Posted in Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

YA suspense: Four Found Dead

Four Found Dead, by Natalie D. Richards, (May 2023, Sourcebooks Fire), $11.99, ISBN: 9781728215815

Ages 14+

Jo and her friends are finishing up their last shift at the Tempest, the last store in a shuttered mall that’s closing for good. But at closing time, the doors are locked and their phones are locked in the safe; their manager, Clayton, won’t allow anyone to have them while on shift. The lights go out, and there’s a chilling scream: one of the coworkers has been murdered, and Clayton, unhinged, is set on killing Jo and her coworkers. A high-tension chase through an abandoned mall begins as the group tries to survive the night and find a way out. Four Found Dead is full of ’90s thriller tropes, and I loved the abandoned mall setting. The story alternates between Jo’s narration and news articles published after the night of the murders; Jo’s narration includes some backstory that fleshes her character out a bit more than her colleagues. I’d have liked some more suspense surrounding the killer, and a little more backstory overall, but overall? Four Found Dead is a fast-paced read that delivers the thrills.

Posted in Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

New YA Paranormal Adventure: The Last Huntress

The Last Huntress (Mirror Realm Series 1), by Lenore Borja, (Nov. 2022, SparkPress), $17.95, ISBN: 9781684631735

Ages 14+

Alice Daniels is a high school senior who’s just moved to Phoenix from Colorado, meets the local dudebro, and falls in with a pack of demon hunting teens from school. On her 18th birthday, Alice discovers that she is a huntress with the ability to enter the mirror realm: a magical world accessible through mirrors. A YA paranormal adventure and romance, The Last Huntress is the first in a new YA series and includes nods to mythology across different cultures – primarly Greek – and fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, currently experiencing a renaissance of sorts in middle grade and YA fiction. There are plot twists aplenty and fast-paced, witty dialogue that keep pages turning. The ending leaves readers waiting for a sequel. A good purchase where fantasy is popular.

 

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

The LEGO Engineer will take your builds to new heights

The LEGO Engineer, by Jeff Friesen, (Nov. 2022, No Starch Press), $24.99, ISBN: 9781718502505

Ages 10+

I am always looking for good LEGO books for my library. We have a weekly LEGO build that the kids love, and I like to make sure I have books around that will inspire them. Jeff Friesen is always a good purchase for me: I’ve got The LEGO Castle Book and LEGO Space Projects and they are chock full of block-spiration. Friesen’s newest, The LEGO Engineer, is another win; this time, taking on some of the most incredible engineering feats ever created, including cable-stayed bridges and a LEGO South Beach, in all its colorful glory. There are over 30 models, all beautifully photographed by Friesen, and include step-by-step illustrated instructions and a wealth of engineering know-how to make your builds as realistic as can be. It’s a beautiful coffee table book for LEGO enthusiasts and it’s a challenging book of ideas for LEGO fans and future engineers. An excellent choice for collections where LEGO books are popular.

Want to see more of Jeff Friesen’s work? Follow his Instagram page. Want more LEGO learning? Visit LEGO’s education page for free lesson plans.

Posted in Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Dark Room Etiquette: A taut YA thriller

Dark Room Etiquette, by Robin Roe, (Oct. 2022, HarperTeen), $18.99, ISBN: 9780063051737

Ages 13+

Sayers Wayte is a 16-year-old with an easy life, and he knows it. Everything he knows is upended when he’s kidnapped by a man who tells Sayers that he isn’t who he believes he is. As Sayers endures imprisonment and his captor, he begins questioning his reality. A tense thriller that examines PTSD, Dark Room Etiquette becomes an intense character study as readers accompany Sayers on his journey through trauma. The story goes very dark, but is ultimately a hopeful story that readers will white-knuckle through.

