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Graphic-novel friendships and family

These realistic graphic novels (and one graphic memoir) offer a reminder to upper-elementary and middle-school readers that they are not alone when it comes to dealing with school and/or family drama. In her graphic memoir Real Friends, author Shannon Hale recounts her elementary-school years, focusing on the theme of childhood friendships. Young Shannon feels a […]

Review of The Wrong Train

The Wrong Train by Jeremy de Quidt; illus. by Dave Shelton Middle School    Fickling/Scholastic    209 pp.    g 7/17    978-1-338-12125-4    $18.99 e-book ed.  978-1-338-12126-1    $11.99 This unsettling collection of eight ghost stories, framed by a ninth, will surely delight fans of the eerie and the macabre. A British boy hurriedly boards a train one night, but […]

Review of Elizabeth and Zenobia

Elizabeth and Zenobia by Jessica Miller; illus. by Yelena Bryksenkova Intermediate, Middle School    Amulet/Abrams    202 pp.    g 9/17    978-1-4197-2724-4    $16.99 Elizabeth’s father is gloomy since her mother left; Witheringe House, his childhood home to which he returns with his daughter, is gloomier. Elizabeth’s main company is Zenobia, a vivacious, morbid, obsessed-with-clairvoyance friend who, although no […]

Review of The War I Finally Won

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley Intermediate    Dial    388 pp.    g 10/17    978-0-5254-2920-3    $16.99 This sequel to Bradley’s Newbery Honor–winning The War That Saved My Life (rev. 1/15) begins with high drama: surgery for London-slum-born Ada to correct her clubfoot; the news that abusive Mam has died; Ada’s mistaken belief that she’ll […]

Family curses, grief, and fate

These recent books for middle graders dip into the supernatural (ancestral curses, spectral mothers, ghost frenemies, growing skeletons) to raise larger questions about family, friendship, memory, grief, and love. In Lauren DeStefano’s The Girl with the Ghost Machine, ten-year-old Emmaline Beaumont and her father Julien are devastated by Emmaline’s mother’s sudden death, and grief drives […]

Supernaturally good scares

From a collection of ghost stories-within-a-ghost-story to classic tales of the macabre reimagined for a new format, these new books offer a fresh take on the usual suspects of supernatural horror. Graphic novelist Gareth Hinds adapts three of Edgar Allan Poe’s poems (“Annabel Lee,” “The Bells,” and “The Raven”) and four stories (“The Masque of […]

Review of Genuine Fraud

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart High School    Delacorte    265 pp. 9/17    978-0-385-74477-5    $18.99 Library ed.  978-0-375-99184-4    $21.99 e-book ed.  978-0-385-39138-2    $10.99 As soon as Lockhart’s latest intoxicating psychological thriller (We Were Liars, rev. 5/14) opens in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, readers will be perversely enamored of eighteen-year-old narrator Jule. She’s cold — sociopathic, even — […]

Review of Long Way Down

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds High School    Dlouhy/Atheneum    306 pp.    g 10/17    978-1-4814-3825-4    $17.99 e-book ed.  978-1-4814-3827-8    $10.99 Fifteen-year-old Will, immobilized with grief when his older brother Shawn is shot and killed, slowly comes to mull The Rules in his head. There are three: don’t cry, don’t snitch, and “if someone you love / gets […]

Review of Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen

Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence; illus. by Elizabet Vuković Primary    Farrar    115 pp. 7/17    978-0-374-30410-2    $15.99 Paper ed.  978-0-374-30834-6    $5.99 e-book ed.  978-0-374-30412-6    $4.25 Jasmine’s favorite holiday is New Year’s. Relatives gather at her home in Los Angeles to celebrate, and her beloved Obaachan comes all the way from Japan to visit. […]

Review of You Bring the Distant Near

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins High School    Farrar    305 pp.    g 9/17    978-0-374-30490-4    $17.99 e-book ed.  978-0-374-30491-1    $9.99 In 1973 the Das sisters, Tara and Sonia, with their mother Ranee, join their father in New York City. Ranee is determined that her family will take advantage of the opportunities America offers even […]