan, is anything but a pal. He's got his eye on Griffin, and when a valuable Super Bowl ring goes missing from its locked display case in the school, Dr. Egan accuses our hero of the theft and sends him away to JFK (jail for kids) ... Can Savannah and Ben clear Griffin's name and spring him from kid-prison? Packed with suspense, misadventures, and action, this third volume in the rip-roaring series (after Swindle and Zoobreak) is a wild, fun ride.

How to Grow Up and Rule the World, by Scott Seegert; illustrated by John Martin (Egmont USA) Humorous Fiction. Attention, all you puny, undeserving whelps! I, Vordak the Incomprehensible, deign to bestow my limitless knowledge of world domination techniques upon you! (You should know that, should you actually
one day rule the world, I will be your automatic and highly untrustworthy second-in-command...) Read this book and use my ingeniously diabolical plans, my advice on what to wear as a Supervillain, and my Inconceivably Evil Evil Name Generator as your first steps toward ultimate control of the planet. (Or, if you aren't quite evil enough, you can just laugh at my blowhard manner and many disgusting jokes ... at your own risk.)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Life, love, friendship: relationship stories for teen readers

A new year can bring lots of new ideas about relationships, school, and family. Here are some recent books that look into life from a kaleidoscope of angles, from fantasy to poetry and points in-between. Find copies using the World Catalog and Amazon search boxes here on BookBag ...

A Match Made in High School, by Kristin Walker (Razorbill) Realistic Fiction. At the beginning of Fiona Sheehan's final year of high school, the principal announces a new requirement for graduation: every senior will participate in a mock marriage to a classmate for the entire year. Fiona is appalled when she's paired with Todd, who she sees as a dumb, jerky jock--and even worse, Todd's actual girlfriend is Amanda, a cheerleader who's had it in for Fiona since second grade. Amanda gets matched with Gabe, Fiona's long-time crush, and pranks, misunderstandings, and drama ensue. This laugh-out-loud funny story will make you think twice about stereotypes and is sure to please readers who enjoy great characters and a plot with plenty of twists and turns.

You Don't Even Know Me: Stories and Poems about Boys,by Sharon Flake (Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books) Poetry/Short Stories. Lots of books tell stories about the trials and tribulations of being a teenage girl; the poems and stories in this companion to the girl-focused collection Who Am I Without Him? are all about guys and their lives. From 17-year-old Tow-Kaye, who's both excited and scared about marrying his pregnant girlfriend, to James, who's contemplating taking his own life after the death of his twin, to Eric, who loves his North Philly 'hood, the African-American young men you'll meet in this book are realistic characters that you'll care about and remember.

The Wandora Unit, by Jessy Randall (Ghost Road Press) It's the Duran Duran 1980s: Wanda Lowell and Dora Nussbaum are two word-obsessive girls, as well as being the two editors of
Galaxy magazine, and between them there isn't an unexpressed thought about literature, love, and how it is definitely better to be weird than boring at Brighton High. Their friendship is surrounded on all sides by doubt, and not just the kind that questions the middle-class values of prom dates and getting into good colleges. Call it the price of being self-aware. Unfortunately for Dora this means watching her friendship with Wanda change until it shatters into a million pieces outward into the expanding universe. It's a clever story told in fractured fragments, with quotes from poets like Diane Wakowski and Gwendolyn Brooks acting as guideposts along the way. The poems that make up the "Galaxy" magazine at book's end are real ones, from the real Brighton High literary magazine of the 1980s, and the authors are duly acknowledged; the poems are made of equal parts teen-age anxiety and aspiration, and they're good, too.

All Unquiet Things, by Anna Jarzab (Delacorte Press) Mystery. Jaded, sarcastic Neily Monroe, a senior at the exclusive Brighton Day School, is still haunted by the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Carly, whose lifeless body he found on a bridge one year ago. But Neily is determined to get through high school and move on--almost as determined as Carly's cousin Audrey, who believes that her father was falsely convicted of the murder, is to find out who really committed the crime. As Audrey and Neily attempt to untangle a web of secrets and lies at Brighton, the dark side of their privileged world is revealed. Those who enjoy deep psychological explorations of a story's characters and smart, tense whodunits will be enthralled by All Unquiet Things.

