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Everyday — and otherworldly — wonders

In these new books for intermediate readers, the boundaries between our reality and more fantastical realms blur, allowing protagonists and magical beings alike to walk between worlds.

My Beijing: Four Stories of Everyday Wonder, author-illustrator Nie Jun’s graphic novel for young readers, begins with a girl, Yu’er, who dreams of swimming in the Special Olympics. When her swim-class application is rejected, Grampa has an ingenious solution. Heartwarming relationships, moments of levity, and magical elements mark the book’s inventive vignettes. The earth-toned watercolor illustrations seem quiet at first glance, but dynamic perspectives and compositions provide lively energy. (Lerner/Graphic Universe, 8–11 years)

British bus driver Bert discovers a tiny boy angel in his pocket in The Tale of Angelino Brown by David Almond (illustrated by Alex T. Smith). Bert and his wife Betty, the cook at St. Mungo’s School, care for the angel, whom they call “Angelino.” But then he is kidnapped by young criminal K, and the race to save Angelino is on. The homey British setting and diction add to the appeal of this witty, wonderfully outlandish, and tender tale. (Candlewick, 9–12 years)

Evangeline, star of Jan Eldredge’s Evangeline of the Bayou (illustrated by Joseph Kuefler), is a twelve-year-old aspiring “haunt huntress” learning the family trade at her grandmother’s Louisiana bayou home. When Gran is hired to dispatch a werewolf-like rougarou in New Orleans, Evangeline discovers that she may not have inherited Gran’s powers after all. Eldredge’s fantasy world, based in Creole mythology, is vividly depicted and full of detail. A satisfying coming-of-age story with bonus supernatural battles. (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, 9–12 years)

Emily, protagonist of The Land of Neverendings by Kate Saunders, begins to be visited by inhabitants of Smockeroon, the fantasy land she had created for her beloved sister, Holly, before Holly’s tragic death. Emily conceives the idea that if she herself could go to Smockeroon, she could find Holly. An adept reporter from the world of toys, Saunders excels at re-creating imaginative play; the story is also wise in the ways of loss as Emily discovers that the route through grief lies in engaging with the real world rather than escaping it. (Delacorte, 9–12 years)

From the September 2018 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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