Continued on p. 64
Journey across the Hidden Islands.
By Sarah Beth Durst.
Apr. 2017. 352p. Clarion, $16.99 (9780544706798).
Twin princesses Seika and Ji-Lin embark
on a journey that’s been a ritual in their
kingdom for ages, but while they’re expecting a routine trip, unexpected danger arrives
and their skills are put to the test. Since Seika
is the heir to the emperor’s throne, Ji-Lin is
charged to be her warrior, and on the Emperor’s Journey they fly by winged lion to meet
the mighty dragon that keeps their people
safe from monsters of the outside world.
This engaging adventure, somewhat inspired
by a mish-mash of Asian themes and traditions, does a great job of showing both girls’
perspectives as they face challenges and setbacks. Durst makes sure to emphasize that,
despite their different roles and personal feelings of inadequacy at the beginning of the
story, Seika and Ji-Lin are unwaveringly in
awe of each other. The solidarity the sisters
find in each other and the consistent way
they choose to put the other before themselves is a refreshing feature of the story. Fans
of fantasy adventures starring stalwart teams
of loyal siblings will appreciate this, too.
Knock About with the Fitzgerald-Trouts.
By Esta Spalding. Illus. by Sydney
May 2017. 304p. Little, Brown, $16.99
(9780316298605); e-book, $9.99 (9780316298612).
Siblings Kim, Kimo, Toby, Pippa, and baby
Penny are once again looking for a home
after Kimo’s father, Johnny Trout, returns
and heartlessly takes back the cabin where
they had been living. Meanwhile, a series of
strange phenomena are shaking up the island:
animals are acting strangely; “knockabouts,”
or tremors, are occurring more frequently;
and a major flood almost takes the car the
children live in. In this follow-up to Look Out
for the Fitzgerald-Trouts (2016), the hopeful, optimistic siblings simultaneously search
for a place to call home and try to help their
friend Mr. Knuckles find love, and in the
midst of both missions, they discover that
Johnny Trout, along with mysterious Professor Mumby, may have something to do with
the occurrences on the island. Spalding offers enough background that it will be easy
for kids to start with this volume, even if they
haven’t read the first installment. With quick
chapters, a compelling mystery, clever kid
characters, and humorous antics galore, this
lighthearted, cheer-worthy adventure should
find an easy audience among middle-grade
readers. —Selenia Paz
By Melissa Savage.
May 2017. 320p. Crown, $16.99 (9781524700126);
lib. ed., $19.99 (9781524700133); e-book, $16.99
(9781524700140). Gr. 5–8.
Ten-year-old Lemonade Witt makes more
than one life-changing discovery after her
single mother’s death leaves her in the care of
her estranged grandfather in Willow Creek,
a town renowned as the “Bigfoot capital of
the world.” There she falls in with Tobin, a
young neighbor who is even more emotion-
ally needy than she—his father, a Vietnam
vet with combat stress reaction, has gone
missing. Tobin’s obsessive focus on hunt-
ing for Bigfoot signs—he shows touches of
Asperger’s—prompts expeditions into the
woods, and this and other incidents ulti-
mately give Lem a handle for her grief and a
chance to adjust. And, as it turns out, some
of the woods’ hidden residents are decidedly
uncommon. Almost everyone in the cast suf-
fers from some loss, and, to many readers,
the protagonist’s name, which refers to that
famous adage, could be interpreted as a hint
that she was unwanted (a notion that, unre-
alistically, never occurs to Lem herself), but
Savage injects enough humor, mystery, and
lively interaction among the characters to
give this two-hanky debut a buoyant tone.
Lilly and Fin: A Mermaid’s Tale.
By Cornelia Funke. Illus. by the author.
Tr. by Oliver Latsch.
May 2017. 96p. Random, $9.99 (9781524701017);
lib. ed., $12.99 (9781524701024); e-book, $9.99
(9781524701031). Gr. 2–4.
