60 Booklist December 1, 2016 www.booklistreader.com
from his cat. His new neighbor and classmate David Marsh is a reactor, earns the
unkind nickname Bogsy, and is ostracized
by his classmates, Alex included. Then the
notes start to appear, hinting at the spectacle
of a boy who will fly, and daring Alex and
his classmates to believe in the possibility.
The idea of a real-life Icarus suggests a touch
of magical realism, but this is grounded in
the everyday pains of schoolyard politics.
The book expertly portrays the dilemma of
the bystander—there isn’t always a straight
line from thought to action. Alex’s close relationship with his elderly neighbor, now
in a nursing home, provides him with an
adult filter through which to view Bogsy
and to better understand his strong, strange
mind. This book, which could have plummeted under its own gravitas, holds steady
and delivers a meaningful, dramatic finale.
Microsaurs: Follow That Tiny-Dactyl.
By Dustin Hansen. Illus. by the author.
Jan. 2017. 224p. Feiwel and Friends, $13.99
(9781250090218). Gr. 3–5.
Ever heard of microscopic dinosaurs? Neither had nine-year-olds Danny and Lin until
one steals the GPS beacon off Lin’s helmet
during a skateboard competition. Danny, the
dinosaur “expert,” reviews the video footage
from the SpyZoom Invisible Communicator
that his tech-savvy dad invented, and he determines the reddish-orange smudge on the
screen is, incredibly, a minidinosaur. Following the GPS tracker, the kids find themselves
outside of town, facing an old house. Not
ones to shrink from adventure, they climb
the tall iron fence and enter an old barn,
which contains a science lab and a note asking for help. Suddenly, Danny and Lin are
hit with a blue light that shrinks them to tiny
proportions. They meet Professor Penrod,
the Microsaurs’ caretaker, who himself has
been shrunk. So, who saves whom? Hansen
mixes fantasy, science fiction, and realistic
fiction to create a fast-paced read for elementary readers. His whimsical illustrations of
the dinosaurs make them appear as lovable
pets. This first book sets the stage for more
adventures of the fearless duo and the Microsaurs. —J. B. Petty
A Rambler Steals Home.
By Carter Higgins.
Feb. 2017. 224p. HMH, $16.99 (9780544602014);
e-book, $16.99 (9780544602038). Gr. 5–8.
Derby Clark is used to road life, as she, her
father, and younger brother, Triple, travel
in their RV through settings and seasons.
But 11-year-old Derby most loves spending
summers in Ridge Creek, Virginia, selling
concessions near the baseball stadium and
watching Rockskippers’ games. While she
must contend with snooty girls Betsy and
Lollie, she’s also able to be with longtime
friends, including Marcus and June. This
summer though, joy is tempered with sor-
row, as the close-knit community grieves
June’s husband’s death. But it’s also a time
of growth, healing, and new perspectives, as
Derby progressively discovers the multifacet-
ed meanings of friendship, family, and home.
Vibrant, engaging Derby and her descriptive
first-person narrative, full of lively and poi-
gnant touches, are compelling and affecting,
from how her family copes with her own
mother’s absence to vividly portraying small-
town life with a nostalgic and timeless feel.
The abundant baseball elements reinforce
the themes of finding strength in coming
together, even in the face of loss. A heart-
felt, immersive debut, perfect for sports fans.
The Silver Gate.
By Kristin Bailey.
Jan. 2017. 320p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, $16.99
(9780062398574). Gr. 5–8.
Elric’s younger sister, Wynn, is different
from other people in his feudal village. She is
a family secret, living out in the woods with
his mother so people won’t call her “
changeling” or harm her, while Elric stays with his
father in town. When their mother dies and
their father sells Wynn into the lowest rung of
service in the castle, Elric knows he has to save
her. But Wynn has talents of her own, and
perhaps she and her idol, the Fairy Queen,
will yet save Elric instead. Bailey has created
a charming story of a child with Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome and a loving sibling who
nevertheless takes a while to recognize his
disabled sister’s abilities. Commingled with
this is an at-times thrilling plotline about an
arduous journey to find a new home, a quirky
pet chicken, and how faith and hope can create miracles—in this case, a meeting with
the mythical Fairy Queen. An author’s note
speaks to Bailey’s genuine concerns about
accurately characterizing someone with the
condition. —Cindy Welch
Slappy Birthday to You.
