Truelove’s grandfather’s ominous last words.
But where to even start? Effie’s grandfather
was of the magic variety, but Effie’s father
refused to allow Effie’s grandfather to dis-
cuss anything related to magic. Left with
only grief and anger, Effie sets out to retrieve
her grandfather’s books and possessions, the
keys to her quest. Of course, her father (who
has refused to discuss magic since his wife
disappeared in the “worldquake”) doesn’t
understand the urgency of the search, and
forces her back into school, where some un-
expected friends became important allies.
Maximilian, Wolf, and Effie, with the help
of her grandfather’s magical “boons,” embark
on a epic adventure to figure out the garbled
clues of her grandfather’s final request. Filled
with fantastical events and flourishes of intri-
cate detail, this middle-grade series starter is
tailor-made for Harry Potters fans: it features
an array of unique and likable characters
aiding a hero in an adventure of a lifetime.
The End of the Wild.
By Nicole Helget.
Apr. 2017. 272p. Little, Brown, $16.99
(9780316245111); e-book, $9.99 (9780316245128).
Incredible things can be found in the
woods if you know where to look. Fern loves
wandering among the trees, which remind
her of her mother and help feed her fam-
ily while Toivo, her stepfather, is between
jobs. The past year has been tough on them
all since the accident took Fern’s mother
and baby brother, but
Fern helps Toivo by cook-
ing, minding her two little
brothers, and foraging for
food. It’s a lot of pressure
for a sixth-grader, and
the calls from bill collec-
tors and Child Protective
Services only add to her
worries. When a fracking company comes
to town with plans to turn her woods into
a wastewater pond, Fern decides to use her
STEM fair project to showcase the useful
flora the community would lose if the frack-
ers chop down the trees. Helget (Wonder at
the Edge of the World, 2015) has penned a
rich narrative laced with astute observations
on poverty, grief, forgiveness, and environ-
mental concerns. Many stories would buckle
under such weighty themes, but Fern proves
a stalwart protagonist who bears this load ad-
mirably. Her fortitude and big heart give the
story a determined hopefulness, even as she
comes to realize many of life’s problems don’t
have simple or straightforward solutions. An
uncommonly fine account of perseverance
and understanding in the face of adversity.
The Explorers: The Door in the Alley.
By Adrienne Kress. Illus. by Matthew C.
Apr. 2017. 320p. Delacorte, $16.99 (9781101940051);
lib. ed., $19.99 (9781101940068); e-book, $16.99
(9781101940075). Gr. 5–8.
Two preteens are pitched into an exhilarating whirl of life-threatening danger when
they find themselves tangled in the affairs
of the “wondrous, strange, sometimes itchy”
Explorers Society. For Sebastian, a lad so buttoned up that the prospect of skipping a day
of school precipitates a panic attack, it begins
with the discovery of a puzzle box belonging
to a defunct group of explorers dubbed the
Filipendulous Five. For orphaned loner Evie,
it comes after a narrow escape from a pair of
creepily misshapen thugs. Taking on the role
of coyly obnoxious narrator, Kress provides
for her increasingly tight protagonists a notably diverse supporting cast ranging from
a female Indiana Jones (with an affinity for
animals but no people skills) to a pig wearing
a teeny hat, and strews the tale with side remarks and often tangential footnotes. Fans of
a Series of Unfortunate Events will be drawn
to this series opener—and likely unsurprised
to encounter a cliff-hanger ending with an
unfinished final sentence. Final illustrations
not seen. —John Peters
Fairest of Them All.
By Sarah Darer Littman.
May 2017. 224p. Aladdin, $17.99 (9781481451307);
paper, $7.99 (9781481451291). Gr. 3–6.
If you’ve ever wondered how much of a
helicopter mom Sleeping Beauty might become after her experience with a vengeful
witch, look no further. Aria is tired of being
smothered by her celebrity royal parents and
wants nothing more than to be a fashion designer, which is a little bit difficult when she’s
not allowed to touch needles. So what’s a girl
to do but audition for a teen fashion contest
TV show on the sly? As the lies pile up, Aria
gets more and more entangled in a thorny
briar patch of her own making. With reference to various fairy tales and more than a few
princess movies, this breezy, funny novel is a
must-read for any princess-loving kid. It’s easy
to love a princess book whose main character
wants to be successful on her own merits, but
mix in call-outs and allusions to well-loved
stories and this is a dream come true for fans
of Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy (2005)
and Melissa de la Cruz’s Isle of the Lost (2015).
By Sheela Chari.
May 2017. 272p. Abrams/Amulet, $16.95
(9781419722967). Gr. 4–7.
Twelve-year-old Myla finds herself in the
middle of a decades-old crime conspiracy
after she purchases a mysterious street-fair
necklace engraved with the Indian symbol
Om and the word, “keeper.” Chari’s (
Vanished, 2011) latest thriller is wholly original,
celebrating diversity within and between
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