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Review of Booked

Booked by Kwame Alexander Intermediate, Middle School    Houghton    314 pp. 4/16    978-0-544-57098-6    $16.99    g Eighth grader Nick Hall is quite a wordsmith, thanks largely to his father, a linguistics professor and the author of Weird and Wonderful Words, which Nick is required to read page by page: “You’re the only kid / on your block / […]

Review of Essential Maps for the Lost

Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti High School   Simon Pulse   323 pp. 4/16   978-0-4814-1516-3   $17.99   g e-book ed. 978-1-4814-1519-4   $10.99 High-school grad Madison Murray is living in Seattle with her uncle’s family while reluctantly taking a real-estate course to fast-track a partnership with her controlling mother back in Spokane. Swimming in Lake Union […]

Survival adventures

These high-stakes survival tales feature bad-ass boys braving the elements, racing the clock, battling villains, and fending off wild creatures, all while learning a little something about themselves and nature. Thrill-seekers should be enthralled. Tristan Bancks’s On the Run begins with twelve-year-old Ben’s parents fleeing the police, leaving Ben and his younger sister, Olive, on […]

Mysterious ways

Full of thrills, chills, secrets, and lies, these new high-stakes mysteries for middle- and high-school readers will get hearts racing. Teen detective Scarlett is wary when nine-year-old Gemma appears at her office and tells her that she thinks her brother murdered someone. Scarlett accepts the case, and she’s soon launched into a dangerous mystery that […]

Life, death, and football

Gritty and intense but also full of heart and hope, each of these four YA novels stars a teenage boy facing some of life’s most serious challenges. Andrew Smith follows his 2014 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award–winning Grasshopper Jungle with the similarly multilayered, ambitious novel The Alex Crow. Fifteen-year-old war refugee Ariel lived through the bombing […]

Review of Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation

Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation edited by Brett Fletcher Lauer and Lynn Melnick High School   Viking   289 pp. 3/15   978-0-670-01479-8   $16.99   g “Most poets begin writing poetry in secret.” Poet Carolyn Forché opens her introduction to this anthology of contemporary American poetry with a shout-out to young or burgeoning […]

Review of Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews

Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews by Kathleen Benson; illus. with paintings by Benny Andrews Primary, Intermediate   Clarion   32 pp. 1/15   978-0-544-10487-7   $16.99 Benson opens in New Orleans in 2005, where Benny Andrews traveled after Hurricane Katrina to teach children “to use art to express their feelings about what they […]

Review of Belzhar

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer High School   Dutton   264 pp. 9/14   978-0-525-42305-8   $17.99   g After her boyfriend Reeve’s death, Jam Gallahue is shipped off to The Wooden Barn, a boarding school for “emotionally fragile, highly intelligent” teens. There she’s placed in a widely coveted, extremely selective course called Special Topics in English, one of just five […]

You’ve got to have friends

Picture books about friendship can be a dime a dozen. However, these four new gems — about companions in adventure, in-sync skating partners, a tender odd-couple bond, and a freewheeling affection-giver — freshen things up. In Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, two boys set out to do just that — but unearth nothing. Eventually […]

Middle-school capers

Middle school can be a time when kids broaden their horizons, explore new talents, and form more grown-up opinions. But it can also be a time for mischievous adventure, social snafus, rule-breaking, and guerilla-style activism — and these middle-school capers abound with such madcap antics. Twelve-year-old Jade, star of Tess Hilmo’s Skies like These, would […]