Fear Of The Unknown: A Review of How We Became Wicked

How We Became Wicked
By Alexander Yates
Atheneum
July 23rd, 2019
Grades 8 and above

Several decades have passed since the outbreak of a virus know as “wicked” which has devastated the world, leaving few survivors. Contracted from mosquito like bugs known as “singers”, the “wicked” turns people into homicidal maniacs. The town of Goldsport has built a glass dome around their community to prevent singers from entering and spreading the “wicked”. Astrid, the only person in the town who is immune to the singers, is desperate to leave Goldsport and go to Puffin Island where a mysterious lighthouse shines. Yet, every time she brings up the lighthouse or the island, the people in her town dismiss her, clearly trying to hide something. Meanwhile, on Puffin Island, Natalie and her family struggle to survive with their dwindling resources and constant vigilance of her “wicked” grandfather. When her mother gives birth, Natalie must go to the mainland by herself to try to get her sister “vexed” a type of immunization that would make her newborn sister immune to the “singers”. While on the mainland she meets other people for the first time in her life, people who seem a little too fascinated by her purple glowing “vexed” eyes. Told through intersecting adventures, both girls eventually learn that ordinary people can be just as wicked as the “wicked”; they can even be worse.
Yates creates a world that is constantly teetering on the brink of collapse, where the slightest push could destroy everything. This book grapples with questions of morality, asking who gets to decide who survives? Is survival worth letting others die? A gripping book from front to cover, this book is perfect for the spooky season.

My Love Language is Snack Food: A Review of Permanent Record

Permanent Record
Written by Mary H. K. Choi
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Ages: 14+
Published: September 3, 2019

Nineteen-year-old Pablo Neruda Rind is a lot of things: snack food aficionado, NYU dropout, and deeply in debt. He’s working the night shift at a bodega when the stars align (or the pop stars align): superstar Leanna Smart comes in, picks out snacks, and sparks fly. Soon Pablo has two separate lives: the jet-setter life with Leanna and the one he’s avoiding back home. But you can only avoid debt collectors, parents, and roommates for so long.

Is this a love story? No. This is the story of a 19-year-old who simply cannot get it together. Pablo is whip-smart and talented and absolutely maddening. Why? Because author Mary H. K. Choi captures the haziness and frustration of almost-adulthood with perfect pitch. The romance between Pablo and Leanna isn’t that far-fetched on paper—her megastar life is paparazzi-ridden and exhausting, his life is debt-ridden and tiring.  This romance lets them both disconnect from what drains them. The difference is that Leanna is committed to her popstar life, whereas Pablo wants to check out of his. Which he does. It is not an easy feat, because, for all its complications, Pablo’s life is filled with people who love him. Watching him blow off his little brother or screen his mom’s calls aren’t easy for the reader. But it is possible for Pablo because he’s got his own script: his single mom is wedded to her work, she won’t even take them to Korea to visit their family; his dad is no role model, a Princeton engineer who now dabbles in playwriting? Please. And his little brother? Well, if his little brother knew about Leanna Smart, he would understand. The thing is, Pablo’s family and friends—heck, even his bosses at the bodega!—they do understand. But Pablo doesn’t hear it. At least, he doesn’t hear it, until finally, finally he does.

This is an excellent read for anyone who doesn’t know what they want to be when they grow up.

Spooky Stories If You Dare!

This fall season, Butler Center turns its attention to the things that go bump in the night. Ghosts, goblins, and the neighbors next door. We’ve handpicked some spooky tales for all ages and all scaredy-cat levels. We rated the books on a zero to five pumpkin scale (zero pumpkins means not scary at all; five pumpkins means prepare for the fright of your life). Grab some hot cider and settle down with one of our picks!

