Reviews of the 2018 Batchelder Award winners


The Murderer’s Ape
by Jakob Wegelius; illus. by the author; trans. from the Swedish 
by Peter Graves
Intermediate, Middle School    Delacorte    590 pp.
1/17    978-1-101-93175-2    $17.99    g
e-book ed.  978-1-101-93177-6    $10.99

In Lisbon, Sally Jones (a gorilla living in the human world) and the Chief accept cargo from one Alphonse Morro for their ship the Hudson Queen. But the tiles he asked them to transport turn out to be guns; his men take over the Hudson Queen; she founders on rocks and sinks; and Sally Jones and the Chief return shipless to Lisbon. There the Chief gets into a fight with Morro and ends up being charged with his murder and imprisoned. The five-hundred-odd pages that follow chronicle Sally Jones’s far-ranging efforts to clear her friend’s name. Sally Jones, who can read, write, and understand human speech, is very good with her hands, especially around engines and machines, a skill that serves her well as she goes about building herself a new life. She is such a sympathetic character, with her longing for the Chief and her dread of being caged in a zoo, that readers will be entirely content to follow her slow progress, the novel’s pace being more leisurely than dramatic yet somehow highly satisfying. The global cast of characters is introduced in the opening pages in a series of grainy-textured, black-and-white caricatures; subsequently, chapter-heading vignettes follow the action. ANITA L. BURKAM

Honor Books

Malala: Activist for Girls' Education
by Raphaële Frier; illus. by Aurélie Fronty
Primary     Charlesbridge     48 pp.
2/17     978-1-58089-785-3     $17.99

Of the many picture-book biographies of Malala Yousafzai, this French import departs a bit as it frames her life more directly in the politics of Pakistan. Frier tells Malala's inspiring story with conviction; Fronty's illustrations employ a striking folk style with bold colors. Extensive back matter includes Malala quotations and notes (with photos) on Pakistan, schooling, and religion. Reading list, timeline, websites. CHRISTINA DORR

From the Fall 2017 issue of The Horn Book Guide.

When a Wolf Is Hungry
by Christine Naumann-Villemin; illus. by Kris Di Giacomo
Primary     Eerdmans     40 pp.
8/17     978-0-8028-5482-7     $16.00

One day, a woods-dwelling wolf has every ambition to eat a "city bunny," but each time he tries to get to his prey's door, its fellow apartment dwellers inadvertently thwart him (by borrowing his rabbit-killing knife to slice a cake, etc.). The story, whose meticulous illustrations accommodate humor and menace, is a whip-smart merger of fairy-tale motifs and modern-day mores. NELL BERAM

From the Spring 2018 issue of The Horn Book Guide.

You Can’t Be Too Careful!
by Roger Mello; illus. by the author; trans. from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn
Primary     Elsewhere Editions    36 pp.
4/17     978-0914671640     $18.00

[review to come]



For more, click on the tag ALA Midwinter 2018.
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