September 13, 2016 debuts

What if your teacher could read your mind just because she was born on a Thursday? Or the kid next to you in class could turn back the clock just because he was a Wednesday?

In the quirky town of Nova, all of this is normal. Poppy Mayberry, an almost-11-year-old Monday, should be able to pass notes in class or brush her dog, Pickle, without lifting a finger. Poppy's Monday telekinesis ability has some kinks and that plate of spaghetti she's passing may just end up on someone's head. If that's not hard enough, practically-perfect Ellie Preston is out to get her and Principal Wible wants to send Poppy to remedial summer school to work on her powers! It's enough to make a girl want to disappear. If only she were a Friday.

Anne has spent most of her thirteen years dreaming of the day she and her best friend Penelope will finally leave Saint Lupin's Institute for Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children. When the big day arrives, a series of very curious happenings lead to Anne being charged with an epic quest.

Anne, Penelope, and new questing partner Hiro have only days to travel to strange new locales, solve myriad riddles, and triumph over monstrous foes--or face the horrible consequences.

"Featuring a colorful and diverse cast of characters (including the academy’s cat headmistress) and sometimes ridiculous yet nail-biting action, this is a highly distinctive, smart take on the fantasy novel."
-- Kirkus reviews

The Reader by Traci Chee

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive.

The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

"This work is deftly rendered in beautiful prose, narrated through three shifting time lines woven into an interconnected history of duty, honor, and magic. Chee provokes some resounding questions: What is there left to be remembered of us after death, and what must we do to be worthy of remembrance?"
-- School Library Journal starred review
"Chee’s debut is an intricate, multilayered reading experience, but the author avoids leading readers along too transparently, trusting them to puzzle together the pieces surrounding the mystery of Sefia’s past."
-- Publishers Weekly starred review

My review: THE READER is a glorious epic fantasy adventure with magic and pirates and assassins and secret societies and warring island nations and gloriously imaginative mythology. I got swept up right away--there's so much going on, so many distinctive characters, so many settings, but it's not confusing. It feels like you've been dumped into this fascinating world and sent off on an adventure, and what a great ride it is. 

Sefia is a fantastic main character. She's complex, tough, compassionate, stubborn, and interesting, and the depth of her backstory and life experience is built up so wonderfully. But so many of the other characters are just as amazing, even when they're not in the center. The pirates! The assassins! The librarians! There are so many layers to this world, and so many people to inhabit it. I can't wait to read the sequel not just to find out what happens next, but to have a chance to spend more time in this glorious fantasy setting.

But what I really love most of all is how smartly all the stories-within-stories and myths-within-myths are layered and interconnected. It's no easy feat to make a book about stories--about reading, writing, remembering, vastly important but not exactly action-pact acts--into such a heart-quickening adventures, but Chee pulls it off like it's the easiest thing in the world.

LaToya Williams lives in Montgomery, Alabama, and attends a mostly white high school. It seems as if her only friend is her older brother, Alex. Toya doesn’t know where she fits in, but after a run-in with another student, she wonders if life would be different if she were . . . different. And then a higher power answers her prayer: to be “anything but black.”

Toya is suddenly white, blond, and popular. Now what?

"Pink isn’t afraid of being provocative (Jesus makes regular appearances), and the book dives into thorny issues of identity, self-image, and the internal effects of racism in a strikingly frank way."


-- Publishers Weekly

My review: Randi Pink's INTO WHITE is heartfelt, painful, profound, and incredibly important--an exploration into racism, sexism, and classism in modern America, an unflinching look at the bigotry and prejudices that wear people down from the outside and gnaw at them from the inside, but ultimately hopeful--about people, about the world, about the fact that things can get better. It's about faith and family and a loving, gentle look at where strength comes from. 

It's also really, really, really funny. I feel like that might be easy to overlook when reading the cover copy and descriptions, because the subject matter is so important and sensitive and the story itself absolutely heart-wrenching, and the observations it makes about the world frequently brutal, but oh my god, people, this book is so damn funny. The narrator's voice is beyond fantastic. I was laughing out loud on every page--even when I was also crying and raging at how bad things could be. I don't know how Randi Pink gets that balance, but she does, and I adore the result.

I want Toya (or, barring that, the author) to come sit next to me and chat FOREVER because I would never get tired of the razor-sharp and hilarious way she has of looking at her world and the people in it, with humor and cleverness even when that world and those people are causing her a great deal of pain, or when she's lashing out to cause pain for others. 

One more thing: It also has one of my favorite relationships between a sister and brother that I've read in YA in a long time. There's nothing wrong with my own real life genius older brother, but I'm going to pretend Toya's brother Alex is my *other* real life genius older brother for a while, if nobody minds, because he's just that lovely.