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Click, Clack, Boo! A Tricky Treat
Written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Published by Little Simon
Age range: 0-3 years
Available now
This board book has plenty of sound effects and emotive illustrations. This lighthearted Halloween tale is not scary, except for one mysterious and spooky character wearing a cape.
Scary Rating: Half a pumpkin out of five pumpkins

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Pick a Pumpkin
Written by Patricia Toht and illustrated by Jarvis
Published by Candlewick
Age range: 3-8 years
Available now
This picture book is saturated with sunset colors and family outings. Not at all frightening, this is the book to read to get children in the mood for fall.
Scary Rating: zero pumpkins out of five pumpkins 

The Forgotten Girl.jpgThe Forgotten Girl
Written by India Hill Brown
Published by Scholastic Press
Ages 8-12 years
Available November 5, 2019
The Forgotten Girl is a tale about the ghosts of segregation and racism. When Iris happens upon an unmarked grave during the first snowfall of the season—her curiosity is sparked, but so is her imagination. Real-life ghosts and family peril are supplemented by disturbing historical accuracies. This book is not lighthearted, but it is meaningful and scary all at the same time.
Scary Rating: 4 pumpkins out of 5 pumpkins 

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Guest: A Changeling Tale
Written by Mary Downing Hahn
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Ages 8-12 years
Available now
Veteran scary storyteller Mary Downing Hahn elicits frights and dread with her folkloric tale of switched infant boys. Mollie sings praises on her beautiful baby brother Thomas, a mistake if the Kinde Folke hear, which they do and soon enough her brother is stolen and replaced by a changeling child from another world. As Mollie and her family turn on this changeling, Mollie vows to return this “guest” and get her brother back. An eerie atmospheric tale, you can feel the fog and dread seep into your bones as Mollie traverses to the deep, deep wood. The cruelty in the book is not terrifying, but it is unsettling. This is a spooky book well-suited for reading under blankets.
Scary Rating: 3 pumpkins out of 5 pumpkins 

Scary Stories for Young Foxes.jpgScary Stories for Young Foxes
Written by Christian McKay Heidicker and illustrated by Junyi Wu
Published by MacMillan/Henry Holt
Ages 8-12 years
This story-within-a-story is downright frightening. Family loss, turmoil, gore, with the backdrop of survival of the fittest make for a thrilling read. Young readers will grapple with death and consequences, but the affection throughout makes it downright endearing, too. This is a tale that begs to be read aloud.
Scary Rating: 3 pumpkins out of 5 pumpkins 

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The Okay Witch
Written and illustrated by Emma Steinkellner
Published by Aladdin
Age Range: 10-14 years
Available now
The Okay Witch is a fast-paced adventure that summons generational legacies and hurtful histories. Moth Hush takes on a lot for a thirteen year old: bullying at school, a complicated family life, and new witching abilities. Witch-hunting and execution are balanced by a charming cat and a budding friendship.
Scary Rating: 1 pumpkin out of 5 pumpkins 

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Life Is Short and Then You Die: Mystery Writers of America Presents First Encounters with Murder
Edited by Kelley Armstrong
Published by Imprint
Ages 14+ years
What makes this collection of short stories so eerie is that many of these stories are too relatable— online message board run amok and the danger of “nice guys” to name a few.  This anthology blends contemporary fare with a few historical stories with very little paranormal activity. The collection’s main focus is the horror of the everyday. Teens can browse around to find stories that suit their mood.
Scary Rating: 4.5 pumpkins out of 5 pumpkins

Butler Bookshelf

Some new titles we’re eager to read!

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Slay
Written by Brittney Morria
Published by Simon Pulse
Available now

What Makes Us
Written by Raffi Mittlefehldt
Published by Candlewick
Available October 15, 2019

The Tornado
Written by Jake Burt
Published by Macmillan / Feiwel and Friends
Available now

The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue
by Karina Yan Glaer
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Available now

Maybe He Just Likes You
Written by Barbara  Dee
Published by Aladdin
Available October 22, 2019

Cursed
Written by Thomas Wheeler and illustrated by Frank Miller
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Available now

Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao
Written by Kat Zhang and illustrated by Charlene Chua
Published by Aladdin
Available now

Butler Bookshelf

IMG_3223Here are some books that we got in this week that we’re really excited about:

Paper World: Planet Earth illustrated by Bomoboland, published by Big Picture Press

Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi, published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refuges Who Dream of Crossing the Border by Juan Pablo Villalobos, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

King of the Mole People by Paul Gilligan, published by Henry Holt and Co.

