112 Booklist September 1, 2016 www.booklistreader.com
the chapters, adding detail and drama to the
scenes, including an ingenious depiction of
Lord Goth’s Metaphorical Bicycle Race and
footnotes written by a human foot. Most of
the literary allusions will zip over young readers’ heads, such as appearances by Tristram
Shandygentleman and author Mary Shellfish,
but just think of that as bonus content. Matching quality writing with pure entertainment,
this series starter is a treat. —Julia Smith
By Sam Gayton.
Oct. 2016. 272p. Clarion, $16.99 (9780544636200).
Gayton makes a strong case for the proposition that smallness doesn’t negate skill with
this bravura tale of a flea whose thirst for adventure takes him where none of his kind
has gone before—inside a
giant’s nose, for example.
Desperate to halt the steady
consumption of her fellow
villagers by a giant who has
already dispatched a string
of professional hired heroes, young Greta sets out
to find a bona fide giant
killer. She ends up with Hercufleas, an eager
but naive hatchling who quickly discovers that
the world is a far more dangerous place than he
had supposed. Having warmed up by helping
Greta survive murderous villains and the deadly flora and fauna in a “woodn’t” (as in, “you
wouldn’t want to go through it”), he sets out
on a quest to collect the last surviving drop of
Black Death, which would make him powerful
enough to slay the giant with a bite. But this
plan poses many dangers, and Hercufleas must
decide whether to give in to temptation or opt
for a chancier strategy. Gayton layers in puns
and moments of both terror and hilarity, gives
Greta a significant role at the head of a colorful supporting cast, and crafts a diminutive but
doughty protagonist whose moral choices are
as heroic as his deeds. —John Peters
One Half from the East.
By Nadia Hashimi.
Sept. 2016. 272p. Harper, $16.99 (9780062421906).
After an explosion leaves her father permanently handicapped, Obayda and her
family move from Kabul back to her father’s
childhood village to be closer to her father’s
brothers. Obayda’s father falls into a deep
depression; with four daughters, there is no
son to grow up and work to help the family.
Obayda’s aunt plants the idea to turn Obayda
into a bacha posh, a girl dressed as a boy. At
first terrified, Obayda soon meets Rahim, pre-
viously Rahima, an older girl who helps her
feel more comfortable in her new identity of
Obayd. She and Rahim know their identities
won’t last forever. They will have to return
to being girls eventually. But Rahim seems
almost desperate to find a way to make the
change permanent. While the realistic end-
ing provides hope for Obayda and her family,
Hashimi doesn’t hide the fact that others are
not so lucky. With beautiful language, rich
characters, and a perspective not often seen in
children’s literature, this heartbreaking story
will leave a lasting mark. —Selenia Paz
The Only Road.
By Alexandra Diaz.
Oct. 2016. 320p. Simon & Schuster, $16.99
(9781481457507). Gr. 3–6.
When his cousin Miguel is killed for refusing to join the Alphas, Jaime and his cousin
Ángela are targeted as the next recruits. With
no other way out, their family decides to
risk sending them to El
Norte to live with Jaime’s
brother, Tomás. The journey from Guatemala is not
easy; Jaime and Ángela face
agonizingly real horrors: the
fear of being discovered and
deported—or worse—by la
migra; being locked in the
sweltering heat of a rail car; running out of
food and water; crossing paths with other
even more dangerous gangs; and everything
they might face in an unknown country.
Readers will find themselves immersed in the
fast-paced narrative as the cousins struggle to
find a moment of safety on a dangerous route
to an uncertain future. Diaz, herself a child
of immigrants, laces Jaime and Ángela’s tale
with plenty of Spanish words, and a glossary
offers definitions, as well as pronunciation
tips, for non-Spanish speakers. Diaz’s closing
author’s note reminds readers that immigrants
still endure journeys like Jaime and Ángela’s
every day. Told with heartbreaking honesty,
this story will bring readers face to face with
the harsh realities immigrants go through in
the hope of finding a better, safer life, and it
will likely cause them to reflect on what it is to
be human. Powerful and timely. —Selenia Paz
Skunked! Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet.
By Jacqueline Kelly. Illus. by Teagan
Oct. 2016. 112p. Holt, $15.99 (9781627798686).
The new Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet series of
early chapter books opens with a warm, wit-
ty story in which Travis, Callie’s 11-year-old
brother, secretly adopts a pair of baby skunks.
Though 12-year-old Callie knows that it’s
a bad idea, she does what she can to help
softhearted Travis keep the kits alive. They
hide the skunks in the barn, nurse them to
health, and wash the family dog after he gets
sprayed. The climactic scene comes when
Travis sneaks his wild pets into the school-
house and becomes an unlikely hero to
everyone but his sister. Written with simplic-
ity, grace, and humor, the story is accessible
to the many young readers looking for large
type and wide-spaced lines. While loyal Cal-
purnia Tate fans will be disappointed to find
that the latest volume is shorter, simpler, and
aimed at a younger audience, this amusing
story will be a terrific find for chapter-book
readers with historical fiction assignments,
as well as kids who love animals. The book’s
many pencil illustrations were not seen in fi-
nal form. —Carolyn Phelan
Time Traveling with a Hamster.
By Ross Welford.
Oct. 2016. 432p. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $16.99
(9780399551499); lib. ed., $19.99 (9780399551505);
e-book, $16.99 (9780399551512). Gr. 5–8.
In a time-travel tale that combines adventure
with brain-bending cosmic and philosophical propositions, Albert Einstein Hawking
Chaudhury, 12, receives
letters from his long-dead
father that lead him to a
homemade time machine
and back to 1984 to prevent events that led to his
dad’s demise. This entails
much guilty sneaking out
at night and repeated trips
back and forth in time as Al manages to leave
both his hamster and his smartphone behind.
Throughout, Welford gives him (and readers)
much to mull over in epistolary disquisitions
on the stranger aspects of Einsteinian space-time. At the heart of the tale is the antithetical
pull between Al’s simple desire to get his father back, and the views of his wise, beloved
Punjabi grandpa Byron, who suggests that it is
better to love the life one has while cherishing
memories of the past. Indeed, memory plays a
significant role here as a universal gift that becomes an everyday miracle. Sections set in the
past do include period slurs—one character
remarks to Al that he has “a touch of the tar
brush,” referencing his Indian ancestry—but
that shouldn’t detract from the smart, engaging, and heartwarming aspects of this story. In
the end, Al cleverly engineers a total win, and
if that seems unlikely considering the hazards
of meddling with the past, readers won’t begrudge him. —John Peters
By Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
and Audrey Vernick.
Sept. 2016. 224p. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $16.99
(9780062414250). Gr. 3–6.
Naomi Marie’s momma (Valerie) is dating Naomi Edith’s dad (Tom). As things get
serious, the adults encourage the daughters
(including Naomi Marie’s four-year-old sister,
Brianna) to get to know each other. Both Naomis experience awkwardness and frustration
as they are forced to interact through shared
meals and surprise outings. Although they
make efforts to be friendly, they feel conflicted
ONLINE ALERT! September 13 marks
100 years since the birth of beloved storyteller Roald Dahl. Visit The Booklist
Reader for our own contribution to
the year-long #RoaldDahl100 celebration,
a funny essay by Executive Editor Keir
Graff about Booklist’s reviews—and non-reviews—of Dahl’s very first books for kids.