Skip to main content

 

 

Our Librarian's 2017 Holiday Shopping List for Upper School Readers

Friday, December 1, 2017

“You forget everything. The hours slip by. You travel in your chair through centuries you seem to see before you, your thoughts are caught up in the story, dallying with the details or following the course of the plot, you enter into characters, so that it seems as if it were your own heart beating beneath their costumes.”


― Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary


This quote about reading from Madame Bovary, one of the many books from this year’s Holiday Shopping Lists, is the perfect summation of what it means to be immersed in reading a book. Several years ago, a parent asked me for some suggestions for a gift of a book. Over the years, my recommendations have grown to the three different lists—one each for Lower School- and Upper School-aged children and another for grown-ups. These are only suggestions, some from my own experience and research and likes as well as recommendations from colleagues and friends. Of course, you are more than welcome to indulge yourself in any or many of these selections and feel “…your own heart beating beneath their costumes” and my favorite part, “…dallying with the details.” If you have any questions about the lists or books, please contact me at jfung@manhattancountryschool.org.

2017 Holiday Shopping List for Lower School Readers

2017 Holiday Shopping List for Grown-Up Readers


CB – Chapter Book, GN – Graphic Novel

The Stars Beneath Our FeetThe Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore - It’s Christmas Eve in Harlem, but twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul and his mom aren’t celebrating. They’re still reeling from his older brother’s death in a gang-related shooting just a few months earlier. Then Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend brings him a gift that will change everything: two enormous bags filled with Legos. Lolly’s always loved Legos, and he prides himself on following the kit instructions exactly. Now, faced with a pile of building blocks and no instructions, Lolly must find his own way forward. His path isn’t clear—and the pressure to join a “crew,” as his brother did, is always there. When Lolly and his friend are beaten up and robbed, joining a crew almost seems like the safe choice. But building a fantastical Lego city at the community center provides Lolly with an escape—and an unexpected bridge back to the world. David Barclay Moore paints a powerful portrait of a boy teetering on the edge—of adolescence, of grief, of violence—and shows how Lolly’s inventive spirit helps him build a life with firm foundations and open doors. (CB)

Big and Little Questions (According Wren Jo Byrd) by Julie Bowe - It's the start of a new school year and Wren Jo Byrd is worried that everyone will find out her parents separated over the summer. No one knows the truth, not even her best friend, Amber. When even her new teacher refers to her mom as Mrs. Byrd, Wren decides to keep their divorce a total secret. But something else changed over the summer: A new girl named Marianna moved to town and wants to be Amber's next bff. And because of her fib, Wren can't do anything about it. From take-out dinners with Mom to the tiny room she gets at Dad's new place, nothing is the same for Wren anymore. But while Marianna makes everything harder at first, Wren soon learns that Marianna once had to ask many of the same questions—the big ones, as well as the little ones—that Wren is asking now.
Set in Wisconsin, with wonderfully nuanced characters—from the bossy new girl, who acts big but has a secret of her own, to the sporty girl who acts little and shy but who becomes an unexpected friend—this is a book about much more than divorce. (CB)

Pablo and Birdy by Alison McGhee - It has been 10 years since Pablo landed on the shores of the diverse community of Isla, with his lavender parrot, Birdy, in tow, to be adopted by Cuban-American Emmanuel. Pablo, no longer satisfied with the origin stories the adults tell him, wants the truth: who put him in the water, and why? And after 10 years, flightless Birdy is now attempting to fly. Isla, famed for its birds, is also famous for the legend of the Seafaring Parrot, a mystical bird said to be able to reproduce any sound in the world. Winds of change, meaning "fortune lost or fortune gained," are coming to Isla. Rumors of Seafarer sightings attract tourists and newscasters to the island in search of the legendary bird. Pablo wonders if Birdy is the Seafarer of legend. McGhee deftly weaves the narrative of Pablo and Birdy with chapters from the point of view of a little, hungry dog who steals baked goods. Further adding to the quirkiness of the tale is the Committee of island birds, all of whom display boatloads of personality despite being limited to parroted speech. Readers will not be surprised at the true nature of Birdy's identity, and they will cheer to see how the community comes together to protect it from outside forces. Birdy and Pablo's relationship, the strongest aspect of the story, has a bittersweet but satisfying ending. A quiet, memorable, fantastical tale beautifully complemented by Juan's illustrations. (CB)