If Animals Celebrated Christmas by Ann Whitford Paul, illustrated  by David Walker, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Color Me In by Natasha Diaz, published by Delacorte Press

Best Friends by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, published by First Second

Life is Short and Then You Die: Mystery Writers of America Present First Encounters with Murder edited by Kelley Armstrong, published by Macmillan

Stargazing written and illustrated by Jen Wang, published by First Second

Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Sara Palacios, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Arriverderci Crocodile or See You Later Alligator begun by Fred Marcellino and completed by Eric Puybaret, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Remarkables by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by David Litchfield, published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

A Burning Sky of Pain–A Review of The Weight of our Sky

the weight of our sky

The Weight of Our Sky
By Hanna Alkaf
Simon & Schuster
February 5, 2019
Grades:  9 and up

Melati Ahmad is a sixteen-year-old Malaysian girl of Malay descent who suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)—however, Melati believes that her OCD is actually the work of a djinn. Since the death of her father, Melati’s greatest fear has been the death of her mother. She counts by threes—her compulsive behavior—to appease the djinn and save her mother, along with everyone else she loves, from dying. On May 13, 1969, Melati is thrown into a world of chaos when the race riots between the Chinese and Malays begin. While at the movies with her best friend Saf, men with weapons break into the theater. Although Melati is saved by a Chinese-Malaysian stranger, she is forced to leave Saf behind if she wants to survive. Overcome with guilt, Mel teams up with Auntie Bee’s son Vince to try and find her mother who see she has not seen since the beginning of the riots. Melati is forced to confront her djinn and find her inner strength in order to stand up for what she believes in, find her mother, and protect the people she loves.

Alkaf is unafraid to make a book that is completely and utterly of her homeland. Alkaf’s note at the beginning of the book is spot on, letting readers know of the many possible triggers within the book and lets readers know that it is okay if they are not ready to read the book at this time. This is a powerful and brutally honest book that provides a very real look at what OCD looks like in a high-stress situation, which help builds the tension within the book.  It is thoughtfully and beautifully written, vividly capturing a time of terror from the eyes of a teenaged girl who just wants her mother.

Slight Frights and Daring Scares: Nine Spooky Books for Middle Grade Readers

October is here, and with it come ghosts, goblins, witches, and monsters. Today we’re looking at a few of this year’s spooky reads for middle grades – books with slight frights that won’t give you nightmares.

sgirllockedThe Girl in the Locked Room: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn
Clarion Books, September 2018
Cover: 👻👻👻👻
Content: 👻👻

The cover and title of this story make it seem far scarier than it is in reality. Narration shifts between Jules, whose family has just moved into an abandoned house, and the “Girl,” Lily, whose family lived in the house decades ago. Both girls are curious about each other, and of their respective time periods, and their friendship might be just what Lily needs to find her final resting place. This is gentle ghost story, for readers want to ease into the season.

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The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery by Allison Rushby
Candlewick Press, July 2018
Cover: 👻👻👻
Content: 👻👻

Less a ghost story, and more historical fiction featuring supernatural characters, The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery’s scariest features are the German soldiers and the threat of a bombing looming over the action of the tale. In London during World War II, young ghost Flossie Birdwhistle is in charge of keeping the cemetery’s buried souls at rest, but a mysterious soldier – also a ghost – draws Flossie into England’s war efforts. Readers who prefer their ghosts to act with integrity and honor will find it easy to support Flossie and her ghostly friends.

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City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
Scholastic Press, August 2018
Cover: 👻👻👻👻
Content: 👻👻👻👻

In this first novel of a new supernatural fantasy series, Schwab creates a world similar to ours: a reality TV show featuring two “ghost hunters” travels to Scotland to film their pilot episode. They are faking it: though the “Inspectres,” as they call themselves, truly believe in and want to see ghosts, they just don’t. Their daughter, Cass, does – and has even befriended the ghost who saved her from a near-death experience several years ago. The ghosts of Scotland aren’t nearly as friendly, and it will take another young “In-betweener” to help Cass realize her full powers as someone who can cross the Veil. There’s plenty of good versus evil in this ghost-hunting adventure, with humor and heart to balance out the action.

