Maya’s sister who blogs about baseball, but
when Maya watches (a now-grown) Rafael
play in a minor-league game, she becomes
his fan. The result is two separate books that
strain, at times, to be one. Both, however,
are thoughtfully written and plenty engag-
ing. The hardship of growing up poor in a
Dominican neighborhood, with baseball one
of the few ways out, is vividly portrayed.
(Though Scaletta is American, the notes
explain his research.) Maya’s story is more
purposeful, as she comes up against her fa-
ther’s job at an agribusiness company, and
must decide how much she can compro-
mise her beliefs. The two main characters
finally meet, but now that Maya knows
Rafael, another ethical issue arises that she
must consider—and one not fully resolved
by book’s end. There is lots to discuss here.
The Six-Day Hero.
By Tammar Stein.
Apr. 2017. 256p. Lerner/Kar-Ben, $16.99
(9781512458718); paper, $9.99 (9781512428568);
e-book, $6.99 (9781512428575). Gr. 5–8.
Set in West Jerusalem during the 1967
Six Day War, this title highlights the experiences of 12-year-old Jewish Israeli Motti.
Generally, Motti’s life is pretty routine—
school, soccer, hanging with friend Yossi,
and visiting neighbors, like Mrs. Friedburg,
a Holocaust survivor. But threats to Israel
from Egypt, Syria, and Jordan are escalating, and talk of war is everywhere. While
worried, Motti also wishes he could serve
in the army, like his older brother Gideon
and heroes from Israel’s past. Then military
reserves, including his father, are called up;
Yossi’s family leaves the country; and soon
Motti and others must take refuge in bomb
shelters. As the brief war progresses, Motti
discovers heroism takes many forms, but he
also learns about war’s tragic consequences,
including for his own family. Motti’s accessibly written, first-person narrative details
the unfolding events as well as his efforts to
stay brave despite fears, cope with grief, and
retain hope for a peaceful future. While this
individualizes war’s impact from a Jewish
youth’s perspective, for broader understanding of the subject, it’s probably best paired
with additional reading. —Shelle Rosenfeld
The Star Thief.
By Lindsey Becker.
Apr. 2017. 416p. illus. Little, Brown, $16.99
(9780316348560); e-book, $9.99 (9780316348553).
In this adventure of the galactic variety,
Honorine’s deepest wish is to know a family.
And according to the Mapmaker, a strident
and fiercely powerful Mordant, she’ll betray
him to gain her deepest longing. Orphaned
as a baby, Honorine discovers Lord Vidalia
placed her in his home to protect her from
unseen powers that literally light up the
night sky. One night, Honorine’s life dras-
tically changes when she stumbles upon
Mordants—constellations come to life—
and is reunited with the only person she’s
ever considered family: Lord Vidalia’s son,
Francis. The problem? Francis seems to be
on the wrong side of the epic battle above,
and Honorine is discovering truths about
her family that leave her in an extremely
sticky situation. Infused with references
to constellations and Greek mythological
creatures, and stocked with ships that sail
through the sky and civilizations succumb-
ing to power and greed over and over
again, the invigorating plot ultimately
leaves Honorine with only one choice to
make. A fun, Rick Riordanesque escapade.
The Supernormal Sleuthing Service #1:
The Lost Legacy.
By Gwenda Bond and Christopher Rowe.
Illus. by Glenn Thomas.
May 2017. 416p. Greenwillow, $16.99 (9780062459947).
Moving from Chicago to New York City
for his dad’s new job came with more surprises than Stephen Lawson ever expected.
For starters, the monsters his grandmother
had claimed to cook for at the Hotel New
Harmonia are real, and now that his dad
is taking over as head chef—or culinary
alchemist—he’ll be living among them.
Then there’s the small detail of learning his
mother is a fairy, making Stephen half fae.
Despite these shocking discoveries, Stephen
finds himself quickly adjusting to his strange
new home and fairy abilities. Soon after
their arrival, however, someone steals his
dad’s prized Librum de Coquina, the Lawson
family’s book of recipes for supernormals
(dragons, fairies, vampires, etc.), a loss that
could cost his dad his job. Stephen enlists the
help of his friends Sophia and Ivan to track
down the Librum. Spouses Bond and Rowe
make their middle-grade debut in this series
starter. The light mystery will charm readers with its secret magical society, unusual
characters, caring father-son relationship,
and enchanted hotel setting. Monstrous fun!
This Would Make a Good Story
By Dana Alison Levy.
May 2017. 320p. Delacorte, $16.99 (9781101938171);
lib. ed., $19.99 (9781101938188); e-book, $16.99
(9781101938195). Gr. 4–7.
Sara Johnston-Fischer had plans for her
pre-middle-school summer break. It was
going to be a vacation of
moms announced she’d
instead be joining them
and her sisters on a cross-
country train trip. Being
stuck in close quarters with
her lovable but loud family
doesn’t stop Sara from try-
ing to improve herself, sometimes in ways
she never could have predicted. Levy’s novel
is charming but not fluffy. Peppered among
Sara’s journal entries are her big sister Lau-
rel’s thoughts on issues ranging from world
hunger to the Black Lives Matter move-
ment. Levy doesn’t shy away from looking
at tough topics through Sara’s eyes, either,
cleverly contrasting the railway’s official “fun
facts” with the “not so fun facts” she learns
about the cities she visits. Sara has a truly
unique tween voice, with her concerns about
big-picture issues never diminishing the
importance of her need for a new hair look
or a burgeoning friendship with a fellow
traveler. The novel features plenty of family
drama and silliness, reminiscent of Amelia’s
Are-We-There-Yet Longest Car Trip (2006),
by Marissa Moss. Though the book can feel
a bit disjointed at times, its engaging main
character makes it a truly memorable read.
By Melanie Crowder.
May 2017. 192p. Atheneum, $16.99 (9781481471879).
An owl watches as 11-year-old Marin, a
hatchling of sorts, finds her way out of the
foster care system and into the home of
successful and openhearted doctor Lucy.
Marin’s only possessions are a worn copy
of the I Ching and the three pennies that
rattle around in her birth mother’s piggy
bank. When she learns that Lucy wants to
adopt her, she makes one last effort to find
her birth mother, who abandoned her at age
four. In short chapters exploring the inner
worlds of the owl, Lucy, rule-following case
worker Gilda, and even the shifting tectonic
plates beneath San Francisco, Crowder illuminates the extent to which Marin is
unable to grasp the love and possibility that
awaits if she can accept her birth mother’s
choice. Though the logistics of Marin’s eventual meet-up with her birth mother may
strain credulity for some readers, Marin’s
emotional landscape remains utterly true.
Crowder’s keen sense of storytelling, even in
the smallest moments, shines in this moving exploration of the mother-child bond.
By Annie M. G. Schmidt. Illus. by Fiep
Westendorp. Tr. by David Colmer.
Mar. 2017. 200p. Pushkin, $22.95 (9781782691129).
Pluck, a boy who drives his own tow
truck, moves into a little room atop a tall
apartment building. His helpful neighbors,
as well as a few difficult ones, have roles to
play in the adventures that follow, which
include embarking on a perilous quest and
saving a woodland from destruction. Written with understated wit, the story includes
such elements of fantasy as talking animals,
magical berries, and young Pluck’s enviable