Though best friends Lilly and Finn, two
mermaid children, have heard about the
giant kraken and the dangerous Two-Legs
(humans), they consider these horrors to
be legendary characters in tales designed to
keep little ones close to home. Lilly, who
has a history of goading Fin into joining
her escapades against his better judgment,
persuades him to join her for another adventure. Meanwhile, a wealthy, greedy human
couple lurks in a submarine nearby, hoping
to snare a mermaid for an aquarium. After
they trap Finn, it’s up to Lilly and an unlikely ally to rescue him. In the same format
as Funke’s Emma and the Blue Genie (2014),
Ruffleclaw (2015), and The Pirate Pig (2015),
this chapter book offers an adventurous plot
and entertaining dialogue in a story rounded
out with imaginative details. Funke’s illustrations, nicely composed but not seen in final
form, will be reproduced in color. First published in Germany in 2014, this story will
appeal to many readers intrigued by mermaids. —Carolyn Phelan
The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre.
By Gail Carson Levine.
May 2017. 400p. Harper, $16.99 (9780062074669).
The Lakti are a warrior people, a king-
dom of conquerors. To them, their Bamarre
neighbors are cowards, fit only to be ser-
vants. Peregrine is the Lakti daughter of a
favored couple, warm Lord Tove, who nur-
tures deep prejudices against the Bamarre,
and cool, watchful Lady Klausine. Perry
doesn’t question things; she trains in the
battle arts and pays little attention to the
Bamarre servants. But when she is visited by
a fairy, Perry learns that she’s not a Lakti but
a Bamarre, stolen at birth by her childless
mother. Perry can choose to forget what she
knows and live her life as a Lakti or embrace
her heritage and help her true people escape
tyranny. Levine slips seamlessly back into
the world of The Two Princesses of Bamarre
(2001), and readers will recognize more than
a few magical objects. This balances elements
of Rapunzel and a smart, timely exploration
of the prejudices that exist between people,
and fans of Levine will rejoice to watch the
journey of another strong, flawed heroine.
Magic in the City.
By Heather Dyer. Illus. by Serena
Apr. 2017. 144p. Kids Can, $15.95 (9781771382038).
Moving with their mother from Canada to
their relatives’ home in England isn’t something brothers Jake, 11, and Simon, 6, want
to do, but their father is in prison, and their
house has been repossessed. The boys’ spirits change, however, when they encounter
a magician who is retiring and gives them a
stopwatch, an antique camera, and an old
carpet that he claims are magical. Jake, Simon, and their 10-year-old cousin, Hannah,
quickly learn that the magician was right: the
carpet can take them wherever they want to
go; the stopwatch stops time for all but anyone touching the person with the watch; and
the camera puts them in whatever picture
they’ve taken. The results are amazing adventures for the three kids. As in Dyer’s previous
books, ordinary children find themselves in
extraordinary circumstances, which results
in pages of fun and an enthralling exercise in
imagination. Give this to young readers who
crave under-the-radar escapades and magic in
everyday life. —Jeanne Fredriksen
The Many Worlds of Albie Bright.
By Christopher Edge.
May 2017. 176p. Delacorte, $16.99 (9781524713577);
lib. ed., $19.99 (9781524713591); e-book, $16.99
(9781524713584). Gr. 4–7.
Albie’s parents are brilliant scientists, so
when his mom dies of cancer, he turns to
science to assuage his grief—namely, quantum physics. With the help of a rudimentary
understanding of the theory of Schrödinger’s
Cat, a banana (they’re mildly radioactive),
a box, and his late mother’s quantum laptop, Albie builds a device that transports
him to parallel universes, and he hopes to
find one in which his mother is still alive.
Albie’s machine works, but he mostly finds
alternate versions of himself and his father,
and experiencing ways his life could have
turned out differently leads him to appreciate his own universe all the more, even if it
means living in a world without his mom.