Snow and Rose by Emily Winfield Martin - Snow and Rose didn’t know they were in a fairy tale. People never do. . . .Once, they lived in a big house with spectacular gardens and an army of servants. Once, they had a father and mother who loved them more than the sun and moon. But that was before their father disappeared into the woods and their mother disappeared into sorrow. This is the story of two sisters and the enchanted woods that have been waiting for them to break a set of terrible spells. In Snow & Rose, bestselling author-illustrator Emily Winfield Martin retells the traditional but little-known fairy tale “Snow White and Rose Red.” The beautiful full-color illustrations throughout and unusual yet relatable characters will bring readers back to this book again and again. (CB)

Let’s Pretend We Never Met by Melissa Walker - If it were up to Mattie Markham, there would be a law that said your family wasn’t allowed to move in the middle of the school year. After all, sixth grade is hard enough without wondering if you’ll be able to make new friends or worrying that the kids in Pennsylvania won’t like your North Carolina accent. But when Mattie meets her next-door neighbor and classmate, she begins to think maybe she was silly to fear being the “new girl.” Agnes is like no one Mattie has ever met—she’s curious, hilarious, smart, and makes up the best games. If winter break is anything to go by, the rest of the school year should be a breeze. Only it isn’t, because when vacation ends and school starts, Mattie realizes something: At school Agnes is known as the weird girl who no one likes. All Mattie wants is to fit in (okay, and maybe be a little popular too), but is that worth ending her friendship with Agnes? (CB)

Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce - A foster boy learns that home is always closer than he thinks. Ever since his increasingly senile granddad was taken away to “get sorted out,” Prez Mellows has been living in Children’s Temporary Accommodation. This summer, however, he’s staying with the loving and rambunctious Blythe family on their farm. The structure and daily chores give Prez’s life a sense of normalcy, but the arrival of a cigar-smoking, gravity-surfing extraterrestrial named Sputnik destabilizes Prez’s new routine. According to Sputnik, everyone in the universe has a mission, and Sputnik’s is to save Prez by saving Earth from Planetary Clearance. To do this, they must find 10 things that make Earth worth saving. Part of the book’s hilarity lies in the fact that Sputnik appears as a dog to everyone except Prez, who sees a funny-looking kid in a kilt and aviator goggles. Fortunately, Sputnik can read Prez’s mind, thus saving the boy from looking like he’s holding lengthy conversations with a dog. From a destructive lightsaber incident at a 5-year-old’s birthday party through a speed-of-light joy ride on a digger to Hadrian’s Wall to a major jailbreak fail, belly laughs are central to the action. The overall themes of home, family, and one’s place in the universe are reflected in moments of quiet sweetness. (CB)

The Time Museum by Matthew Loux - From dinosaurs to the burning of the Library of Alexandra―this thrilling, visually dazzling new series from Matthew Loux is posed to conquer the 21st century. The internship program at the Time Museum is a little unusual. For one thing, kids as young as twelve get to apply for these prestigious summer jobs. And as for the applicant pool . . . well, these kids come from all over history. When Delia finds herself working at the Time Museum, the last thing she expects is to be sent on time-traveling adventures with an unlikely gang of kids from across the eons. From a cave-boy to a girl from the distant future, Delia's team represents nearly all of human history! They're going to need all their skills for the challenge they've got in store . . . defending the Time Museum itself! (GN)

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke - In a few months, Liv effects a major change in his new middle school’s antiquated dress code while simultaneously acquiring the courage to come out as transgender. From the start, readers are drawn into the story by 11-year-old Liv’s believable, humor-tinged narration: “Little brothers can always be counted on to reach peak levels of annoying at exactly the wrong moment. It must be part of their job description.” Throughout, Liv’s voice is convincing and a pleasure to read. Readers learn that, over the years, Liv has become increasingly less tolerant of being assigned female pronouns and the name “Olivia.” Being required to wear a skirt daily at middle school is the last straw. He—still “she” to others—works to convince the school’s new principal that students should have some choice in clothing, moving from an unsuccessful conversation to an unpromising petition to a brilliantly orchestrated media event. Along the way, he contends with a mean-spirited bully and the loss of a former friend even as he makes new, more loyal friends and wrestles with his own shortcomings. His coming-out to friend Jacob is realistically brief and an enormous relief. Liv’s two moms add further dimension to a tale that unabashedly affirms the importance of accepting and celebrating differences. (CB)

Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi - In this sequel to Furthermore (2016), kindhearted Alice and friend Oliver travel from Ferenwood to wintery Whichwood with the assigned task of saving “a very strange” girl from a terrible fate. Since her mother’s death and her father’s departure, 13-year-old Laylee has become Whichwood’s only mordeshoor with magical skills to “wash and package the dead destined for the Otherwhere,” a ghastly, grueling, unappreciated task, sapping her body and soul. Watching her bronze skin, amber eyes, and chestnut hair turn silver, Laylee hopelessly realizes she’s “irrevocably ill.” Shocked and offended when Alice arrives suddenly and announces she’s come to “fix” Laylee’s “problem,” Laylee spurns her well-meaning visitors who try to help her launder the dead. When it becomes obvious that Laylee’s dying, Alice applies her own special magic in an effort to save her. Meanwhile, unattended ghosts of Whichwood’s dead avenge Laylee by wreaking havoc on the town, igniting terrible repercussions. Initially failing in her task, Alice eventually relies on her heart to “fix” her new friend. In deliciously descriptive prose, the confiding, familiar narrator directly engages the “dear reader” with witty asides, explanatory footnotes, and cautionary warnings as Laylee’s woeful tale unfolds. As she did in Furthermore, Mafi uses her built world to interrogate norms and relationships in our own while never losing sight of her story. Memorable new characters experience the restorative power of friendship in this darkly fascinating, somewhat ghoulish sequel to Furthermore. (CB)

The Mighty Zodiac Vol. 1: Starfall by J. Torres - One dark and quiet night in Gaya, six stars fall from the sky. Master Long, the ailing leader of the Mighty Zodiac, sends his warriors out to collect the stars before the Moon Rabbit Army can get their paws on them first. If the Rabbits get the stars, the balance of nature—and the fate of all of Gaya—will be in danger. But Long's plans to use the stars to "cure" his illness may be just as dangerous—and bring an end to the Mighty Zodiac itself. (GN)

Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win by Rachel Ignotofsky - A richly illustrated and inspiring book, Women in Sports highlights the achievements and stories of fifty notable women athletes from the 1800s to today, including trailblazers, Olympians, and record-breakers in more than forty sports. The athletes featured include well-known figures like tennis player Billie Jean King and gymnast Simone Biles, as well as lesser-known champions like Toni Stone, the first woman to play baseball in a professional men’s league, and skateboarding pioneer Patti McGee. The book also contains infographics on topics that sporty women want to know about such as muscle anatomy, a timeline of women’s participation in sports, pay and media statistics for female athletes, and influential women’s teams. Women in Sports celebrates the success of the tough, bold, and fearless women who paved the way for today’s athletes. (Non-fiction)

Tumble and Blue by Cassie Beasley - When the red moon rises over the heart of the Okefenokee swamp, legend says that the mysterious golden gator Munch will grant good luck to the poor soul foolish enough to face him. But in 1817, when TWO fools reach him at the same time, the night’s fate is split. With disastrous consequences for both . . . and their descendants. Half of the descendants have great fates, and the other half have terrible ones. Now, Tumble Wilson and Blue Montgomery are determined to fix their ancestors’ mistakes and banish the bad luck that’s followed them around for all of their lives. They’re going to face Munch the gator themselves, and they’re going to reclaim their destinies. But what if the legend of Munch is nothing but a legend, after all? Full of friendship, family, and the everyday magic and adventure that readers of Savvy and A Snicker of Magic love, Cassie Beasley’s newest middle grade book is another crowd-pleasing heart-warmer—perfect for reading by yourself, or sharing with someone you love. (CB)