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver (The Bowen Press) Fiction. Samantha Kingston, one of the most popular girls in her high school, dies in a car accident after a wild party...but instead of seeing her whole life replayed before her eyes, she wakes up to live her last day over again. And again. And again. As Sam tries to change her destiny by altering small decisions and acts in the course of that one repeated day, she begins to realize how she has affected other people--and who she really wanted to be. This compelling debut novel is full of realistic characters, believable dialogue, and heartbreaking insights, and the suspense of wondering whether Sam will finally get it right (and what will happen if she does) will keep you turning the pages.

Num8ers, by Rachel Ward (Chicken House) Thriller. British 15-year-old Jem Marsh has got everyone's number. Whenever she makes eye contact with a person, a number--the date of that person's death--pops into Jem's head, making it hard for her to get close to people. But when gawky, troubled Spider doggedly pursues friendship (and more) with her, Jem finds that she can't resist him. When the two of them go to London on a date, Jem has the horrifying realization that many of the people in line to ride the London Eye Ferris wheel share the same death date -- that very day. Like an amusement park ride, this gritty, fast-paced thriller starts slowly, but once it takes off, you won't stop reading until you reach the firework ending.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Animal tales: new stories for tweens

Cats, dogs, birds, goldfish ... the variety of animals that live with humans is astounding (though cats may insist they choose whom they want to live with!) Here's a variety of new fiction and non-fiction books about animals, with settings from neighborhood backyards to Caesar's palace in ancient Rome. Wherever they are, and in whatever home they find themselves, animals (and their humans) have great stories to tell.

Dancing Through the Snow, by Jean Little (Kane Miller) Fiction. Abandoned as a toddler, Min Randall has been rejected by one foster family after the other until she finds it nearly impossible to trust anyone. Then, when Min's current foster mother takes her back to children's services just before Christmas, Dr. Jessica Hart -- who knows Min's history -- surprises everyone by taking her in. It isn't easy for anyone to break through Min's tough exterior, and although Jessica tries, it's really Min's experiences with neighborhood pets and a stray dog that soften her up. If you liked Clay Carmichael's Wild Things, give this emotionally intense yet ultimately uplifting story a try.

Tiger, Tiger, by Lynne Reid Banks (Laurel-Leaf Books) Historical Fiction. Stolen from their home in the wild, two tiger cubs are brought to ancient Rome -- one to be the pet of Caesar's daughter, Aurelia, and the other to kill men in the Colosseum. This "gripping, tantalizing examination of power, sacrifice and mercy" (Publishers Weekly) tells the suspenseful story of the brother cubs' lives with drama and emotion, and the author's descriptive writing brings the tigers' tale, a bittersweet love story (between Aurelia and her cub's keeper), and its third-century Roman Empire setting to life.

Nuts: A Novel, by Kacy Cook (Marshall Cavendish Children) Fiction. A squeaking noise outside 11-year-old Nell's bedroom leads her to a baby squirrel abandoned in her yard, and soon she is convincing her parents to let her rehabilitate not just one injured squirrel, but two. Despite the advice of an online squirrel expert to give the orphaned babies to a certified wildlife rehabilitator, Nell determines to heal and raise the squirrels on her own...but she has no idea what she's getting into. This upbeat yet thought-provoking story presents some differing perspectives on the natural world and is sure to hold animal lovers spellbound.

ER Vets: Life in an Animal Emergency Room, by Donna M. Jackson (Houghton Mifflin) Nonfiction. If you're interested in someday working at an emergency vet clinic, or if you just wonder what goes on behind the scenes at a pet ER, this "well-researched and well-written" (School Library Journal) book is one you'll want to read. Illustrated with a wealth of photos -- some sad, others sweet, and some (such as detailed shots of surgery) not for the squeamish -- it offers a glimpse into a typical day for the veterinarians, vet techs, and others who work at a clinic, provides information on the history of veterinary care, and explains how to make a pet first-aid kit.

Animals in the House: A History of Pets and People, by Sheila Keenan (Scholastic Nonfiction) Nonfiction. Ever wonder when people started welcoming animals into their homes? Or how the number of people in America compares to the number of pets? (You might be surprised!) From famous people's pets to animal-related superstitions to which pets are most popular -- dogs? birds? lizards? cats? armadillos? -- this fun, illustrated book covers just about anything you might want to know about the history of people keeping pets.