Dark Room Etiquette has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Posted in History, Middle School, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Seen and Unseen captures the Japanese American Incarceration

Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams’s Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration, by Elizabeth Partridge/Illustrated by Lauren Tamaki, (Oct. 2022, Chronicle Books), $21.99, ISBN: 9781452165103

Ages 10-14

The 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor guaranteed America’s involvement in World War II, but it also sparked a wave of anti-Asian sentiment that resulted in Japanese families – included American-born citizens – sent to internment camps across the country. Three photographers – Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams  – captured the lives of the incarcerated families, now revisited in Seen and Unseen. Partridge, award-winning author and Dorothea Lange’s goddaughter joins forces with illustrator Lauren Tamaki to create a unique nonfiction story of these interrupted lives, with Tamaki’s artwork woven in with black and white photographs and quotes from those who were there. Each photographer approached the project with their own goals: Lange was critical of the U.S. policy that imprisoned the Japanese; she intended to show the incarceration in all of its brutality. Miyatake was a Japanese-born photographer interned in one of the camps; he smuggled in photography equipment to show the public what really went on in the camps. Adams hoped to concentrate on the resilience of the imprisoned. All three accomplished their initiatives, leaving a body of work that shows future generations that fear and mistrust can divide a nation. Photographs, illustrations, and primary sources, plus generous back matter and notes make this an excellent, necessary purchase for elementary and middle school nonfiction collections.

Seen and Unseen has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Kirkus.

Posted in Middle School, Teen, Tween Reads

Blog Tour: PIECE BY PIECE by David Aguilar

David Aguilar was born with half a right arm; he calls it his “diff-ability”. With the love and support of his family – and a knack for creating – he built his first prothesis from LEGO bricks when he was nine, and continues creating and innovating in ways to make change happen and make others’ lives better.

Piece by Piece : How I Built My Life (No Instructions Required), by David Aguilar and Ferran Aguilar/Translated by Lawrence Schimel, (Oct. 2022, Amazon Crossing Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9781662504266

Ages 10-14

Written by David and his father, Ferran Aguilar, and translated from the original Spanish by author Lawrence Schimel, Piece by Piece is heartbreaking and funny. David’s voice clearly emerges from the page to take readers into his world; never evoking pity, David is pragmatic about his limb difference, explaining it by asking readers if they miss an eleventh finger they never had: “Whoa! You don’t know what that feels like, right? I count to five. You count to ten. I am not missing anything. Neither are you”. The Aguilars inspire their readers to expand their world view, to innovate, to try, to keep going. A color photo insert called “The Tale of Hand Solo” (inspired by the name of the award-winning documentary about him) introduces readers to Aguilar’s life. Piece by Piece is absolute perfection for middle school reading. This should be a part of every LEGO Robotics team’s reading. An essential first purchase for library collections.

“Humorous and uplifting…While readers needn’t be LEGO fans to admire David’s ingenuity, fellow builders may be inspired to dream up their own inventions.” ―Kirkus Reviews

David Aguilar and his father, Ferran Aguilar, are from Andorra, in Europe. David was born missing part of one arm. At the age of nine, he designed his first prosthesis with LEGO bricks, and in high school he built the next generation, which he named the MK-1. David’s father encouraged him to make a video about his prosthesis and the huge role that LEGOs played in his life, and posted it on social media, where it went viral and changed both of their lives. In addition to telling his story in this book, David is also the protagonist of the Spanish documentary Mr. Hand Solo, which won the award for best documentary at the Boston Science Fiction Film festival. David is currently developing his own brand, Hand Solo, which will aim to benefit various organizations for the disabled and fight against the stigma of “diff-ability,” as he calls it. Follow David and Ferran on Twitter @Handsolooficial and @AguilarFerran.

Instagram: @handsoloofficial

Lawrence Schimel is a bilingual author who writes in both Spanish and English, with more than one hundred books to his credit. He is also a prolific literary translator, into English and into Spanish. His translated books include Wanda Gág’s Millions of Cats; George Takei’s graphic novel They Called Us Enemy; and Some Days, written and illustrated by María Wernicke; among many others. He lives in Madrid, Spain. Follow him on Twitter @lawrenceschimel.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Go read Rust in the Root RIGHT NOW!

