Tuesday, November 4, 2014

2014 Holiday Shopping Guide: Top Twenty Intermediate, Young Adult, and Teen Book Staff Picks

Intermediate Books

“It all starts when Kara is woken up in the night and taken to the village square where she witnesses her mother being sentenced for the worse crime of all...witchcraft! Seven years later, the villagers are still wary and cruel to Kara and her family. They fear Kara is a witch just like her mother. On the outskirts of the village is The Thickety, a magical forest that is home to strange and ferocious beasts and full of secrets, like the book Kara finds there, which may or may not be her mother’s grimoire. This book had me in its grips from the very beginning. I can’t wait for the sequel!” —Jen Steele
“Julian Twerski opts for writing a journal of his sixth grade year instead of a report on Shakespeare but, avoids mention of the incident that got him and his friends suspended for a week from school. That’s the story his teacher most wants him to recount and so do we. Julian isn’t proud of the incident that resulted in a ‘slow’ kid on their block getting injured but, he doesn’t consider himself a bully either. What we get, in his journal, is a series stories that contain a lots of humor along with a good measure of heart that reminded me somewhat of Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Finally, we learn about that incident that got him in trouble. This book, based on the author’s experiences growing up in a 1960’s neighborhood of Queens, sparkles with crisp true to life dialogue that perfectly captures the awkward antics of adolescent boys.” —Pam Stilp

A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd
Snicker of Magic is about Felicity Pickle, who collects words she sees floating in the air. It’s up to Felicity and her friend Jonah to solve the mystery of why magic has left her new hometown, Midnight Gulch. With the help of her family, friends, and the townspeople, Felicity will bring back that Snicker of Magic to Midnight Gulch. Full of memorable characters and a town you’ll want to visit! Perfect for fans of Shelia Turnage’s Three Times Lucky.” —Jen Steele

“In Legacy of the Claw, the first book of the new Animas series by C. R. Grey, twelve-year-old Bailey Walker is afraid he’ll become the fourth person in Aldermere's history to die of the raving madness associated with an ‘absence.’ Populated by people who have special bonds with ‘kin’ animals, Aldermere is slipping into the hands of the Dominae, a political party whose members seek to use their bonding power to control all animals, and—eventually—people. Bailey has waited years to train with Professor Tremelo Loren, the only person in Aldermere skilled enough to teach latecomers how to awaken to their animas. Bailey wants desperately to fit in at his new school, Fairmount Academy: it’s tough to be the only person on campus without a kinship, despite the help of new friends Hal (Animas Bat), Tori (Animas Snake) and Phi (Animas Falcon), and his coveted position on the school’s elite Scavenge team. But Tremelo is too busy working on secret projects to help Bailey, whose curiosity leads him across the path of the dangerous Dominae, who are determined to stop at nothing for complete control of Aldermere. How far will the Dominae go in demonstrating their beliefs and how can Bailey possibly fight back without kin to help him? Legacy of the Claw by C. R. Grey is perfect for fans of Harry Potter, Brandon Mull’s Spirit Animals series, and Erin Hunter’s Warrior series. Legacy of the Claw is the beginning of a grand adventure that kids age 8 to 108 will love!” —Mel Morrow

“A family prepares to move from Oman to the United States, and son Aref struggles with the impending transition. Nye avoids fantastical plot elements to allow a welcomed balance of a close, third-person narrative and first-person lists to reveal Aref’s worries. Playful similes and verbs abound, often appearing in scenes with Aref’s grandfather, Sidi, and they allow for characterization and sentences that lift the book beyond a voice-over of what Aref thinks. The balance of narrative choices also allows the reader to mimic the relief Aref catches when he smells sunshine in his pillow case: the reader greets the many facts and figures about culture and the animal kingdom because the thoughts arise at the appropriate times either from Aref, who is genuinely interested in the world, or from the narrator, who shows us Aref acting out his passions.” —Todd Wellmann