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The House in Poplar Wood by K.E. Ormsbee
Chronicle Books, August 2018
Cover: 👻👻👻
Content: 👻👻👻

Lee and Felix Vickery are twins, but the only thing they do together is travel to town on Halloween, the one night that Death allows. For the rest of the year, they go about their lives in Poplar Wood, on opposite sides of their house, as the Agreement states. Felix helps his father, who is an apprentice to Death, and Lee does the same for his mother, who is Memory’s apprentice. It’s not the best life, but they make it work – until the daughter of Passion’s apprentice is killed, and Gretchen Whipple, the mayor’s daughter, and sworn enemy of the Vickerys, decides to get to the bottom of a feud that has controlled the lives – and deaths – of everyone in their small town for years. Lee, Felix, and Gretchen form a friendship as strange as their living arrangements to set things right. Poetic descriptions give this book a contemplative feel, though the action ensures it’s never bogged down in too much detail.

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Begone the Raggedy Witches by Celine Kiernan
Walker Books, February 2018
Cover: 👻👻👻
Content: 👻👻👻

This first book in an forthcoming trilogy creates a world where witches live across an invisible border and live by a set of ancient rules. Mup, her mam, and her brother cross this border to save her her dad after he is kidnapped by the creator of these rules – her grandmother. Reminiscent of other fantastical journeys taken by young women to rescue those they love and get back home, Begone the Raggedy Witches gives its readers characters to care for and a magical world to explore. The villains are just cruel enough to resent, but good witches abound as well, and Mup’s fight becomes more than just a rescue mission – she must save Witches Borough itself from her grandmother’s control.

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Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner
Simon & Schuster, September 2018
Cover: 👻👻
Content:👻👻

Nia Winters likes vampires. AJ likes Nia, but since he isn’t a vampire, he can’t seem to catch her attention – until he decides to become a vampire himself. Then he realizes it’s not that Nia likes vampires – she slays them. Suddenly his great idea could be the death of him, if he can’t convince Nia it was all a ploy, and that a real vampire of Spoons Middle School is still out there. This graphic novel is more silly than scary, with all of its parodying of other well-known vampire tales. The illustrations add a level of fun, and the relationships between AJ and his sister and AJ and his friends are sweet with plenty of goodnatured needling. For readers who would rather laugh at monsters than be terrified by them, Fake Blood will satisfy.

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The Cryptid Catcher by Lija Fisher
Farrar Straus Giroux, August 2018
Cover: 👻👻
Content: 👻👻

Clivo Wren is only taking up the family business when he becomes a cryptid hunter at age 13, after his father’s death, but he may have taken on more than he knows how to handle. After all, he just found out cryptids really do exist – is he really ready to track and catalog them? Humanity as we know it may be on the line if Clivo isn’t up for the task of finding the rumored “immortal” cryptid, so with the help of several trustworthy friends, and a few more less-than-trustworthy colleagues, he sets out to catch whatever cryptids he can. Teenagers with plenty of dry humor and monster-hunting lore make this a delightful read that’s less scare and more dare.

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Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter by Marcus Sedgwick and Thomas Taylor
First Second Books, April 2018
Cover: 👻👻👻👻
Content: 👻👻👻

Part Sherlock Holmes-ian detective, part Lara Croft action-adventure hero, and all quippy one-liners, Scarlett Hart doesn’t shy away from danger as she follows in her late parents’ footsteps. With the help of Napoleon, Mrs. White, and plenty of hunting gadgets, she tracks down and hunts various monsters – from gargoyles springing to life to zombies terrorizing the theatre – hoping to catch them before the conniving Count Stankovic catches her. Hand drawn illustrations bring the monsters and Scarlett to life and help to build intensity as she escapes each dangerous situation.

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Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, September 2018
Cover: 👻👻👻
Content: 👻👻👻👻👻

For having a rather tame cover (though it gets creepier the closer you look), this story is shockingly scary. A field trip to a local farm turns terrifying as the bus breaks down on the way back to school and the bus driver smilingly says, “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Eleven-year old Ollie and two of her classmates are the only ones who take the driver’s advice, choosing to try their luck in the surrounding forest. They aren’t sure if they’ve made the right choice, or who (or what) exactly is coming for them, but they’ll soon find out. Excellent pacing and well-timed cliffhangers, along with a smart and courageous heroine make this a treat for brave readers.