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August 2018 Back-to-School Horn Book Herald: Intermediate

Stella Díaz Has Something to Say
by Angela Dominguez; illus. by the author
Roaring Brook     202 pp.
1/18     978-1-62672-858-5     $16.99

Shy, artistic third grader Stella Díaz, who emigrated from Mexico to Chicago, is self-conscious about her accent and occasional English blunders. She’s also worried about being in a different class than best friend Jenny. Supportive family members and teachers help Stella build self-confidence. Lively black-and-white illustrations showing elements of Stella’s day-to-day bicultural life and of her imagination add dimension to a rich narrative.

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess
by Shari Green
Pajama     239 pp.
5/17     978-1-77278-033-8     $16.95
Paper ed. 978-1-77278-017-8     $11.95

Macy is facing a new school with a new sign-language interpreter, her mother is getting re-married, and their house is up for sale. Elderly neighbor Iris’s words of wisdom—and communication through cookies—brings Macy solace and understanding. Green’s free verse makes this a quick, accessible read; Macy’s deafness is a feature but not the focus of this sympathetic rendering of a twelve-year-old’s realistic angst.

Miss Communication [Babymouse: Tales from the Locker]
by Jennifer L. Holm; illus. by Matthew Holm
Random     197 pp.
7/18     978-0-399-55441-4     $13.99
Library ed.  978-0-399-55442-1     $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-399-55443-8     $9.99

After Babymouse gets her first smartphone, her forays into social media intensify her obsession with popularity and make her vulnerable to the middle schooler’s nightmare: public humiliation. Babymouse’s phone troubles are LOL funny, but her misguided attempts to reinvent herself will resonate with fans. As in Lights, Camera, Middle School!, the first book in this spin-off series, black-and-white illustrations are integral to advancing the engaging story.

Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship
by Irene Latham and Charles Waters; illus. by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko
Carolrhoda      40 pp.
1/18     978-1-5124-0442-5     $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5124-7214-1     $9.99

Classmates Irene (white) and Charles (black) are paired for a poetry-writing project in this clever collection. Each spread contains poems from both their perspectives. As they get to know each other, the poems traverse trickier areas (e.g., slavery, police violence). Acrylic, colored-pencil, and collage illustrations range from ordinary classroom scenes to double-page spreads that visually connect the characters’ experiences.

Slug Days
by Sara Leach; illus. by Rebecca Bender
Pajama Press     120 pp.
10/17     978-1-77278-022-2     $15.95

Lauren knows her autism spectrum disorder makes her behave differently from her classmates, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to know how to act. First-person narration makes Lauren’s logic clear, even as readers may see why something she does is funny to other people. Frequent pencil and digital illustrations break up the paragraphs and should help young readers understand Lauren’s emotions and others’ reactions.

Waylon!: Even More Awesome
by Sara Pennypacker; illus. by Marla Frazee
Disney-Hyperion     204 pp.
10/17     978-1-4847-0153-9     $15.99

In this standalone second book, fourth grader Waylon (Waylon!: One Awesome Thing) and classmate Baxter scheme to protect Dumpster Eddy, a stray dog they both love but can’t take home. Side story lines involving collaboration at school and at home bring more nuance and meaning to Waylon’s dilemmas. Frazee’s illustrations deftly capture the story’s humor and meaningful moments.

Abigail Adams, Pirate of the Caribbean [Time Twisters]
by Steve Sheinkin; illus. by Neil Swaab
Roaring Brook     151 pp.
1/18     978-1-250-14893-3     $13.99
Paper ed.  978-1-250-15247-3     $6.99

Abraham Lincoln, Pro Wrestler [Time Twisters]
by Steve Sheinkin; illus. by Neil Swaab
Roaring Brook     147 pp.
1/18     978-1-250-14891-9      $13.99
Paper ed.  978-1-250-15246-6     $6.99

When stepsiblings Doc and Abby come face-to-face with time-displaced Abraham Lincoln, it’s up to them to fix history. In the new series’ second volume, the duo travels back in time to persuade Abigail Adams, who has joined a pirate crew, that being First Lady is not boring. Sheinkin expertly slips in interesting facts and true events. Swaab’s black-and-white spot illustrations add to the comedic tone.

Mr. Wolf’s Class
by Aron Nels Steinke; illus. by the author
Scholastic/Graphix     155 pp.
6/18     978-1-338-04769-1     $18.99
Paper ed.  978-1-338-04768-4     $9.99
e-book ed.  978-1-338-04770-7     $5.99

This graphic novel portrays the first day of school in a woodland town. The cheerful plot depicts each anthropomorphized animal character with care and depth. Internal dialogue and visual gags extend the story and provide levity. Soft-hued colors and loose, unpretentious lines focus attention on characters’ expressions. Solid fills of background color emphasize moments of classroom action and child-friendly humor.

Small Things
by Mel Tregonning; illus. by the author
Pajama Press     40 pp.
3/18     978-1-77278-042-0     $18.95

In this wordless story told through paneled graphite art, a boy’s anxiety manifests itself as a swarm of little black demons. He starts to feel that part of him is being eroded, and notices a chunk missing from his arm. Before book’s end, when the boy makes an overture of friendship, the story may strike readers as almost unbearably sad, but they may also find the story revelatory.

Hammy and Gerbee: Mummies at the Museum
by Wong Herbert Yee; illus. by the author
Holt/Ottaviano     111 pp.
1/18     Paper ed.  978-1-62779-462-6     $12.99

Best friends Hammy and Gerbee (hamster and gerbil, respectively) break from their class during a science museum visit to create mischief involving toilet paper, mummy role-playing, and slapstick humor. The entertaining characters are rendered via thick, relaxed lines in this graphic novel. Nine short, fast-paced sections will engage new readers; easy-to-follow sequences, simple speech-bubble dialogue, uncomplicated wordplay, and visual punch lines should draw in reluctant readers.

From the August 2018: Back-to-School issue of The Horn Book Herald.

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