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia - From beloved Newbery Honor winner and three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner Rita Williams-Garcia comes a powerful and heartfelt novel about loss, family, and love that will appeal to fans of Jason Reynolds and Kwame Alexander. Clayton feels most alive when he’s with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and the band of Bluesmen—he can’t wait to join them, just as soon as he has a blues song of his own. But then the unthinkable happens. Cool Papa Byrd dies, and Clayton’s mother forbids Clayton from playing the blues. And Clayton knows that’s no way to live. Armed with his grandfather’s brown porkpie hat and his harmonica, he runs away from home in search of the Bluesmen, hoping he can join them on the road. But on the journey that takes him through the New York City subways and to Washington Square Park, Clayton learns some things that surprise him. (CB)

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee - Welcome to Andover... where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship only it turns out to be for the town s most heinous super villain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there's the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious 'M,' who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether. (CB)

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate - Trees can't tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"―people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with a crow named Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this wishtree watches over the neighborhood. You might say Red has seen it all. 
Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red's experience as a wishtree is more important than ever. Funny, deep, warm, and nuanced, this is Katherine Applegate at her very best―writing from the heart, and from a completely unexpected point of view. (CB)

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman - From the author of National Book Award finalist Charles and Emma comes an incredible story of brotherly love. The deep and enduring friendship between Vincent and Theo Van Gogh shaped both brothers' lives. Confidant, champion, sympathizer, friend―Theo supported Vincent as he struggled to find his path in life. They shared everything, swapping stories of lovers and friends, successes and disappointments, dreams and ambitions. Meticulously researched, drawing on the 658 letters Vincent wrote to Theo during his lifetime, Deborah Heiligman weaves a tale of two lives intertwined and the extraordinary love of the Van Gogh brothers. (Non-fiction)

From a Certain Point of View (Star Wars) by Various Authors - On May 25, 1977, the world was introduced to Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, and a galaxy full of possibilities. In honor of the fortieth anniversary, more than forty contributors lend their vision to this retelling of Star Wars. Each of the forty short stories reimagines a moment from the original film, but through the eyes of a supporting character. From a Certain Point of View features contributions by bestselling authors, trendsetting artists, and treasured voices from the literary history of Star Wars. (Short fiction)

Walking with Miss Millie by Tamara Bundy - A poignant middle grade debut about the friendship between a white girl and an elderly black woman in the 1960s South. Alice is angry at having to move to Rainbow, Georgia—a too small, too hot, dried-up place she’s sure will never feel like home. Then she gets put in charge of walking her elderly neighbor’s dog. But Clarence won’t budge without Miss Millie, so Alice and Miss Millie walk him together. Strolling with Clarence and Miss Millie quickly becomes the highlight of Alice's day and opens her eyes to all sorts of new things to marvel over. During their walks, they meet a mix of people, and Alice sees that although there are some bullies and phonies, there are plenty of kind folks, too. Miss Millie shares her family’s story with Alice, showing her the painful impact segregation has had on their town. And with Miss Millie, Alice is finally able to express her own heartache over why her family had to move there in the first place. Tamara Bundy’s beautifully written debut celebrates the wonder and power of friendship: how it can be found when we least expect it and make any place a home. (CB)

A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander - Latinx protagonist Rosa is not your usual new-to-town middle school student. Rosa is an apprentice appeasement specialist. Her skills in placating restless souls are going to waste in the small town of Ingot, a place where people go to escape their hauntings, not to appease them. The placid lack of supernatural phenomena ends when an angry spirit gate-crashes opening day of the town Renaissance festival embodied in the carcass of a mountain lion. With the help of a new acquaintance, 11-year-old mixed-race (black/white) Jasper, Rosa sets out to solve the mysteries of where the phantom came from and why no others exist in this quaint town. Alexander does an excellent job of building a contemporary world in which the paranormal is nevertheless ubiquitous and expected. This haunted world begs for further exploration. Though it’s a perfectly enjoyable tale on a purely superficial level, readers who choose to dig deeper will find an engrossing exploration of complicated grief and what damage may be wrought when negative emotions are barricaded away rather than addressed. A fun and fast-paced supernatural mystery with secret depths for those who dare explore them. (CB)