Rust in the Root, by Justina Ireland, (Sept. 2022, Balzer + Bray), $18.99, ISBN: 9780063038226

Ages 14+

Justina Ireland’s new historical fantasy is everything that other historical fantasy about magicians in the 1920s and 1930s should have been. Set in 1937, Laura Ann Langston arrives in New York, from her small town in Pennsylvania. She wants to earn her mage’s license so she can become a baker to the stars, but fate has a curve ball waiting. She takes a she applies for a job with the Colored Auxiliary of the Bureau of the Arcane’s Conservation Corps: magic exists in this history, and like everything else at the time, it’s segregated. Ireland expertly weaves U.S. history into her fantasy to give us an incredible story where white Necromancers and Mechomancers – magic with metal – threaten the world’s structure; the Auxiliary, made up with different areas of magic users, use natural means to combat them. Sent into the Ohio Deep Blight – an area of Ohio under attack from Necromancy – and Laura, now known as the Peregrine, ventures into the Blight with her mentor, the Skylark, and a group of apprentices. When they arrive in Ohio, they discover a deep, evil purpose behind the disappearance of the previous team sent out, and that their own lives are in danger. Justina Ireland views American history through a social lens and brings to life a fantasy that makes perfect sense. Black and white photos run throughout, with wry observations from Peregrine; missives from the Skylark will keep you guessing until the end. Incredible storytelling and world-building make this one of the best books I’ve read this year. Read this, booktalk this, and give it to history and fantasy fans alike.

Rust in the Root has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, and Kirkus.

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

New YA fantasy duology: The Darkening

The Darkening, by Sunya Mara, (July 2022, Clarion Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780358561989

Ages 13+

Set in a fantasy world terrorized by a storm that leaves anyone caught in it cursed, Vesper Vale is the 17-year-old daughter of revolutionaries. Her mother walked into the storm, and her father is on the run from the Wardana, the royal guard, led by the ruler’s heir, the cold-hearted Prince Dalca. Her father is a powerful ikonomancer – a magic user that works with symbols to weave spells – and refuses to teach Vesper; this all changes when the Wardana and Dalca catch up with Vesper’s father and take him prisoner. Determined to save her father, Vesper befriends a mole in the Wardana and weaves an appearance spell that will get her inside Dalca’s inner circle. Once she’s on the inside, she realizes that nothing is as black-and-white as it seems: there is much about her mother’s disappearance that she was never privy to, and she certainly never expected to fall for Dalca – or that he would fall for her, too. Strong worldbuilding sets the tone for this fantasy adventure, which has a good premise but gets in its own way at times. The interaction between characters is delicious, particularly between Vesper and Dalca: such romantic tension! The action is exciting, and the idea of ikonomancy is incredibly interesting; I wanted to learn more. This is the first in a duology, and I’m looking forward to where the story goes, now that we seem to be into the meat of the story. A good investment for your fantasy collections.

Posted in Graphic Novels, History, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Graphic Novel Biographies: Nat Love and Bluma & Felix Goldberg

Best Shot in the West: The Thrilling Adventures of Nat Love – The Legendary Cowboy!, by Patricia C. McKissack and Frederick L. McKissack, Jr./Illustrated by Randy Duburke, (Aug. 2022, Chronicle Books), $9.99, ISBN: 9781797212517

Ages 10-13

Originally published in 2012, this graphic novel biography of Nat Love, also known as Deadwood Dick, one of the most famous African-American cowboys in the Old West. Based on Love’s 1907 autobiography, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as “Deadwood Dick,” Best Shot in the West‘s adaptation by children’s literature greats Patricia and Frederick McKissack is told in Love’s voice, from his 1854 birth into slavery in Tennessee; his leaving home to find work as a cowpoke and his adventures across the country, and his decision to marry and work as a railroad porter in his later years. The McKissacks created a faithful adaptation that appeals to a younger readership, and Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award Winner Randy Duburke’s painted work brings Love’s work to life, with gray wash over color to add a sepia-toned aging to the artwork. A good purchase for libraries with robust graphic novel biographies and historical U.S. collections. Pair with books like Black Heroes of the Wild West and Bad News for Outlaws for a display on the Wild West your readers didn’t learn about!

