March 15, 2017 Booklist 67 www.booklistonline.com
independence. Colorful, stylized illustra-
tions appear on every spread. Reminiscent of
the Provensens’ artwork in style, they have
a quirky charm that suits the narrative per-
fectly. A classic in the Netherlands, the book
was first published in 1971, and Schmidt
received IBBY’s Hans Christian Andersen
Award in 1988. Though this book has a fresh,
inviting look, it may have trouble finding its
audience, as most children young enough
to enjoy the story are too young to read the
middle-grade-level text independently. Still,
it’s a great choice for those who can and for
parents and teachers seeking imaginative, il-
lustrated chapter books for reading aloud.
Under Locker and Key.
By Allison K. Hymas.
Apr. 2017. 256p. Aladdin, $17.99 (9781481463430);
paper, $7.99 (9781481463423). Gr. 4–7.
Sixth-grader Jeremy Wilderson asserts he
is not a thief; he’s a retrieval specialist. Students in Scottsville Middle School come to
him when something has been stolen, and
Jeremy retrieves and returns the item. As
he gives his first-person account of his actions, readers soon hear about Becca Mills
and her intent to catch Jeremy and turn him
in. A bigger problem develops, however,
when eighth-grader Mark tricks Jeremy into
swiping the master key to all the lockers in
the school. Now, getting the key back and
solving the crime spree is too much for Jeremy to handle alone. Who has to become
his ally? Becca Mills, of course. Hymas’ first
novel is an engaging read that will have
tweens rooting for Jeremy and Becca as they
attempt to retrieve the key and get Mark
his just desserts. The characters are fully
developed and believable, although their actions at times strain credibility. Readers will
easily be swept up by the collision of friendships, rivalries, and bullies in the halls of
this adventure-tinged middle-school story.
—J. B. Petty
A Whisper of Horses.
By Zillah Bethell.
Apr. 2017. 352p. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99
(9781250093943). Gr. 4–7.
Inside the walled city of Lahn Dan, Seren-
dipity and her mother live as Pbs, the lowest
of the city’s three castes. When Serendipity’s
mother dies, she leaves Serendipity a figu-
rine of a horse, an animal that has long been
extinct in the world. Soon, she learns more
about her mother’s history and discovers a
map that might lead to horses. When un-
nerving members of the upper caste start
showing an interest in Serendipity, she
joins forces with Tab, a scrappy orphan
boy, and his dog, Mouse, fleeing out into
the world in search of horses—if only the
world they’re running from doesn’t catch
up to them first. Savvy readers will quickly
catch on that Serendipity’s Lahn Dan is a
futuristic, dystopian London (Lahn Dan is
located in Gray Britain; the police are head-
quartered in Bucknam Place). This narrative
style takes some getting used to, and Ser-
endipity’s journey can feel a bit disjointed,
but for larger collections, this debut offers
up a solid dose of middle-grade adventure.
William Wenton and the Impossible
By Bobbie Peers.
May 2017. 272p. Aladdin, $16.99 (9781481478250).
Twelve-year-old William has lived in Norway for the past eight years, moving from
England after his father was paralyzed in a
car accident. William has a knack for solving puzzles and deciphering codes, but his
parents have forbidden him from pursuing
this talent. When the world’s most impossible puzzle comes to the science museum,
however, William cannot resist it, and when
he inevitably solves it, drawing attention to
himself, he’s transported to the institute his
now-missing grandfather founded, where he
joins a handful of other young people who
are training to be code breakers. Nothing
is that simple, though, and William is soon
running for his life. Peers’ first novel follows
the pattern of many such school and adventure stories—think Hogwarts with robots
and carnivorous robotic plants—but there
are plenty of twists to keep readers guessing.
Appealing, resilient William makes realistic
mistakes in judgment that often test that
resilience. The crisp narrative will appeal
to readers of different levels, and more adventures involving William Wenton will be
welcome. —Donna Scanlon
Willows vs. Wolverines.
By Alison Cherry.
Apr. 2017. 352p. Aladdin, $17.99 (9781481463546).
Izzy and her best friend Mackenzie have
spent all their summers together at camp,
until this year, when their parents break
tradition and send them to Camp Foxtail
instead, where they aren’t even in the same
cabin! Mackenzie seems determined to be
miserable, but bolder and more outgoing
Izzy can’t help but make friends in her cabin,
Willow Lodge—especially when she learns
about their long-standing prank war with
a rival boys’ cabin, the Wolverines. Izzy is
bursting with good ideas, but some of the
cliquey Willow girls aren’t ready to let a Foxtail newbie call the shots. So Izzy makes up
an older brother, a former Wolverine who
passed all his prank ideas on to her. But
as Izzy gets caught up in her lies, she pays
less attention to Mackenzie. Bursting with
diverse, dynamic characters, this is a good
old-fashioned battle of the sexes. The breezy
narrative is met by an exploration of complicated female friendships and the intensity of
preteen emotions. Fun reading for summer
and beyond. —Maggie Reagan
By Sarah Jean Horwitz.
Apr. 2017. 368p. Algonquin, $17.95 (9781616206635).
The magic of fairy tales and the stage become entwined in Horwitz’s debut, wherein
a magician’s apprentice crosses paths with a
fiery, one-winged fairy princess. Antoine the
Amazifier hasn’t amazed crowds in a long time,
but he hopes that will change at the upcoming
magic competition in Skemantis, which happily coincides with a technology exhibition.
Antoine’s apprentice, Felix Carmer III, has a
knack for mechanics, and he can’t wait to see
the newest innovations of famed inventor Titus Archer. Elsewhere, fairy-princess Grit longs
for adventure outside the protective walls of
the Old Town Arboretum, despite recent attacks on fairies by dangerous creatures known
as Wingsnatchers. When circumstances throw
Grit and Carmer together, they unite and use
their unique talents to try and bring down the
evil infecting the city. Well-developed characters and a steampunk setting set the stage for
this series starter, which is driven by mystery,
action, and fairy dust. Incorporating science
and danger, this magic-infused adventure carries broad appeal. —Julia Smith
York: The Shadow Cipher.
By Laura Ruby.
May 2017. 469p. HarperCollins/Walden Pond, $17.99
(9780062306937). Gr. 4–7.
Twins Tess and Theo live in one of the only
remaining buildings designed by the Morn-ingstarrs, visionary twins who built glittering
structures in nineteenth-century New York, as
well as the Cipher, a notorious and unsolved citywide
puzzle leading to fantastic
treasure. Now, in the twenty-first century, Tess and Theo’s
building has been purchased
by a mercenary developer, but
Tess grasps at a shred of hope:
if they solve the Cipher, they
might be able to keep their home. With robust,
architectural world building, Ruby reveals an
alternate New York teeming with mechanical
marvels and compelling secrets. This New York
still has some familiar features, however: a rich
culture of diversity alongside insidious greed
and wealth inequality. Tess and Theo, and their
friend and neighbor Jaime, have distinct voices
and idiosyncrasies that, though some might consider them odd, become marvelous strengths. As
the trio traverse the city, they’re often baffled by
how easily clues fall into their hands, but Ruby
slyly sidesteps those coincidences by giving the
Cipher itself a mysterious, subtle sort of agency.
In this smart, immersive series starter, Ruby
expertly juggles stunning plot choreography,
realistic stakes in a captivating fantasy setting,
well-wrought characters, and flashes of sharp
cultural commentary. It’s a brainy romp with
a worrying heart, and while many plot threads
are resolved, Theo, Tess, and Jaime will surely,
thankfully, be back for more. —Sarah Hunter