By R. L. Stine.
Feb. 2017. 160p. Scholastic, paper, $6.99
(9781338068283). Gr. 4–6.
Slappy the dummy, a recurrent Goose-bumps book and film staple since Night of
the Living Dummy (1993), kicks off a spinoff
series of his own. Having developed an interest in ventriloquism after visiting a spooky
doll museum on his ninth birthday, Ian is
thrilled to receive a ventriloquist’s dummy on
his twelfth—but all too soon discovers that
his prize has both a will and a penchant for
mean one-liners (“Is that really your face? Or
did someone barf all over your shoulders?”).
Naturally, everyone thinks the ensuing pranks
and insults are Ian’s, until a climactic battle
in the doll hospital run by Ian’s father leads
to a final shocking twist. Building suspense
in his customary lapidary way with a horri-
fying discovery or cliff-hanger at the end of
each short chapter, Stine dishes up a ghoulish
treat punctuated by screams, gushes of blood
or hot, green slime, and Slappy’s crowing:
“I’m delightful. I’m de-lovely. I’m de-Slappy!
Hahaha!” —John Peters
The Someday Birds.
By Sally J. Pla.
Jan. 2017. 336p. Harper, $16.99 (9780062445766).
“If something’s a fact, it’s a fact,” thinks
12-year-old Charlie. And the fact is, his journalist father has a brain injury sustained in a
bombing in Afghanistan. When his father is
sent from San Diego to Virginia for analysis and treatment, Charlie—though he hates
to travel—and his siblings, along with their
de facto, mysterious babysitter, Ludmila,
head to Virginia, too. Along the way, avid
birder Charlie (who compulsively washes
his hands, can’t read visual cues, can’t look
people in the eye, hates being touched, and
more) is sure that if he can only manage to
see all the birds on a list he and his father
have made, his father will recover. Ludmila,
for her part, seems eccentric, until she finally
shares her heartrending story. Meanwhile,
Charlie’s goal is to find the reclusive Dr. Tiberius Shaw, a world-famous avian expert.
Will he succeed, and will his father recover?
The answers are forthcoming in Pla’s charming, plot-rich story, bolstered by memorable
characters. A delight from beginning to end.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel
By Shannon Hale and Dean Hale.
Feb. 2017. 336p. Disney/Marvel, $13.99
(9781484781548). Gr. 4–7.
The popular but perhaps lesser-known
Squirrel Girl comics leap into the realm of
the novel thanks to the considerable talent of
wife-and-husband team Shannon and Dean
Hale. Doreen Green, a peppy 14-year-old
with a gorgeous tail (tactfully concealed) and
secret squirrel powers, is doing her best to
make friends—both human and squirrel—in
her new New Jersey town, but it isn’t easy.
She’s been dismissed by the popular girls
and local LARPers, but Doreen finds a BFF
in hearing-impaired classmate Ana Sofía.
When Doreen notices that someone is mistreating the town’s wildlife, her tail comes out
and she springs into action as Squirrel Girl,
with Ana Sofía running logistics. Shifting
narration opens the story to Doreen’s, Ana
Sofía’s, and, most entertainingly, Tippy-Toe
the squirrel’s perspectives. Doreen’s upbeat attitude and naïveté make her seem several years
younger than 14, but middle-school readers
will latch on to her enthusiasm and heroic
instincts. Fun, funny, and action-packed, this
first Squirrel Girl adventure will win plenty of
fans. —Julia Smith
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Marvel
anything draws a crowd. Add these best-selling authors and a book tour into the mix
and they’ll go nuts.
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