“Laugh out loud as the young science wiz, Frank Einstein, helps to invent one brainy robot and one not so brainy (but loveable) robot. Trouble comes when rival T. Edison moves in to destroy Frank’s success. The first in a series—watch for more hilarity and science fun!” —Barb Katz

“From the author of the award-winning novel The Skin I’m In, this intermediate mystery set in 1953 stars 10-year-old detective Octobia May. When odd things start happening at her aunt’s boarding house, Octobia May investigates! Is the man living upstairs really a vampire? Is the sheriff working with the murderer? Why did Octobia May’s new best friend Bessie stop talking? Perfect for fans of Nancy Drew and Shelia Turnage’s Three Times Lucky!” —Mel Morrow

“Naomi, AKA Chirp, lives with her family on Cape Cod in 1972. Her once vibrant mother suffers from depression after her MS diagnosis. Chirp finds solace with her friend Joey as well as watching birds. Beautifully narrated story of loss, friendship, and family.” —Jannis Mindel

“This book has it all—magic, adventure, talking stones, moving trees, bandits, a witch, a wolf, and a kind and wise queen, a mean and petulant king, a girl with a bow and a purpose, a boy who lived…this book is a treat for ages 10 and up!” —Jen Steele

“The Wren Family are word nerds! Ava loves to write and is far from shy. Her older sister loves to draw and is very quiet and shy. Read along in Ava’s diary and find out how Ava plans to help her sister make new friends and learn some palindromes while you’re at it!” —Jen Steele

Young Adult Books

“Nope, not Trondheim, Norway, but fictitious Trondheim, Canada: land of the bland. Here is the modern world, as it is, but with one glaring exception: dragons are real and always have been. And, there have always been heroes and heroines, in equal measure, to fight them. The dragons are not smart. They do not speak. They have no preference for maidens (virginal or otherwise). They have no love of gold (well, not most). Owen is a dragon-slayer in training. He is a high school student who has recently transferred to the prosaic Trondeim. His family is famous and slaying dragons is what they have always done. Kara is a nerdish classmate who loves music, and is chosen to be his bard. And, no, they do not fall in love; and, no, the popular girl is not a mean girl (at least, not really). Johnston has no use for stereotypical characters or settings, and that makes this book special.” —Conrad Silverberg

“The whole world has gone through the Great Disruption, with different geographical areas shifted into varying time periods, prehistoric to the far future. Almost one hundred years after the Great Disruption we meet Sophia, who is living with her Uncle Shadrack, a master cartologer. When her Uncle is kidnapped, seemingly for his knowledge, she and her friend Theo set off on a dangerous and amazing adventure to rescue him and find out secrets of the time rift. A bit of magic, mystery, adventure, through a wonderfully crafted world-this is one of my favorite books this year.” —Amie Mechler-Hickson

“In the blustery first month of 1892, Abigail Rook disembarks a German freighter to face the bustling New England city of New Fiddleham. A young lady of means, she is also the daughter of an archeologist who refuses to allow her to accompany him to dig sites. And so it is with stars in her eyes and wanderlust in her heart that she absconds with her college tuition money to travel the world in search of adventure—before finally ending up in desperate need of employment in New Fiddleham. A call for an investigative services assistant leads her to Mr. R. F. Jackaby, a private detective who specializes in unexplained phenomena. Like Johnny Depp’s Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow, Jackaby is a strange fellow with strange methods. As she blunders her way through the most thorough and bewildering interview process of her life involving a ghost, a frog, a duck, a banshee, several bloody crime scenes, and innumerable beasties, Ms. Rook may have found the adventure of a lifetime...but will she survive long enough to help Jackaby solve the case? Jackaby is a surprising, delightful read perfect for lovers of horror, mystery, and history. I can't wait for the sequel!” —Mel Morrow

“Can Camy (with cerebral palsy and talking through a voice box) and Matthew (with his own problems) ever become friends? Readers will care for these characters and cheer for their determination to open themselves up to life.” —Barb Katz