The March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power by Ann Bausum - James Meredith's 1966 march from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi, began as a small-scale, peaceful protest for voter registration but quickly grew into one of the South's most important civil rights demonstrations when Meredith was shot in an assassination attempt one day into his trek. It brought together leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael, the newly elected leader of SNCC, whose introduction of the words “black power” in a speech during the march ushered in a new era for the movement. In addition to painstakingly chronicling the pivotal moments during the march, Bausum thoughtfully depicts the tensions both between King and Carmichael and within the movement. She offers an insightful, revealing portrait of Meredith, and she describes how the media quickly developed a negative fixation on the phrase “black power.” Bausum convincingly shows that the March Against Fear “stands as one of the greatest protests of the civil rights era” and deftly explains the many complex reasons why it was relegated to a footnote rather than a highlight in history. An exceptionally well-written and -researched account of a crucial civil rights turning point. (Non-fiction)

Us, In Progress: Short Stories About Young Latinos by Lulu Delacre - Acclaimed author and Pura Belpré Award honoree Lulu Delacre’s beautifully illustrated collection of twelve short stories is a groundbreaking look at the diverse Latinos who live in the United States. In this book, you will meet many young Latinos living in the United States, from a young girl whose day at her father’s burrito truck surprises her to two sisters working together to change the older sister’s immigration status, and more. Turn the pages to experience life through the eyes of these boys and girls whose families originally hail from many different countries; see their hardships, celebrate their victories, and come away with a better understanding of what it means to be Latino in the U.S. today. (Short fiction)

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell - In the first book of a new series by the bestselling author, Cressida Cowell, the warring worlds of Wizards and Warriors collide in a thrilling and enchanting adventure. Once there were Wizards, who were Magic, and Warriors, who were not. But Xar, son of the King of Wizards, can't cast a single spell. And Wish, daughter of the Warrior Queen, has a banned magical object of her own. When they collide in the wildwood, on the trail of a deadly witch, it's the start of a grand adventure that just might change the fabric of their worlds. The Wizards of Once will transport and enchant readers. (CB)

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani -  Priyanka Das has so many unanswered questions: Why did her mother abandon her home in India years ago? What was it like there? And most importantly, who is her father, and why did her mom leave him behind? But Pri’s mom avoids these questions―the topic of India is permanently closed. For Pri, her mother's homeland can only exist in her imagination. That is, until she find a mysterious pashmina tucked away in a forgotten suitcase. When she wraps herself in it, she is transported to a place more vivid and colorful than any guidebook or Bollywood film. But is this the real India? And what is that shadow lurking in the background? To learn the truth, Pri must travel farther than she’s ever dared and find the family she never knew. In this heartwarming graphic novel debut, Nidhi Chanani weaves a tale about the hardship and self-discovery that is born from juggling two cultures and two worlds. (GN)

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez - Twelve-year-old María Luisa O’Neill-Morales, aka Malú, loves punk-rock music, hanging out at her father’s indie record store, and making zines. She doesn’t love moving from her home in Gainesville, Florida, to Chicago for her professor mother’s two-year appointment at a university. Although she loves both of her amicably divorced parents, Malú—who favors Chuck Taylors and music T’s—feels closer to her laid-back, artsy white father than her supportive but critical academic mother, whom she calls “SuperMexican.” At Malú’s new majority-Latino school, she quickly makes an enemy of beautiful Selena, who calls her a “coconut” (brown on the outside, white on the inside) and warns her about falling in with the class “weirdos.” Malú does befriend the school misfits (one activist white girl and two fellow “coconuts”) and enlists them to form a band to play a punk song at the Fall Fiesta. Middle-grade readers will appreciate the examples of Malú’s zines and artwork, which delightfully convey her journey of self-discovery. The author surrounds the feisty protagonist with a trio of older women (including her mom, her best friend Joe’s tattooed, punk-loving mother, and his humorous Abuela) who help her embrace being Mexican and punk. A charming debut about a thoughtful, creative preteen connecting to both halves of her identity. (CB)