 

 

We Survived the Holocaust: The Bluma and Felix Goldberg Story, by Frank W. Baker/Illustrated by Tim E. Ogline, (Sept. 2022, Imagine & Wonder), $19.99, ISBN: 9781637610206

Ages 14-18

In 2000, Holocaust survivor Felix Goldberg handed media literacy educator Frank W. Baker a copy of the speech he’d just delivered to a South Carolina synagogue and asked him to “do something with this”. Baker worked with the Goldberg’s children and illustrator Tim E. Ogline to bring Felix’s and Bluma’s stories to the world. Rendered in stark black and white, their stories unfold: Felix’s and Bluma’s early lives in Poland parallel the growing wave of hate and rage running through Germany; the antisemitic propaganda that dehumanized and turned a nation against a people; the explosion of violence that began the Holocaust. Felix and Bluma experienced untold horrors across concentration camps and death marches, losing family members but finding one another in a displaced persons camp, and arriving in America to begin a life together. It is an moving and powerful story, and a strong book to put on shelves next to Maus. Back matter includes a timeline of events; a glossary; recommended resources for further reading, and an index. You can find a Readers Guide at the Stories of Survival website.

 

Posted in Middle School, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

New LEGO Mindstorms books from No Starch Press!

If you have tinkerers or a robotics league in your community, you may already be familiar with No Starch Press and their solid LEGO Mindstorms catalog. I’m a No Starch fan and regularly buy their computing books for both my kids and adult collections, but their Mindstorms books really are worthy of their own shout-out. I’ve used them in my own library when I had a robotics league, and they were a tremendous help to me and my team as we navigated getting the machines built and running. There are two new Mindstorms books coming out that are worth a look for your shelves.

Getting Started with LEGO® MINDSTORMS: Learn the Basics of Building and Programming Robots, by Barbara Bratzel & Rob Torok, (Oct. 2022, No Starch Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781718502420

Ages 12+

Anyone embarking on LEGO Mindstorms robotics will find Getting Started with LEGO Mindstorms an essential reference to have on hand. Written with a friendly, easy-to-follow voice, the book provides information you and your readers will need to build your first robot, work with the Mindstorms app, and troubleshoot and refine your robots as you go. The book covers sensors, remote control, sound, light, and movement. Are you new to programming? The book introduces readers to Word Blocks, a visual programming language based on Scratch and is very user-friendly. If you’ve never delved into robotics, DON’T PANIC: this is a supremely intuitive guide that’s meant to foster an interest in programming, building, and working with LEGO Mindstorms robots. You and your readers are safe in Barbara Bratzel’s and Rob Torok’s capable hands.

 

Mastering LEGO® MINDSTORMS: Build Better Robots with Python and Word Blocks, by Barbara Bratzel & Rob Torok, (Oct. 2022, No Starch Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781718503144

Ages 12+

You want your readers to expand their expertise on LEGO Mindstorms. Mastering LEGO Mindstorms will get them there. Moving up from basic Word Blocks programming, Mastering LEGO Mindstorms expands robotics builders’ skills by introducing Python language programming, letting users write text-based code. There’s still how-tos on designing and building, with expanded programming techniques to encourage the casual builder to grow their schools and move toward more sophisticated robotics engineering. There are chapters on gears and mechanisms, moving gyro sensors, and games and “Ultimate Challenges” to test your engineers’ mettle. Photos are incredibly helpful and the informative text is as supportive as it is educational. Bratzel is an elementary school STEM educator and Torok is a secondary STEM educator; both are Mindstorms educators who explain robotics in a way that respects the reader while challenging them.

Getting Started with LEGO® MINDSTORMS and Mastering LEGO® MINDSTORMS are excellent additions to your STEM/STEAM collections. If you have robotics leagues or maker labs in your community, they are essential.