Get the first three books
of this exciting 5-book
ers as they will undoubtedly find a kindred
spirit in at least one of the Das women.
Beyond the Doors.
By David Neilsen. Illus. by Isa
Aug. 2017. 368p. Crown, paper, $16.99
(9781101935828); lib. ed., $19.99 (9781101935835).
When their father is caught in a house fire
and falls into a coma—their mother having
mysteriously disappeared years before—the
four Rothbaum children are sent to live in
the care of the estranged, eccentric, and
quite possibly off her rocker Aunt Gladys,
who lives in a round mansion with a drawbridge and no exits. The strange house is full
of abandoned, unhinged doors and warnings
not to touch. Soon the children discover
Aunt Gladys’ secret lab, where she uses the
doors as portals to travel into other people’s
memories. Curious, they follow her inside
the MemorySphere, not realizing that they
are setting off a chain of events from which
they can never return unchanged. While the
four protagonists are a bit unmemorable,
the supporting characters broaden into an
array of delightful slapstick caricatures with
punch lines galore, the settings are bold and
elaborately arranged, and the story is cinematically told. The MemorySphere itself
is imaginative, curious, icky, and terrifying,
and it grows increasingly more fascinating
as the journey unfolds. An odd, colorful,
funny tale. Final illustrations not seen.
By Lauren L. Wohl. Illus. by Mark
Aug. 2017. 72p. Persnickety, $14.95 (9781943978298).
The first book in Wohl’s Raccoon River
Kids series introduces eight-year-old Nico, an
industrious kid whose family has a backyard
blueberry patch, which is big and bountiful.
Too big, actually. It takes them four weekends
to pick them all, which is too inefficient for
Nico. He decides that next year he’ll send
out invites to the kids in class, who can come
pick the berries as a community event. Then
Nico can sell a portion to raise funds for the
community center’s new playground. The fly
in the ointment is a bear who looms in the
woods behind Nico’s house, until he pacifies
her with berries. It seems like Wohl is heading for a Nico-bear friendship, but that’s not
the case—the bear, in fact, vanishes in the
third act, yielding to a straightforward, good-deed story line where Nico is rewarded for
his ingenuity. The sparseness of text can be
a bit confusing, as can be the odd swapping
of “Nicholas” for “Nico.” Nevertheless, this is
a gentle, pleasant read with cute line illustrations by Tuchman. —Daniel Kraus
The Case from Outer Space.
By James Preller. Illus. by R. W. Alley.
Aug. 2017. 96p. Feiwel and Friends, $15.99
(9781250110183); paper, $4.99 (9781250110176).
Junior detectives Jigsaw Jones and his
friend Mila take on a new case after two
classmates discover space-alien-related clues
in their neighbor’s Little Free Library. When
their teacher starts dropping hints about a
“special visitor from far, far away,” the stage
is set for the big reveal at the book’s end. The
story rambles a bit in a completely amiable
manner, but this isn’t the sort of mystery that
readers are expected to solve by examining
the clues and deducing the improbable but
inevitable solution. Fortunately, it is the sort
of mystery that will please Jigsaw Jones fans,
who know they can count on the series for
likable characters and a bit of a challenge
here and there. For example, when Mila
passes an encoded note to Jigsaw, he explains
the substitution cipher she used, and then
lets readers decode it on their own. With
short sentences, bits of humor, and engaging
illustrations, the latest early chapter book in
Preller’s long-running Jigsaw Jones Mystery
series has plenty of appeal for young independent readers. —Carolyn Phelan
Confessions from the Principal’s Kid.
By Robin Mellom.
Aug. 2017. 272p. HMH, $16.99 (9780544813793);
e-book, $16.99 (9781328698995). Gr. 4–6.
Allie’s favorite part of school happens before it starts and after it ends: sharing secret
snacks, games, and projects with three other
kids of faculty members. Otherwise, well . . .
it’s not easy being the principal’s daughter.
Confide in your mother one single time and,
evidently, you’re forever known as a snitch.
Now that she’s in fifth grade, Allie longs to
make up with Chloe, her former best friend
who’s no longer speaking to her, but mending a broken relationship is not so easy.
Meanwhile, her other best friend, Graham,
repeatedly targeted by a bully, can’t help wishing that someone would let the principal know
what’s happening. Written by a former principal’s daughter, this very readable chapter book
records some of the perks and problems that
go with the role. Sincere, unpretentious, and
sometimes witty, Allie’s first-person narrative
will have broad appeal for the many kids who
feel like outsiders at school, as well as those
who are navigating the sometimes choppy waters of friendship. —Carolyn Phelan
By Margarita Engle.
Aug. 2017. 208p. Atheneum, $16.99 (9781481490573).
Eleven-year-old Edver, who lives with his
cryptozoologist mother in Miami, is surprised when Mom decides he should spend
the summer in Cuba with Papi (she’s off to
Fiji for work), and later shocked to learn that
he has a 12-year-old sister, Luza. It takes a
while for the wary siblings to establish a rap-