April 15, 2017 Booklist 53 www.booklistonline.com
peared from the platter. Sofie, now living in
the world again but in the wrong place and
the wrong century, longs
to go home. Joplin and her
friend Barrett are deter-
mined to help her return,
whatever it takes, though
the cunning alchemist
who initially trapped Sofie
threatens them all. Joplin is
a beautifully drawn charac-
ter: capable, complex, prickly, and very aware
of those around her, even while being bullied
at school. While Stanley’s previous fantasy
novels, including Bella at Midnight (2006)
and The Silver Bowl (2011), had period set-
tings, her latest takes place in contemporary
New York City, yet is just as magical. The city
becomes the backdrop for events that are as
wrenching as a kidnapping and as transcen-
dent as the sudden attainment of a dream.
Written with intelligence, verve, and polish,
this unusual fantasy takes readers on a journey
they won’t want to miss. —Carolyn Phelan
One Brave Summer.
By Kiersi Burkhart and Amber J. Keyser.
Apr. 2017. 224p. Lerner/Darby Creek, paper, $6.99
(9781512430882). Gr. 4–7.
When Paley’s parents force her to move to
Colorado, she has a terrible time making friends.
Even the middle-school gaming club won’t give
her a chance, so she immerses herself in the
virtual world of Dragonfyre, where her avatar,
the Blue Elf, is brave and fearless and powerful.
That comes crashing to a halt when her parents
ship her off for six weeks of the summer to a
horse ranch with no Internet and a strict no-technology policy. However, despite all her best
intentions to hate it there, she finds herself loving it; her assigned horse, Prince, is as majestic
as any steed in Dragonfyre, and Paley finds her
confidence growing by the day. In this latest addition to the Quartz Creek Ranch series, Paley’s
story is quietly and earnestly told. The stakes are
relatively low, and the plot is a bit thin, but the
characters are well drawn and expressive, with
complex and painful inner worlds. The small
but sincere struggles will appeal to a wide range
of readers, from online gamers to horse enthusiasts. —Becca Worthington
By Laurel Snyder.
May 2017. 288p. HarperCollins/Walden Pond, $16.99
(9780062443410). Gr. 4–7.
Nine orphans live by themselves on an
idyllic island, which provides them with ev-
erything they need as long as they follow a
few rules: learn to swim, learn to read, and
there can never be more than nine children
on the island. Each “year” (time is only mea-
sured in “sleeps”), an unpiloted green boat
arrives from across the ocean with a new
youngest child and departs with the oldest.
When Jinny rebels and refuses to leave and
the balance is skewed, the island responds
in kind, and when disaster strikes, Jinny has
only one choice if the rest are to survive. Al-
though some readers might be distracted by
the somewhat thin world building and won-
der why the children are on the island at all,
Snyder’s well-realized and distinct characters
are a distinguishing feature. Even the island,
with its magical elements, becomes a sort
of character, as it responds to events. With
the book’s lovely, absorbing narrative and an
enigmatic plot, readers willing to suspend
their disbelief will enjoy this deceptively sim-
ple story. —Donna Scanlon
Pottymouth and Stoopid.
By James Patterson and Chris
Grabenstein. Illus. by Stephen Gilpin.
June 2017. 320p. Little, Brown/JIMMY Patterson, $13.99
(9780316349635). Gr. 4–7.
The latest Middle School tale from these
hyperprolific coauthors features a decidedly
unlikely but deeply satisfying twist that turns
two seventh-graders haunted by nicknames
bestowed in preschool into culture heroes.
