According to author Jessica Lawson, Tom Sawyer was a tattletale and Becky Thatcher was the real rascal getting into all sorts of trouble in St. Petersburg, Missouri. That’s the inventive premise of this gem of a chapter book that stirs up all of the ingredients of the American classic to create a thoughtful, energetic new debut novel.
What happens when a group of middle school geniuses trains for months to win a special contest at a Disney World-style Florida theme park called Incredo Land? That’s the premise of Bringing Down the Mouse, a page-turning caper whose hero is sixth-grader Charlie Lewis, known as “Numbers,” the nerdy son of an MIT professor dad and a mom with two Ph.D.s.
“Once there was a library that opened only at night.” Thus begins Kazuno Kohara’s endearing story of one devoted librarian who gets the job done—and gets it done right.
Don’t get too attached to the protagonist in Pardon Me! He pays the ultimate price for his bad behavior in this be-good-or-else cautionary tale from Daniel Miyares, his debut picture book as both author and illustrator.
For many parents, getting the little ones to consent to sleep is a contest of wills requiring the skills of a diplomat. Fortunately, a terrific new picture book has arrived that can help families keep the peace. Sleep Tight, Anna Banana!, by mother-and-son team Dominique Roques and Alexis Dormal, shows that bedtime can be a blast, especially when the company includes a group of irresistible critters intent on making mischief.
S.E. Grove’s debut novel is set in 1890s Boston, a place that anyone who has read history or historical fiction set in that era will recognize—or will they? This world shares geography with our own, but thanks to the Great Disruption, which happened almost a century earlier, the Earth’s regions became unmoored from time. Although New Occident (where Boston is located) lies firmly in the 19th century, other countries are in the Dark Ages, prehistory or even the future.
It is true that Lisa Graff’s latest book, Absolutely Almost, brings to mind someone else’s work, but not because Graff is in any way imitative—she’s far too brilliant to sound like someone else. Lately the patrons of my school library have been asking, “Do you have any books like Wonder by R.J. Palacio?” and now I have the perfect offering. Like Wonder, Absolutely Almost is the story of a boy struggling to fit in. Unlike Auggie, however, Graff’s protagonist Albie doesn’t have any noticeable problems; he just cannot succeed at school.
Following Countdown, Deborah Wiles’ tale about the Cuban Missile Crisis and the first book in her Sixties Trilogy, Revolution spotlights the Freedom Summer of 1964. During this volatile time, black and white volunteers from four major civil rights organizations joined efforts to register as many African-American voters as possible in Mississippi, at the time one of the country’s most racist and dangerous states.
I feel confident that many of us will look back on 2014, once it’s all said and done, and acknowledge that Peter Sís plus Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was one of the best possible pairings. In The Pilot and the Little Prince, Sís explores the writer and aviator’s life, from childhood to death, with engaging reverence and intricate, detailed illustrations for which he’s won multiple awards.
Author James Howe, known for Bunnicula and countless other children’s books, tackles the angst of teen life in his Misfits series. Also Known as Elvis, the fourth and final installment, gives voice to 13-year-old Skeezie Tookis, the odd one out who has to work and babysit his cantankerous sisters all summer while his four best friends relax on vacation.