Fearless females

springstubb_moonpenny island

From an aspiring journalist to an up-and-coming roller derby grrl, the determined and curious female protagonists of these intermediate and middle-school books are ready to take on the world. In Tricia Springstubb’s Moonpenny Island, the titular tiny Ohio vacation spot is lousy with fossils — specifically, of trilobites from the Cambrian period. Sixth-grade townie Flor […]

Review of The Tight-Rope Walkers

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The Tight-Rope Walkers by David Almond High School   Candlewick   326 pp. 3/15   978-0-7636-7310-9   $17.99   g Dom is a clever, working-class boy from the north of England, beloved of his teachers, the hope of his parents. It’s the early 1960s, an optimistic period in British education, when the son of a shipbuilder could plausibly end up […]

Sara Pennypacker on Completely Clementine

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In the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine, reviewer Claire Gross talked to author Sara Pennypacker about the end of her long-running Clementine series. Read the full review of Completely Clementine here. Claire E. Gross: What was the hardest part about saying goodbye to Clementine? Sara Pennypacker: Clementine was a mix of my […]

Review of Completely Clementine

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Completely Clementine by Sara Pennypacker; illus. by Marla Frazee Primary, Intermediate   Disney-Hyperion   181 pp. 3/15   978-1-4231-2358-3   $14.99   g In this series-ender, third grade is almost over, but Clementine is far from ready to say goodbye to her familiar classmates and supportive teacher. Mr. D’Matz keeps trying to tell her about all the ways she’s grown […]

Review of Listen, Slowly

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Listen, Slowly by Thanhhà Lại Intermediate, Middle School   Harper/HarperCollins   260 pp. 2/15   978-0-06-222918-2   $16.99 This second novel from National Book Award winner Lại (Inside Out and Back Again, rev. 3/11) grabs readers from the start. California girl Mai is on a plane, accompanying Ba, her grandmother, on a trip to Vietnam. Mai, who planned to […]

Review of Challenger Deep

Challenger Deep jacket

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman; illus. by Brendan Shusterman High School   HarperTeen   318 pp. 4/15   978-0-06-113411-1   $17.99   g e-book 978-0-06-223172-7   $9.99 This novel is a challenge to the reader from its first lines: author Shusterman takes us into the seemingly random, rambling, and surreal fantasies of fifteen-year-old Caden Bosch (yes, it makes sense to associate […]

Five questions for Neal Shusterman

Brendan and Neal Shusterman.

Neal Shusterman’s novel Challenger Deep (HarperTeen, 14 years and up) is a swirling, surrealistic look inside the mind of one teen, Caden, who is struggling with mental illness. Chapters narrated by Caden alternate between a bizarre shipboard setting and the world we know, all viewed through the teen’s sometimes impenetrable perspective. It’s a very personal […]

Truth, lies, and secrets

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Adolescence is a time of self-discovery — and of deciding how much of that self to reveal to others. These new YA books explore themes of honesty and dishonesty, secret selves and public personas. When compiling the book Things I’ll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves, editor Ann Angel asked contributors to write “about […]

Review of The Walls Around Us

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The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma High School   Algonquin   321 pp. 3/15   978-1-61620-372-6   $17.95   g e-book ed. 978-1-61620-486-0   $17.95 Orianna Speerling — the so-called “Bloody Ballerina” — is just fifteen when she is convicted of murdering two rival dancers. A month after her sentence begins, all forty-two girls interned at the Aurora Hills […]

Review of Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny

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Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman; illus. by the author Primary   Holt   128 pp. 10/14   978-0-8050-9970-6   $13.99 e-book ed. 978-0-8050-9972-0   $9.49 Young rabbit Isabel is known as Bunjitsu Bunny for her proficiency in martial arts class. Himmelman’s thirteen short, generously illustrated chapters relate Isabel’s adventures as she demonstrates that “bunjitsu is not just about […]