er, Townsend knows how to keep the pages
turning in this fast-paced story, even while
introducing plenty of characters and plot el-
ements to be developed in future volumes.
Putting aside similarities to the Harry Potter
books, and there are many, this novel sets up
the framework for a projected series while
combining elements of inventive fantasy,
high-voltage adventure, and cryptic mystery
in one appealing package. —Carolyn Phelan
By Susan Adrian.
Sept. 2017. 240p. Random, $16.99 (9780399556685);
lib. ed., $19.99 (9780399556692); e-book, $16.99
(9780399556708). Gr. 3–6.
Since age five, Georgie has dreamed of being Clara in The Nutcracker. Now in middle
school, she gets her chance; but the thrill
of landing the part is tainted when her
best friend isn’t cast, and their friendship
fractures as a result. Nevertheless, Georgie
excitedly attends the ballet’s almost daily rehearsals, yet a strange thing occurs whenever
she holds the nutcracker doll: she is transported to another time and place, where the
Nutcracker needs her help. Georgie learns
that for 200 years, the Nutcracker has fought
the same fight, but with her help, this year
should end his repetitive battle with the
mice. Unfolding through gripping action,
Georgie risks losing her role to help the Nutcracker. In her first-person account, Georgie
relates how she learns to make and restore
friendships, endeavors to rescue the Nutcracker, and aspires to perform her dream
role. Adrian’s fantasy draws upon her personal experience playing Clara, and the result
offers a great new look at the annual family tradition of seeing The Nutcracker ballet.
—J. B. Petty
By Sarah Cannon.
Nov. 2017. 320p. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99
(9781250123282). Gr. 3–6.
This world building adventure begins in a
bizarre town where the very strange is very
normal. Ada’s family is struggling to adjust
after the disappearance of her twin sister,
Pearl, who won the town’s annual sweepstakes last year. Ada teams up with a new kid
from the incredibly normal city of Chicago,
her best friend Raymond, and occasionally
her cousin Mason to figure out her sister’s
disappearance. Along the way, they dodge
invisible monsters, pacify zombie rabbits addicted to marshmallows, and make friends
with an unusual purple alien. Cannon’s
debut features an inclusive cast of characters, which makes the setting of Ada’s town
extremely vibrant and less like a murkily
written checklist of diverse characteristics.
While the pacing can seem a bit slow and
sometimes cluttered, this oddball town is utterly endearing. A charming, enjoyable thrill
ride with memorable characters, crazy creatures, and a theme about the importance of
family. —Jessica Anne Bratt
By Kieran Larwood. Illus. by David
Sept. 2017. 256p. Clarion, $16.99 (9781328695826);
e-book, $16.99 (9781328828910). Gr. 3–5.
On Bramblemas Eve, a bard arrives at
Thornwood Warren and enthralls the rabbits there by telling of Podkin, the lazy first
son of his warren’s chieftain,
surviving an attack by the
terrifying Gorm (mutant,
militant rabbits), who slay
his father. Instructed to
protect the burrow’s secret
treasure—a magical dagger
and one of the Twelve Gifts
that the Gorm are seeking—
Podkin flees along with Paz, his older sister;
and Pook, their younger brother. Though
his father’s death has made him a chieftain,
terrified Podkin feels ill-equipped for leadership, and he is. Still, he perseveres, gaining
the understanding and courage to face what
he fears most. The story comes to a satisfying conclusion and so does the framework
tale, but Podkin’s saga is to be continued.
Quickly sketched initially, the character portrayals gradually become more complete and
convincing. The rabbits’ many close calls,
escapes, and battles will captivate adventure
fans, while the slower-paced scenes enable
readers to understand the individual rabbits,
their society, and its mythology. A detailed
map and eight softly shaded pencil drawings
illustrate the story effectively. In a simply written, accessible chapter book, Larwood tells a
rousingly good tale while creating a sturdy
narrative structure for the Longburrow series.
Tentacle and Wing.
By Sarah Porter.
Oct. 2017. 272p. HMH, $16.99 (9781328707338);
e-book, $16.99 (9781328828972). Gr. 4–7.
Ada has always been different—her infra-red vision sets her apart—and she’s always
known to keep these differences a secret.
Years ago, a genetic experiment went wrong,
and the result was that some children were
born with chimera syndrome, their DNA
meshing with animal DNA; those that survived had altered appearances and enhanced
skills. Ada, a rare “kime” who can pass for
human, keeps her identity secret, as most
people view the kimes with fear and disgust.
After she’s caught by a surprise DNA test,
Ada is sent away to a quarantined school
for kimes. The reception she receives there
is mixed—these are children with jellyfish
stingers, seal fur, and dragonfly eyes, and
they don’t all take kindly to the human-passing Ada. But the school holds secrets,
and as tensions mount between kimes and
humans, Ada finds herself caught up in the
mystery. This is a STEM-inspired adventure
that focuses just as much on tolerance as it
does on environmental responsibility and
evolution. Animal-lovers and sci-fi addicts
will be hooked. —Maggie Reagan
Timeless: Diego and the Rangers of the
By Armand Baltazar. Illus. by the
Oct. 2017. 624p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, $19.99
(9780062402363). Gr. 5–7.
Using a narrative technique similar to Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007),
Baltazar, a concept artist for Pixar and other
studios, mixes pages of print with frequent
full- or double-page painted scenes, often in
brief sequences, that cinematically advance
the plot. The resulting brick-like tome opens
a series featuring four kids tasked with saving the world—or rather, their world: a
“Time Collision” left Earth’s surface kaleidoscopically fragmented into select eras, and
every kid born post-Collision will vanish
if a scheme to restore the original time line
comes to fruition. Hotshot gearhead Diego
Ribera works out personal frictions with his
compatriots while helping to rescue his kidnapped dad, Santiago, a gifted engineer. The
multicultural fledgling Rangers are outfitted
with steam-powered antigravity skateboards,
giant mechanical robots, and mystic powers
and sent to battle prehistoric monsters and
WWII-era Messerschmitts in elaborately detailed fantasy settings. Readers able to roll
with the mise-en-scène’s thoroughly arbitrary
character will be rewarded with an uncomplicated adventure elevated by banter and always
headed directly toward the next violent clash.
The Wizards of Once.
By Cressida Cowell. Illus. by the author.
Oct. 2017. 384p. Little, Brown, $17.99
(9780316508339); e-book, $9.99 (9780316472159).
Long before our story starts, a great battle
was fought between the Witches, who had
bad magic, and the Warriors, who had no
magic at all. The Warriors swore to destroy
all magic, ignoring the fact that some, like
the Wizards’ magic, could be good. Now, the
Witches have vanished and are presumed extinct by everyone but an incorrigible Wizard
boy named Xar. At 13, Xar is a late bloomer—
his magic hasn’t arrived, and he worries it
won’t—so he sets off with his cohort of magical creatures, entering Warrior territory to
hunt a Witch and steal her magic. Instead, he
encounters Wish, the odd daughter of the formidable Warrior queen, accompanied only by
her bodyguard and forbidden, enchanted pet
spoon. The chance meeting catapults the two
born enemies into a world of secrets and an
adventure they never saw coming. A cheeky,
unidentified narrator sets the tone, and
Cowell’s trademark chaotic black-and-white
illustrations add to the whimsy. This playful, energetic romp is a treat for any reader.
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This series
starter is imbued with the same madcap spirit
that made How to Train Your Dragon (2004)
such a hit; if that’s not enough, the six-figure
marketing campaign will do the trick.