A Review of The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

by Hal Patnott

This week, our featured title is the first installment in a new series to watch out for. Among ALSC’s Core Values, Chupeco’s writing demonstrates excellence. Stop by the Butler Center to take a look at our advanced reader copy of The Bone Witch.

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The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco (Sourcebooks/Fire, 2017)

Tea grew up reading stories of the heroic and magical asha. She pretended to wield their war-ending, artistic powers. Although her sisters are witches with enough skills to make remedies and cast auguries, dark power like necromancy doesn’t flow in her bloodline. Her sister Lilac saw a marriage to a prince in her future. Instead, Tea’s life takes an unexpected turn when she raises her brother from the dead. Of all the asha, bone witches like Tea are the most feared and despised. For her own safety, Tea leaves her small town with a mysterious woman named  Mykaela who promises to train her. Among the many lessons ahead of her, Tea learns first “that the dead hide truths as well as the living.”

The chapters alternate between two first-person narrators, a man in exile seeking the truth and Tea, who tells him her story. Between the time she begins her training as an asha and when she meets the exile at the ends of the earth, almost everyone Tea loves betrays her. The book opens in the midst of action with a seventeen-year-old Tea preparing to unleash her revenge on the world. Chupeco’s bewitching prose enhances the suspenseful plot. While the social customs in Tea’s world rely heavily on a binary gender division, she and her friends question and challenge the rules. A wide variety of cultures converge in the city where Tea begins her training as an asha. The asha themselves are inspired by East Asian cultures. Prejudice and distrust of cultural differences is a central theme throughout the book. A cliff-hanger ending suggests that more awaits of Tea’s adventure. Overall, The Bone Witch is a riveting fantasy and perfect for a teen reader who loves intrigue.

A Review of The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

by Hal Patnott

As we start the new semester, we continue to look at titles that stand out for their representation of ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness). This week’s selection, The Pants Project demonstrates inclusiveness, and integrity and respect.

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The Pants Project by Cat Clarke (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, 2017)

Of all the middle schools that Liv could have attended, of course, Bankridge is the last one in the district with a dress code that forces girls to wear skirts. Although Liv knows he isn’t a girl, he hasn’t found the right moment to tell Mom and Mamma that yet. After all, “It’s not really something you can just blurt out at the dinner table. ‘Please can you pass the ketchup? Oh, and by the way, I think I’m a boy, not a girl.’” When Liv’s best friend ditches him for a group of mean girls, he refuses to stop fighting to change the archaic school rules and with the help of new friends he discovers the courage to be himself.

The Pants Project is a story about identity, friendship, and social justice with a diverse cast of characters. Liv is not alone in his worries about acceptance from his peers. In the end, even his popular friend Jacob has insecurities, but they learn to support each other and overcome their fears together. Clarke maintains a lighthearted and engaging tone with plenty of humor from start to finish. Representation of transgender boys in literature for children is scarce, so this book provides a new and needed perspective. Heartwarming and full of hope, The Pants Project is a valuable addition to every tween collection.

Stop by the Butler Center to take a look at our advanced reading copy of The Pants Project.

Soul-Searching Books for Sweltering Days: Middle Grade Summer Reads

By Alena Rivers

In a recent blog post, we featured picture books that speak to the summer experiences of young readers. This week’s books are summer-themed tomes fit for the elementary and middle-grade reader. These older children are embarking on a new level of self-discovery and finding their place in the world amongst their family and friends. Slow summer months can be full of opportunities for older children to do some soul-searching and to confront issues in their lives. The children in the stories featured here explore bigger themes in their lives such as adoption, death and divorce. Their experiences may be challenging but their stories are interlaced with touching, humorous and revelatory moments that lighten their moods. When given the space and the freedom that summer vacation can often provide, children can take another step into maturity by discovering that elusive balance between accepting their circumstances and doing something about them.

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds (Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, 2016)

Twelve-year-old Genie and his older brother Ernie are spending a month with their grandparents in North Hill, Virginia while their parents spend time together sorting out their fading marriage. Genie is distraught knowing that his parents are on the brink of divorce so his time away from them has him more anxious than usual. Shortly after they arrive at their grandparents’ home Genie learns that his grandfather is blind. This revelation, and adapting to an environment unlike his home in Brooklyn, only adds to Genie’s anxiety. Country life offers a quiet and industrious place for Genie to roam, think and get to know his grandfather. All of these experiences deepen his understanding of his family history and help him discover more about himself and his role within the family. Readers will empathize and laugh with Genie as he braves new territory learning about grits, sweet tea and family secrets. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Just Like Me by Nancy Cavanaugh (Sourcebooks, 2016)

Julia is an eleven-year-old girl who has been encouraged by her parents to attend a week-long, overnight summer camp to bond with her “Chinese sisters.” Julia, Becca and Avery are not exactly sisters, but they were adopted from the same adoption agency in China and their families get the girls together occasionally. Julia is not excited about spending more time with Becca and Avery who identify more with their Chinese heritage than Julia. To add to her frustration, within minutes of checking into their camp cabin, Julia realizes that all six cabin-mates are not going to get along well. Through narrative text and periodic journal entries, Julia shares her week-long experiences as she tries to navigate contentious relationships while still enjoying proverbial summer camp activities. Julia’s concerns about her adoption story and her periods of reflection provide readers with thoughtful examples of how taking risks can help us find answers. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Summerlost by Ally Condie (Penguin Random House/Dutton, 2016)

Nearly a year ago, twelve-year-old Cedar Lee suddenly lost her father and youngest brother in a car accident. Cedar, her mother and her remaining younger brother, still feeling the pain of their loss, move to their mother’s home town for the summer where Cedar finds an unexpected friendship, mystery and a summer job at the Summerlost theater festival to keep her busy. Despite her new distractions, the loss of her loved ones leaves a void not easily filled. Cedar’s time over the summer is spent building relationships, bravely taking on new experiences and learning how to find strength through the recovery process. A heart-felt exploration of the growth we hope to find after losing loved ones. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Publisher Preview

Please join us on Saturday, May 11 at 1:00pm for our annual Fall Publisher Preview (yes, it’s spring, but they’re previewing their fall lists). Representatives from Albert Whitman, Capstone Press, Norwood House and Sourcebooks will be on hand to show us what they have coming down the publishing pipeline, discuss trends in the industry, and answer any questions we might have. They tend to be pretty generous, and offer lovely, book-laden goody bags as well. Not to be missed!

We meet in Springer Suites, on the bottom level of the Rebecca Crown Library on Dominican’s main campus. Go here to RSVP.

We hope to see you there!

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