“Devorah and Jax both live in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn but come from entirely different worlds. Devorah is a Hasidic Jew who lives within the strict confines of her religion. Jax is an outgoing and funny African-American who lives with his sisters and West Indian immigrant parents. The two meet accidentally one night in an elevator when the power goes out during a storm. At first Devorah is terrified, as she’s not supposed to speak to boys or men without adults around. But a spark is set off between the two of them and they can't stop thinking about one another. Jax and Devorah try everything possible to see each other but eventually the odds are stacked against them. Devorah is a strong-willed and smart young woman chaffing against the confines of her strict community. She loves her family and her religion but not the path that is set out for her. The story is told in alternating chapters over the course of a few weeks. This is a satisfying young adult romance.” —Jannis Mindel

Teen Books

“A beautiful, heartfelt, engaging, creative, MAGNIFICENT book that tells one story through two individual voices. The way everything comes together will blow you away and the structure conveys a brilliant story in a totally imaginative way!” —Phoebe Dyer

“It takes a lot of talent to write a novel featuring an, initially, immensely unlikable character, an unusual narrator, multiple points of view and a totally non-linear timeline and pull it off as well as Amy Zhang does in her debut novel, Falling into Place. We meet the main character, Liz Emerson, a popular and pretty Queen Bee High School junior, after she has decided to commit suicide. Unlikable, because she is manipulative and mean and destroys the reputation and lives of anyone who stands in her path or that of her two best friends. The prose is beautifully written but, the real genius here is that, by the end of the book, Liz has become a more sympathetic character as glimpses of her life are revealed through flashbacks and multiple points of view. The reader comes to understand how immensely unhappy she is and why. Although it is difficult to forgive her for the things she does, you understand more about her need to bring others down to her level of sadness and shame and that, ultimately, she cannot forgive herself. Through the problems of different characters this novel deals with many difficult subjects—bullying, suicide, loneliness, bulimia, alcoholism, and addiction—in a very realistic way that should appeal to older teens. I look forward to this young authors future work.” —Pam Stilp

“Paige Rawl spent the early years of her childhood unaware of her HIV positive status. Her daily doses of medicine were as much a part of life as cheerleading and playing on the soccer team. After her mother finally tells her about her disease, Paige reveals her status to her best friend. Her life thereafter would never be the same. The bullying started almost immediately and with ferocity. The school did nothing to help Paige or her mother but rather told her she was causing too much drama. The stress became so severe she suffered from frequent seizures and eventually found herself attempting suicide. But with the help of her mother, close friends, and a camp for HIV/AIDS children, she was able to move forward and forgive. This is a moving, personal, and very powerful story of the effects of bullying.” —Jannis Mindel

“The Sinclairs are a family who have much; wealth, beauty, and dysfunction. Cadence, granddaughter and heir of the patriarch, is trying to piece together her memory after an accident in her fifteenth summer that took place on her families private island. A well told tale that will keep you guessing until the end. A great summer read!” —Amie Mechler-Hickson

“Shane Burcaw’s body has been failing him since the day he was born. Once considered by his parents to be the laziest baby on the planet, his doctors’ diagnosis of spinal muscular atrophy at the age of two was his lifetime sentence for long-term physical decline and the confines of a motorized wheelchair. Now comes the odd twist: in spite of this, Laughing at My Nightmare is the funniest book I’ve read this year! Shane knows it’s only going to get worse for him. He’s realistic about his future. And he doesn’t let it get him down. Instead, his stance is that life should be enjoyed as long as we're here—regardless of our situation (everyone has something)—laughing off as much of the bad stuff as possible. This is a quick, excellent read you'll want to share with your friends and family. I dare you not to join Shane in laughing at his nightmare: seriously, it’s what he’d want!!” —Mel Morrow

BONUS!!: Sara Farizan's Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel--here's a longer review from Boswellian Mel in Lambda Literary Review about this thrilling new teen novel from award-winning author (and bookseller!) Sara Farizan!!

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