New York City, Peter knows his recently
missing brother, Randall (“Mighty”), must
be responsible. Peter teams up with Myla
to find Randall before local gang the Fenc-
ers does. Fast-paced and intricately plotted,
Chari’s mystery is a rare achievement that
pays off at every turn, featuring characters
of color interested in their families’ histories
and cultures. Spot art further draws readers
into the sleuthing atmosphere as they get
a look at entries in Myla and Peters’ note-
books. Myla and Peter’s race to find Randall
turns into a race to discover a family secret
that comes to a gripping and satisfying con-
clusion. —Caitlin Kling
Flashback Four: The Titanic Mission.
By Dan Gutman.
Apr. 2017. 240p. illus. Harper, $16.99 (9780062236357).
Luke, Julia, David, and Isabel—
millionaire inventor Miss Zandergoth’s Flashback
Four— want another chance to time travel,
despite their earlier failure to get a photo of
Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address.
Miss Z is reluctant, but the teens offer to
photograph the sinking of the Titanic. The
four are deposited on the ship mere hours
before the event, but last-minute fumbles
prevent their rescue. Will Miss Z be able to
extract them from 1912 and return them to
modern times? Fans of The Flashback Four:
The Lincoln Project (2016) will welcome another entry in the series. Gutman keeps the
easygoing tone of the first book, despite the
seriousness of the tragedy, and his narrator
regularly hops in and out of the story to provide background, historical facts, or instruct
readers. Despite that choice, the gravity and
heartbreak of the situation cannot help but
come through. There are real and imaginary photos included, along with STEM
content, a diagram or two, and an extended
author’s note separating fact and fiction.
Forest’s First Home.
By Tara Zann. Illus. by Dan Widdowson.
Apr. 2017. 144p. Imprint, paper, $5.99 (9781250103833).
While camping with her family, Olive discovers a wild boy living in the woods. Named
Forest, he has no family and learned English
by eavesdropping on campers. To Olive’s surprise, Forest sneaks into their car and comes
home with them. Olive is delighted, her petulant brother Ryan annoyed, and their father
willing to welcome Forest into the family—
assuming his overbearing mother, Gam Gam,
approves. Now Olive has 24 hours to civilize
Forest before Gam Gam’s birthday dinner.
Forest destroys the TV trying to save rac-
coon ninjas, lets a frog loose in the kitchen,
and sleeps on top of the bookcase. But he also
listens to oft-ignored Olive, giving her con-
fidence to stand up for herself, even against
Gam Gam. Implausible but fun, the timeless
premise of the feral child provides a new op-
tion for transitional chapter books. Plentiful
full-page and inset cartoon illustrations (final
art not seen) break up the text. Hand this to
kids not quite ready for Maryrose Wood’s The
Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series.
Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever.
Ed. by Betsy Bird.
May 2017. 224p. illus. Viking, $16.99 (9780451477316).
In this testament to female funniness,
librarian-book blogger Bird (Wild Things!
Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, 2014)
culls short stories, personal essays, and bite-size comics from a diverse array of creators,
including celebrated author-illustrators
(Raina Telgemeier), best-sellers (Kelly Di-Pucchio), stand-up comedians (Adrianne
Chalepah), and TV writers (Delaney and
Mackenzie Yeager). Designed to introduce
youngsters to laugh-out-loud ladies, a historically underrepresented niche in kids’ lit,
this anthology covers everything from race
(Mitali Perkins’ “Brown Girl Pop Quiz: All
of the Above”) and burning bathtubs (
Carmen Agra Deedy’s “One Hot Mess”) to
champion bird-calling (Rita Williams-Garcia and Michelle Garcia’s “Desdemona and
Sparks Go All In”). While playful potential
activities, including Mad Libs and Leila
Sales’ “How to Play Imaginary Games,” keep
things interactive, the collection’s tender tidbits of advice, particularly Libba Bray’s take
on first periods, truly stand out. As these ladies prove, with positivity, pluck, and a dash
of hindsight, you can find humor just about
anywhere. Hilarious and heartfelt, this won’t
only appeal to funny girls and boys, it’ll inspire them. —Briana Shemroske
Gabby Garcia’s Ultimate Playbook.
By Iva-Marie Palmer. Illus. by Marta
May 2017. 304p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, $12.99
(9780062391803). Gr. 4–7.
First things first: don’t confuse this book
with a diary. It is a playbook in which talented
athlete Gabby Garcia records her strategies to
“win at life.” And she’ll do anything to win.
As the starting pitcher for her school’s baseball team, everything seems to be going the
seventh-grader’s way. However, it all changes
when her school is shut down due to an asbestos problem, and she becomes the “new
kid” at a school that already has a star pitcher.
Gabby has a difficult time making friends
and finding her place, and she learns more
about losing than she’d like. But as she learns
some valuable lessons about teamwork and
being a better friend, she manages to break
her losing streak. Palmer creates a captivat-
ing world with baseball at its center. Gabby’s
diarylike narration gives readers insight into
the high-spirited protagonist’s thoughts and
passion for baseball, and doodled illustrations
give her playbook an authentic feel. Interest-
ingly, Gabby’s Latina identity is not central
to the story, which stays focused on univer-
sal middle-school struggles and experiences.
—Sonia Alejandra Rodríguez
By Patricia Reilly Giff. Illus. by
Apr. 2017. 240p. Holiday, $16.95 (9780823438006);
e-book, $16.95 (9780823437986). Gr. 4–6.
Giff explored WWII on the home front in
Lily’s Crossing (1997), Willow Run (2005),
and Gingersnap (2014), and her latest places an American girl in the
crucible of war-torn Europe. After spending the
summer of 1939 in Alsace with Mémé, her stern
Genevieve intends to return to America before the
Germans invade France.
Instead, for reasons she doesn’t entirely understand, she decides to stay and help Mémé
on her farm. German soldiers occupy the
area, deporting Jewish residents and housing
an officer in Mémé’s farmhouse. Genevieve
and her grandmother hide their food, their
family treasures, and, later, their friend
Rémy, a boy from the village who is hunted
by the Nazis. Resistance is not a new idea to
the people of Alsace, and soon it becomes
a way of life for Genevieve as well. Giff ac-complishes a great deal in this engaging
chapter book: the vivid picture of life in occupied Alsace, the convincing portrayal of
a girl growing up quickly in difficult times,
and the gradual replacement of Genevieve’s
antipathy for her grandmother with respect
and love. More accessible to middle-grade
children than most novels set in Europe during the period, this novel is full of hardship,
peril, and quiet heroism. —Carolyn Phelan
By Nanci Turner Steveson.
May 2017. 272p. Harper, $16.99 (9780062374578);
e-book, $16.99 (9780062374592). Gr. 5–8.
Almost 13-year-old Magnolia Grace—
Maggie—is not happy when events conspire
to force her and her mother to leave their
Atlanta home for rural Vermont. But her stepfather has left her Southern
belle mother for another
man, and the farm, which
was left to Maggie by her father, can be sold for a goodly
sum if, as the will requires,
she lives there for one year.
At first, Maggie is lost, and
her mother, Delilah, settles
in for the short haul, gritting her teeth. But
Maggie makes friends with an unconventional family, the Parkers, who ease her transition.
Just as important, Maggie, who didn’t really
know her father, begins to feel close to him
as she learns more about him: his prodigious
artistic talent; his largess to his small Vermont