So thoroughly defined as losers that not even
their teachers or principal know their real
names, David Scungili (“Stoopid”) and Michael Littlefield (“Pottymouth”)—one white,
the other African American, as depicted in
Gilpin’s frequent comical drawings—
suddenly find themselves caricatures in a megahit
Cartoon Factory show. As it turns out, the
titular monikers are as inaccurate as they
are unkind: David has a sometimes embarrassing impulsive streak, but both lads earn
genius-level scores on IQ tests, and Michael’s
nickname comes not from cursing but from
his penchant for silly made-up words. Readers
will applaud as the two best buds not only see
both the requisite bully (here, a girl) and a cast
of clueless grown-ups receive proper comeuppance, but also find themselves at the head
of a veritable army of geeks and brains with
similarly disparaging nicknames. “
Awesome-tastic!” —John Peters
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Patterson
and Grabenstein are both thoroughly familiar
with best-seller lists—together, they’ll be
unstoppable. Need we say more?
Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth.
By Frank Cottrell Boyce.
June 2017. 336p. HarperCollins/Walden Pond, $16.99
(9780062643629). Gr. 3–6.
Prez keeps his bag packed, positive that his
grandfather will pick him up from the Chil-
dren’s Temporary Accommodation at any
moment. But until Granddad gets out of jail,
Prez will be spending the
summer at the Blythe fam-
ily’s farm. He has barely
arrived when a peculiar in-
dividual sporting a kilt and
flight goggles appears at the
door: Sputnik Mellows. He,
too, is welcomed by the
Blythes, who are somehow
under the impression that he is a dog—hand-
shakes all around! Still more curious, Sputnik
can read Prez’s thoughts, a useful skill when
dealing with a voluntary mute like Prez. How
is all this possible? Sputnik is an alien, and
quite a charming one at that, and he needs
Prez’s help saving Earth from destruction. If, by
the end of summer, the pair of them can come
up with 10 things worth seeing—for an inter-
planetary guidebook—the planet will be saved.
Boyce’s (Cosmic, 2008) newest is by turns hi-
larious and earnest. Sputnik’s zany energy and
role as clueless tourist produce laugh-out-loud
scenarios and turn everyday objects into things
of wonder—you’ll never look at a remote con-
trol the same way again. On the flip side, he
helps Prez find his voice and come to terms
with hard truths about his grandfather. A stel-
lar exploration of the meaning of home and the
earthly wonders all around us. —Julia Smith
By Jacques Goldstyn. Illus. by the
author. Tr. by Claudia Zoe Bedrick.
Apr. 2017. 80p. Enchanted Lion, $15.95
(9781592702299). K–Gr. 3.
Delighted to don mismatched mittens,
skateboard through cemeteries, or lounge solo
by the lakeside, Goldstyn’s unnamed narrator
is a self-proclaimed loner
“and it doesn’t bother
[him] one bit.” He has
Bertolt, after all, an ancient—“at least 500 years
old”—oak. Amid Bertolt’s “fortress” of foliage,
the boy is free to track
town mischief (like the
Tucker twins swiping bottles from the grocer);
weather spring storms; and absorb abounding
wildlife, from scampering squirrels to singing
cicadas. Blanketed in Bertolt’s branches, the
boy is “never alone.” But one spring, Bertolt
fails to bloom, leaving the boy to ponder the
tree’s elusive end—and, more important, how
to properly commemorate him. Celebrated for
his scientific comics and political caricatures
in Canada, where this title was originally published, Goldstyn uses pen, ink, and colored
pencil to render his illustrations, which are
at once sprightly and sparse. While textured
bursts of color illuminate branches, birds, and
the boy’s signature acorn-shaped cap, backdrops often remain evocatively bare. Goldstyn’s
playful prose is similarly nuanced, alternating
between humor, palpable admiration for the
natural world, unflinching honesty, and, in the
story’s final spreads, no words at all. Reworking
notions of both loss and what it means to be
alone, this is an imaginative, introspective, and
quietly profound paean to life’s little wonders.
The Book of Mistakes.
By Corinna Luyken. Illus. by the
Apr. 2017. 56p. Dial, $18.99 (9780735227927). K–Gr. 2.
An inkblot and a face with an eye that’s too
big—are those mistakes? The juxtaposition of
mistakes and opportunity is the through line