Eyes of the WorldEyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Tarto, and the Invention of Modern Photojournalism by Marc Aronson - Robert Capa and Gerda Taro were young Jewish refugees, idealistic and in love. As photographers in the 1930s, they set off to capture their generation's most important struggle―the fight against fascism. Among the first to depict modern warfare, Capa, Taro, and their friend Chim took powerful photographs of the Spanish Civil War that went straight from the action to news magazines. They brought a human face to war with their iconic shots of a loving couple resting, a wary orphan, and, always, more and more refugees―people driven from their homes by bombs, guns, and planes. Today, our screens are flooded with images from around the world. But Capa and Taro were pioneers, bringing home the crises and dramas of their time―and helping give birth to the idea of bearing witness through technology. With a cast of characters ranging from Langston Hughes and George Orwell to Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway, and packed with dramatic photos, posters, and cinematic magazine layouts, here is Capa and Taro’s riveting, tragic, and ultimately inspiring story. “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” –Robert Capa (Non-fiction)

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend - A breathtaking, enchanting new series by debut author Jessica Townsend, about a cursed girl who escapes death and finds herself in a magical world--but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination. Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she's blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks--and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor. It's then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city's most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart--an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests--or she'll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate. (CB)

Warcross by Marie Lu - For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation. Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire. (CB)

Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor - A year ago, Sunny Nwazue, an American-born girl Nigerian girl, was inducted into the secret Leopard Society. As she began to develop her magical powers, Sunny learned that she had been chosen to lead a dangerous mission to avert an apocalypse, brought about by the terrifying masquerade, Ekwensu. Now, stronger, feistier, and a bit older, Sunny is studying with her mentor Sugar Cream and struggling to unlock the secrets in her strange Nsibidi book. Eventually, Sunny knows she must confront her destiny. With the support of her Leopard Society friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, and of her spirit face, Anyanwu, she will travel through worlds both visible and invisible to the mysteries town of Osisi, where she will fight a climactic battle to save humanity. Much-honored Nnedi Okorafor, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, merges today’s Nigeria with a unique world she creates. Akata Warrior blends mythology, fantasy, history and magic into a compelling tale that will keep readers spellbound. (CB)

Steelheart (The Reckoners series, Book 1) by Brandon Sanderson - After the appearance of Calamity, a mysterious celestial force, ordinary humans began to exhibit superhuman powers. They became known as Epics and used their powers to control others. When David was eight years old, he witnessed his father's ruthless murder at the hand of Steelheart, one of the most powerful Epics in the world. Ten years later, David lives in Newcago (once Chicago) under the tyrannical rule of Steelheart and his inner circle of Epics. David has spent the last decade researching everything he can about Epics: their habits, their powers, and their weaknesses. He wants to join the Reckoners, a secretive group of humans dedicated to killing Epics, and convince them to take on Steelheart. However, even after all his study, David has not figured out the seemingly invincible Epic's weakness-without that knowledge, his plan for revenge cannot succeed. MacLeod Andrews's understated performance of the first-person narration is highly effective and makes the engaging action scenes stand out in contrast. He transitions easily among characters who vary in age, background, and status within the world of humans and Epics. (CB)

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin - Every so often a book comes along with a premise so fresh and arresting it seems to exist in a category all its own. This is such a book. More than a few young adult novels begin with the sudden death of a family member or friend that the protagonist must emotionally deal with in the course of the story. But Zevin follows 15-year-old Elizabeth Hall, the victim of a hit-and-run driver, into the afterlife, a place known as Elsewhere, where Liz must come to terms with her own death. Elsewhere, on first glance, appears improbably ordinary, with "buildings, houses, stores, roads, cars, bridges, people, trees, flowers, grass, lakes, rivers, beaches, air, stars and skies." But everyone in Elsewhere is aging backward, which explains why Liz's grandmother Betty is, impossibly, only 34 years old when Liz steps off the S.S. Nile, a sleek white cruise ship that stylishly conveys the dead into the afterlife. It doesn't take long for Liz to realize that not only has she been cheated out of her adult life on earth, but, to make matters worse, she must now age backward into childhood, and then, horrors of horrors, infancy. Zevin's touch is marvelously light even as she considers profundities, easily moving among humor, wisdom and lyricism. In one especially telling passage, she muses on the bounded, linear quality of earthly life: "There are so many lives. How we wish we could live them concurrently instead of one by one by one. We could select the best pieces of each, stringing them together like a strand of pearls. But that's not how it works. A human's life is a beautiful mess." No plot synopsis can convey what a rich, wise spell this book casts. Its message is how thrilling it is to be alive, here or in Elsewhere. (CB)